The Rice/Feith Synthesis:  Why Finding Saddam Should be Job 1

May 16, 2003

Comment:  #481

Discussion Threads - Comment #s: 479, 169

Attached References:

[Ref 1] James Harding and Mark Turner, "US Accuses Saddam Over 'Just In Time' Weapons System," London Financial Times, May 13, 2003, Pg. 13

[Ref. 2] Bill Nichols, "Weapons Search Could Take Years: Official's testimony about Iraq is most pessimistic so far," USA Today, May 16, 2003, Pg. 1

[Ref. 3] Robert Bryce, "The military doesn't know this acronym," Dallas Morning News, April 28, 2003.

National security advisor Condolezza Rice says Saddam hid his weapons by dispersing them with a just-in-time inventory management system that would permit rapid transport, assembly, and use [See Blaster #479]. In Reference 1 below, James Harding and Mark Turner of the London Financial Times report that Rice's vision is shared by the Bush Administration. Now in Reference 2 below, we learn that the Undersecretary for Policy in the Pentagon, Douglas Feith, just told Congress it will take months and perhaps years to put together a complete account of Saddam's WMD program because its parts were so well hidden.

If we synthesize the visions of Rice and Feith, it becomes logically clear that the US leadership elite must consider Saddam Hussein to be a management genius. How else could he keep track of everything and quickly move WMD material around, no matter how well it was hidden, or how widely it was dispersed. (Why the Iraqi military did not respond to this genius with a more coherent defensive operation will be left to historians to sort out—our concern here is the vision itself.)

Like the far-edge visions that have been coming out of the Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for years, the Rice/Feith synthesis stretches the mind in a way that promises to have enormous serendipitous benefits in other areas of human affairs. Take accountability, a concept invented 4000 years ago on the banks of Euphrates, for example. Saddam obviously must have had a world class accounting system to manage such a well hidden WMD system just in time. Knowledge of his accounting methodologies could yield enormous benefits to the United States as spoils of war in the information age.

So, if we capture Saddam, we should fill him full of truth serum and assign a team of DARPA psychologists suck that genius out him, before we kill him.

Once his truth is bottled and owned by the Pentagon, our leadership elite could arm their managers with Saddam's just-in-time management methodologies—think of it as another DARPA technology insertion. These managers, for example, could exploit this knowledge as an enabler to fix the Pentagon's accounting systems. Then we could keep track of how we spend the taxpayer's treasure in accordance with the accounting requirements of the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990—not to mention the Accountability Clause of the very Constitution we have all sworn to unhold (see Blaster #169 for a discourse of the importance of such a radical idea).

[For new readers, who may be unfamiliar with the Pentagon's accounting problems, I recommend reading my still un-rebutted 4 June 2002 statement about these problems to the the Subcommittee On National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations of the Committee On Government Reform, United States House Of Representatives.  For other reports and statements describing the accountability crisis and its constitutional implications see Fixing the Financial Systems and Constitutionality.]

But may may be the tip of a serendipitous iceberg! In fact, there may be at least two additional benefits from exploiting Saddam's management genius:

First, the fruits of such an exploitation program could be used to help Congress improve its image with the American people. Think about it ... if the Pentagon could keep track of its own resources with a just-in-time inventory and money management system in accordance with the law (i.e. CFO Act of 1990), then Congress would not have to pass laws to waive that law!!!!!! ... like the annual Defense Authorization Act which waived Pentagon's Inspector General of his requirement to perform the annual department-wide audit as mandated by the CFO Act, while at the same time it required such audits for every other department or agency in the Executive Branch. Last year, as my new friend Robert Bryce notes in Reference 3 below, 21 or the 24 Federal Agencies required to comply with the CFO Act did so.

Second, as Bryce notes, we ought to run the government like a business (all Republicans should agree with that!)—not like Enron of course, but like a business that complies with good old rules like Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. After all, what is good enough for Wal-Mart, General Motors and every other company in America should be good enough for the Defense Department.

So, dear reader, you now know why the Rice/Feith Synthesis makes milking Saddam's brain Job 1: Think of it as reassembling the now dispersed and well-hidden Accountability Clause of the Constitution—JUST IN TIME.

Administrative note: I will be retiring on May 31, after 34 wonderful and fulfilling years of government service, which I hope, in some small way has made things better for the American soldiers and taxpayers. The blaster and the Defense and the National Interest website will continue at a reduced tempo thereafter, at least for a while, while we sort out what to do. But for about 8 weeks, beginning in mid June, I will be on vacation and out of comm. The editor of the Defense and the National Interest web site has graciously volunteered to continue emailing DNI transmittals during my absence. This discontinuity is a good time to clean up the subscription base. Those of you who prefer to be unsubscribed from the Blaster, please let me know in the next week or so, and I will remove you addresses from the emailing list.


Chuck Spinney

"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, from a letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference 1

London Financial Times
May 13, 2003
Pg. 13

US Accuses Saddam Over 'Just In Time' Weapons System

By James Harding and Mark Turner


In the face of increasing pressure to explain the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration has been refining its explanation of the Iraqi threat.

Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction was the pretext for the US-led pre-emptive military strike ... He also suggested Mr. Hussein's government was sitting on "a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and is capable of killing millions".

Nearly two months after US-led forces began to sweep into Iraqi territory, no such hoards of biological or chemical weapons have been found.


This picture of "just-in-time delivery of WMD", as he called it, was based on evidence the official cited of a weapons programme "embedded in the civilian population" and a second mobile weapons laboratory apparently found by coalition forces.


The comments come as the US military is withdrawing the mobile exploitation team charged with leading the search for Iraq's banned weapons programmes. The team has found nothing much so far.


Reference 2
USA Today
May 16, 2003
Pg. 1

Weapons Search Could Take Years: Official's testimony about Iraq is most pessimistic so far

By Bill Nichols, USA Today

WASHINGTON - The search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction could take years to complete, a senior Pentagon official told Congress Thursday.

The testimony by Douglas Feith, under secretary of Defense for policy, was the most pessimistic appraisal yet by a top Bush administration official of one of the White House's key justifications for the invasion of Iraq.


Feith's comments are the latest and most striking example of a rhetorical shift by the Bush administration on the subject of banned Iraqi weapons, none of which has been found.


In the months before the war, administration officials alleged that President Saddam Hussein's regime needed to be removed from power because Iraq had thousands of chemical and biological munitions, many of which could be ready to use within 45 minutes of an order being given.


In his appearance before the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iraq had as many as 18 of the labs, any one of which could produce enough biological weapons in a month to kill "thousands upon thousands."


Reference 3

The military doesn't know this acronym
Dallas Morning News

[Reprinted with permission]

The U.S. military loves acronyms. JDAM, AWOL, GI and CENTCOM all are part of the Pentagon lexicon. Yet, despite an increasingly tight federal budget and American taxpayers' desire for fiscal responsibility, the military still doesn't get GAAP.

Our overwhelming superiority in the Iraq war proved once again that the U.S. military is better educated, better trained and better armed than any other fighting force on Earth. Its planes, vehicles and ships can drop precision bombs on practically any target by using guidance systems steered by satellites. So, why can't the Defense Department do the easy stuff—like balance its books?

Thirteen years after Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990—a law that was designed to assure that every federal agency was accountable for every dollar it spends—the Pentagon is no closer to providing a reliable set of auditable financial statements than it was during the administration of President Bush's father.

Every year, the Defense Department's inspector general looks at the books. And every year, the inspector general says there are "major deficiencies" that prevent it from certifying the Defense Department's financial statements.

On April 8—exactly one week before taxpayers sent their income tax filings to the Internal Revenue Service – David M. Walker, head of the General Accounting Office, told a House subcommittee that the Defense Department has "an inability to compile financial statements that comply with generally accepted accounting principles"—or GAAP.

In an era where we are demanding that corporate America be more accountable to shareholders, why can't we taxpayers expect the same from the Pentagon? After all, if the Defense Department were a corporation, it easily would be the biggest on Earth.

The word "gargantuan" falls a couple ZIP codes short of doing the Defense Department justice. America's military is 50 percent larger than retailing giant Wal-Mart and twice the size of General Motors. It employs 2.1 million people, is spread over 146 countries and operates 250,000 motor vehicles, 15,000 aircraft and 1,000 ships.

This year, the Defense Department will spend about $385 billion. Yet it can't—in fact, it never has been able to—properly account for its assets, liabilities and expenditures. That, despite the fact that defense accounts for 18 percent of the federal budget.

The General Accounting Office found the Defense Department couldn't comply with financial reporting requirements for its property or inventories, couldn't predict its liabilities for future health care costs or environmental cleanups and couldn't provide any cost accounting for its major divisions and programs.

In looking at the Defense Department's books, the General Accounting Office found $615 million in accounting adjustments that "shouldn't have been made, including $146 million that were illegal."

Given the lack of good accounting, it isn't surprising that the Defense Department is wasting more than a little cash. One example that Mr. Walker cited involves chemical and biological protective clothing for soldiers. The General Accounting Office found that the Defense Department was selling perfectly good, unused chemical suits for $3 apiece while it also was buying several hundred thousand nearly identical chemical suits that cost more than $200 apiece!

My desire to have the U.S. military comply with the Chief Financial Officers Act has nothing to do with the war in Iraq. It has nothing to do with the merits or costs of privatizing certain military duties and giving them to companies like Halliburton. It is about accountability. Politicians always talk about accountability, but there is a double standard in Washington: the rules that most federal agencies follow and the rules the Pentagon follows.

In 2002, 21 of the 24 federal agencies that are supposed to comply with the Chief Financial Officers Act did so. That is a big improvement over 1996, when only six agencies complied with the law. The federal bureaucracy is getting better at managing itself. It is becoming more efficient, and it is doing so quickly. The Pentagon, alas, is not.

Simply put, Congress and the White House haven't been forceful enough in demanding that the Pentagon justify every dollar it spends. I am all for running government more like a business—a business that complies with good old rules like GAAP. What is good enough for Wal-Mart, General Motors and every other company in America should be good enough for the Defense Department.

Robert Bryce of Austin is the author of Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego and the Death of Enron.