For a half century or longer presidents, Congress and the Department of Defense (DoD) have been nipping at the edges of defense acquisition reform. Many of us who have participated in managing federal programs and budgets would agree the process is seriously flawed, if not unfixable without drastic changes. Not since WW II did the U.S. have our act together in uniting private industry, the government and the people in pursuing victory over an enemy that threatened our national security. Sure, we have had isolated successes, but for the most part industry, government and a relatively small number of private citizens have put their own interests above the pursuit of cost-effective national defense. As President Reagan said as he called for the Packard Commission in 1985, “Waste and fraud by corporate contractors are more than a rip-off of the taxpayer – they’re a blow to the security of our nation. And this, the American people cannot and should not tolerate.”(1) Blaming corporate contractors was and remains a convenient copout for the political class, but in truth the political class inside and outside the government is ultimately responsible. To be clear, OCGJ is not suggesting lack of oversight is the problem. A more serious threat comes from elected officials at all levels of government who insert themselves in the federal resource allocation discussion with little or no knowledge of the process, not to mention they have zero authority to do so. A perfect example is the recently-formed Ohio Federal-Military Jobs Commission.
The Commission is made up of nine very senior members of the political class who have passed through the revolving door from the federal government to the private sector, all of whom have profound conflicts of interest. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but OCGJ’s concern is that these surrogates advocating for federal jobs are too far removed from the requirements’ process that is designed to prioritize defense spending.
As we mentioned earlier, the DoD for decades has recognized the need to reform defense acquisition. In virtually every panel or commission that studied the problem, the discussion came back to the requirements’ definition dilemma. We just don’t do a very good job of analyzing requirements, and then prioritizing scarce resources to fulfill those needs. Panels like the Ohio Federal-Military Jobs Commission actually make it worse. They spend local and state tax dollars to advocate for programs and spending outside the federal budget process. This not only wastes local and state tax dollars but applies political pressure on federal legislators to spend scarce resources on programs the DoD and other agencies don’t want or need.
Congress doesn’t need another panel or commission to convince federal agencies to choose Ohio over Texas or any other state when it’s time to deploy the workforce that serves and supports government customers, including the taxpayers. We already have a competitive advantage here in Ohio and the last thing we need is another panel of political class elitists wasting our time and money doing nothing except enriching themselves and loading the wagon to strengthen their grip on control of the citizen class.
- Final Report, President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management, David Packard, Chairman, June 30,1980.
- Barrie Barber, Panel looks to boost fed jobs, Dayton Daily News, January 4, 2014, Page B1.