There is broad agreement on the need for acquisition and contracting reform in the Department of Defense. There have been enough studies. Enough hand-wringing. Enough rhetoric. Now it’s the time for action.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
If only, as Hunter mentioned, there was more to it. And how sad to see Obama shills like Center for American Progress and former Reagan DoD minion Larry Korb herald Gates’ proposed budget increases and ancillary measures as real reform.
Much of this conversation is old hat for our merry band here. Together we’ve anticipated this procurement scissors crisis for the better part of 4 and 1/2 years or so. The defense industrial apparat’s inertial divorce from any reasonably coherent American strategy premised on both goals *and* means continues. We’re all adults here. We know how the game is played. Ramp up huge budget proposals before a new administration arrives to either box them in or force them to eat ‘soft on defense’.
For all of that, Obama is Warlord-lite once again. Agitprop spinners and gullible U.S.-we-canners aside, the defense industry quite rightfully breathes a sigh of relief — as their stocks soar on the news. Indeed:
For one, defense spending is going up next year, by at least 4%, as Gates is proposing, to $534 billion (not counting $130 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan). That’s more than half of all spending Congress has a hand in deciding. The Pentagon budget is not being gutted, despite loud criticism to the contrary.
Long time readers know our take on specific programs i.e. ‘Jedi Knight’ platforms like the F-22, the still touted ‘economical’ (with more importantly stronger international political support) F-35, BMD, the Army’s ‘hey we can be as high-tech as the fly boys’ FCS boondoogle, etc. Over at STSOZ 1.0 we shared at length our general, safe for public/non-sensitive observations on the LCS and the catastrophe of *that* program from Art Cebrowki’s original vision. And let’s not even mention the absurd Zumwalts.
The alleged Gates “cutbacks” are merely a piece with the Potemkin nature of Obama’s budget and TARP/financial rescue plan. Essentially to anyone not still drunk from the Inaugural buzz, the Obama Administration’s claim to fame so far is ‘hey we’re slightly less whacked than those other guys’. Change yes, but less than meets the eye. The ‘vital’ Obama federal budget delivered less than a month ago is blown into vapor by their sudden admission (DOH! – as everyone outside the Administration knew) that the economy in fact wouldn’t grow and begin recovery this June as they claimed. Much less reachg 3.3. GDP next year.
If Obama can present such blatantly delusional, nay, knowingly outright deceptive ‘national priorities’ in a joint address to Congress then one can understand that Gates’ proposed but unsustainable ‘floor’ (read still massively bloated and making permanent as a benchmark the staggering increase since 2002) is similarly a chimera. Let’s just say it out loud: after a couple trillion dollars of printing non-existing money on a meaningless, fictional ‘national budget’ and half assed bank plan, why should the Pentagon be held to a different standard?
Oh there is the usual this-or-that about this-or-that system, platform, etc. True, long overdue outsourced contractor-trimming is *proposed* from insanely out of control to merely dangerously crazed, etc. It’s a real step forward to push out some of the 40% (yes, 40%) of the Pentagon workforce that the Warlord turned over to private contractors. The proposed reforms? To hire real government employees as full time program managers. To hire real auditors. For possible – one hopes – additional (but illusory) savings in 10 years.
All well and good. And we can talk about specifics on any of those issues if people here wish. As long time readers know, the Stiftung has represented about every single major defense industrial/technological/contracting entity at the VP/retired two star, retired three star level across Congress, in OSD, at OMB, HLS and OEOB. We’ve spent time on the Pol/Mil analytical side if that interests people.
To recap 4 years of our conversations here, the U.S. is stumbling oblivious into the gaping razor blade jaws of procurement impossibilities without the financial-economic means (or even pretense to means) to paper over all the rampaging irrationality. And with a decadent political process to boot. A defense budget one can rightfully argue, like a CVN, doesn’t turn on the dime. But Obama unfortunately is far more status quo than his Kool Aid contingent will allow. (And would someone rid us please of that nauseatingly naive and smug Maddow? Her usefulness as an Oppositionist came and went long ago).
We’re still waiting for the Harvard-Larry Summers types and other whiz kidz there to glom on the fact we can’t afford any of it. Really. It is that bad. We’ll be waiting a long while. We maintain their ineptitude, American historical immaturity, financial illiteracy and obtuseness will require something like gaiatsu (Japanese for shock, usually a foreign imposed circumstance ala the Arab 1973 oil embargo or Baker at the 1985 Plaza Accords) to impose even a dazed recognition of empirical truth.
In the interim, we commend again to all the Obama drinking game. At every event each time he proclaims ‘Let me be clear’, ‘I can’t say this more clearly’ etc. — do a shot. Pretty soon he will start to sound clear if the proof is high enough. Maybe one day he really gets clear about reality, U.S. power and the cruelly inexorable, undeniable audit of means. If you think Obama’s hair is turning white now, just wait for that moment. As John Madden would say — “Boom!”
What’s worse? Scenario One — Bartlett et al. proclaiming they can make up reality and force the rest of us to chase after them; or Scenario Two — a bunch of self-convinced, complicit, financially self-dealing poseurs jury rigging an economic house of cards, grasping for a toe hold on any reality, trying to convince *themselves* they get it by constantly reminding *us* how clear they are?
A Psych 101 major at any junior college already knows what that means. And rightly so.