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Disaster in Defense

May 03, 1987

Generally speaking, media coverage of the defense business is characterized by slanted, sensational, anti-industry diatribes. But Ralph Vartabedian's Advanced Tactical Fighter story ("Subcontractors See Red When Looking at ATF," April 19) is damn good.

When it comes to publicity, civil servants are notorious cowards, so we have seen government officials increasingly criticizing the industry to satisfy congressional and media critics. There also is increasing direct government participation in the actual management of defense programs.

The result has been disaster. Look at the track records of two typical failures, the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in California and Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, and you will see that civil servants (and that includes military personnel) are neither qualified nor motivated to manage development programs. It is the old story of the government not curing, but becoming, the problem.

If the ATF ever gets to production, you are going to see late deliveries, subcontractor failures, ballooning costs and reduced operational capability because of government procurement policies. As a small contractor, I'm with Hughes--count me out.

WILLIAM F. MILLER

Newport Beach

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