Mattis: One More General for the ‘Self Licking Ice Cream Cone’, by Kelley Vlahos.
Before he became lionized as the “only adult in the room” capable of standing up to President Trump, General James Mattis was quite like any other brass scoping out a lucrative second career in the defense industry. And as with other military giants parlaying their four stars into a cushy boardroom chair or executive suite, he pushed and defended a sub-par product while on both sides of the revolving door. …
According to a recent report by the Project on Government Oversight, 25 generals, nine admirals, 43 lieutenant generals, and 23 vice admirals retired to become lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for the defense industry between 2008 and 2018. They are part of a much larger group of 380 high-ranking government officials and congressional staff who shifted into the industry in that time. …
Mattis and money:
When he was tapped for defense secretary — just three years after he left the military — he was worth upwards of $10 million. In addition to his retirement pay, which was close to $15,000 a month at the time, he received $242,000 as a board member, plus as much as $1.2 million in stock options in General Dynamics, the Pentagon’s fourth largest contractor. He also disclosed payments from other corporate boards, speech honorariums — including $20,000 from defense heavyweight Northrop Grumman — and a whopping $410,000 from Stanford University’s public policy think tank the Hoover Institution for serving as a “distinguished visiting fellow.” …
Corruption is built in:
“[Mattis’s’ career course] is emblematic of how systemic the problem is,” said Mandy Smithberger, POGO’s lead on the report and the director of its Center for Defense Information. “Private companies know how to protect their interests. We just wish there were more protections for taxpayers.” When everything is engineered to get more business for the same select few, “when you have a Department of Defense who sees it as their job to promote arms sales … does this really serve the interest of national security?” …
The odds of young officers in the Pentagon making colonel or higher are slim. They typically retire out in their 40s. They know implicitly that their best chance for having a well-paid second career is in the only industry they know—defense. Most take this calculation seriously, moderating their decisions on program work and procurement and communicating with members of Congress as a matter of course. …
The top five and their subsidiaries continue to get the vast majority of work, usually in no-bid contracts ($100 billion worth in 2016 alone), and with cost-plus structures that critics say encourage waste and never-ending timetables, like the $1.5 trillion F-35. …
Here’s how we got the F-35:
If a system is so motivated by personal gain (civil servants always mindful of campaign contributions and private sector job prospects) on one hand, and big business profits on the other, is there room for merit or innovation?
One need only look at Lockheed’s F-35 joint strike fighter, the most expensive weapon system in history, which was relentlessly promoted over other programs by members of Congress and within the Pentagon despite years of test failures and cost overruns, to see what this gets you: planes that don’t fly, weapons that don’t work, and shortfalls in other parts of the budget that don’t matter to contractors like pilot training and maintenance of existing systems.
Standard M.O.: Uniformed Officer riding a desk as a Program Manager (PM) to retirement in a year or two wants to segue into a DoD contractor job when he separates. A contractor wanting work as a support contractor for the Program Office gets in bed with the PM. The PM has to write a Statement of Work (SOW) to hire a support contractor. So he has the preferred contractor write the SOW for him instead as part of the soft corruption Kabuki dance.
The contractor obviously games the SOW so only his company can win. The SOW is included in an RFP [Request For Proposal] released by a clueless contracting officer in some remote location. Other contractors see the RFP but know that the work is wired so don’t even bid. The company wins the contract and schmoozes with the PM for a year delivering mindless PowerPoint presentations as deliverables. …
The PM eventually retires on a Friday and starts work the next week with his contractor pals. His first assignment? Go schmooze with his replacement at his old program office to spin the revolving door one more time.
Reader David Archibald:
To have an air force Mattis had to buy the F-15 even before the F-35 was officially killed off. But the F-15 is not a proper fighter — it is an interceptor. It was designed back in the late 60s to fling long range missiles at Soviet bombers.
Its brutal shape means that it can’t supercruise. The Su-35 has a big speed advantage over it and a much higher turn rate. The Su-35 can choose whether or not it wants to take on an F-15. The F-15 doesn’t have that choice. It can’t run away from the Su-35.
Corruption has got the US in a position where it doesn’t have a proper air superiority fighter.
I only learned recently that the bypass ratio on the F-35 engine is 56%. Most fighter jet engines have a bypass ratio of 25% to 30%.
The F-35 needs a higher bypass rate so that the marine version can shove a lot of fuel through the engine to get high enough thrust through using afterburner to land vertically.
So for a couple of minutes of flight for a version that is 14% of the production run, the whole fleet is disadvantaged by an engine that is sub-optimal.
How the world really works. How come we don’t hear about this in the mainstream media?