Iron Triangles

What are they?

Iron triangle is a term to describe a strong relationship between pressure groups, the relevant congressional committees and the relevant government department or agency in an attempt to guarantee to the policy outcomes to the benefit of all three par tie involved.

An Example of an Iron Triangle

The existence of iron triangles seems to be most prominent in the USA where they have many access points and levels of government (due to the federal nature of government). The Military Industrial Complex (MIC) is an example and involves the Defence Department, Congressional Armed Forces Committee and leading weapons manufacturers.

The Issue of Iron Triangles

The problem is that Iron Triangles establish a closed network of people which prevent people from getting involved with their discussion (hence why it is an IRON Triangle). The negotiation involved is what should be best for government and the people as that is who is involved, but this is unlikely when a lot of the communication happens away from the public glare.


In 2010, the $726 billion Defence Authorisation Bill highlighted these issues. The ex-US defence secretary, Robert Gates, unsuccessfully urged Obama to veto the bill in order to try and cut the budget. However, the defence committee was keen to protect jobs in states and the Pentagon was keen to maintain a high degree of defence expenditure. Gates had limited success due to the combined effort of the iron triangle: the Pentagon, defence contractors and influential defence committee members.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or want to know more then contact me!

Digestible Politics


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