Sunday, December 15, 2013


The Pentagon Wars.jpgIn fact, a number of people have fought the MICC over the years, though were rarely entirely successful. That said, some enjoyed significant victories and escaped with the career equivalent of minor bruises.

Others have felt their efforts were worthwhile even if the price was high. To people of true caliber, the reward for doing the right thing can be vastly more satisfying than the tokenism of a star—or even a number of stars.

I must tell you that I find this obsession with careerism decidedly unpleasant. In effect, you have to accept the status quo regardless of the situation because if you speak up you are putting your chances of promotion at risk. In fact, there is a joke that most Army officers would risk their lives before their careers—but I’m not sure it’s a joke!

I was introduced to this world in the early Nineties as part of a wide-ranging research program to get material for future books. Typically, one researches a specific book, but I decided to spread my net wide and to become familiar with a number of overlapping worlds which I thought might be particular productive for a thriller writer. One introduction led to another, and I ended up with gaining quite an extensive knowledge of:

  • The NYPD
  • The FBI
  • The U.S. Army
  • Counterterrorism
  • Congress (and the whole Inside the Beltway scene)

Fortunately, I wasn’t starting from scratch, but was building on years of reading, spending time with military units, experiencing terrorism in Ireland, the UK, Italy, Cyprus and so on. Add in foreign travel, and some friends in both low and high places—and, after a while, people regard you as an expert. It is, so to speak, one of the pluses of the aging process.

Incidentally, somewhat to my surprise, I have found there to be quite a number of advantages to aging, and I’d probably be recommending old age with enthusiasm if death wasn’t such a prominent factor. But, what the hell!

But let me get back to defying the MICC.  Here, I will offer two examples. The first is of Colonel James Burton who fought long and hard to have the Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicle properly developed and tested. This was difficult indeed because he was up against the active hostility of higher command and rigged tests—in effect, corruption at its most blatant. In the end, he achieved his objective, but was forced to retire.

Many soldiers owe their lives to his efforts because he caused numerous deficiencies in the Bradley design to be remedied.

The saga was made into a thoroughly entertaining movie, THE PENTAGON WARS, which I thoroughly recommend. Actually, though the movie was made as a comedy, it is an appalling story—albeit a perfect example of the MICC in action. Believe it or not, the Bradley was in development for 17 years at a cost of $17 billion.

I never did get to meet Colonel Burton—his wars took place before I made it to The Building (which is what those in the know call the Pentagon) but he is one of my heroes.

The other hero I am going to name today is Chuck Spinney. He is one of the most knowledgeable defense experts I know---and not only gave testimony to Congress about the MICC, but lived to tell the tale.

In his case, there was a stand-off. Despite revealing all to Congress, he kept his job as a Pentagon analyst but was never given any more work to do. In effect, the idea was to freeze him out.

It didn’t work. Chuck had enough friends to keep him in the loop—and thereafter, he used his time to write one blaster after another exposing what was going on.

Now he is retired and spends much of the year with his wife on a sailboat in Europe—but he is still blasting away.

The kicker is that Congress—the institution responsible for allowing the MICC to continue—is part of the problem, and a fundamental part at that. So although Chuck has done everything he could, and has shown enough moral courage for ten men, the MICC lives on.

The MICC will only be killed when fundamental reform of Congress takes place. Right now, that seems like an impossible task, but there may come a time when enough Americans appreciate how bad matters have become and force change.

I’m of the view that this may happen sooner that many think.

Incidentally, you should know that despite the fact that the MICC consumes such a large portion of the national cake (over $1 trillion if you include everything we spend on Nation Security) you should know that the Pentagon cannot be audited. It is supposed to be—indeed it is legally mandated to be audited—but the Department of Defense books are in such a mess, that the task cannot be done. In effect, there is no accountability.

This problem has existed for years. Congress knows about. It remains unresolved.

Ponder on the significance of that.



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