In a stunning and exquisitely timed article, the Washington Post tells us that the leadership of the Pentagon tried to suppress a study it requested of its own Defense Business Board. The Board found $125 billion in waste in DOD's management of its own personnel over five years of spending. Moreover, that same DOD leadership rejected the opportunity to reinvest this money in combat forces.
If you have not read it already, I urge you to read the 3,000 word article; it goes quickly.
In addition to the article's contents, consider the following:
Not a penny of this $125 billion in misspent money was directed at poorly performing, incompletely tested hardware that is today billions above promised cost and years behind planned schedules. Those, as you probably know, include but are not limited to the F-35 Joint Strike “fighter,” the Littoral “Combat” Ship, the Ford class “aircraft carrier,” and the Zumwalt “destroyer” (the irony of the monikers is intentionally noted). Thus, the $125 billion is just the start of ongoing waste.
As the $125 billion has been spent on bloat, consider the names in the Pentagon, the media, think tanks and Congress that have been whining for more money for what they purport to be austere times for the Pentagon. Those names include but are not limited to Obama, Clinton, McCain, Thornberry, the Washington Post, the Brookings Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Lexington Institute and those identified in the article as suppressing the study: Work, Kendall and Carter. This list should be much longer; it includes about 90 percent of the national security "intelligentsia" in Washington.
Assuming he survives his ethical problems with his membership on the boards of the Theranos and United Technologies corporations after he retired from an admirable career in the Marine Corps, SecDef Mattis is going to have an interesting time arguing that the Pentagon budget is low and needs pumping up, as many assume he and President Trump plan to do. (If you are unfamiliar with the mostly ignored Theranos Corporation scandal involving General Mattis, simply Google “Theranos" and "Mattis.”
If Donald Trump is the businessman he says he is, he will understand that more money for a system this sick is a step in the wrong direction and that a take-no-prisoners manager (with a proven record for same) as the #2 in the Pentagon (as Deputy Secretary) is a must.
Watch as business as usual in Washington tries to undo this story (as it already has in the text of the article) and as the Trump transition reacts. It will tell us a lot about what the next four years is going to be like.
Wheeler was Director (2002-2014), Straus Military Reform Project, Center for Defense Information at Project On Government Oversight. Before joining the CDI, he worked on Capitol Hill for four US Senators from both political parties and for the Government Accountability Office.