The Lockheed executive knew it would sound like he was biting the hand the feeds his company, but decided to say it anyhow.
The Pentagon "is wasting a fearful amount of money by not going steady as she goes" in developing and producing new weapons, asserted Willis M. Hawkins, president of Lockheed-California Co., headquartersd here.
The basic problem, he said, is that the military services chicken out when it comes to telling Congress how much it will really cost to put a weapon into production.
Rather than deliver the bad news, he countinued, the services too often cast aside the weapon ready for production and pick one still in the less expensive design or development stage.
The result, he said, is a waste of millions of dollars as the services flit from one promising weapon to the other rather than making a decision and sticking with it until a weapon is in the bands of troops.
"The beautiful example of how this indecision wastes millions in research and dvelopment money," contended Hawkins, is the advanced attack helicopter (AAH), which the Army has been working on since the 1960s.
"The Army program management didn't have the courage to face up to Congress and admit what the price was going to be" on the new held a whole new competition. The competition is going to cost more," than the origined one.
Critics are likely to accuse Hawkins of sour grapes because his company's rigid rotor assault helicopter was the one shot down in this decision to start over again. But Hawkins said he was speaking about the geberal problem of military research as he has perceived it from being an industry excutive as well as assistant secretary of the Army for research and development from 1963 to 1966.
Other examples where millions have been wasted by this stop-and-go policy, Hawkins said, include the Army main battle tank; the succession of new bombers that were supposed to replace the B52, with none making it into production; the proliferation of fighter planes. "We have twice as many different kinds of fighters than we need," Hawkins complained.
"The defense dollar isn't spent very well because it is so much easier to sell research and development than production. The Defense Department is having a terrible time telling Congress what we ought to be doing. The poor Navy can't figure out what to do to save its life," the Lockheed executive said in an interview with The Post.
Navy leaders, he said, "appear to be incapable of getting their enthusiasm up to sell anybody nuclear ships," even though "we know how" to build them.
"We seem to have indecision across the board," Hawkins said. He said he did not know whether this is Defense Secretary Harold Brown's "fault or the fact that his bosses don't like the answers" he gives them.
Some hard choices have to be made soon, because there are too many research projects to fit into the Pentagon budget once they reach the production state, the executive contended.
He scoffed that the cruise missile program is flying along and "they still don't know what the hell to carry it in. You can't launch it with a sling shot."
The Pentagon currently plans to put the first air-launched cruise missiles on the B52 bomber but is also considering buying militarized versions of commercial airliners for launching the weapons.
Besides wasting research money year after year, Hawkins said the military managers' fear of confronting Congress with the real costs is distorting U.S. global policy, Hawkins complained.
"It's almost a strategy to get something through Congress" rather than deciding what the military posture should be. "If the posture isn't right," Hawkins continued, "we lose the war."
The aerospace executive was about the register some other concerns about the way today's defense establishment is run, paused, and then wryly remarked: "I've said enough."