Wednesday, January 05, 2005

 

That Wasn't *TOO* Bad.

My friend Lori called me up to remind me, just in time, of the 60 Minutes II Air Force corruption piece airing tonight.

You can watch the video or read the transcript of the piece here.

This is usually the place where someone can be counted on flipping out, and accusing CBS News of more shoddy journalism and inaccurate reporting.

Difference is, the piece was about as fair and balanced as you could get. I mean, *it is* an ugly story, there's no way around it. Nothing in the segment struck me as in error.

Sure, I'd concentrate on different angles than someone with a vendetta against the Air Force, like, say, Senator McCain. But even if he has the wrong reasons for being right, in the end, he's still right: the Air Force should have known this was going on.

One element not reported in this story, or anywhere else for that matter, was the reasons *why* oversight of Druyun was so shoddy. I don't think it was simply because she was respected, and thus given carte blanche by her superiors to exercise independent authority. In my distinctly personal opinion (i.e. non-legal judgment), it was primarily because there was a long line of empty suits at the top of the Air Force Acquisition organization, with no one willing to question her authority.

Nominally, there is a political appointee Assistant Secretary (like the outgoing Marvin Sambur, quoted in the 60 Minutes piece) to provide some level of accountability. They're joined by a military deputy as well, typically a three-star general. Druyun was in the number 3 slot, the principal civilian deputy. As a long-serving civil servant, her role was to act as the "corporate memory" while the appointees and generals moved in and out of their jobs.

The problem was, during Druyun's tenure there was an awful lot of turnover above her. Eventually, it seems that no one felt either secure or strong enough to push her around, or question her decisionmaking. That is, even if they were so inclined, and given the questionable caliber of a few of the appointees, such motivation is in doubt. Spotting Druyun's crime in hindsight is simple, but at the time, there wasn't any obvious reasons to suspect her of anything other than being a major league control freak. I'm not kidding when I say that it'd be like suspecting your Mom of raiding your piggy bank to buy bottles of booze; it just wouldn't enter your mind, even if the bank ran low.

Even worse, after the Clinton/Bush transition, Druyun had a lot of time all by herself at the top while the appointee job was filled-- yet another obvious example of why timely Senate confirmations are so vital in this town. Once Sambur came around, the damage was done, and it was left to him, the folks in OSD, the Congress, and eventually the courts to clean up the mess.

Sambur's taking the fall, and perhaps he should, given Druyun was his deputy and it was his responsibility to know what was going on. However-- and this is a personal opinion, backed up solely by personal observation-- I think he and others recognized immediately upon taking office that Druyun had amassed too much power and that she needed to be settled back down, if not pushed out entirely. It certainly explains the reason she was trying to find a job at Boeing in the first place.

So it seems that the Air Force recognized the problem, only too late to do anything or enough about it.

And the rest is history. . . until the next Pentagon scandal breaks.

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This posting was made on my personal computer.

Comments:
60 Minutes knows better than to dump on the Air Force. You know what happened when an elementary school in New Jersey gave an Air Force pilot's daughter a D in Algebra? 20 millimeter drive-by - I mean, "accidental weapons discharge." Dan Rather doesn't want to wake up to the smell of napalm in the morning.
 
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