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Customer Review

on January 9, 2011
This book is built around two intertwined themes: a minor theme on the corporate history of the Lockheed Martin Aerospace Company (LM); and a major theme on the workings of what President Eisenhower famously referred to as the "military-industrial complex." This book is not an attack on LM, but uses the aerospace giant as the center piece of an exposition on the inter-action of the Department of Defense (DOD), the Congress, and private contractors in the design and acquisition of defense systems.

Actually the corporate history of LM is interesting enough that one wished Hartung had gone into more detail. In any event it provides enough of a sketchy history to follow how small scale airplane manufacturing effort begun by the Loughead brothers (who latter changed the spelling to Lockheed to avoid having people mispronounce their name) was gradually transformed into the aero-space giant that it is today.

The bulk of the book really is concerned with showing why what should be a fairly straight forward process of a military service buying a weapon system has become such a convoluted and complicated business. Since before its merger with Martin Marietta, LM was primarily an aircraft manufacturer, Hartung provides a lot of examples of USAF procurement practices with the unwritten assumption they are representative of DOD as a whole.

First there is the universal practice of low bidding. That is a contractor will purposely try to win a contractor by offering to produce a system at a much lower cost than what it will actually cost to produce. Once the contract is awarded the cost then can be adjusted upward in collusion with the client. Then there is the matter of `requirements creep' once a contract is awarded the client has no qualms about changing or adding to the original requirements. Engineering new requirements into a system can be very costly. Finally there is congress and the matter of protecting jobs in states and congressional districts. Cost overruns are supported by congress to keep plants open and job growth going in key districts.

Although LM is used to exemplify this process throughout this book, it is the DOD procurement system and pork barrel politics that are actually at fault here. There are no villains here, but a lot of short sighted fools.
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