Insider's look at the military's 'revolving door'

Critics often point to two major problems in US military procurement: having uniformed officers in charge of weapons programs, and the ''revolving door'' between the armed services and defense industries.

The following is from an internal Air Force memo discussing these issues as well as forced retirement. It was written by a civilian official who spent 20 years as a military officer in new-weapons programs:

''The major problem with having a military officer in charge of procurement is his vulnerability. It turns out that not everyone can make general or admiral and our 'up-or-out' policy forces people to retire. The average age of an officer at retirement is 43 years. Counting allowances, a colonel has more take-home pay than a US senator.

''At the age of 43 he probably has kids in, or ready for, college and a big mortgage and can't afford a large cut in his income. Besides, he is at the peak of his intellectual powers, and is emotionally involved, and doesn't want to quit. We throw him out anyway, no matter how good a job he is doing.

''Many of these officers, particularly the good ones who have spent most of their careers flying aircraft, operating ships, or leading troops, do not have skills which are readily marketable in the civilian sector.

''This nice man then comes around and offers him a job at $50,000-$75,000 per year. If he stands up and makes a fuss about high cost and poor quality, no nice man will come to see him when he retires. Even if he has no interest in a post-retirement job in the defense industry, he is taking a chance by making a fuss. The 'system' will, likely as not, discover a newly open job in Thule, Greenland, Adak, Alaska, or some other garden spot for which he, and only he, is uniquely qualified. Thus, his family, as well as his career, suffers. To their everlasting credit, many fine officers have made a fuss anyway and suffered the consequences.''

The document from which this was taken was given to reporters by the Project on Military Procurement.

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