Rome '08 Workshop

Comments on Recent Developments 

Mr. Timothy Shephard

Northrop Grumman Vice President 

Mr. Timothy Shephard


It has consistently been my contention that the necessary symbiosis of politics and procurement trends in the United States is toward utility for the end user first and to political considerations, though omnipresent, second. At stake presently, however, is the perception of political procurement, in which U.S. government prerogatives to attach ITAR principles of export controls for non-U.S. technology exported to undesirable third countries is best justified by the promise of access to America’s unsurpassed defense acquisition budget. 

I warmed immediately to Des Browne when he said that he believed in politics—he made me feel that he saw the value of his personal investments in time and effort. I would like to say something similar without undue irony, which is that I believe in the military-industrial complex. In addition to earthquakes, floods, and fires, the Old Testament Book of Revelations cites the occurrence of opposites coexisting as a physical paradox at the end of days. It is like dogs and cats living together in apparent harmony, the tallest guy in the National Basketball Association being from China, the U.S. Democratic Party declaring itself the champion of no big contracts, and congressional doves posing as born-again nationalists for domestic political purposes. 


I would now like to draw your attention to a few matters of record. That there has been a tanker competition at all is the direct result of the 2004 lobbyist activities to push through funding for a massive sole-source contract and for the Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee to bar competitors. Those tactics comprised the largest-ever congressional earmark allowing a contract to side-step normal contract and competition rules. The resulting investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee saw significant consequences for several individuals, both in industry and in the civilian arm of the acquisition process. 

Subsequently, a Northrop-EADS bid to bring 48,000 jobs to the American south was questioned by nativist elements in America who championed a competitor’s bid. That competitor would build or source much of its own tankers outside America, principally in Europe, ironically, through its commercial partnerships there, but the bid may paradoxically include component subsystems from as far away as China. I refer you again to my Book of Revelations. 

In the end, any thoughtful person will find it difficult to see the benefit from a delay in getting new versions of critical defense infrastructure online, infrastructure that directly impacts the ability to keep airborne and operational the air cover and persistent surveillance available to the groundfighter and that has direct impact on the mortality rate of all of our soldiers. 

The events playing out are being set back, and we feel it as a physical blow to our coalition troops, who are stuck fighting two hard 21st-century wars with Eisenhower air tankers. That brings me back to my ruminations on the military-industrial complex. It was Eisenhower himself who warned of the military-industrial complex’s potentially corrosive impact on American society and government. His comments in 1961 were made in the context of the times, a post-atomic world firmly in the grip of the Cold War, when Orwell’s famous first seminal work, 1984, announced that war is peace. I am now reminded of the political rhetoric in Orwell’s second most popular double-think missive: that ignorance is strength. These words are now in danger of applying to any government procurement process, be it in America or Europe, where protected industry is championed on the basis of sovereignty and nationalism at the expense of effectiveness and truth. And we may yet be defined by the ultimate double-think term: that freedom is slavery. 

I think the U.S. system is based on the rule of law, and I urge my colleagues at this workshop to hold faith that our system will run its course and that we will end up with the best solution. I can hope for nothing less. 

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