Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Response to a Subscriber Regarding my Goodbye to the A-10 Posting

Subscriber, Larry Slayen, wrote: “Why has nothing changed?  You could have written this article 10, 20, 30 and 40 years ago.  The military continues to overspend at the expense of the taxpayers and the troops.”  
 
You’re exactly right, Larry. The Pentagon’s addiction to gold plating, which often makes weapons too expensive to purchase in planned numbers, goes back a long time. The weapons acquisition system is structured to virtually guarantee cost overruns, biased testing, poor combat readiness, and a great deal of waste (see my 8/22 post on why our weapons cost so much). Seymour Melman wrote about structural problems in our procurement system back in 1970 in his book, Pentagon Capitalism. He followed this work up with a broader treatment of the problem in, The Permanent War Economy (1985). The addiction to excessively high technology was covered in a 1982 book by Mary Kaldor called, The Baroque Arsenal. Over the years, many works on procurement problems have been published.  So, yes, there is a long history of concern about the kind of practices I wrote about.  
 
What is most remarkable is that nothing seems to significantly change. The military-industrial-Congressional complex, which Gordon Adams referred to as “The Iron Triangle” (The Iron Triangle: the Politics of Defense Contracting), is a powerful symbiotic alignment that is self-promoting and impervious to reform. Politicians in key military appropriations committees, and other Members who just love to take military contracts back to their home districts (the bigger the better) are all in on the procurement charade. Few politicians have had the courage to take the system on.  On this there is bipartisan consensus.



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