THE PENTAGONISTS by A. Ernest Fitzgerald


An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagement
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Cassandra, it's often forgotten, was on the money in her prophecies of disaster; she simply was not believed. On the evidence of this polemic, a similar fate would seem in store for Fitzgerald, an industrial engineer turned Air Force cost-analyst, whose ill-requited avocation for nearly two decades has been sniping at the Defense Department's procurement policies. The embattled author has some sorry tales to tell of Pentagon errors and excesses; but any impact they might have had is, unfortunately, largely lost in self-serving accounts of his own rebuffs as the whistle-blower. Best known for having gone public with detailed data on overruns in the C-5A cargo plane program, Fitzgerald seems incapable of crediting anyone who gives his intemperate views less than wholehearted support with a shred of integrity. Fired, demoted, and periodically harassed by Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan, he lashes out in nonpartisan fury against a wide circle of foes--from the ACLU and Ralph Nader (for cutting deals with the powers that be) through the media, venal defense contractors, political appointees at the DOD, and military officers eager to secure high-paying jobs in the private sector once their armed-forces careers are over. The author's comparatively short list of good guys runs to the maverick likes of retiring Senator William Proxmire. Moreover, although Fitzgerald makes some valid points--most notably, perhaps, that grossly overpriced spare parts are invariably symptomatic of inflated project costs--his wilder charges of a systematic conspiracy do not stand up to scrutiny. For all his Kafkaesque trials, the author has virtually no firsthand knowledge (and nothing much to say) about conditions outside the aerospace field. Nor does he help his cause by making repeated references to the Mafia's code of omerta, indulging in ad-hominem critiques (e.g., characterizing the civil service examiner who presided over an early Fitzgerald hearing as "the corpulent, indolent [Herman] Staiman, secure in his arbitrary arrogance. . ."), and otherwise making it child's play for opponents to finesse his allegations. A quixotic crusader's very personal and largely overstated case against the defense establishment, which, as recent headlines attest, is not precisely adept at policing itself.

Pub Date: March 6th, 1989
ISBN: 395-36245-8
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
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