In an unorthodox move, President Trump, days before he formally assumed office, allowed Boeing chief executive Dennis A. Muilenburg to listen in on a call with the manager of a key Pentagon fighter jet program as the then-president-elect weighed the government’s options for lowering the costs of Lockheed Martin’s F-35.The translation here is that generals and consultants who are eager to secure lucrative sinecures when they leave government service do not want their gravy train disrupted.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, program manager for the F-35, provided details about the call at a briefing before the House Armed Services Committee Thursday morning, taking questions from congressional staff members just hours after Bloomberg reported the episode.
Boeing and F-35 maker Lockheed Martin declined to comment. But others characterized the call to Bogdan as an inappropriate subversion of the military’s ability to determine its own equipment requirements.
“The president directly trying to influence the requirements process in the presence of a [defense company executive] is wildly inappropriate and has the worst optics one can imagine … we’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Richard Aboulafia, a military analyst with Aerospace market research firm Teal Group.
If the last 50 years have shown anything, it is that the Pentagon in general, and the uniformed military in particular, cannot be trusted to develop weapons: Even when the process is not rife with corruption, as it is in the US, the myopia of the military services puts the resources in the wrong place, and places too much emphasis on the wrong thing,
The Swedes discovered this in 1628, when the most powerful warship of the era capsized and sunk on its first foray from port because the naval officers ordered that a surfeit of guns be crammed onto it.
The result was that the military was separated from defense procurement, and the Swedish defense forces have been punching well above their weight ever since.
Again, I expect this to be supremely poorly implemented, but it is a change to a broken system,