When it comes to spending on national defense the political debate is often presented as a simplistic, binary contest between those who want to spend more and more (often conservatives, who want a strong military) and those who want to spend less and less (often liberals, who want to use the money for social welfare purposes). While those discussions are important, they are also incomplete. Conservatives, in particular, should be more cognizant of the way cronyism can undercut military readiness.
In an article today at The Stream, I argue that we need a broad-based agreement about the most effective ways to spend defense funds based on the true needs of the military:
A recent AP story about government cronyism saddling our special ops with flawed software is actually just the tip of the iceberg. The bigger story begins with Colonel John Boyd (1927-1997), an Air Force fighter pilot, a Pentagon consultant and quite possibly the greatest military theorist since Sun Tzu (496 BC).
In the 1960s Boyd developed the E-M theory of aerial combat, which transformed the U.S. Air Force, and in the 1980s developed maneuver warfare, which transformed the U.S. Marine Corps. But the reason you may never have heard of Boyd is because he also developed, in the 1970s and 1980s, the theoretical foundation for the “defense reform movement” (DRM). This movement valued people and their moral content above all other things. As Boyd was often quoted as saying, “Machines don’t fight wars; people do, and they used their minds.” Certain Washington power brokers weren’t keen on this movement and did their best to marginalize Boyd.
Boyd emphasized that “weapons that don’t work or can’t be bought in adequate quantity will bring down even the best people and the best ideas.” Commonsense, yes, but commonsense is at times in short supply in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Boyd was especially critical of the expensive and substandard aircraft of his era, both the fighters (F-14, F15, F-111) and the $100 million per aircraft B1 Bomber program.