It was Dwight D. Eisenhower who brought U.S. defense spending back under control. Ike, the former supreme commander of the costliest military campaign in history, was a military war hero, but also a man who hated war. And he revered balanced budgets.

Accordingly, Eisenhower — the 34th president of the United States and in power for much of the 1950s — did not hesitate to wield the budgetary knife. When he did so, the blade came down squarely on the Pentagon. The essence of Eisenhower's fiscal achievement, an actual shrinkage of the federal budget in real terms during his eight-year term, is that he tamed the warfare state.

Eisenhower's campaign for fiscal discipline started with the bloated war budget he inherited from Harry Truman, his predecessor. To prepare the ground for what was to come, Eisenhower traveled to Korea immediately after his election in November 1952. His trip set in motion a negotiating process that made an armistice on the Korean peninsula a foregone conclusion.