New Weapons, Old Politics: America's Military Procurement Muddle

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Brookings Institution Press, Oct 1, 2011 - History - 262 pages
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Americans spend more than $100 billion a year to buy weapons, but no one likes the process that brings these weapons into existence. The problem, McNaugher shows, is that the technical needs of engineers and military planners clash sharply with the political demands of Congress. McNaugher examines weapons procurement since World War II and shows how repeated efforts to improve weapons acquisition have instead increased the harmful intrusion of political pressures into that technical development and procurement process.

Today's weapons are more complicated than their predecessors. So are the nation's military forces. The design of new systems and their integration into the force structure demand more care, time, and flexibility. Yet time and flexibility are precisely what political pressures remove from the acquisitions process.

In a series of case studies and conceptual discussions, McNaugher tackles concerns at the heart of the debate about acquisition—the slow and heavily bureaucratic approach to development, the preference for ultimate weapons over well-organized and trained forces, and the counterproductive incentives facing the nation's defense firms. He calls for changes that run against the current fashion—less centralization or procurement, less haste in developing new weapons, and greater use of competition as a means of removing the development process from political oversight.

Above all, McNaugher shows how the United States tries to buy research and development on the cheap, and how costly this has been. The nation can improve its acquisition process, he concludes, only when it recognizes the need to pay for the full exploration of new technology.

 

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Contents

The Unhappy Accommodation
1
The Era of Construction
17
New Weapons and Old BureaucraciesCold War CompromisesNew Weapons
38
The Era of Reform
52
Mismanaging Modernization
87
The Dilemmas of ModernizationThe Costs of ConcurrencyModernizing
112
The Requirements MorassPolitics and the Planning ProblemTime
144
j Toward Meaningful Reform
181
Extended CompetitionBuying SystemsBuying InformationThe Political
203
Index
245
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