Murphy's Law: June 10, 2001

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One little noted reason for the readiness problems in the U.S. military is the way the Department of Defense (DoD) is organized and the money spent. Over the last half century, more and more support functions (logistics, administration of payroll and other items, intelligence, Etc.) have been consolidated at the Department of Defence level. This was to save money. The logic was obvious. Rather than have each service perform these functions, you can eliminate duplication of effort and pool these items at the Department of Defence. But there was a fatal flaw in this concept. The consolidated functions were run largely by career civilian bureaucrats. This made sense. The Department of Defense, unlike the army, navy or air force, is a civilian organization. But the civilian bureaucrats don't constantly move around like the military officers. The bureaucrats stay in one place for a long time. And like bureaucrats everywhere, they build empires. Since the bureaucrats are around year after year, while military officers come and go, the bureaucrats tend to get their way when they get into a dispute with the generals. It's more than the experience factor. The Secretary of Defence is a civilian and there has always been a bit of a shoving match between the civilian secretary, who has a more political outlook, and the generals, who care more about purely military matters. The consolidation was more efficient, on paper, but in the 1990s, the dark side began to appear. It works like this. Each of the services have their own budget, and the generals and admirals struggle to make sure the money goes to create combat capability. But the politicians, and the civilians in DoD, are more inclined to use the money for political ends (spending it to enhance politicians' reelection prospects or other further political goals). Crunch time came when the Cold War ended and military manpower was cut by a third. At the same time, the workload (mainly for peacekeeping) went up by over a third. The defense budget stayed the same, but more money was going into DoD organizations. The military was told to cover the additional peacekeeping costs on their own. The money largely came out of things like training, readiness and troop housing. Since the Secretary of Defense has the last word on budgetary matters, is closer to the politicians (both the president and the legislators) and tends to favor DoD operations (all non-combat), we had the absurd result of support people getting money at the expense of the fighting troops. There's no indication that is will change anytime soon.


 


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