"It is my goal to make the London Center, the premier foreign policy institute in the country, one that is shaping
the debate on international affairs and influencing decisions emerging from the Congress."
What if you ran a trucking firm and every year the guy responsible for buying your trucks told you the delivery of new trucks was behind schedule. And over budget. And some of the trucks really didn’t do everything they were supposed to do?
You might fire him right away. After the second incident you probably would fire him and find someone else to handle the job. Certainly after the third incident.
But then, you wouldn’t be working in the Pentagon. Or anywhere in government.
Consider the Littoral Combat Ship - LCS. Inside the Navy LCS is “translated” as “Little C%&&y Ship.” In fact, it’s bad enough that even as the Navy - that would mean the taxpayers of the US - are buying new ones, the Navy is decommissioning them. Because they really are “Little C%&&y Ships.”
Or the Zumwalt class destroyer. We bought three - for $29 billion (with a “B”) and the main guns have no ammunition, and the hypersonic missile that the Navy wants to mount on them won’t be ready until 2025 or possibly later; the first ship was commissioned in 2016.
Or USS Ford - now on its first deployment - just short of 6 years after commissioning, years late and God alone knows how much over budget.
Or the Virginia class submarine which has issues with those same hypersonic missiles as well as the limits of the US industrial base - a problem that everyone agrees was caused by DOD.
It’s not just the Navy; consider the Air Force and its KC-46 tanker - which is still not quite what the Air Force wanted 8 years after first flight.
And, the Defense Industrial Base appears to have steadily decayed in overall capacity for the last 30 years. Is anyone to blame?
This is just the beginning of a long list. Each one of these issues was “carefully managed” by the “brightest people” who wrote detailed reports and kept their seniors “fully appraised” at each step.
The litany of poorly performing - and poorly managed - and over budget - programs is long and painful. Program after program, department after department, is poorly managed. And in virtually every case we - the Boss, the ones who pay for it - are told half-truths and nonsense. The incompetence is glaring but never admitted. And the incompetence is stacked on top of those half-truths, the real story never told straight up to Congress or the American people.
Has anyone been fired for the actual mismanagement of these programs? You know the answer. We fire captains of ships for running aground, we don’t fire admirals for running a procurement program "aground.” Our industrial base is still having trouble flexing to make more artillery shells, more than a year after it became obvious we needed lots more artillery shells. Why?
Senior members of various departments show up in front of Congress, fail to fully explain to Congress - and the American people - for whom they all work - why this or that program isn’t on time or in budget, and yet they feel completely comfortable keeping their jobs. Senior figures make gross errors, then feed the public pablum, and seemingly no one cares. No one is fired, no one resigns in shame.
The Department of Energy was created to make the US energy independent. For 35 years we actually became steadily more dependent, then had a few good years - no thanks to DOE, and now, well, we all know that answer.
The Department of Education was created to improve test scores AND keep down the cost of education. Did you know that overall spending on education in the US passed total national security spending in 1975 and now is nearly twice as much? And test scores? Don’t ask.
What about the Federal Reserve? Created to protect the value of the dollar…
Senior figures lie and later admit it, reports are withheld from Congress, statistics and forecasts come out that are grossly short of the mark.
No one is fired, no one is held accountable.
Meanwhile, Russia (with 4,800 nuclear warheads) hates us, so does soon-to-be-nuclear Iran, and China is already at war against us. Did you know that 10,000 military age males from the PRC have been stopped at our southern border since October? Makes you wonder how many weren’t stopped. As a point of reference, an infantry division has about 5,000 guys who actually pull triggers. Meanwhile, the FBI is looking for Catholics with Rosary Beads.
The fact is, despite the preening, few senior government people are the best at what they do; they just act that way.
There’s an old saw that calls for loyalty up the chain of command. If you are working for the US government, in uniform or out, your loyalty is to the Constitution. What you owe the chain of command is honesty.
And who does the Secretary of Defense / Energy / Education / the President work for, who’s at the top of their chain of command? Us. You and me. And we can no longer afford to tolerate either dishonesty or incompetence. Particularly now, as the world seems to teeter on the brink.
In the Gospels we’re told that a person “who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.”
These folks are given the task of managing great issues. They do not deserve our trust, they need to earn it every day. And when they show that they are dishonest, invariably to hide their incompetence, they need to be summarily dismissed.
We’ve been too trusting, too loyal, for too long. And we are now running out of time.
About Pete O'Brien
Peter O’Brien has more than 30 years of successful leadership and planning experience in a wide range of organizations afloat and ashore on three continents. Mr. O’Brien’s Navy career included ten years at sea, more than a dozen years stationed overseas and multiple ...