The Pentagon Lets Defense Contractors Write Rules

Why shouldn’t defense contractors write laws? Other lobbyists do.

This news should not surprise us at all. It isn’t special to the military; it is the price of big government. reports, “Defense contractors are literally writing their own rules for Washington’s defense spending.”

I couldn’t help but notice this story reported Tuesday in Politico:

In his bill set to pass this week to overhaul how the Pentagon buys weapons, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee relied heavily on those with most at stake: the nation’s arms makers.

Defense contractors played a major role in crafting the proposal by Rep. Mac Thornberry designed to reform the Pentagon acquisition system…

Some of the provisions … could end up boosting company profits — at the expense of taxpayers.

For example, the bill would weaken the power of the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester, an independent watchdog who answers directly to the secretary of defense and often uncovers flaws in big-ticket weapon systems. That was a provision proposed by the Aerospace Industries Association, which represents the nation’s leading defense and aerospace firms.

As Thornberry hastened to clarify, not all of the provisions in question go to benefit the industry. What’s more, it’s worth noting that lobbying isn’t problematic on its face – I lobby for lower spending almost every day!

More specifically, though, it is little surprise that powerful interests like these defense contractors are able to get everything they want on the taxpayer dime. But it’s still jarring when they’re so brazenly proud of it.

A former Senate aide-turned-vice president of policy at the National Defense Industrial Association boasted that “There were, literally, 10 provisions of Chairman Thornberry’s Agile Acquisition bill that had some kind of direct or indirect lineage from our recommendations. They were tightly aligned and in some cases were word-for-word adaptations.”

 [See also, “The Oligarchy Inside the Oligarchy: Who Writes these Laws that No One Reads?]

How many laws does Congress actually write? Or maybe we should ask: How many laws do Congress members actually read before voting on them?

We all know that Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass the Affordable Care Act in order to find out what was in it.

It makes a lot of sense. If Congress is supposed to write laws, as a government agency they naturally tend to be slack at it, just like the U.S. Postal Service is bad at delivering mail. So, to make themselves look “productive” they farm out the hard work to lobbyists who represent those with a stake in the legislation.

What could go wrong?