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How Trump Can Attack The Blood-Soaked, Money-Wasting Scandal Of How The Pentagon Develops Weapons. PRESIDENT TRUMP has appointed Jared Kushner to head the new White House Office of American Innovation, which is charged with making the government more efficient. Its biggest challenge, by far, will be dealing with the Defense Department’s monstrously sclerotic weapons-procurement system, which has unnecessarily cost the lives of countless thousands of our servicemen and -women and has literally wasted hundreds of billions of dollars. We can’t let this horror continue.
Back in 2010 the Economist declared, “The chronic problem of exorbitantly expensive weapons is becoming acute.” Alas, such dire warnings have been uttered countless times before and since. President Trump has the opportunity to do what every other Commander-in-Chief and defense secretary has failed to do since WWII: truly reform this festering disgrace.
Our military needs a buildup on a scale not seen since Ronald Reagan’s in the 1980s. Our services are undermanned. Equipment is in dire need of repair and refurbishment. New equipment, software and weapons are needed for the U.S. to play its crucial role in keeping the world’s aggressors at bay and meeting the challenges of the cyberspace, unmanned systems and robotics era. The Navy alone requires another 80 ships to meet our global obligations.
The Trump military budget for fiscal year 2018 won’t even catch up on the maintenance of existing equipment and weapons and is 6% less than spending was in 2012.
Overhauling the process of developing new weapons, aircraft, ships and the like is no longer a discretionary matter. What needs to be done is simply unaffordable under current procedures. The magnitude of the task boggles the mind. The Pentagon’s total back-office personnel numbers over 1 million people.
What should Kushner and his team do? Tear into this bloodstained, massive mountain of bureaucratic muck on two fronts.
First, dig up that Defense Business Board report. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. The findings there will give them all they need to mount a sustained, substantive attack that will yield the mother of all government reforms in U.S. history.
Second, take to heart the lesson of the Gordian knot and put into practice an idea recommended by Christopher Lehman, a former national security official in the Reagan administration, in the Philadelphia Inquirer in January: “a simple legislative provision that would grant to the defense secretary, or any of the services secretaries (Army, Navy, and Air Force), the authority for five years to waive any and all Federal Acquisition Regulations. Instead, the legislation would allow that official to use standard commercial law to acquire goods or services with funds appropriated by Congress.
In this way, thousands of pages of red tape and myriad bureaucratic obstacles could be eliminated and straightforward commercial contracting could be employed, saving months, years, or a decade or more, of delay and unneeded expenses.”