In a delightful article published by Huffington Post entitled “Pentagon’s New Contractor Policy Doesn’t Scare the Defense Industry At All,” Huffington’s editors sadly conclude that recently announced measures to improve the efficiency of the military’s procurement process are likely to produce little more than a yawn from contractors who have long thrived on the ineptitude of the Defense Department.
In a June 28th Memorandum for Acquisition Professionals, Defense Department Acquisition Chief Ashton B. Carter,, calls for military suppliers to “. . . abandon inefficient practices accumulated in a period of budget growth and learn to manage defense dollars in a manner that is, to quote Secretary Gates . . .’is respectful of the American taxpayer at a time of economic and fiscal distress.'” I assume that most American taxpayers would be incensed to discover that military spending profligacy needs to be curtailed only during periods of “fiscal distress.” This seems to be a damning indictment of the questionable and most likely corrupt procurement practices that are now so firmly entrenched at the Pentagon.
Huffington Post goes on to say, “it’s a testament to how corrupt the now $400 billion a year contracting process has become that the changes outlined Monday seem in any way dramatic; they are, mostly, simple assertions of common sense. Among the new policies, as summarized by me (Huffington Post):
- Cut down on awarding contracts without genuine competition.
- Cut down on contracts in which government pays for all or part of cost overruns.
- Reward higher productivity, innovation and excellence, rather than other things.
- Get credit for government’s generous cash-flow policies.
- Eliminate valueless overhead and administrative fees; for instance, don’t pay contractors’ bidding and proposal expenses when there was no bidding.
- Add more and better government acquisition workers.
- Improve audits.
- Let cost considerations shape requirements and design for new programs such as the presidential helicopter, the ground combat vehicle and the new nuclear submarine fleet.
- Don’t allow contractors to reduce production rates without approval.”
Our troops in the field are painfully aware of the inadequacies of our military procurement process as evidenced by the improper testing of body armor, the recent recall of military helmets and ceramic plates, the inability of the Defense Department to supply replacement parts for the M2 heavy duty machine gun and the reported ineffectivness of the M4 in Afghanistan. If the Defense Department really wanted to show the taxpayers and military contractors that they mean business, the should begin by firing government employees whose oversights and/or indiscretions are responsible for those failures and ban military suppliers from bidding on new contracts where neglect has been shown as reported by the DODIG or GAO.
Mr. Carter’s soft memo to “Acquisition Professionals,” is the equivalent of giving prison inmates a copy of Emily Post’s book on Etiquette. The military industrial complex is alive and well and thriving at taxpayer expense and in the blood of our young men and women serving in harm’s way.