Along with the Pentagon's wish list in the 1985 defense budget, Congress asked for a little paper work on the side.
First, the Defense Department had to supply more than 20,000 pages of detailed justifications for the money requested.
Piled atop that were 440 reports and 247 studies demanded by Congress on such national security arcana as "Military Jacket Linings," "Protection of Marine Corps Name and Insignia," "Hawaiian Milk," and the lyrical "Acquisition of Power Operated Collators for Use in Facilities Other Than Printing Plants."
Furthermore, before a dispirited Pentagon stopped counting in 1983, Defense Department witnesses in one year logged 1,453 hours of testimony before 91 congressional committees and subcommittees. During the same year, the military responded to 84,148 written queries from Capitol Hill and 592,150 telephone requests, numbers most officials believe are on the rise.
As viewed from the Pentagon, Congress is more problem than solution in the controversial art of arming the armed forces.
"It has ceased to work over the last 10 to 15 years. It's anarchy up there, total anarchy," Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. said of Congress. "It is by no means carrying out its constitutional responsibilities."
Congress meddles in the defense of the United States to an extent unimaginable in the parliaments of other western democracies, dictating everything from the type of coal the military can burn to which engines can be overhauled on Navy ships.
Many critics, including more than a few on Capitol Hill, believe that micromanagement of the military has cost billions of dollars and led Congress to scrutinize trees rather than forests, minutiae rather than the broader strategy of American defense.
But those stricken with the urge to tinker point to such horror stories as $600 toilet seats and contend they are actually saving billions, whereas the Pentagon and White House have bungled effective oversight.
"Given the track record over at the Pentagon, I think they can use some outside help," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), "particularly if it comes free."
Congressional fiddling partly also reflects classic pork barrel politics. While the defense budget gobbles up one-third of all federal spending, it accounts for nearly 70 percent of the money that Congress can control (as opposed to untouchable entitlement programs such as Social Security).
As congressional oversight of the Pentagon has expanded, so has the orbiting flock of lobbyists, industry associations, political action committees, think tanks and journalists. If America's business is business, as Calvin Coolidge once remarked, then it can be argued that much of Washington's business has become defense business.
In recent weeks, Congress again weighed in on national defense with the fiscal 1986 defense authorization. The House alone pondered 170 reforms and other amendments, including such nitty-gritty as requiring Pentagon reports on all contracts signed by businesses on Indian reservations and barring the move of an induction center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
"Now they're really screwing things up," said Richard D. DeLauer, the outspoken defense undersecretary who recently resigned to become an industry consultant. "What the hell do they know?"
In truth, some of the best-intentioned reforms have thickened the procurement mire by inserting additional layers of bureaucracy and triggering unforeseen consequences.
"I think a large number of today's procurement problems were yesterday's procurement solutions," Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) said in a recent interview. "I think every time we have a procurement problem, we pass a new rule or regulation and so forth.
"And I really think what they've got over there in the Pentagon , if you're a smart bureaucrat, is a checklist of about 200 things. And once you've checked those off, there's nothing in there that says you've got to have common sense." $10 Billion in 'Impediments'
Last month, the Navy noticed a remarkable amendment that had been quietly added to the 1986 defense bill by Rep. Duncan L. Hunter (R-Calif.). It would have required many of the U.S. warships based in Japan to sail 8,000 miles to the West Coast for maintenance overhauls.
The proposal "would have destroyed foreign home porting, disrupted 5,000 families and would have increased the cost of maintenance 10 times," according to one Navy captain. Although the Navy suspects West Coast shipyards put the idea in Hunter's head, an aide to the San Diego congressman insists "it came to him in a vision."
To counterpunch, the Navy deployed a large squad of lawyers, cost analysts, senior officers in Hawaii and Washington, political advisers and the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Mike Mansfield.
Hunter finally agreed to scuttle the idea. In return, the Navy promised to bring one destroyer home early for overhaul on the West Coast, a move that will add $14 million to the cost, according to John P. Palafoutas, Hunter's administrative assistant.
An ancient congressional axiom holds that every legislator covets a slice of the defense pie -- now a $300 billion pie -- for the folks back home. Sen. Levin of Michigan is typical in his practice of issuing frequent press releases cataloguing his efforts to promote M1 tanks, Marine Corps armored vehicles and other Michigan-made weapons.
But the combination of defense pork barrel and other "legislative impediments" tacks an extra $10 billion onto Pentagon spending every year, according to Lawrence J. Korb, assistant secretary of defense.
"You can't have it both ways," Korb said. "You can't have a completely efficient Defense Department and still have political decisions determining how you buy things."
Among innumerable examples of "impediments":
Since 1973, as a subsidized favor to the U.S. coal industry, Congress has required that American military bases in Europe burn American coal, a gesture the Pentagon says adds at least $45 per ton just in shipping costs.
In the same vein, Congress last year forbade U.S. military bases in West Germany to convert any of 3,000 pre-World War II coal boilers to oil, thus requiring continued operation of "antiquated, inefficient and environmentally damaging equipment at a much greater cost," according to Pentagon documents.
The Senate version of the 1986 defense budget includes $60 million for 150 Captor mines, which is 150 more than the Navy requested. Despite Navy assurances that its 1,750 Captors on hand are enough, Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) insisted that the mines would be a wise addition to the U.S. inventory. Captor mines are made in Akron.
The House version of the 1986 budget includes $31.3 million for research into a submarine communications system called blue-green laser. The Pentagon requested only $18 million. Rep. Robert W. Davis (R-Mich.) pushed the extra money as a kind of inverse pork barrel because his constituents dislike the current communications system, a huge and intrusive thatch of wires and antennae called ELF running through vast stretches of the Michigan forest.
Davis hopes that by accelerating blue-green, he can render ELF (for extremely low frequency) obsolete; the Navy says that may prove true, since the House leached the extra $13 million out of the ELF budget.
The Navy has informally proposed saving money by moving 100 servicemen and a handful of civilians working for the chief of naval education from Pensacola, Fla., to Nashville. Just the hint of such a move has the Florida delegation "beside themselves," barraging Lehman with telephone calls, according to a Navy official.
"I don't think we can get into the minute details of the budget ," said Rep. Earl Hutto (D-Fla.), "but it's true that nobody wants a base closed."
In fact, Congress has taken extraordinary pains to block Pentagon efforts to close or scale down dozens of bases. Laws have been enacted to prohibit the closing of Fort DeRussy, a sandy patch west of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, and the U.S. Naval Academy dairy farm.
When the Army took aim at its obsolete post at Fort Monroe, Va., Congress declared the place a national historic monument. The Shepherds on the Hill
Ten years ago, four congressional committees wrote legislation on defense. Today, according to a Navy tally, the Pentagon is shepherded by 24 committees and 40 subcommittees.
Defense is no longer a cottage industry in the nation's capital. The House Armed Services Committee alone fields a professional staff of 54, reflecting the elevenfold growth in House staff members since 1946.
The top dozen defense contractors list 125 Washington representatives, which doesn't count the independent consultants they hire to lobby on specific issues.
Competition on Capitol Hill for a piece of the defense action -- particularly if an issue has snared media interest -- is so intense that Pentagon witnesses may appear again and again before different panels, often repeating the same testimony. Since January 1982, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger has spent 147 hours -- the equivalent of nearly four work weeks -- testifying in 54 appearances on the Hill.
At the same time, congressional military experience has declined, which Pentagon officials believe has widened the gulf between the military and legislative points of view. Ten years ago, 71 percent of the House Appropriations Committee members and 73 percent of the House Armed Services Committee members had military records; today, the numbers have dwin- dled to 55 percent and 63 percent, respectively.
And many less-experienced members, the Pentagon complains, are egged on by a fickle press corps that seizes on partial test results to raise doubts about weapons in development but rarely reports on those weapons if they end up working well in the field.
"I think Mel Levine's father bought his automobile for him, and the most Barbara Boxer ever bought was a hot tub. Now they're both procurement experts," DeLauer said caustically of two reform-minded Democratic representatives from California.
"Are there too many people involved? It's part of democracy, is my answer," Sen. Levin said. "It's better than the Pentagon on an unchecked rampage." The Forklift Face-Off -----
When the Founding Fathers designated Congress "to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces," it is doubtful they ever envisioned anything quite like the Air Force bomb loader.
In the late 1970s, the Air Force began buying a glorified forklift to hoist nuclear munitions into B52 bombers. Because the B52 bomb loader "was expensive and was a maintenance nightmare," according to Air Force documents, Congress last year insisted that a competition be held to determine who would build the new bomb loader for the B1 and Stealth bombers.
The Air Force dutifully complied and found a "clear winner" in Pacific Car and Foundry, a firm in Washington State.
The runner-up model, made by AAI Corp. of Cockeysville, Md., which built the old B52 loaders, would cost 44 percent more, according to the Air Force.
Skeptical of the Air Force analysis, Congress waded into the fray.
With the three Maryland representatives on the House Armed Services Committee and powerful committee staff member Anthony R. Battista supporting AAI, a subcommittee spent a full day hearing testimony on the matter -- which accounted for about one-hundredth of 1 percent of the Pentagon's budget request -- before bucking it up to the full committee for more hearings on May 22.
The competition results were shunted aside, and the issue awaits resolution in conference committee with the Senate later this summer.
"I don't think it was the most burning issue to everybody on the committee," one Maryland staff member admitted. "There were lots of perplexed looks from members wondering why the hell they were spending so much time on a relatively innocuous matter."
The bomb loader was hardly an exception. Of 1,860 line items submitted by the Pentagon in the 1984 budget, the House changed 1,190 and the Senate 1,160, according to a study by Armed Forces Journal.
The annual whittling, padding, stretching or truncating of virtually every program led former defense undersecretary Frank C. Carlucci to say in an interview, "You have thousands of ideas of what to do to reform the system, many of them very good ones. But without some stability in the budget, damn few of them will work."
The standard response from Capitol Hill is that Congress must trim the Pentagon's requests like a butcher trims fat.
In the past three years, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Congress has lopped $53 billion from Defense Department wish lists without killing a single major weapons system.
"They're right about micromanagement, and it saves the taxpayers billions of dollars," said Richard Seelmeyer, an aide to Rep. Joseph P. Addabbo (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. Rules Beget More Bureaucrats
But the micromanagement goes beyond cutting and adding funds.
Pentagon officials complain that, while attacking their bloated bureaucracy, Congress continually swells the work force with new requirements, reforms and positions.
Consider, for example, section 203 of Public Law 91-441, which regulates how the government reimburses defense contractors for military-related research.
To obey it, the Pentagon has seven technical reviewers, 12 negotiators, 11 on-site reviewers, 18 technical evaluators, 15 administrators, six documentors, and 17 auditors. Total cost in one year: $4.6 million.
The defense industry has 1,450 other workers preparing technical brochures, 45 negotiators and 30 people hosting the government evaluators, an additional annual charge of $93 million billed to the government.
The Grace commission, finding little benefit in all that regulation, said of PL 91-441, "The law and implementation procedures have established a large and cumbersome paper flow."
In February, Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies issued a blueprint for Pentagon reform, endorsed by all but one living defense secretary, that said Congress "is lost in the trees of program management, unable to see -- far less to influence -- the policy forest."
Many in Congress concurred. Meanwhile, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are waiting for the Pentagon's semi-annual "Report on Dairy Products." The Small Business Committees are demanding their monthly "Procurement From Small and Other Businesses."
And someone, somewhere in Congress, has instructed the military to submit R00403-071, "Proposed Minor Construction Projects Costing More Than 50 Percent of the Maximum Amount Specified by Law for Minor Construction Projects."