Op-Ed: America's Military Is Built to Help Defense Contractors, Not Troops (excerpt)
(Source: Los Angeles Times; published May 24, 2017)
By Max Brooks and Lionel Beehner
The speaker was civilian, the audience military. Soldiers and marines leaned forward as the speaker described the hazards inherent to moving troops or supplies in developing countries. Those in uniform nodded. Many knew firsthand what happens to an ambushed truck convoy in a clogged Iraqi alley or on a narrow Afghan switchback. Many had lost friends on those alleys and roads. All were looking for solutions.

And here it was: hover bikes! Through flashing slides of an artist's renderings, the civilian confidently boasted that the future of military transport was here.

"Great," grumbled one soldier after the presentation, "all the enemy has to do is string up a clothesline between two buildings." "Or just hide up on the second floor with a baseball bat," added a young Marine, "and hit us in the face as we pass." "Hey, you guys talking about the hover bikes?" a passing civilian contractor asked. "Cool stuff, huh?"

This scene exemplifies our deeply broken military procurement process. The system pads the pockets of big defense firms at the expense of our troops, delivering boondoggles instead of quality products that save lives.

Before he took office, Donald Trump suggested he would overhaul the procurement process. He said he’d slash the cost of the F-35 and even discussed scaling back the bling on Air Force One. Since taking office, he has reversed himself, promising to lavish the military with whatever it needs. But does the need come from the military or those who arm them?

Greed and incompetence have always infected the equipment of armies. The term "shoddy" comes from the flimsy, mass-produced shoes that "shod" our troops during the Civil War. When President Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex, he foresaw a new age of collusion between politicians, defense contractors and those who wear the stars. It was bad enough during the Cold War, but the dysfunction is even worse now. Consider that of the 63 largest Pentagon programs at the moment, 50 are over budget by $296 billion.

And that's just money. What about blood? (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full story, on the LA Times website.

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