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Defenders of the new weapons say this is like comparing apples and oranges, since the advanced armaments are either more powerful or versatile than the simpler ones. But reformers like Sprey, Boyd and Rasor argue that in many cases the simpler weapons are actually more effective. The F-16 fighter jet was developed as a leaner sister to the F-15, which is loaded with high-powered radar and weapons guidance systems. Because the F-16 is smaller, less detectable and gives off less exhaust smoke, it is more capable of catching the enemy by surprise. It also has a sizable advantage in maneuvering during dogfights because of its quicker acceleration, better rolling ability and longer flight time. At half the price, twice as many can be deployed. Likewise, the M-60 compares well with the expensive M1: the M-1 breaks down five times as much and must refuel 40% more often; it is available for combat only half as often, which when added to the 3-to-l price differential means that six times as many M-60s can be placed in battle for the same price.
The pursuit of the latest "bells and whistles," as high-tech frills are called in the military, is a major factor in producing massive cost overruns. The technological tinkering also causes production delays, pushing up inflation costs. Getting a final 5% to 10% improvement in performance can raise the cost of a weapons system by anywhere from 20% to 50%, according to Jacques Gansler, former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for materiel acquisition. Augustine's Law of Insatiable Appetites puts it more bluntly: "The last 10% of the performance sought generates one-third of the cost and two-thirds of the problems."
A crucial institutional problem in procurement is that the testing of a new weapon is handled by the same Pentagon brass and bureaucrats who are responsible for its research and development and who are likely to be the most anxious to see that it is funded and produced. This leads to field-testing standards that bear little resemblance to combat. The Maverick antitank missile, for example, is being tested by pilots who know both the terrain and target locations ahead of time. The expensive ($1 billion apiece) Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers equipped with the AEGIS air-defense system have never been pitted in simulated combat situations against low-flying missiles like the Exocet. When the Army's new DIVAD-system air-defense gun, called the Sergeant York, was unable to hit maneuvering planes, it was tested instead on hovering helicopters. The Army says that is now the gun's main function, even though it does not fulfill that task particularly well.
There is nothing wrong or unusual about experimental weapons flunking field tests. Indeed, that should be the purpose of the tests: to weed out weapons that do not work. In the Pentagon procurement process, however, tests are often a