TOYS vs. BOYS -- The Coming Conflict Between the
Defense Contractors and the Troops

January 26, 1999

Comment: #227


[1] George C. Wilson, "Armed services being 'slowly ground down' by contractors," Army Times, February 1, 1999. Excerpt included.

As I have said repeatedly, three problems are now wrecking our military: (1) a modernization program that cannot modernize the force because new weapons are too expensive, (2) a rapidly deteriorating readiness posture which is the inevitable result of the rising cost of low readiness, and (3) a corrupt accounting system that renders it impossible to sort out the information needed to fix the first two problems and makes a mockery of the Accountability Clause of the Constitution. For new readers, these problems are discussed in the reports at the hot links beneath my signature block and Comment #169 is the best introduction to the implications of the corrupt bookkeeping system.

Mr. Clinton's $110 add-on might relieve a little readiness pressure for while, will not make a dent in the modernization crisis, and totally ignores the implications of the bookkeeping problems. So, don't be surprised when the interaction of these three problems continues to magnify the budgetary pressures that are now pitting the welfare of the troops against that of the milcrats, contractors, and politicians in the military-industrial-congressional complex (MICC).

The contractors understand the threat to their existence, which is one reason why they flogging the idea that government privatize more and more military activities. I have even seen one contractor even suggest privatizing some military airlift operations.

The attached opinion piece by George Wilson, the dean of America's defense reporters, in this week's Army Times suggests that the mud soldiers and middle grade officers are beginning to understand that they are being hosed by the MICC.


  • Midgrade officers, the ones the nation needs most, write me that they are tired of seeing their troops go short to pay for overkill weapons designed for the Cold War.

  • In his book (Fortress America), (William) Greider also lambasts Pentagon leaders for complaining about Congress' failure to go along with closing surplus military bases at the same time they keep open cavernous, government-owned factories that have no work to do. He reminds Pentagon procurement chief Jacques Gansler that he was the one who, while in private industry, decried the Pentagon's failure to do something about this overcapacity.

  • Greider is right. Gansler and fellow Pentagon leaders are allowing Lockheed Martin, for example, to build the F-22 fighter in two huge government factories, one in Marietta, Ga., and the other in Fort Worth, Texas. The plane could be built in one corner of either plant.

I hope Wilson is correct, and the email coming into my inbox suggests that he is, because I think it is up to the troops and those who care about them to demand fixes to these problems.

The courtiers inhabiting Versailles on the Potomac are quite happy to continue letting the troops eat cake while they feed at the trough. To those readers who think the courtiers will ever put the welfare of the troops before the contractors, just take the time to look at the official Armed Forces Day posters for the last three years. You will find a celebration of weapons but not a hint of the patriotism and sacrifices of our people.

Chuck Spinney

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