The Pentagon Labyrinth

By Jean Sammon
March 30, 2011

“Ordinary people” need to be involved in order to clean up the mess at the Pentagon. Experts who are now retired from their careers in the Pentagon are trying to get that message out.

Franklin (Chuck) Spinney, Pierre Sprey, and Thomas Christie have been advocates for military reform, both inside and outside the Pentagon, for many years. I heard them speak recently at an event to introduce the new book “The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Throught It” where they talked about their reasons for contributing to this book.

These guys are passionate about the “grotesque diversion of scarce resoures to a bloated defense budget that is leading the United State into ruin” and also the “damage to America’s defenses and to the integrity of its politics.” (The Pentagon Labyrinth, p. 2)

They know the odds of reforming the system are long, but they are still committed to trying to change the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex (MICC), and they are looking for our help.

Here’s how they described the situation:

After the Cold War ended in the 1990s, the MICC and some think tanks created a “political economy” that depends on continuing small wars to justify the money flow that allows the defense corporations to survive. The corporations engaged in “political engineering” — contracting out weapons development in as many states as possible. They contribute money to the members of Congress in those states to gain allies who will make sure that the federal government spends money to produce weapons in their states, so that the weapons contractors will create jobs and stay profitable enough to continue to contribute money to their political campaigns to keep them in a position to keep the cycle going.

I’d heard about this before, but hadn’t considered all the consequences. Making parts of military aircraft, ships, tanks and guns in as many states as possible not only increases the costs (no one keeps track of how much) but also produces weapons of shabby quality when all the disparate parts are brought together. This endangers our troops, when the weapons turn out to be unusable in combat, which has happened many times.

The fact that the Pentagon turns over responsibility for development, production, testing and quality control to the contractors who make the weapons further aggravates the problem. Contractors have incentives to make the weapons more technically complex and thus more costly and potentially more unusable. Generals in the Pentagon also contribute to this problem by adding requirements and features to their pet projects.

Concerned citizens need to understand the causes and consequences of the huge military budget. We need to ask the questions “What is the threat?” and “What weapons do we need?” and “What happens to our society when so many resources go to the military at the expense of other societal needs?”

Pentagon Labyrinth book cover
Read the book.
You can get it from Amazon or
you can find the articles online at

Start asking questions and demand acceptable answers.

We owe it to Chuck, Pierre, Tom
and all the others like them
who are trying to do what it takes
to really make us secure.

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