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True military reform, getting more bang for each buck, will involve fundamental changes at all levels of the weapons procurement process. The first step must be to determine accurately the costs of weapons. Contractors and Pentagon program directors should not be allowed to "buy into" long-term procurements with pie-in-the-sky price projections. Contractors should bear direct financial responsibility for cost overruns. This would force the Pentagon to refrain from "gold-plating" and tinkering with designs once a weapon moves into production.
Competitive bidding should be used whenever possible. Contractors should compete to produce the best possible design to perform a clearly defined mission. Once a model is chosen, and the winner has been paid by the Pentagon for the design and the further research needed to build prototypes, bids should be taken from the winning firm and others to produce the final weapon. The Pentagon argues that gearing up more than one production line would be expensive and inefficient. But with most armaments, even fighter planes and tanks, awarding construction contracts to at least two companies (known as dual sourcing) could save money.
Within the Pentagon, the research and development group in charge of designing a new weapon should not also have the responsibility for testing it. A separate testing group, which would have no vested interest in seeing that a project is carried to completion, should oversee testing. Shoot-offs between proposed new tanks, ammunition, guns and planes could be held between both existing and other alternative models. In addition, a new weapon should be compared with the full number of alternative weapons available for the same price. In other words, the effectiveness of F-15 planes under a variety of battle scenarios should be compared with what five times as many A-10 planes could do.
A clear decision should be made on whether a weapon is necessary and effective before production begins. Those that appear too costly should be killed outright; the others should be bought at optimal rates. Budget limitations require that the Pentagon and Congress set priorities among weapons rather than deferring production schedules. The missions that the weapons must perform should be clearly defined and dictated by real needs rather than an infatuation with advanced technology. Whether a weapon can be afforded in adequate numbers should be a more important concern than whether it is state-of-the-art; all the latest bells and whistles will do scant good if a weapon is overwhelmed by superior numbers.
The institutional tendency for each service to pursue and protect its own glamorous weapons systems can only be cured by a restructuring at the top. Most important, the Joint Chiefs of Staff must be reformed. At present, the Joint Chiefs make their recommendations as a group. The chairman, who is ostensibly removed from representing the interests of just one branch of the services, is supposed to mediate when, say, the Army and the Navy disagree. But since the Chairman has only