Friday, September 08, 2006

Why does the tail wag its dog?

No that's not a typo. I watched a report on NBC Nightly News yesterday and it made me wonder about this question. The dog is the Pentagon and the tail is Raytheon. One would think that since the Pentagon is the one handing out the money for all these defense contracts the contractors would be beholden to the Pentagon. But apparently that's not the case.
According to the report (and as anyone who's played video games knows), RPGs are "a favorite weapon of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are cheap, easy to use and deadly." Just imagine you are driving along main street Faluja and out of nowhere some bastard shoots an RPG at your striker vehicle. Boom, you are dead! What if there's a device that can defend any moving vehicle against RPGs? Well an Isreali company had developed one that's ready today! It costs between $300,000 - $400,000. A Pentagon Unit tested the device in 30 cases and it worked in 30 of 30 cases. That's 100% efficiency. So one would think "our soldiers would be getting these tomorrow, right?" You would be wrong. Turns out the Pentagon understands the need for an anti-RPG device and has awarded a $70 million contract to Raytheon to develop (not mass produce) the device. How long before Raytheon gets something ready? Best case scenario: 2011! That's five years from now. And that's just until they come up with what I imagine will be a proto-type. And if you know Raytheon or any other defense contractor you know the probability on getting things done right and on time is not very high.
The key question, at least to me, is this: how many soldiers will die from RPG attacks between now and 2011? Read the story here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14686871/
Is it only the Pentagon that affected with this tail-wagging-dog malaise? Not really. NASA just awarded a $3.9 billion contract to Lockheed Martin whose last project for NASA was a failed $1.3 billion attempt to build a manned-shuttle. What better way to reward failure?
Link to that story: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14594789/