After listening last week to 4 1/2 hours of testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee from Richard Godwin, the resigning undersecretary of defense for acquisition, and from Deputy Secretary William Taft IV about the causes of Godwin's resignation, I can come to only one conclusion: that serious reform of the defense acquisition system is not a priority of this administration or this secretary of defense or his deputy.
For all practical purposes this means that the sensible recommendations of the Packard Commission on Defense Management will not be implemented and the potential increased efficiency in the use of our defense dollars will have to wait at least another 16 months.
Our defense acquisition system, a $180-billion-a-year enterprise, has grown intolerably inefficient and wasteful. The $600 toilet seats that have grabbed the headlines are, in fact, minor examples of waste compared with the far higher costs of starting many more weapons programs than can possibly be efficiently produced at likely future defense budget levels.
In fact, even over the five years in this decade when defense budgets were growing rapidly, major weapons systems used just half of the efficient production capacity planned and paid for by the taxpayer. Over this five-year period, one of every four major weapons systems was produced at a rate below the Defense Department's own calculated minimum economic rate for the system. We have been buying weapons by the armful per year while still paying the whole overhead cost to produce them at far higher rates. Billions of dollars have been wasted in the process.
To deal with these and other problems, the Packard Commission recommended the creation of a new position in the Defense Department hierarchy, an undersecretary for acquisition, who would manage the defense acquisition system full time. Congress agreed and gave the new undersecretary responsibility for supervising the defense acquisition system, establishing acquisition policy and directing its execution by the military ser-vices.
But it didn't work. Godwin's efforts to assert his authority were fiercely and for the most part successfully resisted by the services and by elements of the defense secretary's own office.
The Defense Department's fiefdoms were unwilling to cede Godwin the power that Congress and the Packard Commission intended him to have. To paraphrase Godwin, the service secretaries and their subordinates and other officials in the secretary's office were willing to cooperate with him only if it meant no change in the status quo.
Last week's hearing pointed up the strength and depth of the unrelenting resistance that met Godwin's attempts to implement his statutory mandate.
From the start, the deputy secretary's staff continually rewrote Godwin's proposed internal regulations to undercut his authority. Where the statute clearly states that the undersecretary shall have authority to "establish" acquisition policies for the department, the deputy secretary's staff changed the word to "develop." Though the statute says that the undersecretary shall have the power to "direct" the service secretaries and shall "have precedence over" all service secretaries on acquisition matters, early regulations (since rescinded because of congressional objections) suggested that the undersecretary had to secure the prior agreement of the service secretaries for his directives. The deputy secretary also ordered the deletion, without proposing substitute language, of a provision outlining the extent of the undersecretary's participation in the department's budget deliberations.
Deputy Secretary Taft testified at our hearing that the Department of Defense had faithfully implemented all the recommendations of the Packard Commission that were not inconsistent with the law. It was this alleged commitment that Godwin perhaps naively relied upon when he took the job. But when each service secretary was instructed to appoint a full-time acquisition executive in accordance with the Packard Commission recommendations, the response was hardly encouraging. For example, then-secretary of the Navy John Lehman made a mockery of the process when he promptly appointed himself to the "full-time" acquisition executive position for the Navy.
All of us involved in the statutory changes expected such resistance. Change is threatening to any organization, and the changes proposed by the Packard Commission are especially threatening to those who stand to lose power over the acquisition process.
But that is no excuse. The secretary and deputy secretary should have done what Godwin testified they never did. They should have called in the service secretaries and their own staff and told them that resistance to the directives of the undersecretary for acquisition would not be tolerated. If they hadbeen committed to the Packard Commission changes, they would have spent sufficient time, energy and political capital to insist that the service secretaries and their own staff work to implement those changes. They have not done that.
Until we get a new secretary and deputy secretary who will do those things, Congress will be forced to act on the margin. We will review Defense Department regulations to determine whether they comply with the clear letter and intent of the statute. We will question department representatives for any signs of progress. We will carefully review the qualifications and experience of the person nominated to succeed Godwin. The writer is a Democratic senator from New Mexico and chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on defense industry and technology.