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Bureaucracy and Inefficient Government Threatens US’s National Defense

Posted by Steve Markowitz on December 10, 2013

John Lehman, who was President Reagan’s Secretary of Navy, has written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal concerning America’s depreciating military capabilities.  In the editorial titled More Bureaucrats, Fewer Jets and Ships Lehman points out that the problem is not lack of funding for the military, but instead inefficient and wasteful usage of the funds.  Here are some of the issues pointed out by Lehman:

  • America’s defense spending, adjusted for inflation, is now higher than at the height of Reagan’s military buildup.  However, the then 600 ship Navy is now down to less than half that number.  In addition the then 20 Army divisions have been cut in half.
  • Air Force fighters are now about 30 years old and their numbers have been cut significantly since the Reagan administration.
  • In the past 20 years the number of civilian and uniformed bureaucracy has increased by more than two times.  Currently there are over 1.5 million full-time civilian employees working for the Department of Defense, as well as 1,000 civil servants and 700,000 contract employees.  Making these numbers more protests, Lehman points out that currently more than half of active-duty servicepeople have staff positions.  As an example, Lehman points out that in the past 25 years Joint Task Force Staffs have increased from seven to over 250.
  • One of the most complex weapon systems developed by the US military was the Polaris missile system that took a near four years from its initial draft requirement to the first operational submarine.  Today, complex procurements require about 22 years for the same steps.

The inefficient bloating of US military costs is an example of government out-of-control.  It does not seem to matter whether the spending is for national defense, education, the needy, entitlements or the Department of Energy, costs increase and services depreciate.  This is an unfortunate result of a system that rewards (reelects) politicians for spending money that in essence purchases their future votes.  In addition, bureaucracies are self-perpetuating islands of power that fear cost-cutting as it endangers that power and potentially the incomes of those working for government.

Unless government employees are rewarded and disciplined based on results and not the size of the programs, the misappropriation of taxpayer funds will increase.  There is no better example than the current debacle that is called Obamacare.  Our depreciating military capabilities is a close second.


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