The US spends billions on weapons, yet its fighters, helicopters, and ships date back to the '80s and '90s. Luckily, there's a precedent for the US overhauling its forces while cutting costs at the same time, writes Arthur Herman of the Wall Street Journal: World War II. Then, the US managed to jump from being the world's 18th-largest army to "a military second to none" in a slim five years—and "not because we spent a lot of money," he writes, "but because the dollars spent followed four simple business principles." Those being:
- Tap our most innovative companies. In WWII that meant car makers like Ford and General Motors. Today, "why not let the Air Force ask Apple to design an iFighter? Or let the Navy ask Google to design the software architecture to power its ships and submarines?"
- Keep the end user in the mix. Back then, fighter jet makers would have actual pilots give feedback. "Today, multiple layers of bureaucracy oversee every stage of major weapons system."
- Act like a producer, not a consumer. Right now, cost reduction efforts usually involve more bureaucratic oversight. Instead, the Pentagon should focus on helping contractors develop better supply chains and procedures.
- Don't aim for perfection. The Pentagon is constantly heaping requirements on projects in search of the perfect weapon system, which is why the F-35 has been in development since 1996. "Successful commercial companies … innovate for today, not tomorrow."