Neither Obama nor Romney has realistic plan to tame cost of F-35 stealth jet

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“Figure out how many you need and then try and buy in volume, then oversee it through a clear chain of command with a few people you’re definitely going to hold accountable and you’ll get, over time, acquisition reform, and that’s basically what the governor plans to do,” he said. “That’s classic management, really.”

Others defend Mr. Obama’s efforts to bring reform to the process, pointing to the moves of Mr. Gates and more recently Leon E. Panetta, who took over as defense secretary last year and promptly set into motion what many hope will be the first full audit of the Pentagon’s books.

Under pressure from Congress, Mr. Panetta has called for the Defense Department to meet constitutional requirements for the audit by 2014, three years ahead of an initial promise of 2017.

Winslow T. Wheeler, who worked on national security issues for 31 years for members of the Senate before joining the Center for Defense Information as an analyst, said that approach is not much different nor more effective than Mr. Romney‘s.

“Both of them are nowhere on this,” Mr. Wheeler said.

He said one of Mr. Romney’s top advisers is Dov Zakheim, who was comptroller under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and “did nothing — I repeat, nothing — to address the serious and fundamental problem of an unauditable Pentagon.”

The Romney campaign has not responded to requests for an interview with Mr. Zakheim.

As for the Obama administration, “even if they achieve their objectives for this audit plan,” said Mr. Wheeler, “they have a long ways to go for the Pentagon to comply with the constitutional requirement of making a statement of expenses, of where the money went.”

Franklin C. “Chuck” Spinney, a retired Pentagon analyst who won fame during the 1980s for penning a report on reckless defense spending, said the problem has been years in the making.

“Clinton squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity to clean up after the Cold War ended,” said Mr. Spinney. “Together with [George W.] Bush, they approved the Pentagon’s agenda of defense programs that made the current mess inevitable.

“Obama bought into it as well and made it even worse, as would Romney, if he gets the opportunity.”

Mr. Obama is more open to overall spending cuts within the department, while Mr. Romney wants to spend more now, which advisers say will pay off in the long run with a more stable world economy.

Neither gets the balance just right, said David Johnson, executive director of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies. He noted that Mr. Obama is pursuing tough cuts, but “they’re not necessarily targeted in the right places.”

Mr. Romney’s talk of “peace through strength is not a strategy,” he said. “It basically says we desire to continue to lead the world.”

Mr. Korb agreed and said Mr. Romney’s vision for an expanded Navy — the candidate often says that the fleet is “smaller than it’s been since 1917” — is emblematic.

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About the Author
Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.

His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.

Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...

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