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Pentagon’s budget fears fall on media’s deaf ears
The Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune reported that the Army stockpiled nearly $1 billion in spare parts for Stryker armored vehicles, with “much of the gear becoming outdated even as the military continued to order more equipment.”
The debt crisis and the Pentagon’s alarm bells also have spurred the press to refocus coverage on the nearly $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an iconic symbol of cost overruns and technical glitches.
The Washington Times reported that the top brass are second-guessing the entire procurement plan. A former chief of naval operations believes the Air Force’s F-35 model should be scuttled in favor of the Navy’s variant. Retired Air Force generals say the Pentagon should cancel the Marine Corps’ version, saying it is too expensive and not operationally practical.
Several studies over the years have urged the Defense Department to cut duplication and waste in its “tail” infrastructure and personnel.
For example, the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board has called on the military to reduce the civilian workforce as well as the “tail,” which private industry refers to as overhead.
“Given the Department’s inability to reduce its overhead over the very periods in which U.S. and global businesses have made such great strides in efficiency, it became apparent to the [business board] that the current management tools applied by DoD are increasingly ineffective in managing the ‘tail,’” the report said.
Mr. Adams, who oversaw defense budgeting at the Clinton White House, said part of the reason the press is losing sympathy for the military’s plight is that the Pentagon refused to let military units prepare for sequestration until late 2012, even though it knew for more than a year that such cuts might come.
“So all the services merrily went along at the burn rate on operational accounts,” he said.
Waste is not highlighted only by the liberal press, or “mainstream media”; some conservative groups argue that the debt crisis demands a more efficient Defense Department.
In a Feb. 26 open letter to President Obama and Congress, such conservative groups as Americans for Tax Reform and the National Taxpayers Union joined left-leaning groups such as the Project on Government Oversight in making that case.
“The time has come to reduce wasteful and ineffective Pentagon spending to make us safer,” the groups said. “There has been a great deal of doomsday rhetoric about the effects of sequestration. Our organizations believe that sequester might not be the best way to reshape Pentagon spending, but that should not serve as an excuse to avoid fundamental reforms.”
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