Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Patterns

I'm not saying that this evidence isn't circumstantial, but I detect a pattern here.

Today Max Bergmann pointed out over at Think Progress that a contractor who would directly benefit from the Air Force's F-22 Raptor program was involved in a supposedly independent endorsement of continuing the controversial program.

He points out that "In a recent piece in Foreign Affairs, conservative Fred Kagan pointed out that a single F-22 could pay for 3,000 additional American troops." But it goes back further than that. Kagan has valiantly been fighting against the F-22 since at least September 2000, when he signed on (along with Paul Wolfowitz, "Scooter" Libby and other PNACers) to a paper which suggested (PDF link) that F-22 wasn't needed. What was needed were more aircraft like the C-17.

I honestly couldn't say whether or not the F-22 is worth the cost, but, of the people that do know, most say it isn't. But I find it odd that one of the signators of this document was Barry Watts of Northrop Grumman. NG provides systems for all kinds of aircraft, including the A-10, the B-1B, the B-2, the B-52, the C-130, the E-3, the F-111G, the F117A, the F-15, the F-16, the KC-10A, the KC-135, the OA-10A, the E-2, the C-17, the Global Hawk, the Predator, the FA-18, the MH-60, the AH-1Z and the UH-1Y. What airplane is missing from that list?

4 Comments:

Blogger Jim said...

Terry,

FWIW, I have a friend who was on the staff at IDA for several years. (He went on to pull a tour as a DARPA program manager and then went into industry.)

From my discussions with him, and from what I saw at an IDA-sponsored workshop I took part in, the analysts at IDA do their best to be impartial in assessing technologies.

Of course, even if the culture is one of impariality, any given recommendation can be tainted. Still, I'd be a little surprised if there isn't at least a plausible argument supporting the recommendation.

Of course, I have been surprised before!

8:44 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

You're right, Jim. As I said, I'm in no way qualified to say which airplanes the DoD should purchase. But perhaps, if they wanted these sorts of findings to be taken seriously, Pentagon officials wouldn't allow contractors to sit on boards which might directly affect their pocketbooks.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Your point is on the mark -- our government doesn't need advisors with a financial stake in the advice they give.

One, dare I say, nit to pick. IDA itself isn't a contractor (and so I wouldn't characterize Adm. Blair as a contractor). As per their web site:

IDA only works for the government. To avoid institutional pressures to support Service positions, IDA does not work directly for the military departments. Also, to ensure freedom from commercial or other potential conflicts of interest, IDA does not work for private industry.
http://www.ida.org/IDAnew/Welcome/history.html

I've heard it described as "The captive think-tank for the JCS."

However, when the President of that captive think-tank is on the board of directors of a defence contractor (as, evidently, is Adm. Blair), then there is the potential of a serious conflict of interest, one that deserves scrutiny.

And, as you note, the mere potential of a conflict of interest serves to raise doubts about the advice from IDA, doubts which undermine that organizations effectiveness.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Right, but, by contractor I meant the company for which he was a board member. I give him all the props in the world, though, for stepping down promptly. He clearly understands that even the "appearance of impropriety" must be avoided.

1:49 PM  

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