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'Pentagon's War --for Turf'

August 10, 1986

This letter is in response to Rep. Les Aspin's (D-Wis.) article (Editorial Pages, Aug. 5), "Pentagon's Constant War--for Turf." It seems to me that Aspin would do his constituents and the rest of this country well by concentrating on the congressional rivalries that "gum the works and must be curbed."

I have just retired from the U.S. Air Force after serving both as an enlisted member and as an officer. I left after the minimum time allowed for retirement not because of the service bureaucracy (which certainly is alive, as it is in any profession), but because I was tired of bowing to the whims and desires of every congressman and the staffs who thought they could get their names in the newspapers by making a "Congressional Inquiry" into every little glitch in the system.

The bureaucracy that Aspin complains about is not one that has simply evolved, but one that has been generated by the archaic budgeting and planning system that Congress has levied on the Department of Defense. I cannot count the number of times I've made the statement that "If civilian businesses were run this way, they would be out of business within a year." The system encourages the services to bid against each other for the dollars Congress grudgingly doles out. The system is at the mercy of congressional interests, not service interests.

Aspin also states that mostly retired officers complain to him ". . . bitterly about the system." Why mostly retired officers? Because Congress forbids active-duty personnel to get involved in political activities, which the "system" most certainly is.

This, Aspin so conveniently forgets, is another right service personnel give up in serving their country. He has used this over and over again to attack the military, knowing that we cannot rebut his accusations. This rebuttal process is left to the civilian heads of the services who are political appointees. And so it all comes down to politics.

The vast majority of military personnel, both enlisted and officer, are dedicated to serving the country, and not to sitting around, as Aspin would lead us to believe, dreaming up ways to get themselves promoted regardless of what effect they have on the country.

I'm proud to have served 20 years in the military; my only regret is that I was not allowed to speak up against opportunists like Congressman Aspin earlier.



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