Self-licking ice cream cone

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In political jargon, a self-licking ice cream cone is a self-perpetuating system that has no purpose other than to sustain itself. The phrase appeared to have been first used in 1992, in On Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones, a paper by Pete Worden about NASA's bureaucracy.[1]

The phrase has come to be used as a metaphor for any similar system, particularly in contexts such as the War on Terror and the military-industrial complex. More recently it has been used to describe the support from internal IT organizations.

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