There’s a great movie that lampoons the military for wasteful spending, bad concept development, minimal oversight, and high-level corruption that characterized the Pentagon and senior military leadership during the Cold War called “The Pentagon Wars.” This movie chronicled the development of a useless half-tank, half-rapid troop transport system known as the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
This began as a good idea – troops deployed in multiple overseas venues around the USSR and its communist allies during the cold war needed a way to safely get to the front lines very quickly. The goal was to produce an armored vehicle that could move very quickly, provide covering fire, and move an entire platoon twenty clicks in a matter of minutes without the attrition common in WWII era troop transports (more than half of the casualties in the first two days of the Normandy invasion occurred in the process of getting the troops onto the beaches – they arrived in amphibious transport shells that had no shielding…men died by the hundreds before they had even left their shells or fired a shot). This is a good concept. But, as with all things governmental, this good idea was run through a series of concept meetings, development committees and contract talks, and at each level, higher-ups with cozy connections to public/private contract companies or even just a pet idea that they really wanted deployed added another modification to the blueprints for the BFV until, after over a decade of development, the concept went from light, fast-moving armored vehicle with a hatch for soldiers to lay down covering fire to a heavy mini-tank theoretically capable of repelling MORTAR FIRE that could now safely transport only 9 men…not the full platoon originally envisioned. I say theoretically equipped to deflect mortar fire (and stinger missiles too!) because in practical tests, the metal used to barricade the vehicle would become hot enough to release toxic fumes and kill the vehicle’s occupants when it was actually struck with a missile or mortar shell.
I bring this up because this just came across the conservative headlines:
Even in a democratic administration that actively demonizes the military and claims to desire defense budget cuts, the pork barrel rolls on. And the reason? Bureaucracy will always…ALWAYS be wasteful, inefficient and ineffective. The military is not immune to this. One of the few things Bill Clinton did CORRECTLY (because he had significant bipartisan cooperation and the help of GOP budget hawks) was military base closure. A lot of wasteful spending from the Cold War years was rolled back in a manner that made it easier, not harder, for the military to do its job. But that kind of government waste reduction cant be limited to defense…and it can’t only occur once every thirty or forty years. It needs to be ongoing and it needs to be unbound by agendas and branch mandates. Just because Housing and Urban Development has what sounds like a noble mission statement does not mean that waste reduction within HUD is an attack on the poor. It’s funny how Hollywood can see the failure of government bureaucracy when it happens within the Pentagon, but there’s never been a great Hollywood movie about the 50 billion dollars we owe Native American tribes that just…DISAPPEARED from Department of the Interior or the yearly excesses of the IRS or the GSA.
FACT: A bureaucracy is always slow to change, slow to adapt to problems, inefficient with money, and in need of oversight…whether it be the bureaucracy of a large multinational corporation or a government agency…and that includes agencies that Democrats seem to think are above questioning because they like the mission statement. And that also includes defense, which the GOP seems to prefer to run on the principle of laissez faire when, in reality, defense spending is just as bureaucratic (read: stupid) as anything else. Maybe if we were more hawkish about wasteful spending within DoD, it wouldn’t be such a hard thing to sell the American people on the need for a larger portion of the budget to go to defense (since the Constitution actually requires that we defend ourselves!)…and maybe…just maybe…people like my father who do good work advising the military would be able to keep their jobs and not face layoffs and furloughs because we spent billions of dollars on nothing at all.