Leadership: Breaking the Rules

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January17, 2007: Big changes brewing in the Pentagon, over how the U.S. defense budget is divvied up. For decades, the procurement (of weapons and equipment) budget was; Air Force got 36 percent, the Navy 33 percent, the Army 16 percent and various Department of Defense agencies 15 percent. For a long time, that was justified by the need to confront an arms race the Soviet Union started in the early 1960s. The Russians were building lots of new jet fighters and warships. The U.S. responded. But now the Soviet Union, and its vast fleets of aircraft and warships, are gone. In the last twenty years, the army and marines have been doing most of the fighting, and dying, for the United States. The U.S. Navy has not fought a major battle since 1944, the U.S. Air Force has not faced any major opposition since the 1972 air raids on North Vietnam. But soldiers and marines are out there every day, doing the deed. The army has shown that technology can make soldiers, as well as pilots and sailors, more deadly and less vulnerable. But the 36:33:16 allocation "rule" for procurement is a hard one to break. And it's considered bad manners inside the Pentagon to change a traditional arrangement like this. But the army is doing just that. Quietly so far, but the noise level will be going up shortly. For a long time, there simply was not a lot of expensive technology for the ground forces. Now there is, and the troops want the bucks to buy the stuff that will make them deadlier, and less vulnerable. The air force and navy are aware that they are on the defensive here, and clever spin will only do so much. Expect to hear a lot more interesting noise out of the Pentagon on this subject, leading to a noticeable revision of the 36:33:16 rule.

 


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