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The Defense Revolution: Strategy for the Brave New World.

The Defense Revolution: Strategy for the Brave New World

Kenneth L. Adelman, Norman R. Augustine, ICS Press, $19.95. Whole herds of hobby horses are ridden to exhaustion in the six chapters of this book expounding on geostrategy and military policy, six "myths" about the defense acquisition system, five "realities" that must be addressed if that system is to be fixed, and seven "memos to policymakers," ranging from George Bush to Mikhail Gorbachev, from the U.S. Congress to the defense industry.

It's no surprise, considering the source, that this book is indignantly supportive of that industry. Augustine is chairman of the defense-industrial titan, Martin-Marietta Corp., and Adelman directed the U.S. Arms Control Agency throughout the Reagan regency. The authors may be right in arguing that changes in budgets, the political climate, and procurement rules mean that defense contracting is now far less of a money lode than it was during the first half of the roaring eighties. It is also true that alleged waste and fraud on such highly publicized items as $7,000 coffee pots do not consume as much of the $300 billion annual defense budget as many critics want to believe.

But the authors also badly overplay their hand. "Actions taken to monitor America's defense industry," for example, are compared to the political terror unleashed by "the Red Guard during its heyday in communist China." Hmmm . . . none of Augustine's colleagues have yet been frog-marched through the streets in dunce caps to be jeered at by the populace. But in the face of such egregious abuses as the one that forced the Marine Corps to stand down Harrier jump jets during the Persian Gulf crisis thanks to fraudulent parts testing by Northrup Corp., Red Guard tactics don't sound all that extreme.

Some readers may also find rather self-serving the discussion of "techflation," the phenomenon by which the mounting unit costs of advanced weaponry far exceed the rate of dollar inflation. (Adelman and Augustine don't address the military's thus far unfulfilled promises that cheaper operating costs for these new weapons will compensate for their much higher procurement costs.) What this means, we are told, is that a no-real-growth defense budget, accounting for both inflation and techflation, must actually increase annually in nominal terms by 7.9 percent. To deal with this steady erosion of buying power, of course, the authors come down firmly in favor of cutting force structure while preserving the "bowwave" of costly weaponry authorized during the high-flying Reagan era that ties up so much future funding. This is precisely the tack Dick Cheney's Pentagon has chosen to take.

Some of Adelman and Augustine's suggestions do manage to run against the Washington grain: the call for implementation of some sort of national industrial policy, for instance. But on specific weaponry, they tend to favor most of the big-ticket, high-tech wonders--the B-2 stealth bomber and "Star Wars," for example--now jostling for a place in a Pentagon budget increasingly incapable of accommodating them all. This is less than helpful, but it may also be something of an occupational hazard for conservative "defense reformers." For instance, after working for months on a "conventional combat priorities" study, a distinguished panel assembled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies recently endorsed stealth fighters and the rest of the Pentagon's current torrent of "priorities."

An odd literary couple, the authors both worked at Fort Fumble in the mid-seventies--Adelman as an assistant secretary of defense and Augustine as an undersecretary of the Army. They are both also authors of recent books on arms control and arms building, from which much material appears to have been recycled here. In last year's The Great Universal Embrace: Arms Summitry--A skeptic's Account, Adelman, no fan of arms control, slipped on a Freudian banana peel, describing himself--erroneusly, if appropriately--as the former director of the "Arms Agency." The humor in Augustine's Laws was more intentional. Augustine's wry wit and acerbic takes on the foibles of the "military-industrial-congressional complex" inform this joint effort as well--which only makes the book's failure to break the important ground on what ails that complex all the more disappointing. All in all, Defense Revolution is breezier and more entertaining than most of its ilk, but one still wishes the authors had avoided the irritating, George Willesque overreliance on recycled mots justes by luminaries great and small. Evel Knievel and Nicholas I, Yogi Berra and Oliver Cromwell--everyone gets to stick an oar in here, Winston Churchill no fewer than six times.

Reformers love to quantify the ills of the system they are dissecting by pointing to the paper indices of regulation and oversight run riot: the 30,000 pages of federal acquisition rules issued by 79 different government offices and the 120,000 written requests for information that flow every year from Capitol Hill to the Pentagon. But if America's vanishing forests are being sacrificed to feed this insatiable bureaucratic maw, the pulp mills are kept no less busy supporting the publishing efforts of the reformers. My far-from-comprehensive home library boasts no fewer than five books on defense reform published over the past year alone. Defense Revolution joins that groaning shelf.

Like its many predecessors, this volume contains much advice that is sensible. Yes, "the age-old dichotomy between authorization and appropriation legislationshould end." It really is a "crushing" waste of time. And, yes, we should "ensure that our military forces are an integrated operating entity, not merely a collection of individual service contributions." Interservice rivalry has prompted immense wastes of energy and money.

But there are deeply entrenced political and bureaucratic reasons why these and other patently unsensible phenomena persist. The Pentagon will never manage its sizable share of the taxpayer's tribute with the care that trove deserves as long as The Building is dominated by an ethic that the only way to get along is for officers and officials to go along. And Congress will never be able to do the job either as long as it functions largely as a port barrel for the collection of campaign contributions to perpetuate eternal incumbency. After more than four decades of blue-ribbon commissions, official reports, and books such as this, it should be abundantly clear that jaw-boning alone will

not revolutionize a defense establishment that, if and when the Soviet Union fully implements the Shatalin economic reform plan, will be the largest socialist economy in the world.
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Author:Morrison, David C.
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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