Friday, July 6, 2007

Who’s Minding Trough?

Martindale, 43, is among a group of procurement officers struggling to keep pace with increasing demands to oversee billions of dollars in spending by the Pentagon and civilian agencies. Although she and her colleagues play pivotal roles in the government's operation, their plight has received little attention even as the government continues to expand its reliance on private companies and embarks on increasingly complicated programs .

The Defense Department's civilian acquisition workforce has shrunk by about 40 percent since the early 1990s and now has about 270,000 employees, according to Pentagon statistics and Government Accountability Office reports. Yet defense spending on service contracts increased 78 percent, to $151 billion, from 1996 to 2006, the reports said.

There are 7.5 million federal contractors, 1.5 million more than in 2002, without a corresponding increase in government officials to oversee them, said Paul C. Light, a public service professor at New York University.

"The acquisition workforce couldn't be in any more distress right now, and I know they are frustrated that they can't oversee the contracts that they have," Light said. "They are looking at the hunks of money flowing out but don't have the bodies to keep up."

The shortfall, which the government has relied largely on private contractors to fill, has contributed to cost overruns and delays, according to government reports and audits.

In the midst of the decline, the Army launched a modernization project but had "insufficient resources to staff, manage, and synchronize" the program, which includes a complex system for networking soldiers with each other, planes and tanks, the GAO found recently. The Army hired Boeing to manage the project, which has nearly doubled in cost to $163 billion.

This year, after a ship being built by Lockheed Martin went more than 50 percent over budget, the Navy acknowledged that it hadn't provided enough oversight and pledged to more than double the number of technical experts at the shipyard where the work is being done.[1]

Remember when the “Cold War” ended and all those generals were talking about peace dividends and lowering the cost of the military budget. We now know of course that this administration has spent not only the peace dividend, but also any other dividend they could find in the public coffers. As the acquisition part of the military industrial complex has grown to astronomical proportions those hired to oversee them has not. If I were a cynic I would say that this was intentional. The reason is simple any project that does not have the proper oversight has massive design issues and cost-overruns which goes straight into the contractor’s pockets. What we are seeing is the contractors policing themselves due to a lack of Pentagon overseers. History has shown that when this is the case we end up with projects like the B-1 bomber, $800 toilet seats, and the “Star Wars” initiative. As part of their lobbying efforts could those big defense contractors be trying to keep the government payroll down to keep their payrolls up? Think about it, if every project or product you bid has a 50% increase built in you could make that bottom line look pretty sweet. These guys may not be big fans of “big government”, but they don’t seem to have problem with big government contracts. Also, with more than a third of current projects being manned by the same contractors that are building the projects, can anyone be surprised that they are over-budget and have major design flaws?

How much money do we have to pour down this black hole before we realize the fruitlessness of it? The past few wars should demonstrate to us that the modern battle is not about technology. In each case we have had superior fire-power and in each case we have been defeated by a determined enemy with low tech weaponry. In the mean time, we continue to spend trillions of dollars figuring out a better way to kill our fellow humans. In a protracted urban guerrilla struggle all those nice little toys can’t carry the day. The days of lining up forces opposed to each other and going at it are over. It is time to trim down this bloated military budget and put the money into ways to break our dependency on oil, poverty eradication, and global warming. Now, I realize in the midst of an unpopular and so far badly managed war that this suggestion will seem radical and very unpopular, but as long as we continue to build this crap we will continue to have to create wars to use it. It’s like a viscous cycle and it doesn’t matter who is in office, you don’t spend trillions of dollars on this stuff and not use it.

Instead of talking about increasing the size of the military, maybe we should try increasing the size of our leader’s brains and their courage. Not the false courage that is willing to send kids to do a job they weren’t willing to do as youth; no the courage to back us away from the brink of self destruction. The more we try to hang on to this empire, the closer we get to our decline as a society. These examples of letting the foxes guard the hen house are just further proof that the end is near. The thing about greed is that there is never enough to satisfy the appetite of the avaricious.



[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/04/AR2007070401424.html?hpid=moreheadlines

1 comment:

RoseCovered Glasses said...

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak. I believed another Vietnam could be avoided with defined missions and the best armaments in the world.

It made no difference.

We have bought into the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). If you would like to read how this happens please see:

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/03/spyagency200703

Through a combination of public apathy and threats by the MIC we have let the SYSTEM get too large. It is now a SYSTEMIC problem and the SYSTEM is out of control. Government and industry are merging and that is very dangerous.

There is no conspiracy. The SYSTEM has gotten so big that those who make it up and run it day to day in industry and government simply are perpetuating their existance.

The politicians rely on them for details and recommendations because they cannot possibly grasp the nuances of the environment and the BIG SYSTEM.

So, the system has to go bust and then be re-scaled, fixed and re-designed to run efficiently and prudently, just like any other big machine that runs poorly or becomes obsolete or dangerous.

This situation will right itself through trauma. I see a government ENRON on the horizon, with an associated house cleaning.

The next president will come and go along with his appointees and politicos. The event to watch is the collapse of the MIC.

For more details see:

http://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2006/11/inside-pentagon-procurement-from.html

 
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