The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, recently provided a list of modifications that will be made in an attempt to constrain major cost overruns. The final item: a bigger focus on training the Pentagon’s acquisition experts, a group that has grown by 13,000 in recent years.
While applauding the effort to improve the acquisition process, we point out that high-quality staff can overcome the limitations of a poor organization, while poor-quality staff cannot achieve success with the best procedures.
In May, we pointed out that the problems underlying the perennial cost growth of major defense programs in the United Kingdom and the U.S. result from established bureaucratic procedures, coupled with the lack of recognition of acquisition as a career path.
The principal problem is the lack of experienced, competent staff. We fear that too many of the 13,000 increase in staff are there to ensure that the disciplines imposed by the regulations are adhered to strictly, rather than to provide real input into the acquisition process.
Good staff is the key to controlling spiraling costs, and that means keeping them in place so that they recognize the effects of the decisions they have made. We would like to see a recognition of this fact front and center of any new reorganization, not, as now appears, as a last thought while the paperwork is revised.
— Stanley Orman, Rockville, Md., and Eugene Fox, Plano, Texas; Orman Associates
Example to follow
Retired Sen. George Voinovich, deceased Sen. Ted Stevens, defeated Sen. Richard Lugar and retiring Sens. Olympia Snowe, Joe Lieberman and Daniel Akaka have something in common in addition to not being in office when Congress convenes in January:
They all accepted that “40 percent of something was better than 100 percent of nothing.” They believed that “my way or the highway” was the road to perdition rather than the path to success. They understood that comity, courtesy and cooperation were signs of courage and strength and not of weakness, and they knew, “politics is the art of the possible.”
I pray our elected officials, following the examples of these senators, put aside differences and do the right thing in the right manner for the common good.
John Priolo, retired federal employee and legislative co-chair, Hawaii Federation National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association
— Pearl City, Hawaii