When The Only Defense Is A Feared Punitive Offense

Re: Managing the Department of Defense

Two observations.

(1) We need to disconnect TOE (manpower) from number of flag billets. In the 1980s, corporate America right-sized their headquarters staff down to 5-10% of what it was when information was expensive, before the end-points of a corporation could afford computing and IT and a command-and-control (Sloan/Carnegie) organization was required, with its 2-4x centralization inefficiencies the price to be paid). As it ended up, the boards split the salary savings with the remaining execs (leading to today’s complaints about compensation even if it is a third what we used to pay for a Fortune 50 HQ). We should do the same with admirals. Then we’d see the best of, say, cruise ship automated restocking, and sailors who are what amount to be wizard mechanical and electrical and flight mechanics, capable of machining any part needed, etc.. (with the ship returning to port in better shape than it left). And a 200 ship Navy capable of operating at an (industrial age) 600 ship tempo (removing most port & training time). And to make it happen we should create an incentive to split the savings with the remaining wizards.

(2) Industrial base, industrial policy needs to be better aligned with the current realities. It’s less a decision about these (navy) details than how many quasi-competitive big defense contractors will survive and at what strength level. Given we really only permit them to sell to one customer (and have to approve all other sales) we have placed them in a totally dependent position and they have reacted appropriately – including buying their way into every congressional district (by placing some work in every district). One way to relieve this was to point them at the terrorist intel challenge/opportunity (saying "there’s work and $ over there, sorry we don’t need more of the X or Y system but we need you to stay in business so we’ll pay the price"). Which is part of the untold story in the WaPo about intelligence inefficiencies. A better way is to allow these one-customer companies to aggressively compete in the world market and sell their systems to all but the embargoed countries, keeping only a small amount of special-sauce for national advantage. And sell it at cost (like the last empty airplane seat) reflecting our national security interest in some of these companies surviving, and even thriving so they can attract better people.

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