The piece "Not All Weapons Are Junk" (Sept. 12) by John G. Kester, former assistant to Harold Brown, had charm and was entertaining. But as an informative piece to defend the Defense Department, it was shallow. It illustrated some of the sickness in the department.
First, there is the cheap shot at Ralph Nader. I have heard Nader talk of business executives, and he certainly respects their ability and does not indicate he believes them to be "boobs." However, this reference reflects the extreme sensitivity to criticism at the highest levels in the Department of Defense. Criticism is never considered correct conduct or acceptable, regardless of merit.
Therein rests the core of the problem. To illustrate, Brown was secretary of the Air Force and gave us the C5A lemon. Ernest Fitzgerald was sacked. Brown later became secretary of defense. One of the Roman soldiers during the sacking became head of the Federal Aviation Administration. This example served to strip the value of dissent or constructive criticism. The reduction and watering down of criticism directly contributes to the enormous waste in the Defense Department. Therefore, projects advance far beyond any justifiable stage because of political and bureaucratic pressure. Do you want to buy a lemon truck from the Army?
The facts are:
The new systems are basically unreliable;
The new systems cannot be maintained in a combat environment by technically trained military personnel. Every major system has a battery of factory technical representatives or engineers working on site to fix the systems or keep the equipment running;
Too many components cannot be fixed in combat and must be sent back for replacement.
No combat officer wants to go back to the bow and arrow. There have been some great technological advances. But the services are being crucified on a cross of technology.
The urge to put another sophisticated item on a system generally adds more trouble than it is worth. It adds to cost. It does provide something nice to write on the evaluation of the bureaucrat or officer responsible and does aid in his promotion.
Finally, Kester, in reference to the "Naked and the Dead," illustrates that the bottom line lesson of Vietnam evaded him. That lesson is: if you don't have a man with a gun on the ground, you don't control the land or the war, regardless of technology.