The Winds of Reform

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    flawed. "When we predict long-term price declines, we assume design stability," he said. In reality, the cost of high-tech systems invariably skyrockets because of unrealistic initial estimates, obsessive design changes and erratic production rates. "Our plans have got to take into account that instability."

    "Do all your charts show the same thing?" asked Senator Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio, as the relentless catalogue continued. "I think you want to see some more, sir," Spinney replied with a burning intensity. "This is important."

    David Chu, Spinney's boss, who had tried to prevent him from testifying, sat next to Spinney at the felt-covered witness table and listened warily. When it came his turn to speak, Chu argued that Spinney's analysis did not really apply to the Reagan defense budget. Said Chu: "Those charges ignore the various steps this Administration has taken ... to deal with these problems on a systematic and decisive basis. I urge patience." Did Spinney agree, Senators asked, that the initiatives taken by the Administration would bring costs under control? Spinney was cautious about criticizing his superiors. Said he: "The 1984 pattern appears to be the same."

    "I'm shocked," said Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa. "Not only do we have a budget problem, but a major problem of national defense." Grassley had led the fight to hold hearings on Spinney's analysis. After learning of the study, the conservative Republican called Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and asked to meet with its author. To Grassley's surprise, Weinberger refused. So the Senator got into his car and drove out to the Pentagon to find Spinney. He was met there by Chu, director of the Program Analysis and Evaluation office, who told him that Spinney would not be available to give any briefings.

    Senator John Tower of Texas, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also wanted to keep the controversial analyst under wraps. But Grassley persuaded his fellow Senators to schedule a hearing; they also threatened to subpoena Spinney if the Pentagon refused to let him appear. Tower tried to downplay the appearance by setting it for late Friday afternoon. He also wanted to hold it in a small committee room and ban television cameras. That way he hoped to confine daily press coverage to the lightly read Saturday newspapers. But pressure from other Senators forced Tower to move the session into the cavernous Senate caucus room, where the Watergate and McCarthy hearings were held, and to allow cameras.

    The crux of Spinney's analysis, titled The Plans/Reality Mismatch, is that the Administration's $1.6 trillion military buildup (which would amount to $20,000 for each U.S. household over the next five years) is likely to be underfunded by as much as 30%. This means that unless major new weapons are eliminated or other drastic changes made, the final bill may be $500 billion more than expected. The latest findings are a sequel to a 1980 Spinney report, Defense Facts of Life, which argued that the pursuit of complex technology has resulted in the production of weapons that are high in cost, few in number and questionable in effectiveness. That analysis gave impetus to the incipient military-reform movement, but had little impact within the Pentagon.

    Indeed, the

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