Review: Prophets of War–Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex

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William Hartung

4.0 out of 5 stars Final Review: Boring, Limited, Not for General Audience

January 3, 2011

After reading this book, which I found to be extremely boring, I have to give Pierre Sprey very high marks for his substantive contributions to the C-SPAN Book interview of the author. My summary of that interview is therefore an important part of my summary of this book. It can be seen at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog by searching for the two names Pierre Sprey William Hartung without quotes or brackets.

I reduce the book to four from five stars because it is a lazy book–no charts, no maps, just a blast of names and dates and numbers–VERY boring. However righteous, this book could have been much better.


+ 29B per year in revenue from the Pentagon, probably is low number, is not that much.

+ Lockheed grossly exaggerates job numbers and refuses to back them up.

+ Lockheed wins with low bids and the Pentagon acquisition folks are so inept or politically influenced they accept that.

+ Lockheed is the poster child for a broken acquisition system–quite right–that does not make them the bad guys.

+ Lesson learned from U-2: intelligence is irrelevant if it is not used by the decision-makers. Today we spend close to $90 billion a year on intelligence that provides less than 4% of what we need to know, and even then, intelligence for lack of integrity is impotent.

+ Wikileaks is alive and well within the Pentagon, but among authorized individuals who do not leak to the outside. I see that exploding into the public eye in the near future.

+ US Air Force is treasonous for its hatred of honest acquisition officers. Chuck Spinney is my friend and most admired mentor, I do not know Fitzgerald or Durham, but I have a news flash for the US Air Force: Integrity and truth are coming back into vogue. I never lost mine, others appear to be reconnecting with theirs.

+ Bribery stories are not that new, and the author misses the larger reality that CIA used the gold captured in the Philippines as a slush fund for bribing German, Italian, and Japanese politicians, setting the stage if you will, for Lockheed.

+ Norm Augustine, who originally wanted to be a fire ranger, comes out in this book very well. John Deutch and William Perry come out much less well.

+ The author does not cover this, but the book makes it clear that the US aversion to having an Industrial Policy for decades is what led to corruption concentrating (and gutting) capability. Lockheed is not too big to fail, but it is too big to perform reliably.

+ Eye opener for me is Lockheed's expansion into state and local out-sourcing of inherently governmental functions. This comes as I have recently learned about the out-sourcing of health industry “profit recovery” to a cabal of firms including Booz Hamilton and led by the Connelly Law Firm.

+ Moderately interesting but not comprehensive account of Project for the New American Century and NATO membership as a deliberate sales campaign.

+ Overall, a general sense of deja vu. Lockheed is expensive and it does not deliver the value that could be gotten from having a government that is honest and effective in and of itself, with many small ships and small airplanes that meet actual requirements. Lockheed failed big time with Deepwater and related programs, but that is not their fault: the US Navy has no clue how to design and order ships anymore (not sure they ever did, they just had better contractors–read Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats That Won World War II or my summary review for a still valid tale on idiocy in acquisition management).

Bottom line: BORING. No creativity in visualization of inter-locking boards, special relationships among flags/politicians, etcetera. This book is a solid reference making the most of news articles and a handful of books, but I certainly do not recommend it for the general reader. Citizens and expert readers may be interested in my book reviews organized as Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Negative) (use REVIEW bar at the top).

Preliminary Comments that Remain Valid:

As for all that great technology Lockheed builds, are we talking about the exploding rockets, the airplanes that cannot fly and require one Air Base/Air Force per plane to maintain, or just the little things like metrics on one end and inches on the other? And since secret intelligence is my domain, I'll tell you right now most of what vendors provide the US Intelligence Community is expensive non-interoperable crap–Trailblazer by SAIC comes to mind but I have no doubt Lockheed has at least six major projects with firehose collection and zero processing–Gorgon Stare with dementia in the outer atmosphere.

Lockheed is NOT the “bad guy.” Joe Markowitz taught me years ago that contractors do what we pay them do, we who tolerate careerists and program managers who spend for promotion rather than defense, who fail to do functional requirements documents and proper technical evaluations, and who allow themselves to be influenced by serving and retired flag officers who parked their integrity at field grade–WE are the bad guys in this book. Lockheed is capable of great work–we just don't demand it, and by the time they and others deliver garbage, everyone responsible on the inside has been promoted, is long gone, and no one is held accountable for treason against the public interest. I also give the White House and Congress a pass on this–the ONE place I expect integrity to “stand fast” is in the ranks of the uniformed military, and it is the absence of that integrity that I believe has done so much harm over the past fifty years.

The US military is going belly up because all three of the big services got hooked on big contracts, lost touch with reality (little things like 10 to 30 ton bridges, line of sight under 900 meters most places, and oh, did I mention, the standard aviation day is actually HOT and HUMID?). See the USMC Expeditionary Environment Analytic Model at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog for a properly done strategic acquisition endeavor that was abandoned when the founding Colonel and I moved on.

Ten books (counting Higgins above) where my summary reviews add context:

Defense Facts of Life: The Plans/Reality Mismatch
Why We Fight
The Fog of War: Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier
The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World
House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II–Updated Through 2003
Unconquerable World Power Nonviolence

Have not read but like author and title:

The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them

Books the author relied upon (links active at Phi Beta Iota copy of the review–Amazon is too limiting):

Barons of the Sky: From Early Flight to Strategic Warfare: The Story of the American Aerospace Industry
Beyond the Horizons: The Lockheed Story
Pushing the Envelope: The American Aircraft Industry
Arms Bazaar: From Lebanon to Lockheed
Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed
The C-5A scandal;: An inside story of the military-industrial complex
The High Priests of Waste
The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagement and Fraud in Defense Spending
The Pentagon Underground: Hidden Patriots Fighting Against Deceit And…

Books cited in C-SPAN interview by the author as interviewed by Pierre Sprey:

Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948: A Successful Campaign to Deceive the Nation
Lockheed sales mission: 70 days over Tokyo (1976, available on Amazon)
The Conservative Case for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) (digital article available on Amazon)

Books by the author on this same topic:
How Much Are You Making on the War Daddy? A Quick and Dirty Guide to War Profiteering in the Bush Administration
And Weapons for All

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