America spends too much and gets too little from its defense budget. This is the biggest challenge Boeing exec Pat Shanahan would face at the Pentagon.
President Harry Truman made this observation about his successor, General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower, liberator of Western Europe:
“He’ll sit here and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike — it won’t be anything like the Army.”
I think about this as Patrick Shanahan, who played an important role in turning around the troubled 787 Dreamliner program, has been named by President Donald Trump to be nominated as deputy secretary of defense. If he’s confirmed, it won’t be anything like Boeing.
To be sure, as the former head of Boeing’s missile-defense business, Shanahan is no stranger to what Ike called the military-industrial complex. He will also have as his boss the smartest and most qualified member of the Trump Cabinet, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis.
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As Mattis’ No. 2, Shanahan won’t have a mere ceremonial role. Nor are his big challenges going to involve the requirement that he recuse himself for two years from any dealings with Boeing. Even Donald Trump’s budget, proposing to increase military spending by about 10 percent while savagely cutting domestic spending, is only a secondary headache.
The United States faces a crisis in defense procurement. We’re spending more but getting less, and the consequences could be dire in a major shooting war.
The most infamous example is Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a program that may end up costing a staggering $1.4 trillion. Intended as a stealth “do it all” jet that would replace almost all fighters for the Air Force, Marines and Navy, the F-35 has turned into the great dismal swamp of procurement programs.
RAND Corp., the eminent defense think tank, condemned the fighter a few years ago…