November 8, 2001
Pressure from Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex Favors Business as Usual, Says The Independent Reviews Editor
OAKLAND, Calif. - Shortly after Sept. 11, the White House assured the American public and the world that the War on Terror would be a different kind of conflict against a different kind of enemy. Indeed, prior to the attacks the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) program promised a migration from Cold War-era systems to newer systems.
However, pressure from defense contractors hawking legacy systems, the bureaucratic structure of the U.S. Department of Defense, and politicians beholden to the military-industrial-congressional complex is quickly transforming the conflict between the U.S. and Osama bin Ladens Al Qaeda network into a more traditional exercise in pork-barrel politics.
This business-as-usual response to the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan is the predictable result of politically driven, special interest policies, according to economic historian Robert Higgs, Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute.
As Higgs reports in his article, The Cold War Is Over, but U.S. Preparation for It Continues, in the fall 2001 issue of THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW (Vol. 6, No. 2):
* In 1986, General James P. Mullins, former head of the Air Force Logistics Command, made a statement that remains as valid today : were still living in the past in the area of weapons procurement and support. We dont do things differently today. We do them just like we did decades ago - in another day and age. (p. 292)
* Lawrence Korb, formerly a high-ranking Department of Defense (DOD) official, has opined that getting the Pentagon to be more businesslike could save about $100 billion over the next five years, but what incentive exists to elicit businesslike behavior from a vast bureaucracy fueled by taxpayer money and accountable to neither customers nor shareholders? (p. 292)
* As a rule, however, the actual objective of congressional actions is the reelection of incumbents, and if viewed in that perspective, those actions make good sense. In countless ways, big and small, members of Congress treat the defense budget as a slush fund used for winning the favor of constituents and others whose support would improve members reelection prospects. (p. 293)
* As Richard Stubbing, a longtime defense analyst at the Office of Management and Budget, has observed, this concern for the public-works aspect of the budget - this intramural scramble for resources - often leaves the Congress unable or unwilling to make hard choices on defense issues, particularly on issues with large dollar implications. (p. 293)
* In examining congressional oversight of the defense program, it is easy to fall into thinking that Congress is the mischief maker and the Pentagon the long-suffering soldier just trying to do his job . . . . In fact, the military departments are no less culpable than Congress. Defense Department decision makers are as self-interested as others involved in the defense program. (p. 294)
* [If] you are the Pentagon czar, intent on managing the DOD exclusively with an eye to the optimal employment of its budget in the service of maximizing national security.... [h]ow likely is it that despite countless changes in specific threats, technologies, resources costs, and military experience, you would never have occasion to change the interservice distribution of total resources by more than a trivial amount? (pp. 295-96)