Subtraction By Addition, Obama Style

Randall Hoven
With Obama's magic beans, government is about to become leaner -- by hiring 20,000 new government employees.

Reuters reports that "President Barack Obama's Defense Department plans to create 20,000 new jobs."

Will those 20,000 new people build infrastructure in Afghanistan or Iraq?  No.

Will they offload some of the logistics, training or personnel tasks of our armed forces?  No.

What will they do?  "Manage a revamp of the way the United States buys billions of dollars of weapons each year."

By my arithmetic, 20,000 employees cost, in round numbers, $2 billion or more per year.  (If they hire only 19,000 instead, Obama's savings target of $100 million could be achieved in the first year alone.)

I worked at McDonnell Douglas in the 1980's, when it had about 30,000 employees in St. Louis.  Here's what 30,000 or so people could do.

  • Produce the F/A-18 Hornet for the US Navy.
  • Produce the F-15 Eagle for the US Air Force.
  • Produce the AV-8 Harrier for the US Marines.
  • Produce the Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles.
  • Research and develop the next USAF fighter.
  • Research and develop the next USN fighter.
  • Research, develop and produce a host of related technology products, from laser communications to CAD/CAM software packages.

And I'm sure I forgot some things.  These people didn't just "manage" those programs; they designed, built, tested, delivered and supported those things.  Those things had to work.  And when they were needed, they did.

Now this might be news to some of you, but the Pentagon already has employees who manage defense acquisition.  In 2003, the DoD had 636,000 civilian employees.  Obama wants to add 20,000 to that.

So what will they do exactly?  If the answer is "manage" the way the US buys weapons, we already had people to do that, probably a good chunk of that 636,000.  So what will these new 20,000 people do?
And here's a tip.  If you think changing some contracts from cost-plus to fixed-cost, or from multi-year to annual, that's already been thought of and tried.  Every type of contract and incentive you can think of has been tried.  Some are better in some cases, some better in others.  Many good minds have been thinking and doing a lot about this issue for years.  There are no magic bullets to saving lots of money in defense acquisition with no loss of quality or quantity.

Adding 20,000 new managers for this age-old issue will have one primary effect: increasing the demand for larger meeting rooms.
With Obama's magic beans, government is about to become leaner -- by hiring 20,000 new government employees.

Reuters reports that "President Barack Obama's Defense Department plans to create 20,000 new jobs."

Will those 20,000 new people build infrastructure in Afghanistan or Iraq?  No.

Will they offload some of the logistics, training or personnel tasks of our armed forces?  No.

What will they do?  "Manage a revamp of the way the United States buys billions of dollars of weapons each year."

By my arithmetic, 20,000 employees cost, in round numbers, $2 billion or more per year.  (If they hire only 19,000 instead, Obama's savings target of $100 million could be achieved in the first year alone.)

I worked at McDonnell Douglas in the 1980's, when it had about 30,000 employees in St. Louis.  Here's what 30,000 or so people could do.

  • Produce the F/A-18 Hornet for the US Navy.
  • Produce the F-15 Eagle for the US Air Force.
  • Produce the AV-8 Harrier for the US Marines.
  • Produce the Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles.
  • Research and develop the next USAF fighter.
  • Research and develop the next USN fighter.
  • Research, develop and produce a host of related technology products, from laser communications to CAD/CAM software packages.

And I'm sure I forgot some things.  These people didn't just "manage" those programs; they designed, built, tested, delivered and supported those things.  Those things had to work.  And when they were needed, they did.

Now this might be news to some of you, but the Pentagon already has employees who manage defense acquisition.  In 2003, the DoD had 636,000 civilian employees.  Obama wants to add 20,000 to that.

So what will they do exactly?  If the answer is "manage" the way the US buys weapons, we already had people to do that, probably a good chunk of that 636,000.  So what will these new 20,000 people do?
And here's a tip.  If you think changing some contracts from cost-plus to fixed-cost, or from multi-year to annual, that's already been thought of and tried.  Every type of contract and incentive you can think of has been tried.  Some are better in some cases, some better in others.  Many good minds have been thinking and doing a lot about this issue for years.  There are no magic bullets to saving lots of money in defense acquisition with no loss of quality or quantity.

Adding 20,000 new managers for this age-old issue will have one primary effect: increasing the demand for larger meeting rooms.