Don't tolerate the military's broken procurement process

Your story about the Bush administration’s request for a 7 percent increase in military spending (“Bush touts $3.1 trillion budget,” Feb. 4) entirely missed the growing controversy about Washington squabbles that are tying up the delivery of these taxpayer-funded supply items to frontline troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For instance, there is a searing need to increase the number and capabilities of the Air Force’s rescue helicopters. Given the proliferation of shoulder-to-air missiles and roadside bombs targeted at our frontline troops, these rescue helicopters are the lifeline for troops that we put in harm’s way daily in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But two Pentagon contractors are tying up through litigation the delivery of muchneeded, upgraded rescue helicopters simply because they want to get a piece of the government contract dollars at stake.

The companies launched a major legal assault on the Air Force through the Government Accountability Office, which summarily dismissed much of this delaying tactic.

However, the GAO did admit one technical flaw relating to “life cycle” maintenance costs in the contract award for the helicopters to Boeing.

Outdated procurement laws require that the Pentagon now delay the delivery of the helicopters to the troops and go back to the drawing board to award the contract. And after more than a year of delays, most experts still predict that the Air Force will award the contract to the battle-tested and superior Boeing helicopter.

We shouldn’t increase military spending until we take steps to modernize the outdated procurement laws that leave our troops abandoned while contractors try to make an unseemly buck.

Bushland, Texas

Transparency good, accountability better

From Matt Shugert, Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

I applaud Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s openness and transparency in providing the “price tag” for our continued involvement in Iraq to the Senate Armed Services Committee (“$170B more for Iraq war,” Feb. 6). Although he argues that the figure isn’t precise, it’s a good first step that one day may lead to the current administration announcing in detail how the U.S. will work toward decreasing the brutal violence in Iraq, and begin the pulling down of our troop strength in Iraq.

I do wonder, however, after five years of war, shouldn’t we be well beyond this point of estimating our cost for the Iraq occupation?

Shouldn’t we know what the money will be spent on, as we’re in the midst of an almost certain recession? Especially, as noted in reports presented by the inspector general for Iraq to Congress, several billion dollars in Iraq funding is not appropriately reported on by accepted accounting standards?

Don’t get me wrong, this responsibility isn’t just on the shoulders of the Republican administration; the Democrats do hold the majority in congress and chair this committee.