The No. 2 man in the Defense Department wishes Congress and other bureaucrats would stop kibitzing so much about how to run the military.
In fact, they have become the proverbial "too many cooks spoiling the broth" with their numerous program reviews and political haggling, said William Howard Taft IV, assistant secretary of defense.Taft - a great-grandson of former President William Howard Taft - was in Utah Tuesday to speak to the Salt Lake Rotary Club, visit Hill Air Force Base and review Soviet inspection activities at Hercules in West Valley City.
Taft said if the military had fewer bosses and less review, it might even have been able to avoid the recent Pentagon procurement scandal.
"We would have much diminished the role that consultants and lobbyists currently play in our acquisition system and the troubles that flow from this," Taft said.
The military and its contractors now hire many consultants and lobbyists to keep up with review demands from congressional committees and executive agencies, Taft said. Such consultants have been accused of bribery and conflict of interest in the Pentagon scandal.
Taft said he is not proposing that the government have fewer auditors and investigators to safeguard against criminal activities, but that it have fewer decision makers reviewing every choice no matter how minor or technical.
For example, he said every major defense program is reviewed four times a year by different congressional committees. "It would make more sense to review them by two committees every two years - or just at critical mileposts in the development of programs," he said.
He complained that Congress and other agencies also rarely look at all parts of a program, and focus instead on tiny aspects - such as how it affects jobs in one congressman's district, how it affects the environment or how exotic the technology is.
"Together these reviews and reviewers present an endless series of hazards to the hapless program manager in his quest for stability," Taft said.
He added that weapon programs with relatively little outside interference on technical aspects - ranging from the Trident missile to the F-16 fighter - have been successful. But programs with heavy outside interference or oversight "rarely match our expectations."
Simply, Taft said his bottom line is that fewer bosses who look at overall goals and processes of defense systems would be more successful.
Taft said his proposals do not mean that the military should be more secretive from the public. He said dialogue with the public is necessary to relieve its concerns about military operations - and said the Army's recent decision not to build a controversial lab at Dugway after public protest shows the military is trying to be responsive to legitimate concerns.