Defense and the National Interest

Defense Power Games

Because traditional market forces operate only weakly in the defense environment, companies have evolved other ways to compete.  The most common idea is to try to influence the single customer directly, that is, to compete on the basis of political skills instead of—or at best complementary to—price, quality, delivery span, and performance.  The result, unfortunately, can be weapons bought from suppliers with the best lobbying strategies, rather than the best engineering or production capabilities.  Two of the most common tactics are "front loading," which is understating the complete cost of a weapon in order to smooth its launch, and "political engineering," which involves placing contracts in a large number of congressional districts so that a program once launched is difficult to evaluate clearly and if necessary, to scale back or cancel.

"Defense Power Games," by Franklin C. Spinney.  Comprehensive and thoroughly documented report that presents  hard data to reveal the tactics of political engineering.  These practices corrupt our national security strategies and ensure that the hard decisions necessary to refocus DoD towards the 21st Century do not get made.  Although such power games are usually played within the boundaries of current law, taken in toto, they are having a corrosive effect on our Constitutional system of government.  Since no defense contractor today can afford not to employ them, to some degree, they represent systemic problems and it will take action by Congress to solve them.

11/25/03 The Cross of Iron, by Conn Hallinan.  Why diverting money from Cold War weapons systems is so difficult.

"The Shell Game," by David Segal, Washington Monthly, July/August 1993.  This unfortunately prescient article begins, "The military is going to take Bill Clinton to the cleaners." (1.5 MB .pdf file)

Front-loading:  It's Not Just for Procurement Anymore.  As documented in a new GAO report (740 KB .pdf document on the GAO web site.), the Air Force announced - and budgeted for - huge improvements in depot maintenance costs (thereby freeing up money for modernization).  Unfortunately, the "reforms" produced only 39% of the promised savings.  This is another example of the technique of front-loading (downplaying the future consequences of current decisions in order to get approval for a given course of action), which has long been used to justify new program starts (see "Defense Power Games.")

Comment #169, "The Constitution, Situational Ethics & the Phony Debate Over More Defense Spending," now with all references. Inside the Pentagon reported that DoD has apparently successfully opted out of the Constitution's "Accountability Clause" (Article I, Section 9, Clause 7).  Commentator Chuck Spinney explains why this should outrage Americans of every political viewpoint.

O&M Migration:  Front-loading at the Macro Level.  To quote from a recent GAO report (360 KB .pdf file):  "We identified several areas in the operation and maintenance accounts where costs may be understated or savings overstated, adding risk that DOD in the next FYDP will have to shift more funds to these accounts from other accounts, such as procurement."  Although the 2001 FYDP is funded at $16 billion more than the 2000 FYDP, DOD programmed some $3 billion less for procurement, and even this figure assumes that savings from various "defense reform initiatives" will come in as predicted.  As one can see from the preceding GAO report, such reforms often produce only a fraction of the needed savings.


531 Defense Budget Time Bomb Explodes: The Rising Cost of Low Readiness Comes Home to Roost ... and our Troops are Paying the Price, December 18, 2004
514 Iraq: Follow the Money, If You Can, July 7, 2004
508 Conditioning the Masses in the Hall of Mirrors (II) April 10, 2004
497 Comptroller General Issues Wakeup Call — Truth & Transparency — But Will Anyone Listen? September 22, 2003
495 Why Outsourcing Military Operations is Bunk, September 19, 2003
482 Star Wars, Punctuated Epistemology, and the Triumph of Medieval Scholasticism, May 23, 2003
474 Offsets: Legalized Bribery or Half-Baked Policy or Both? February 18, 2003
473 Did Throwing Money at the Pentagon Fix its Readiness Problems?  February 17, 2003
407 Sneak Attack Reveals Why Bureaucrats Love Anonymity, March 5, 2001
406 Buy Before You Fly (III)  February 19, 2001
405 Buy Before You Fly & the Politics of Risk Reduction (II)  February 11, 2001

The Win-Win Power Game ... or ... Why Working the Troops Overtime is Good for St. Louis and the Nation, June 13, 1999


TOYS vs. BOYS -- The Coming Conflict Between the Defense Contractors and the Troops, January 26, 1999






CERTAIN TO WIN: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business, by Chet Richards. Boyd's real OODA loop and ancient strategies working for business today. More...
Advance Reviews;
Amazon and B&N


RAISING THE BAR, by Donald Vandergriff (U.S. Army, ret.) Published by the Center for Defense Information Press. Read the DNI review. Order from Amazon.


SCIENCE, STRATEGY AND WAR, by Col Frans Osinga, RNAF. Read the DNI Review.  Order from Amazon or B&N. New! Now in paperback directly from Routledge, $35.95.


NEITHER SHALL THE SWORD, by Chet Richards.  If you thought A Swift, Elusive Sword was too tame.  Read the Introduction and view the Briefing. Podcast review.  Available now on Amazon


BOYD: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram
Amazon & B&N.


BLUEPRINT FOR ACTION : A Future Worth Creating, by Thomas P. M. Barnett. Read the DNI review. Buy at Amazon and B&N


NOT A GOOD DAY TO DIE: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, by Sean Naylor. Read the DNI Review; Amazon and B&N


THE WASTRELS OF DEFENSE: How Congress Sabotages U. S. Security by Winslow Wheeler.  You'll be disgusted, then just mad.
Read Comment #527.
Amazon and B&N


THE AFGHAN CAMPAIGN, by Steven Pressfield.  Read the DNI Review. Amazon and B&N.


The Virtues of War by Steven Pressfield
Read the DNI Review.
Amazon and B&N. Now in trade paperback.


The Sling and The Stone by Col T. X. Hammes, USMC
Amazon and B&N


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