Leadership: Corruption Cripples Combat Capability

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April 15, 2007: An Austrian Major General was recently forced to resign when it was revealed that he had accepted a $117,000 bribe to ensure that Austria bought 18 Eurofighters (worth $3.4 billion.) Such corruption scandals are rare in Europe, but not unknown. Several American congressmen were recently prosecuted for similar crimes.

When it comes to military spending, there is always an irresistible temptation to pay someone off to get your weapon, or service, accepted. Unlike commercial goods, determining which weapon is superior is much more difficult, and often impossible. So the weapons manufacturers have long since learned that a few well placed bribes will do the trick. This is an ancient practice, and there are documented cases of it going back thousands of years.

Corruption is relative, though. There's much less of it in the West. It's worse in Africa and the Middle East. There, a major chunk of the money devoted to military spending simply disappears. This means the armed forces in these regions are much weaker than they appear to be. The corruption also extends to who gets what job. Key officers are often holding down a job they bought, not one they are qualified to handle. Worse yet is the custom of having "ghost soldiers." These are troops who exist only on paper, and their commanders pocket the pay these troops receive, as well as money allocated to maintain them. It's all very profitable, unless the nation goes to war. At that point, the corruption is revealed in the form of defeat by less corrupt forces.

 


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