UNGUIDED MISSILES: How America Buys Its Weapons by Fen Olser Hampson

UNGUIDED MISSILES: How America Buys Its Weapons

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A savvy, damning critique of the "predictable, inevitable [and] wasteful" ways in which the US stocks its defensive/offensive arsenal; from a professor of international relations at Canada's Carelton Univ. "Efficiency is not one of democracy's virtues," Hampson concedes at the outset. Even so, he argues, taxpayers should get far better returns on the billions of dollars invested in Pentagon procurement. Once started, the author charges, major weapons programs that enjoy strong political backing are rarely canceled; indeed, despite budget constraints, most evenutally outlast their sponsors and are deployed. In some instances (notably, the Army's M-1 tank), Hampson admits, the haphazard process produces a worthwhile system. More usual, he contends, are the half-a-loaf outcomes exemplified by the B-1 bomber, Trident submarine, air-launched cruise missile, and other projects whose Final forms bear little resemblance to original concepts. In Hampson's informed view, the root of the problem is that bureaucratic, contracting, and political interests tend to treat weapons programs as bonanzas providing "rewards and payoffs to all parties from cooperation or collusion." The Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 and recommendations made by the so-called Packard Commission represent welcome advances in the state of the weapons-acquisition art, Hampson believes. But what's really needed to achieve genuine reform, he concludes, is public pressure for a comprehensive restructuring of the development/budget process along zero-sum lines. The author also urges devising means of arresting the momentum of high-tech projects like the SDI, which can undermine arms-control negotiations. There's plenty of blame to go around for the American military's less than cost-effective purchasing procedures, and Hampson metes it out in measured, albeit unsparing, fashion.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 1989
ISBN: 393-02628-0
Publisher: Norton
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