The Bunker: Auditing Pentagon Innovation

What a thigh slap! This is the funniest line the bunker
has since read everyone on how the Pentagon is progressing with auditing its books (see next article). How can a company costing nearly $1 trillion a year – but unable to win a 20-year war against a tribal enemy – scale fast enough? The article begins: “The Pentagon is saying all the right things about defense innovation, but real and lasting change is not yet evident.

RECENT NEWS: The Ministry of Defense has always known say good things but Do good things have been much more difficult because it requires real change.

And that requires breaking bowls of rice, as they say in the military. You know – upset the status quo, overturn the apple cart, rock the boat – pick your shot from the massive Pentagon quiver. Big bureaucracies prefer to fly on autopilot. Defense industry mergers result in “higher costs, less innovation and more risk,” the Heritage Foundation said in October (emphasis added). Generally, it takes outsiders like the Wright Brothers or Steve Jobs to drive fundamental change. Pentagon versions of these innovators – can you name one? — are pale imitations. The system is rigged to promote those who adopt the now.

“You see every service creating entities to drive innovation, whether it’s Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC) in the Air Force, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, Army Futures Command, etc., etc.”, David Ochmanek, Senior Defense Analyst. for the Rand Corporation, said at the November 14 conference that triggered the defense one big title. The problem, he added, is that they don’t do anything: “I haven’t seen any service embark on radically changing its investment priorities to seek out what seemed to be the most promising ways to actually execute these new notions.

Things have gotten so bad that the Pentagon created a website earlier this year to urge innovators to put on a uniform. “Are you looking for business opportunities with the Department of Defense?” it takes. “Find them here.”

Innovation is one of those military buzzwords, like stealth, agility, and lethality, which sound good but do not necessarily translate very well. Too often, Pentagon innovation focuses on new weapons, not new ways of thinking about old problems. The definition of the military-industrial complex is simple: Innovation = more expenses. “Innovation funding” accounts for just 4% of this year’s $857 billion defense budget, McKinsey & Co. warns in a new report. “With such low funding for defense technology innovation,” he adds, “it is unclear if there will be enough capital to support the high-tech priorities embedded in future designs. ‘DOD architecture’.

Don’t say it out loud, but there are cheaper ways to defend the nation. “The Pentagon was the inventor from the 1940s to the 80s, but now it must be the innovator – using existing platforms to put together things that already exist to create something different and better,” Mackenzie Eaglen wrote. November 17. She cited the Eisenhower-era B-52 as an example (although as a senior scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, she also wants more money).

Ultimately, innovation is as much about mindset as it is about money, even if the spend more mantra gives diminishing returns. “The legacy approach we’ve taken to ‘junior academic’ adversaries — Iraqis, Serbs, Libyans — consistently fails when tested in our war games against China or Russia,” Ochmanek said. “At least pre-2022 Russia.”

Not to mention pre-2022 Afghanistan.

PENTAGON BOOK SLEEP

Another year of tax fiascos

In what has become an annual rite akin to the Pentagon releasing its budget request each spring, the fall brings the announcement that once again the US military can’t tell us where all that money is going. Pentagon Fails 2021 Audit, Defense Department Says (PDF) November 15. That gives him a 0-for-5 record since the bombing in his very first tally in 2018.

“I would say we failed to get an A,” Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord said. “I wouldn’t say we failed.” The green visor crowd posted a “disclaimer”, an accounting term that boils down to “don’t blame us if you can’t tell where the money went”. McCord said the outcome was “essentially the same as last year” and future progress will be slow. Optimism that the US military could get a “clean audit” by 2027 is fading.

Admittedly, keeping up with the flow of Pentagon dollars is a challenge. This latest $3.5 trillion audit actually consists of 27 mini-audits conducted by external accounting firms like KPMG and Ernst & Young. They cleaned the books of the military services and agencies. Then they handed their findings (or lack thereof) to the Pentagon’s Acting Inspector General, who collated them into the uber-audit. In terms of the audit, the IG said it found “28 material weaknesses, 3 material deficiencies, and 7 instances of non-compliance with laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements.” The audit, which cost $218 million, failed to take into account 61% of Pentagon assets.

Like children who bring home a bad report card, the military services have done their best to turn the balance sheet. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall bragged (PDF) that his service “continues to be among the leaders of the Department of Defense in fixing audits and reducing material weaknesses”.

Audits, of course, need to be put into perspective. “Passing an audit doesn’t tell you you spent the money wisely,” said McCord, the Pentagon’s cash major. “It shows that you can match bond records in a financial system to contracts, but it could be for an aircraft that didn’t perform properly, or for an aircraft that wasn’t combat-effective.” (see previous article).

WHAT WE READ

Here’s what caught the bunker eye recently

Poutine at the Ritz

It’s like the Powerball jackpot – it keeps growing. The Biden administration wants $38 billion in additional aid for Ukraine, which will bring the total U.S. contribution in its war against Russia to more than $100 billion in less than a year, reports Bryant Harris on November 15 in Defense News.

Word salad…

Although the Pentagon is not on a diet, it loves salad – “word salad” – as its logorrhea on innovation and auditing clearly shows. Kelley Beaucar Vlahos visited the Army’s all-you-can-eat salad bar on Nov. 17 at Responsible mindset.

seperate silent

Capt. Kelsey M. Hastings, a field artillery officer, became the first woman to command the Marines’ Silent Drill Platoon (see what they’re doing here) Nov. 21, the Corps announced.

the bunker, who thanks you, hope your Thanksgiving is neither salad nor silence. If you like what you read, consider spreading the word. Forward this to a friend so they can register here.

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