The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagement

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagement

Postby admin » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:21 am

by A. Ernest Fitzgerald
© 1989 by A. Ernest Fitzgerald




Table of Contents:

1. Code of Silence
2. Carrying Out the Contract
3. "Let Him Bleed"
4. The Cost-Plus Economy
5. Kangaroo Court
6. Dr. Doom's Dollar Model
7. "I Will Never Lie to You"
8. The King's Lawyers
9. Reagan's Big Spender Saloon
10. Adventures of a Born-again Muckraker
11. Poor Richard's Network
12. The Phoenix Flop and Other Horror Stories
13. The Poindexter-Packard Coup
14. The Santa Claus Coup
15. Carpet Bombing the Constitution
16. Operation Ill Wind
17. Our Corporate State
Appendix A: White House Memorandum, January 20, 1973
Appendix B: FBI Memorandum, Two Versions, May 23, 1978
Appendix C: National Security Decision Directive 102, September 5, 1983

... I too had been strongly affected by Kenneth Cook's death. Cook had been an Air Force weapons analyst, a mathematician and physicist with a fine record for evaluations of advanced weapons systems. His downfall came when he made an accurate and damning study of plans for some useless and very expensive secret weapons that his Air Force superiors favored. Under pressure from them, he refused to alter his analysis. So against Ken Cook the military used the cruelest kind of KGB tactics: they declared him mentally incompetent. Two civilian psychiatrists who examined him contradicted the allegation, and even the Air Force's own top psychiatrist found him nothing more than a "perfectionist" who was "relatively inflexible" in defending his views. I had some personal knowledge of the idiotic proposals Cook had examined, and he would have had to be insane to approve them.

I had learned about the Cook case when I was a consultant to Congressman Jerry Waldie's civil service subcommittee. We were told that the Air Force was indeed permitted to declare someone mentally incompetent without getting a psychiatrist's opinion! All it took were statements by three people equal or superior in rank to the victim. Or the local military sawbones on his own could declare a government employee mentally incompetent. (After the Cook case and other outrages, the rules were changed: a psychiatrist had to make the finding.)

After he was fired, Kenneth Cook found it almost impossible to get a job. The ACLU gave him some legal help, but the legal bases for his mistreatment were unclear. Most judges supported the idea that there was no recourse beyond a review by the Civil Service Commission, that pliant creature of the executive branch.

Cook tried hard through legal and political means to get the decision reversed, but politicians and officials alike were indifferent or hostile. He did valuable volunteer work for public-interest groups and members of Congress, helping to debunk the antiballistic missile proposals.

Eventually his slim resources ran out. When he fell behind in paying his property taxes, his home in New Mexico was auctioned off, in spite of public outcry. The sale brought him a check for fifty-seven cents. I saw him the day that happened, and when he showed me the ridiculous check, that strong man broke down and cried. He was never the same afterward. He went through the motions of fighting his case, but despair and poverty began to crush him. He ate only one meal a day. Having no bus fare, he trudged miles between his rented room in Virginia and the congressional or executive branch offices he haunted.

Though I was only partly employed myself, I bought him lunch whenever I could. Clark Mollenhoff did even more. Cook stopped at Mollenhoff's downtown office frequently, and Clark would take time out to buy him a meal and drive him to his next destination.

One January day in 1973, sick, ragged, and weak, Kenneth dropped dead in a department store across the street from Mollenhoff's office. He was just fifty-nine. Aside from a few old clothes and books found in his room, his entire estate consisted of the seven dollars and thirty-two cents in his pocket.


"Every gun that is fired, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.... We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat (by 1987, the price was twenty million bushels). We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than eight thousand people.. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron." -- Dwight David Eisenhower's Cross of Iron speech, April 16, 1953


It is important for you to understand that the GAO debunked a phony idea widely spread by some Air Force generals that the $435 hammer is a result of the "equal allocation of overhead" to these parts which are of minimum intrinsic value. The 12-cent Allen wrench did not increase to $9,606 by the "equal allocation of overhead" -- General Dynamics and Westinghouse actually charged engineering time to the wrench that resulted in that kind of price. According to an examination of the labor records, Westinghouse charged 63 hours of engineering time to develop a 3-inch piece of common wire for $14,835 -- a tool officially dubbed an assembly pin -- when Westinghouse had been using a wooden peg for five years for the same purpose.

-- The Pentagonists, by A. Ernest Fitzgerald
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Re: The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagem

Postby admin » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:23 am



Robie Macauley, my editor, is a veritable blacksmith of books. He has beaten many rough slabs of prose into readable and successful books. He did some of his best hammering on my manuscript. Any success this book achieves will be another tribute to Robie's editorial genius.

I am also indebted to Chris Coffin, Peg Anderson, and the other kind, patient, and skillful people at Houghton Mifflin. Less sympathetic and insightful partners would have abandoned me long before this work was finished.

None of these folks would have had anything to work with, though, if my son, John Patton Fitzgerald, had not put his own career on hold to help me with research and manuscript preparation.

My daughter Susan's writing suggestions were invaluable, and all of us were supported and kept within reasonable bounds of both rhetoric and schedule by my most severe but caring critic, my wife, Nell.
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Re: The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagem

Postby admin » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:25 am

1. Code of Silence

RICHARD NIXON SEEMED to be at the top of his game. At 4:17 on the afternoon of January 31, 1973, he was relaxing and chatting confidently with his assistant Charles Colson in the Oval Office of the White House. He had breezed masterfully through a noontime press conference where the only bothersome question had come from Clark Mollenhoff, who had served for a year in 1969-70 as a trouble-shooter on Nixon's staff.

Iowa native Mollenhoff, now a well-known Washington journalist, had won the Pulitzer Prize and numerous other awards for investigative reporting, and he was not a man to let go of a scandal once he got his teeth into it. So even the supremely confident Nixon, just inaugurated after his 1972 election landslide, had to be careful in dealing with the Boomer, as the big-voiced, six-foot-four, 250-pound Mollenhoff was known.

"Like, out there, I was very informal today," Nixon said to Colson. "I just, you know, talked quite a while when I wanted to. Kidded around with Mollenhoff. He sure presses, though." (The whole conversation was faithfully recorded on the president's tapes.)


Mollenhoff had used his first question to set up his old boss on the question of executive privilege, a presidential excuse often used to avoid answering questions about official wrongdoing. A lawyer as well as a reporter, Mollenhoff had been the scourge of presidents since Dwight Eisenhower when they resorted to the privilege dodge.

At the press conference Mollenhoff had asked, "Did you approve the use of executive privilege by Air Force Secretary Seamans in refusing to disclose the White House role in the firing of air cost analyst Fitzgerald?"

Mollenhoff went on to explain the reason for his question: "It came up yesterday in the civil service hearings. He (Seamans) used executive privilege. You had stated earlier that you would have to approve all these uses of executive privilege, as I understand it, and I wonder whether your view still prevails in this area or whether others are now entitled to use executive privilege on their own in this type of case?"

The president was wary; he assumed Mollenhoff was trying to trap him on the privilege issue, which would later be the cornerstone of his Watergate bastion. He failed to grasp the significance of "the White House role in the firing of ... Fitzgerald."

"Let me explain," he answered Mollenhoff. "I was totally aware that Mr. Fitzgerald would be fired or discharged or asked to resign. I approved it, and Mr. Seamans must have been talking to someone who had discussed this matter with me.

"No, this was not a case of some person down the line deciding he should go. It was a decision that was submitted to me. I made it and I stick by it." Nixon had then evaded the executive privilege question by promising "a precise statement" in writing.

Colson, though, had picked up Mollenhoff's subtler purpose. As he chatted with Nixon after the press conference, he said, "I was so relieved when you did that because Mollenho -- I could tell what Clark was doing. He was, he was working around the Fitzger --"

"-- this guy that was fired," Nixon interrupted. "I'd marked it in the news summary. That's how it happened. I said, get rid of that son of a bitch. You know, 'cause he is, he's been doin' this two or three times. So Seamans, who isn't much of a sandbagger, uh, will get rid of him, I understand, uh, claimed executive privilege because he knew I had ordered it."

"Right," Colson said.

Why would the president of the United States take the trouble to reach down into the bowels of the Pentagon to pluck out a middle-level bureaucrat -- a mere "air cost analyst" -- and personally see that the man was fired? What made the president angry enough to say, "I said, get rid of that son of a bitch"?

A few minutes later John Ehrlichman came into the Oval Office. He wanted to know about the "precise statement" on executive privilege.

"You should have the most god-awful gobbledygook answer prepared," Nixon ordered. "Just put it out on executive privilege. Something that will allow us to do everything that we want."

As the conversation continued, it began to dawn on Nixon and his aides that he might have made a blunder in speaking out so explicitly about my firing. Nixon, concerned more with the question of privilege, kept drifting off the Fitzgerald problem and occasionally seemed to confuse me with other government employees he had savaged. Ehrlichman, though, kept bringing the focus back to the importance of putting me down and keeping me there. At one point he interrupted to say, "No, no, no, no, this is the guy that, uh, ratted on the C-5A overruns."

I had indeed violated the unwritten code of silence -- by testifying truthfully to Congress in 1968 and 1969 about the concealed cost overruns and the technical problems of the giant Lockheed C-5A transport plane. (I wrote about how I was harassed and fired for publicly committing these truths in my book The High Priests of Waste, 1972.)

Freshly reminded of my sins, Ehrlichman and Nixon got to the major point.

"He was a, he was a thorn in everybody's side, you see --" Ehrlichman began.

Nixon interrupted. "Yeah, well, the point was not that he was complaining about the overruns, but that he was doing it in public."

"That's the point. And cutting up his superiors," Ehrlichman said.

"That's right."

"Yeah," said Ehrlichman.

"And not, and frankly, not taking orders."

In addition to committing the unforgivable Washington sin of telling truths that embarrassed powerful special interests, I had refused my bosses' instructions to alter my testimony about the C-5A disaster, thus undermining their "artful exercise to rescue hard- pressed Lockheed," as the Wall Street Journal (December 1, 1970) described it.

Years later, as I read the transcript of the White House tapes from that January afternoon, I began to feel -- as Yogi Berra once put it -- that this was "deja vu all over again." And as I read the records my lawyers had put together for my reinstatement after being fired, I began to understand the many complications in what had happened -- in a small way to me personally and in a much bigger way to the whole moral fabric of the United States government.

As President Nixon made perfectly clear in that 1973 conversation with Colson and Ehrlichman, his administration's code of silence about military waste was enforced as effectively as the Mafia's code of omerta (though without the bloodshed). Nixon apologists might reply that this didn't start with him -- and they would be right; both the wrongdoing and the cover-up were there when he came into office. The situation has gotten even worse since then, and today it is the primary cause of the United States' emergence as the world's largest banana republic.

Our military establishment may not have won a war in forty-three years, but it has managed to pull down the world's greatest industrial colossus. This could not have happened without the concomitant disintegration of institutional checks and balances in business, government, and society. When the tribunes and the senate neglect their vigilance, the Praetorian Guard takes over the treasury for itself.

The collapse of management controls and moral standards radiated outward from the Pentagon's acquisition community, the ripened fruit of the noxious military-industrial- complex weed that President Eisenhower warned us about. The problem is that the fruit, though deadly to liberty and lasting prosperity, is addictive. Almost all who partake are hooked, and the addiction has spread far beyond the military and its suppliers. The weed now chokes formerly productive industrial fields not directly involved in supplying the military. Greed, institutionalized dishonesty, and legalized stealing have corrupted not only the military but also segments of Congress, prestigious universities, and even whole civilian communities that have become dependent on military money. Many who have hardly known honest work live in luxury on the sweat of their conned, exploited fellow citizens. Wallowing in the taxpayers' money, the acquisition community became so inefficient during the Reagan years that the huge infusions of money have actually produced fewer useful weapons.

When this process becomes so repugnant that even some of its beneficiaries are repelled, the secrecy necessary for it to prosper may break down, and the public is then treated to juicy scandal -- like the well-publicized allegations of Pentagon bribes, kickbacks, and bid rigging that woke up so many people in June 1988 and shook official Washington "to its shoes," as one official said. Usually, damage-limiting propaganda campaigns and pro forma "reforms" follow, secrecy is tightened, and the acquisition community continues on its merry, larcenous way.

Washington is essentially a one-industry town. Anyone who grew up, as I did, in a mill town, will understand how things work in Washington. Our mill town's product is not steel or textiles but politics, and the lifeblood of politics is patronage. Patronage in the forms of import quotas, tariffs, tax laws (especially the ones that benefit powerful special interests), selective prosecution, regulatory rulings, decisions about the location of government facilities, about grants, appointments, and -- most potent of all -- contracts, especially military contracts. Although it is impolite to talk about it publicly, both the executive and legislative branches are preoccupied with distributing patronage. All branches of our government prize employees who are "responsive" to the never-ending work of paying out or paying off. The judicial branch understands this and, as we shall see, often cooperates.

Sometimes the patronage distribution process gets messy. It requires lying, stealing, cheating, and then covering up for any or all of the above. The Pentagon, as the dominant patronage machine -- the largest money dispenser the world has ever seen -- needs more of such behavior than other departments. Therefore it has to shield itself very carefully from disclosures. So even though many laws and regulations exist commanding all military and civilian bureaucrats in the federal government to come forth and "expose corruption wherever discovered," woe to the man or woman who obeys these laws.

Richard Nixon was most especially aware of his obligation to protect me for telling the truth about the C-5A overruns. In 1951, when he was still a senator, Nixon carried on a noisy and vigorous campaign against then-President Harry Truman for Truman's firing of General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Louis Denfeld on the grounds, at least in part, that they had told Congress embarrassing things about Truman's conduct of military affairs.

Nixon spoke of impeaching Truman. He also offered an amendment to strengthen Title 18, Section 1505, of the U.S. Code, the statute that supposedly protects congressional witnesses from interference and retaliation. This criminal statute carries penalties of up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine for anyone convicted of retaliating against such a witness or obstructing a congressional inquiry. Senator Nixon's amendment failed to pass, but Nixon had violated even the basic law when he retaliated against me.

Four other presidents -- one earlier (Lyndon Johnson) and three to come -- were equally determined to silence me or get rid of me. Because of Nixon's uniquely candid record of unsavory conversations in the Oval Office, we tend to think of him as something of an anomaly, a singularly amoral politician who somehow was able to con his way into the Oval Office while we weren't looking. I can't agree. His attitudes and actions in regard to the problems that have always concerned me were quite consistent with the actions of his predecessors and successors. All five presidents, under the guise of national security, systematically exploited the American people. And all five were equally fierce in concealing what was going on. Richard Nixon was part of a continuum.

There is, however, by great good fortune, a disparity between the policy of these men and the order of government set up by the founders of the republic. No matter who is in the White House, the fundamental principles are still there -- and that was how my lawyers, through years of skillful, dogged work, were able to pry out the evidence to substantiate my case. This narrative is heavily dependent on their discoveries.

Those revelations could not have occurred, nor would I have coped as well as I did personally without the early assistance of the National Capitol Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (not to be confused with the national ACLU, whose policies and priorities became quite different). After Nixon fired me, Florence Isbell and Ralph Temple of the local ACLU recruited a series of excellent lawyers to represent me without pay for themselves or their firms. (By 1982, at normal rates, they would have earned a million dollars from my legal actions.) John Bodner, Jr., in particular, represented me for more than eighteen years out of sheer public-spirited altruism.

After years of digging, my lawyers had enough evidence to sue the Lion of Whittier for his role in destroying my career. Nixon himself proposed to testify before a jury of citizens of the District of Columbia and to be cross-examined by my lawyers. His proposed witnesses for the trial included a number of his former staffers, among whom were such familiar names as Robert Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and Charles Colson; assorted Pentagon bureaucrats -- generals, colonels, and civilians, including some defense secretaries; various defense industry executives; and, perhaps surprisingly to innocent readers, Jimmy Carter and Ralph Nader. Nixon's long and varied list of witnesses reflected his justifiable confidence that the nation's leaders in business and government would rally to support the right of a president -- even a disgraced one -- to break yet another law in defense of Pentagon concealment.
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Re: The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagem

Postby admin » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:29 am

2. Carrying Out the Contract

AT THE END of 1968, as the Johnson administration gave way to that of Richard Nixon, the old Pentagonists handed on the message to the new: get rid of Fitzgerald. The man who passed the word was Air Force Secretary Harold Brown, described by his admirers as "the smartest man in the world."

Not demonstrably true, perhaps, but Brown certainly had a good claim to being smart.

In 1961, before his thirty-fourth birthday, he had been appointed director of defense research and engineering by President Kennedy. In this job he was one of the highest- ranking and most powerful of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's "whiz kids," whose reason for being was to bring the big military spenders to heel and make sure our defense got "more bang for a buck."

Although a fair number of his associates couldn't stand Harold personally because of his arrogance, he was generally considered to have performed brilliantly in his job. On October 1, 1965, just ten days after I, a civilian, joined as management systems deputy in the Air Force Secretariat, President Johnson appointed him secretary of the Air Force. I was delighted to be working for a man who was both brilliant and so critical of dubious military schemes that he had earned the nickname "Dr. No." I wanted to help him live up to that nickname.

Brown was aware of my intention -- at least I thought he was. When I filled out the standard government employment form before being hired, I appended a dense, six-page supplement that described some of my most successful cost-cutting assignments. I wanted to lay out my intentions from the very first. At the time I was president of a small but highly successful management consulting company, and I didn't want to interrupt a flourishing career if the top managers at the Pentagon had reservations about the aggressive approach to improving quality and cutting costs that my associates and I practiced. I had just turned thirty-nine, and I figured I could spend a few years shaping up the Air Force if Harold Brown had the stomach for it.

Brown didn't flinch. After looking at my papers, he wrote a note to retiring Air Force Secretary Eugene Zuchert -- in the small, clear hand I would come to know only too well -- "Gene, Sounds very good. Let's get him. H.B."

In the beginning all of us had great confidence in Brown. We respected him for his quick mind and his ability to isolate problems, and we worked very hard for him. I used to start early in the morning and finish late at night, and I worked many weekends.

After a promising start, though, Brown began to change course. He seemed to back away from the fundamental improvements recommended by our more-bang-for-a-buck staff. Our labors began to be Sisyphean. With great effort, we would bring projects to a point where his decision was needed -- to enforce a contract, endorse a directive, or support a stand on pricing -- and Brown would let the boulder roll back down the hill. His failure to support cost cutting was devastating. It wasn't long before the word got out to the big- spending military contractors on the outside and the open-handed generals on the inside that Harold Brown would not lift a hand to stop the "cannibals from eating our missionaries."

On November 13, 1968, I testified to Senator William Proxmire's committee (the Joint Economic Committee of the Congress) about the C-5A with hopes that Brown would support me. He had professed to support my management control initiatives, and he had been critical of the C-5 overruns in Pentagon meetings. As those familiar with this historic disaster will recall, Lockheed's giant C-5A transport plane, nicknamed "the tin balloon," had a tendency to shed parts in flight. At the time I testified, it looked as if the 120-airplane program would cost about $2 billion more than the original estimate.

A scandal such as the one caused by my testimony on the C-5A is usually a five-day wonder. Ordinarily, members of Congress lose interest once the headlines are forgotten. But Senator Proxmire and his assistant, Richard Kaufman, were made of sterner stuff. Proxmire scheduled another hearing for the following January, and Kaufman kept digging into the dirty details of the C-5A.

I didn't realize it fully at the time, but my testimony set off a big cover-up in the Air Force. Harold Brown tried to make my C-5A testimony appear inaccurate by allowing one of his assistant secretaries, Robert Charles, to alter the official Air Force C-5A cost estimates after my testimony. He tried to palm these off on Senator Proxmire as the genuine article.

When the new set of figures arrived at Proxmire's office, Richard Kaufman called me to ask why I'd changed my testimony. I hadn't, of course, but it took a lot of effort to get Brown and company to reveal the truth. When I got the original worksheets, they showed that my figures were correct and the secretary's were doctored. I requested that the evidence be forwarded to the congressional committee, but Brown stubbornly refused. It was only after Proxmire scheduled the January 16, 1969, hearing to find out why the Air Force was obstructing a witness and tampering with evidence (both of these are felonies punishable by big fines and long prison terms) that the secretary forwarded the real figures. When the hearing occurred, Brown copped out by sending Assistant Secretary Charles to testify in his place.

What, then, was Brown's solution to the scandals of the C-5A? It seemed obvious to him that the first course of action was to fire Ernest Fitzgerald. The time seemed right; the new Nixon administration was just about to come into office and Robert Seamans was to replace Brown. On January 9 -- as I learned ten years later through legal discovery -- Brown gave his advice to Seamans and dictated a memorandum about it for the record:

(a) With respect to Mr. Fitzgerald, I pointed out that, though some of his ideas about procurement practices and financial control of contractors had merit, his practices were unacceptable. These include speaking to the press against Air Force decisions, discussing internal Air Force matters with Congressional Committee staffs, and providing them with documents without going through Legislative Liaison channels. This behavior has greatly lessened, if not eliminated, his value as an employee of the Air Force. I drew the distinction between advocating one's views vigorously within the department before a decision was taken, and public non-support, or volunteering and advocating contrary views to the press and the Congress. ... I indicated that his actions up to now probably do not constitute sufficient reason for us to take removal action against Fitzgerald, but that we would act to make it clear to Fitzgerald that we considered his usefulness to the Air Force to be negligible if not negative. In the interest of discipline, it was important that the new Air Force Secretariat take a similar position in subsequent months. Dr. Seamans indicated that he understood this principle and that, in the light of the facts I had described, he recognized that Fitzgerald is of no use to the Air Force; though his rights must be protected, he is to be discouraged from remaining.

Then came the most important part of the memo -- something that involved many millions of dollars rather than my personal fortunes. Brown wrote, "I described to Dr. Seamans the C-5 technical progress and its satisfactory performance and contrasted them with the financial problems of the C-5." Brown then proceeded to argue that the Air Force should buy a fourth squadron, but suspend a decision on a fifth and a sixth, before he left office. Thus Brown's second action to solve the C-5A problem was to buy more of the flimsy tin balloons, thus helping to bail Lockheed out of its gross errors. Seamans agreed that it was Brown's decision to make.

Harold Brown was not content to simply pass the word about me to his successor. About a week before their discussion, Brown had decided to work out a strategy for firing me. As a merit-system employee, I was theoretically protected against arbitrary dismissal, so he had asked John Lang, his assistant, "What are his rights?" This was a little like Henry II's seemingly rhetorical question about Thomas a Becket, "Who will free me from this turbulent priest?" What Brown really meant (as testimony in my firing hearings later brought out) was, "How can I fire him?" Less bloody than Henry Plantagenet, but in the same robust spirit.

Lang's memo in answer outlined three ways to fire Fitzgerald, only one of them frankly described as "underhanded," although they all were. There was also a suggestion from Thomas Nielson, my immediate boss, as to how he could reorganize his office so as to get rid of me.

Through the process of legal discovery we also obtained a record of these events as seen by the new secretary of the Air Force. Seamans, an engineering professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was a worthy successor to Brown. A few years after these events, in the recollections he tape recorded for the official Air Force historian, he said:

I never heard of a guy named Ernie Fitzgerald until either the last week in December or the first week of January, 1969.... At that very first meeting, (Brown) told me something about (him), and I'm pretty sure that by then Proxmire had written me a letter.. .. It talked about this "wonderful public servant" ... and he was sure I would want to rely on him heavily because he was one of the "greatest public servants" that ever came down the pike. So I wrote him back a short letter and said, "Thanks very much, and I'll look into this matter when I become Secretary of the Air Force." The facts of the matter are that Ernie did testify on the C-5, that he was certainly not encouraged to do so; that this was bigger than just the Air Force. ... Between Fitzgerald and Proxmire, they were "coony" enough to make it well-known publicly that he was up there testifying even though the Defense Department hadn't wanted him to. Of course that made it all the more exciting and everything appeared more valid and the Air Force and DOD looked more like conspirators deceiving the public.

Then, of course, a few strange things happened . .. the most amazing being the memo that John Lang (of Personnel) wrote to Harold Brown on three ways for separating Fitzgerald from the Air Force. One was to fire him for cause; one was to abolish his job; and the third one, which he (Lang) said would be a little deceitful, would be to -- and I can't remember what the third one was offhand, but it's all in the record. It took about 24 hours from the time Lang wrote the memo until Proxmire had (it).

(The third method was to convert my job to the "career service" and fill it through a competitive examination. The Air Force could then invite "all the eligibles from the executive inventory and an outside search" to compete.)

In all this, a fundamental principle was at stake: could a citizen employed by the government communicate information directly to Congress about serious errors or malfeasance in the executive branch? Many presidents hated the thought of such a situation. In 1906 Teddy Roosevelt promised instant dismissal for anyone caught in the act. In 1910 William Howard Taft made the rule a little stiffer by forbidding any employee even to answer a congressional request except through the head of his department. This clear violation of the First Amendment inspired the Lloyd-LaFollette Act (now Title 5, Section 7211, of the U.S. Code):

The right of persons employed in the civil service of the United States either individually or collectively to petition Congress or any member thereof or to furnish information to either House of Congress, or to any committee or member thereof, shall not be denied or interfered with.

The January hearing on the C-5A was notable for three things: Senator Proxmire revealed Lang's memo to Brown describing the three ways of firing me, I testified about the phony C-5A figures Brown had tried to hand the committee, and Assistant Secretary Charles stuck to the official party line that the C-5A was in great shape and that Lockheed was doing splendidly. All of this made it clear that the new Nixon administration would have to bring about some reforms in the Pentagon. It was also clear that I would need some political help to save my job.

Senator Len Jordan of Idaho, a Republican on Proxmire's committee, proved to be sympathetic. He asked me in for a talk. A tough old cowboy who had been governor of Idaho, Jordan had a shrewd idea of what I was up against. He told me that those forces were bigger and more powerful than anything my friends in Congress could muster, but that he would do what he could to help.

I also called on two Republican congressmen from my home state of Alabama, Bill Dickinson and Jack Edwards. They were willing to help arrange the one thing I wanted at the time -- to meet with some of the new administration's Pentagon appointees and explain my case.

This resulted in a short, unsatisfactory meeting with Secretary Seamans, whose most memorable comment was that "the staff" didn't like me. I already knew that. And, in his later confidential memoir dictated to the official Air Force historian, Seamans voiced his distaste for my public testimony about C-5A cost overruns and added, "He (Fitzgerald) is terribly good at playing the Southern Boy from Alabama, the country boy taking on the big corporations and all these big-money spenders and the generals -- 'the high priests of waste.'" (Seamans either had not read my book or had not understood it. The "high priests of waste" of my title were the economists, mostly neo-Keynesians, who preach that military spending, wasteful or not, makes the nation prosperous.)

The Seamans oral history memoir went on to note that my boss, Tom Nielson, was still hoping to reorganize his office in such a way that I would be out of a job. But Seamans knew that Nielson was going to depart in a few months, so he delayed his decision about me until Spencer Schedler (whose best-known contribution to the national welfare was helping to get Spiro T. Agnew elected vice-president in 1968) was sworn in as assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management. By then Seamans, with advice from on high, had decided that I should leave the Air Force.


That same period, late spring of 1969, saw a new turn of events in the congressional wars. Congressman William Moorhead of Pennsylvania, a member of Proxmire's joint committee, had picked up some cues about the Pentagon follies. He carried his suspicions to the powerful House Committee on Government Operations, of which he was a member. Representative Chet Holifield was acting chairman of the committee. His southern California district included influential contractors for the Pentagon, NASA, and the Atomic Energy Commission. The last thing they wanted to read about in the newspapers was more about the C-5A and other corporate scams.

Holifield fell back on an old Washington strategy: if you have a problem that you want to deep-six, you simply study it into oblivion. After lengthy committee hearings, a blue-ribbon commission is appointed to study the matter; sometime before all the commission members die of old age, they authorize a report, which takes an extended time to write; and finally committee hearings are held to consider the report. A capable chairman can keep the process going for three or four years, but the talented Holifield managed to stave off action on the procurement scandals for a full six years.

The Holifield commission avoided the specific problem we had pinpointed, but "studied" the truly worldwide problem of government -- not just Pentagon -- procurement. (Part of the death-by-study strategy is to change the subject.) Any nasty particulars of waste, fraud, and abuse that managed to leak out during the Holifield commission's lengthy stalling process could then be referred to that august body for decent burial.

Peter Stockton, Congressman Moorhead's designated staffer on Holifield's committee, was an unassuming thirty-one-year-old whose life had committed him to no narrow category. His B.A. and M.A. degrees were in economics, and he had worked at the Bureau of the Budget, but he didn't look the part of a government economist. The lawyers and corporate officials in pinstripes who showed up at his office found a casual man in shirtsleeves, khakis, and running shoes. They knew very well how to deal with a slick congressional staffer on the make, but Stockton appeared invulnerable to their blandishments, and they couldn't fathom him.

There is nothing a representative or senator loves to talk about more than "oversight" -- checking up on the executive branch to find out what the special interests (mostly big corporations) are getting away with. The checking up is done by staff investigators, however, most of whom are political hacks whose specialty is finding no evidence of anything wrong. But once in a while we taxpayers get lucky. We were lucky when the people of Wisconsin elected William Proxmire and lucky when he chose Richard Kaufman as his investigator. And we were equally lucky with Moorehead and Stockton. A congressional investigator who really wants to benefit the United States has to have both a powerful elected protector and superb survival instincts. As an old-time congressional staff director once told me, "The ideal congressional investigator is a highly motivated, very intelligent ... savage."

Moorhead unleashed Peter Stockton on the C-5A scandal, and he slowly began to strip away the Pentagon camouflage. Using my C-5A testimony and working with the "closet patriots" in the Pentagon, Stockton learned of a sensational document hidden away in the safe of a high Pentagon official. The document, which became notorious as the "Trenton Boyd memo" after the Air Force auditor who wrote it, showed explicitly how top Pentagon officials had conspired to falsify official government records to cover up the C-5A cost overruns. The memo said in part, "They (System Program Office personnel) stated that verbal direction was received on or about June 6, 1968, that the anticipated overrun on the C-5A program should not be reflected in routine management-type reports. It was indicated that this direction was by Mr. Charles and Mr. (Bob) Anthony and was received by SPO through channels." If proven, such an action was, of course, a felony punishable by a stiff fine and a long prison sentence.


Word of Defense Secretary Laird's plan to review the Air Force's contract with the Lockheed Aircraft Corp. to build the giant jet transport C-5A would be more reassuring if it had come unaccompanied by evidence that the Secretary is preoccupied with putting the best fact on things. While promising a "thorough" inquiry about the contract, Mr. Laird asked his top aides to design ways to combat what he called "adverse commentary" on the rising costs of the C-5A. In any case, the results of "in house" investigations, even one conducted by a Republican Administration of actions during a Democratic one, are seldom as persuasive as those obtained by full-scale congressional hearings. In the case of the C-5A (also known as the Galaxy), a number of questions -- if not allegations -- of impropriety have been raised about the contract and about defense procurement policy itself.

Under probing by Rep. Willliam S. Moorhead, an Air Force colonel told a House Government Operations Subcommittee last week that his civilian superiors had approved an effort to cover up huge cost increases in building the Galaxy because public disclosure "might put Lockheed's position in the common (stock) market in jeopardy." The civilians named by the colonel are Robert H. Charles, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations and Logistics, and Robert N. Anthony, a former Defense Department Comptroller. Whether, in fact, Messrs. Charles and Anthony glossed over cost increases to shield Lockheed's stock has yet to be determined. What is clear is that if they did, they should not have; the Pentagon's responsibilities do not include protecting the market value of stock of firms with which it contracts.

But that is only part of the matter, which really goes to the fundamental question of how the Pentagon buys its hardware. For one thing, the Galaxy contracts involve a $2.1 billion miscalculation on a $3.1 billion project. For another, the terms of the contract would seem to reward inefficiency -- and at a premium rate.

Without getting engulfed in the esoteric language of cost analysis and weapons procurement it is important to understand a few basic things about the Galaxy contract. In 1964, the Air Force estimated that 120 C-5A aircraft would cost $3.1 billion. Now the Air Force figures the Galaxy will cost at least $5.2 billion, or $2.1 billion more. Excesses of actual costs over estimates, called "overruns" at the Pentagon, are not unique in weapons development and procurement, although a $2 billion overrun seems on the high side. But the Galaxy contract, which was designed by Assistant Secretary Charles, contains a novel feature which provides that losses suffered by Lockheed on the first installment of 58 plans it produced could be recovered and turned into profits -- by a price adjustment -- if the Air Force decided to order a second batch of 62 aircraft.

Just how much of the overrun can be attributed to inefficiency on the part of Lockheed or inflation or unforeseen, but normal development problems with the aircraft itself is not known. And it is not easily determined just how much of a loss Lockheed anticipated on the first batch of 58 planes. Rep. Chet Holifield, the California Democrat who heads the House Committee, not only ordered a witness not to answer that question, but threw in a challenge to attendant newsmen to make what they could of it.

What we make of it is that the instinct for the cover-up in these matters is as strong in certain quarters in Congress as it is in the Pentagon, and that some Congressman or Senator with more courage and candor than Mr. Holifield ought to step in on the taxpayers' behalf and investigate not only the Galaxy affair but the whole procurement process at the Pentagon.

-- What to Make of the C-5A Affair, by The Washington Post

Stockton blind-sided Holifield. He waited until the night before Holifield's climactic whitewash hearing on April 29 and 30, 1969. Representative Moorhead suddenly requested that the General Accounting Office (GAO) procure the document and turn it over to the committee. Secretary Seamans, weak-kneed at the summons, opened the safe. With great reluctance, Comptroller General Elmer Staats complied with Moorhead's request.

"Air Cover" from Herblock's State of the Union (Simon & Schuster, 1972).

Holifield had pointedly not invited me to the hearing, but it did him little good. In the midst of self-serving testimony by the C-5A program manager, Colonel Kenneth Beckman, Moorhead and Stockton fired their ground-to-air missile. Faced with the Trenton Boyd memo, Beckman began to stammer. Then, even worse, he began to tell the truth: he admitted that official records had been falsified, then compounded the felony by revealing that the purpose was to protect Lockheed's interests in the stock market.

Congressman Holifield, seeing a lot of hard-won obfuscation go down the drain, blew up. He ordered the Air Force witnesses not to answer any further questions about Beckman's admissions. Then, in a voice clearly audible to members, staffers, and reporters, he told Moorhead, "You're a son of a bitch to bring that document in."

The American press almost unanimously condemned the Pentagon procurement practices. Their views are well represented by the Washington Post's lead editorial and cartoon on May 4, 1969. The next day Senator Proxmire had the editorial inserted in the Congressional Record. He also gave a speech in which he said, referring to me and Kenneth Beckman, "I intend to do anything I can to see that these men, and any other government employees who testify to the truth at the request of Congress are insulated from petty retaliation on the part of the higher-ups who were at fault."

As is the usual outcome of such congressional dramas, everybody got his unjust reward. The Pentagon, Lockheed, and C-5A got off scot-free, and Stockton was fired. Holifield told Moorhead, "You're elected and I have to swallow you. But I don't have to swallow Stockton."

So began Peter Stockton's career as an outcast and a maverick, a fate all too common among us "whistle blowers" who violate the Pentagon code of silence. But if his Trenton Boyd missile had failed to shoot down the tin balloon, at least it drew a lot of attention in the neighborhood. Moorhead and Proxmire demanded that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigate efforts by Pentagon and Lockheed officials to affect the financial markets. Nixon's secretary of defense, Melvin Laird, tried to limit the damage by throwing Harold Brown's two holdover assistants, Tom Nielson and Bob Charles, off the sleigh -- but without breathing a syllable of "C-5A." Wily Melvin got his message through by announcing these departures at the same press conference in which he defended the Pentagon against Stockton's disclosures.

Seamans also disapproved of my having taken part in some seminars designed to educate congressional staffers on how we all could do a better job in acquisitions management. He described it as "Ernie up there (on Capitol Hill) conducting seminars for staff people on the poor job the Air Force was doing on its weapons systems program." Actually, these seminars, which Richard Kaufman organized, were one of the few positive results of the C- 5A affair. For my part, I explained how the management systems my associates and I had been pushing for many years could give us the defense we needed without bankrupting the country. The simplest of these initiatives was a "should-cost" approach to contract pricing, which means we would pay only what goods and services should cost, according to industry standards. This contrasted with the Pentagon's idea of pricing based on past experience, which permits building in fat, inefficiency, fraud, and management abuse by the contractor.

My second major recommendation was for a comprehensive set of military-industrial indicators to show where we actually stood on big weapons buying programs. Pentagon buyers like to keep the bad news a secret until it is too late to correct mistakes, so they try to avoid making timely reports of the facts. In one of my seminar talks I compared the federal government to a corporation, of which Congress is the board of directors and the citizens are the stockholders. The directors and shareholders have every right to get timely, accurate reports from the operating divisions -- the federal agencies -- so that incipient problems are revealed before they become disasters. Full disclosure also depersonalizes the transmittal of information so that whistle blowers do not have to set their hair on fire just to shed light on the situation (and so they can't then be sacked for not having a proper military haircut).

The opposition to full reporting was represented by Holifield's assistant, Herb Roback, who argued that "Congress doesn't want all those facts." He explained that most members of Congress preferred to vote on military contract matters on the basis of "who gets the contracts, where are the jobs, and where the money is to be spent."

In May 1969 the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) issued a report titled "The Economics of Military Procurement." It endorsed should-cost, real competition for contracts, and ten other sweeping reforms -- ideas that my friends and I had been trying to promote. Any responsible steward of the public purse, such as the secretary of the Air Force, would welcome the JEC recommendations, right? Wrong. At the moment, Seamans and his administration colleagues were too worried about protecting Lockheed and its kind.


The SEC investigation that Stockton's disclosures had forced was also getting under way in May. My friends and I had serious hope that it would unwrap the C-5A cover-up, but the Nixon administration was worried. The government documents my lawyers extracted years later showed that this inquiry was the last thunderhead in a rainy week for the administration. They decided I had to go, and Seamans was the man to do the job. He called the president's counselor, Bryce Harlow, at the White House for the heavyweight support he needed.

Harlow, one of Nixon's most trusted barons, was his second appointee when he entered the White House. The two men had met in 1948 when Nixon was a freshman representative and Harlow was a staffer on the Armed Services Committee. Harlow's other close ties were with Lyndon Johnson and the congressmen who loved big military budgets. Pat Buchanan used to say that Harlow had the most intimate knowledge of Capitol Hill of any high official in the Nixon White House. (Much later, in 1979 when my lawyers took a deposition from him, Harlow made a funny Freudian slip in describing his administration role. He said, "I was sort of resident guru.... I was sort of his (Nixon's) transgressional savant and a stroker." On viewing the record, he changed "transgressional" to "congressional.")

In the early spring of 1969, Representative Bill Dickinson had invited me to speak on military spending to a group of his conservative Republican colleagues who called themselves the Good Guys. Dickinson, a very junior member of Mendel Rivers's generally awful Armed Services Committee, usually voted for the Pentagon's requests, but he had a certain sympathy for my proposal to sweat some of the lard off the great Pentagon stalled ox.

About forty of the Good Guys had gathered at Costin's restaurant in downtown Washington; I was seated next to their chairman, an affable Ohioan named Sam Devine. The diminutive, smiling man on my left was introduced as Bryce Harlow. When it was time to give my pitch, I pointed out that we kept coming up against a false choice of alternatives: either "support the military" by giving them whatever they asked for or be a "unilateral disarmer" by cutting the budget wholesale. I said that the third, and reasonable, alternative was to make the Pentagon a lot more efficient so that we could defend the country without bankrupting it.

One small, elderly -- and fairly drunk -- congressman was so infuriated by this message that he wanted to slug Bill Dickinson for sponsoring me. His friends restrained him. Dickinson, an ex-football player, was a very large man, much younger and soberer than the challenger.

The other Good Guys seemed receptive to what I'd said -- but not Bryce Harlow, who spoke next. Years after the event he recalled it this way in his deposition to my lawyers:

And, I said ... the statement of Mr. Fitzgerald was, in aggregate, an attack on the Defense Department leadership. I said, "Gentlemen, I don't know what to say about Mr. Fitzgerald's observations because I don't know anything about them ... All I can say now is that you all know Melvin Laird.... He is a former colleague of yours and he is enormously admired by all of you.... (And) he's the President's appointee in this area."

My own recollection is that Harlow was not nearly so milk-toasty as his deposition pretended. He suggested much more strongly that I was attacking the personal integrity of the new secretary of defense and was disparaging our brave lads who were out there holding the Bolshevik hordes at bay. Angrily, and no doubt against the coaching of his lawyer, Harlow accused me of "lese majesty" for my remarks at Costin's.

On May 6 Proxmire publicly demanded that the Justice Department conduct a criminal investigation of the C-5A scandal.

That same day saw something of a confrontation during a secret hearing of Rivers's Armed Services Committee. When Bill Dickinson reproached Melvin Laird for the way I had been treated for telling the truth, Laird was stung. He replied that the office of the assistant secretary for financial management was going to be reorganized and that the new chief of FM would make any decisions about me.

On May 7, again in secret testimony to the same committee, Seamans fulminated about the congressional staff seminars I'd been participating in and accused me of releasing classified information -- a very serious offense, or at least it used to be. (Seamans's accusation, he later told the official historian's tape recorder, was inspired by Herb Roback of Holifield's staff and General John Murphy of his own staff.)

Later, after I was fired, Proxmire forced Seamans to retract this accusation. In his apologia pro vita sua to the official tape, he produced this wonderful waffle:

At the time I was testifying, I really thought that Ernie had given them classified material, marked "Confidential." Later on, when we still had the opportunity of going over the testimony, it wasn't clear as to whether any of the material was classified or not. So we changed the word from Confidential with a capital C to confidential with a small c.

Since I hadn't given Congress any classified material, I thought I had nothing to fear. Little did I know how far my detractors would go in falsifying the record and just plain lying about me.

On May 8 the Washington Post's Bernard Nossiter, their designated C-5A hitter, published a brilliant analysis of the Golden Handshake, his name for the grotesque repricing formula by which Lockheed was able to reap rich profits by increasing their overruns. He backed the accuracy of my testimony on the C-5A overruns and suggested that the Pentagon use rubber slide rules to make the overruns look smaller -- and pay Lockheed with checks that could shrink in the same way. But it is not good to laugh at military establishment officials. It makes them unstable.

General Joseph Cappucci, head of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI), was in charge of compiling the "dirt file" -- the derogatory information that could be used against me. The dirt file was carefully organized to destroy evidence showing I had done nothing wrong and to circulate baseless gossip that harmed me. One of the detrimental contributors was my former assistant, Lieutenant Colonel Hans "Whitey" Driessnack, a secret informer (designated T-1) against me for the OSI. The downright silly OSI investigation charged that I worked late at night and was a "pinchpenny." Evidence for the latter charge was that I drove an old Rambler automobile. OSI's attempts to suggest that I had a conflict of interest involving my old consulting firm, Performance Technology Corporation, proved that I didn't, but that didn't bother OSI. They just discarded the proof of my innocence.

In mid-May Seamans unleashed Cappucci, who set out to smear me to justify my firing. Then Seamans called in Thomas Nielson and Spencer Schedler to discuss the plan that would reorganize me out of the Air Force. Far from being the objective, impartial protector of the merit system for the taxpayers' employees, the Civil Service Commission, or at least its chairman, Robert Hampton, was an active participant in the secret conspiracy to get rid of me, if we can believe Seamans. As he told the story to the historian's tape recorder:

The people that I talked to outside the Department of Defense were first of all, Bob Hampton, who runs the Civil Service Commission. I did check with him about this in May (1969) and asked him, "What are you supposed to do when you're managing a large government program, and you've got a guy like A. Ernie Fitzgerald on the payroll?" He said, "It's frankly one of the problems we face in running the government, and there's no very good answer to it." He said, "On the basis of what you've told me, I don't believe you could ever sustain a separation for cause. So your only alternative is to abolish his job."

Hampton never revealed this conversation during all the years he was sitting in judgment on my case, and Seamans kept it secret for ten years.

The case against me worked its way up to the highest of kangaroo courts on May 17 at a high-level meeting in the White House. The roll call included the president, Secretary Laird, Air Force General Stewart, the head of the Bureau of the Budget, Robert Mayo, and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. James Schlesinger later insisted that he was there, but his name does not appear on the original invitation list. The primary subject for discussion was the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL), a very secret and very dubious Air Force boondoggle, an early attempt to take over control of space from the civilians. Nixon had decided to kill MOL, but Seamans was still pleading for it. The abolition of Ernest Fitzgerald came up as a secondary matter.

Years later, in a deposition to my lawyers, Schlesinger spoke of the "general feeling" of that White House meeting that "Mr. Fitzgerald had transcended the normal bounds of an executive branch employee." Schlesinger added that they "were concerned about the leaks that had occurred and the detrimental effect this was having on the image of the military overall ... and the effect it might have directly on requests to Congress regarding defense appropriations." He further deposed that Nixon had referred to the "Fitzgerald sort of thing" and had used my name "in an agitable way."

The Pentagon and White House position was that exposures of waste and mismanagement were actually attacks on the military motivated by unpatriotic sentiments. Unfortunately, this simple view has been held by most of our recent administrations, but President Nixon expressed it best in his June 4, 1969, speech to the Air Force Academy: "It is open season on the armed forces. Military programs are ridiculed as needless if not deliberate waste. The military profession is derided.... Patriotism is considered by some to be a backward, 'unfashionable' fetish of the uneducated and unsophisticated."

But the presidential declaration did not make the issue disappear; the news kept getting worse. In the Proxmire committee hearings of June 10, 11, and 13, my former associate Mert Tyrrell testified that the Minuteman program -- theretofore regarded as a model of good management -- was hugely overrun and full of other troubles. Additional testimony pointed to serious problems in the Mark II avionics system for the F-111 fighter-bomber. The Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM) was revealed as another fiasco. Shipbuilding contracts were said to be in shambles.

The last straw for the Nixon administration, apparently, was a long article by Richard Harwood and Lawrence Stern on Robert McNamara's legacy, published in the Washington Post on June 15, 1969. It inspired a long Special Report written by John Charles Huston, an assistant to Patrick Buchanan, which was included in the president's daily news summary. According to the report the Post article made the point

... that McNamara's reputation is being placed on trial by virtue of the current investigation of defense spending practices, most of which were developed during his tenure. The article notes that he is accused by former Kennedy administration colleagues ... of having helped create ... a military machine of such size and power that it is not responsible to political control. These critics say that "we should be clear on one point: it is not the uniformed military which has created the present situation, but the civilian leadership and the institutions they have created to centralize and expand the performance on national security functions" (emphasis added; even as he was writing this, the military were well on their way to taking control of those institutions -- and thus of the distribution of patronage).

McNamara has declined to testify before the Proxmire committee, but he has his defenders -- General David Shoup, the Marine dove; General Maxwell Taylor; and Rosewell (sic) Gilpatric among them. Even Dave Packard "expresses the common view" -- "he (McNamara) made great contributions. ... You might criticize some things with hindsight, but I don't know that I would have done anything different at the time."

Huston's "even Dave Packard" is interesting. The chairman of Hewlett Packard, a big supplier to the military and their contractors, was currently deputy secretary of defense under Laird. The procurement policies of McNamara and his predecessors had made Packard rich. So it was hardly surprising that he wouldn't have done anything differently. Huston quoted Harwood and Stern's assertion that when McNamara took over the Pentagon, the "operative word was rationalize." In this the authors were a bit naive. They didn't quite understand the nuance of meaning in what they were writing: a secondary meaning of "rationalize" is "to devise self-satisfying but incorrect reasons for one's behavior." One of the things McNamara rationalized was waste. His whiz kids had seized upon the cost-justifying mathematical procedures in wide use and had extended them throughout the vast establishment. Except for a small circle of spoilsports -- mostly my associates and me -- no one had resisted them. In fact, the spending coalition loved them.

The Special Report continued:

It would, I think, be a serious mistake to take lightly the impact of the Proxmire hearings. He has been very effective, particularly on television. The administration, however, had not come off well. Witnesses from the Pentagon, with the exception of Barry Shillito and Johnny Foster, have been indecisive, defensive, and often ill-prepared. Except for Senator Goldwater and Congressman Rivers, the friendly forces in Congress have been conspicuously quiet. ... And the Pentagon's muzzling for 72 hours (a vain attempt to keep me from testifying before Proxmire again) of the Air Force civilian who first exposed the C-5A overrun was a classic case of poor public relations, exceeded only by the five large defense contractors who refused to appear before the committee to present their case....

While the buck stops at the President's desk, the heat ought not to be concentrated there. The attack on ABM and on defense spending has centered on the President because DOD, congressional and party officials are not doing the appropriate thing -- sticking their necks out. Every time some obscure critic belches, The New York Times reports it on page one. We have to expect that, but surely we can generate a little support among our friends if some initiative and good judgment and toughness is displayed. We have noticed among our friendly columnists and papers an attitude of lying low which suggests to us that they don't know what line to take ... about the Proxmire hearings. Surely Secretary Laird must have some goodies stashed away over there on the McNamara years that Mollenhoff and others could use with some effectiveness.

Richard Nixon drew a half circle around the last sentence and noted in the right-hand margin, "Check this." But Mollenhoff told me later that he was never asked to check anything. The truth was that McNamara and the whiz kids didn't start the mess in Pentagon management; they simply made it worse, especially in the later years, when the Johnson administration was preoccupied with the war in Southeast Asia.

The report went on:

Perhaps this sort of thing is inappropriate -- dirty politics and unstatesmanlike. But it strikes me that we have a tough fight on our hands, and it strikes me that we ought to fight like we are used to power and know how to use it.

Our opponents will scream bloody murder if we really turn the heat on them, but they will know we mean business, that we're not soft, and that they cannot expect to fire away with immunity.

Right below this passage Nixon wrote "E -- have Huston and Buchanan work with defense and congress to stir up some activity." (Nixon, in his second deposition to my lawyers, said that the E stood for John Ehrlichman.)

Those who remember Watergate will scarcely be astonished to find Huston recommending "dirty politics and unstatesmanlike" deeds and Richard Nixon endorsing it. Henry Kissinger and his assistant, Colonel Alexander Haig, had already started their wiretapping campaign against dissidents and suspected "leakers." As William Safire recounted in his book Before the Fall, Haig gave the names of his suspects to William "Crazy Billy" Sullivan of the FBI, who then arranged the wiretaps.

Sullivan, said to be Nixon's favorite FBI agent, was one of those involved in an attempt to pin something -- perhaps an espionage rap -- on me. On May 29, 1969, Alexander Butterfield, a retired Air Force colonel and former schoolmate of Robert Haldeman, and at that time a kind of doorkeeper for the Oval Office, wrote Ehrlichman and Colonel Hughes of the White House staff a memorandum:

It has come to my attention -- by word of several mouths, but allegedly from a senior AFL-CIO official originally -- that a civilian named A. Ernest Fitzgerald, presumably employed by the Department of the Navy, is about to blow the whistle on the Navy by exposing to full public view that service's "shoddy purchasing practices." Evidently, Fitzgerald attended a recent meeting of the National Democratic Coalition and, while there, revealed his intentions to a labor representative who, fortunately for us, was unsympathetic.

I believe that this information has already been passed to Bill Sullivan at Justice (FBI), but I thought I should alert each of you to the facts as they were presented to me.

When I first read this memo many years later, I was charmed with its pure silliness. Why would I plan to "blow the whistle" on the Navy? My special knowledge was Air Force boondoggles. Why would I be "about" to do that, when I had testified six months earlier? The whole report baffled me. (I have never, incidentally, liked the newspaper term "whistle blower," because it tends to set apart and isolate taxpayers' employees who do what they're paid to do -- tell the truth.)

I finally figured out some of it. In May a minister from Connecticut named Joe Duffy had phoned me with an invitation to join him at a banquet for Senator Edward Kennedy. We met at the hotel, had dinner with about a thousand other people, and listened to some forgettable speeches. That was all.

But many years later, through a Freedom of Information request, I got a heavily censored copy of an FBI report in reply to Butterfield's memorandum. This fruit of "Crazy Billy" Sullivan's investigations, dated June 20, 1969, was addressed to J. Edgar Hoover. Its subject was, in part, "miscellaneous information concerning espionage." The first page is largely blanked out; the second page reveals only the site (the Sheraton-Park Hotel) and the sponsor of the dinner (the New Democratic Coalition). The third page, after censorship, yields only the information that Ernest Fitzgerald was "third in command of top civilians in the Air Force, and the man who had exposed USAF for excessive contract costs." Fortunately, I was never hanged on charges of espionage for exposing excessive contract costs.

On June 17, at the final session of Senator Proxmire's hearings on military waste, I presented information on more C-5A problems and other embarrassing failures. (A few days earlier the Air Force had tried to keep me from doing this by muzzling me for seventy-two hours.) After I returned to the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Laird called me in. Present also were his military assistant, Colonel Robert Pursley and -- to impress me -- Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard. Laird, friendly and smiling, said that Jack Edwards and Bill Dickinson had spoken highly of me (Proxmire and Moorhead had also tried to intervene). He said Dave would have things under control in short order.

When I asked Dave how he planned to go about it, Packard stared at me, apparently incredulous that a nobody industrial engineer would dare question one of the eminent industrialists of the age. After spending some time puffing on his pipe, he said, "I'm going to select good people, the best people I can find, and put them in charge and let them alone -- just like I did at Hewlett Packard."

It was foreordained that the "good people" whose names would be sent to Packard would be the military officers who had been in charge of big Pentagon programs. The ones who had excelled in getting and spending money, not necessarily in acquiring useful products, and certainly not in operating with economy and efficiency. Packard was going to put the biggest-spending officers in charge and "let them alone."

I was appalled. I had seen other highly regarded businessmen fail as Pentagon managers because they did not understand -- or so I thought -- how fundamentally the Pentagon differs from private business. In a truly competitive private business, each branch manager has the job of maximizing revenues and minimizing costs. The profit and loss statement is the Book of Judgment. But the Pentagon has no profit and loss statements. The job of Pentagon managers is to get money and to spend it on schedule. The two financial management indicators are obligations, which commit monies to be spent, and outlays, which record the spending. Meeting the goals of these two is called "executing the program."

I thought then that Packard was naive. How wrong I was. Gently, I tried to explain why his plan had to be reinforced with some other measures. My suggestions were not welcomed. Packard, incensed, puffed furiously on his pipe. After about twenty minutes Laird ended the meeting, saying we would get together another time. He left the problem of what to do with me in the hands of Colonel Pursley. They were going to go through the motions, at least, of placing me in a job somewhere.

I had become acquainted with Bob Pursley, one of our more intelligent Air Force officers, when he was an assistant to Robert McNamara and I was working on the faltering F-111 program. I had a high regard for him, but unfortunately he was a product of his conditioning. Military omerta was part of his code. After the meeting he wrote a memorandum to Laird:

The more I reflected on our meeting Tuesday, the bigger plus it became. Ernie's analysis of weapons system management has so much merit it would be a shame to lose the value of his insights. The danger of a maverick in our midst is clear, however. I wonder if it would be useful on Monday June 23 to ask him to reduce some of his key concepts to writing. It would be a brief paper outlining:

-- major problem areas
-- organizational changes desirable
-- procedural changes desirable
-- the utility or disutility, as he sees it, of going to the Hill, as he has, versus working through (a) the old administration and (b) the new administration.

The last policy is the key. If he feels his contacts have continuing value, that would be a factor in deciding whether to keep him on the team. If he signs a paper disavowing -- in any way -- his current modus operandi, such a paper could be of great value if he were to jump the fence again.

My modus operandi, of course, was simply to speak about problems and propose solutions. My sin was that I was doing it in public. Pursley wanted me to sign a paper stating that I would agree to gag myself, a statement that could be used against me if I ever again said anything in public. The man was way ahead of his time.

Pursley's career was on the rise. He later became important enough to have his phones tapped on Henry Kissinger's orders, but he passed the telephone loyalty test. His promotion to three-star rank in the Air Force presumably gave him more scope for his ideas about loyalty tests to protect the system of big spending.

Pursley followed up with a series of memorandums to Laird, all raising the question of my loyalty. Loyalty to the Army, Navy, and Air Force in the field? No, he was speaking of loyalty to "the team" that was ripping off the public treasury for the benefit of some giant corporations and their allies in government. The armed forces were getting less equipment than the expenditure warranted, and in many cases equipment that didn't perform very well. What about loyalty to the taxpayers who paid the bills?

On July 11, 1958, Congress had passed a Code of Ethics, ten commandments for every person in government service. The first was to "put loyalty to highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or government department." Commandment four was to "seek to find and employ more efficient and more economical ways of getting tasks accomplished." The shortest was number nine: "Expose corruption wherever discovered." A cynic might note that most congressmen didn't mean a word of it. And "the team" counted on that.

After my meeting with Laird in June until I was fired in November, I kept trying to do my regular job. Little by little, however, I was stripped of important functions and excluded from meetings. I persisted in trying to complete the reports on C-5A technical performance I'd promised the Joint Economic Committee and SEC investigators interviewed me several times in connection with their probe of insider trading and Lockheed's C-5A debacle.

Meanwhile the tide had turned in favor of Richard Nixon. The moon landing in July was a public relations bonanza, even though his administration had little to do with it. His hard line attacks on critics of military spending paid off; he won every round against congressional attempts to cancel dubious weapons systems.

Melvin Laird prospered as well. His standing was so high that he could afford to make long-range plans to boost Pentagon spending even though the war in Southeast Asia was supposedly winding down. Opponents of the war had assumed that its end would bring a "peace dividend," a $30 billion reduction in an $80 billion military budget. Laird and his friends laid plans to head off this dangerous development.

His first move was deceptive. On October 18, 1969, he wrote to Paul McCracken, chairman of Nixon's Council of Economic Advisers, to discuss the impact of defense spending on the economy. He summarized military-contracting activity for the past June and July: DOD outlays for the military and for national defense were the highest since 1967; shipments of defense products were the highest since 1953; DOD procurement outlays were the highest since 1954; manufacturers' inventories for defense products were the highest in history.

Laird admitted that "it does appear that the defense spending is contributing toward overheating the economy at an unprecedented rate"; as a result, he said, he was cutting $4.1 billion from outlays. The truth was that the administration -- despite some victories on behalf of wasteful programs -- had lost a battle on Capitol Hill. In an effort to get Nixon to end the war, a congressional consensus had formed to essentially freeze the military budget. Laird was making a virtue of necessity.

All this called for some modest budget trimming and some careful shielding in the Bureau of the Budget and the Pentagon to protect the core group of big contractors as much as possible. Budget director Robert Mayo and his deputy, James Schlesinger, worked on the Pentagon budget problem but in the end left the details up to David Packard. As Mayo said later (January 31, 1980) in a deposition to my lawyers, "We left it up to his discretion, however, armed with what we had given him ... because he was running the Department, as a practical matter, for Mel Laird."

But at about that time McCracken, veering in the opposite direction, told Nixon that he feared a recession. Ever obliging, Laird wrote McCracken that the Defense Department stood ready to pump up the economy by spending more, if necessary.


That fall the Nixon administration decided to "get tough" -- a policy proposed by Buchanan, Huston, and Kissinger and adopted by Nixon. It was the time of the "silent majority" speech and Nixon's confrontation with the Vietnam demonstrators. No one was in any mood to pay attention to the bleeding hearts and wimps who complained that my firing -- on November 4 -- was illegal. That firing was pulled out of the hat as a "reorganization." Nothing personal, you understand. But in explaining my removal to their supporters on the Hill, Seamans and Schedler told a different story: Fitzgerald was not a "team player." This was a personal charge having nothing to do with the supposed reduction in force. If I had had evidence of this charge at the time, I could have been reinstated.

Seamans had called Representative Gerald Ford's office and volunteered that I was fired for cause, not as the result of a RIF. He complained that at a Proxmire hearing I had "made it extremely difficult" for Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Whittaker and that he couldn't use a man who did that. (Whittaker had tried to convince the Proxmire committee that the C-5A was a great little airplane with no technical problems.) Ford's assistant wrote a memo to his boss about Seamans's complaint -- a memo Ford kept covered up for many years.

As soon as the deed was done, Seamans called Bryce Harlow at the White House to let him know that I had finally been disposed of. Harlow was to rally the Nixon supporters on Capitol Hill and fend off the congressmen who might complain; their letters or petitions would do little good. Only Congressman Dickinson agreed to testify on my behalf. Senator Len Jordan, ill and retired, sent a written statement of support. Unknown to me, however, I had two secret supporters in a most unlikely place: the White House itself.
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Re: The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagem

Postby admin » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:36 am

3. "Let Him Bleed"

ONE EVENING in the fall of 1969, after I had received my notice of termination, I was at a party at the home of Jim Free of the Birmingham News. There I was introduced to Clark Mollenhoff, now Nixon's ombudsman. He listened to the story of my recent adventures in the Pentagon and a little later confided to my wife, "He'll be all right as long as he's telling the truth." It seemed to be an implied promise that he'd try to do something for me. (At the time I didn't know that Nixon himself was involved in my firing.) Mollenhoff's coming down on my side was not so surprising. He was an old-fashioned fiscal conservative whose political heroes were the two cheapest men in Congress: Senator John Williams of Delaware and Representative H. R. Gross, the abominable no-man from Iowa.

Mollenhoff didn't forget my case. Shortly thereafter he enlisted the help of Pat Buchanan, who was already becoming a power on the White House staff. Buchanan's roots were in the conservative, anti-Communist, Catholic middle class, which tended to see criticism of the military as a hidden thrust against our war in Southeast Asia. But these people also favored fiscal frugality in government; they didn't like crooks and wasters. What I saw in Buchanan, and a great many Republicans like him, was a transition from a belief in financial prudence as an overall principle to a belief that prudence shouldn't apply to the military. (Buchanan later crossed that bridge easily and became an ardent supporter of the biggest spender of all time, Ronald Reagan.)

Nixon had a lot of admiration for the abilities of this young, combative right-winger, who had worked for him since 1966. A fierce counterattacker against congressional probes, Buchanan was one of the movers in the new "get tough" policy. (He later routed the Watergate committee much as Oliver North routed the Iran-Contra committee.) But in my case, Buchanan made a determined effort on behalf of the truth. In fact, I might venture to suggest that he was in the same camp as Senator Proxmire and his committee.

Mollenhoff's first attempts to talk to Nixon about my case were blocked by Robert Haldeman. When Dwight Chapin tried again, Haldeman wrote him, ''I'll handle. Just drop this one." So Mollenhoff enlisted Buchanan. One of Buchanan's duties was to prepare the President's Briefing Book, with sample questions and answers, before press conferences. Whenever possible, Nixon's press aides would plant questions with favorable reporters or with one who was working on a particular issue.

A presidential press conference was scheduled for December 8, 1969. On December 4 Buchanan wrote a memorandum to Nixon noting that one of the issues would probably be "Ernest Fitzgerald and the C-5A," and he wrote John Ehrlichman to ask "our position on this fellow we fired who is filing suit against the President's decision to oust him." The last six words are most revealing. The world at large did not know that the president had ousted me, but obviously it was common knowledge among the White House staff.

The questioners persisted. Buchanan wrote to Bill Baroody, Melvin Laird's assistant, saying, "We urgently need a QA on the question of Mr. Fitzgerald, the C-5A man." Mollenhoff got Bud Krogh (later famous for his role as head of the White House plumbers' unit, to write to Kissinger's assistant, Al Haig, that "it will be interpreted as if we fired Mr. Fitzgerald for telling the truth about the C-5A." The answers were, predictably, not very helpful. A Colonel Knight in Melvin Laird's office sent Mollenhoff a paper prepared by Seamans and okayed by Packard. The paper was the standard Air Force defense of my firing, and it implied that Mollenhoff should stop bothering them.

On December 5 the Pentagon sent Buchanan the sample question and answer for the upcoming press conference. They proposed that Nixon simply brush off any question about my firing by saying that he had utter confidence in Laird and Seamans and had left the decision up to them.

Buchanan, not impressed, wrote another memorandum to the president:

The Pentagon is catching hell from liberals and conservatives for firing a guy whose only crime seems to be that he was an aggressive investigator who found mistakes in the procurement of the transport which cost billions.

In PR terms we're getting a beating, and why should we?

Mollenhoff's investigation finds that the guy is a good public servant, and he has the public behind him. Why should we purge him -- simply to make the bureaucrats at the Pentagon happy?

Mollenhoff's suggestion to you (with which I agree, is that the President say, if asked:

"lt is true that Mr. Fitzgerald's job is being abolished, but it is not because of his performance in it; he has, to my knowledge, been a dedicated and effective public servant. After looking into it, I have decided to direct the Defense Secretary to find Mr. Fitzgerald another position, of equal pay and stature -- not a make-work job -- where his talents can continue to be used by this Administration."

Making the President appear to be a just man is worth ticking off the fellows out to get this guy.

Pat Buchanan was so confident he had sold his argument to Nixon that be brought the proposed Q and A to Haldeman with a slip reading, "Fitzgerald reinstated." Buchanan told my lawyers at his deposition that he recognized the handwriting on the slip as Nixon's.

But Buchanan underestimated the resources of Bryce Harlow, who was concealing a lot. In a later deposition Mollenhoff said, "(Harlow) not only told me nothing of any pre-termination communication he had had with the Air Force on the subject, but he stated expressedly that he had no prior knowledge of the termination decision and knew only what he had heard on the Hill." About three years after this conversation, the Oval Office taping system recorded Nixon saying, "Bryce was all for canning him (Fitzgerald)."

Instead of revealing any of this, Harlow told Mollenhoff that there were stories "floating around the Hill" that Fitzgerald was a "bad man in essence, and that he was someone the administration should get rid of." But, he said, if Mollenhoff could show there was nothing to such rumors, he would give Nixon the memo recommending reversal of the firing.

There is no evidence that he ever did.

Now the Pentagon decided to drop its biggest bomb on its worst gadfly. Its biggest bomb, in more ways than one, was David Packard. He called Bryce Harlow on December 6 "to register a vehement protest against any move in the White House area to require continued use of Mr. Fitzgerald." Harlow recorded this in a December 8 memo to Haldeman, adding, "He (Packard) said he would talk with you about this." That did it. Packard, the richest and one of the most prestigious of all Nixon's appointees, delivered a big bang in the administration.

My reinstatement was killed before it got off the ground.

At the press conference on December 8, Sarah McClendon delivered the expected Fitzgerald question. A veteran White House correspondent representing a string of small Texas newspapers, McClendon had been the scourge of presidents since the 1950s. Most of the other reporters considered her too aggressive, not deferential enough to our elected rulers. I thought she was terrific.

When her turn came, Sarah lectured Nixon on the injustice done me and asked if he was going to do anything about it. The assembled press corps laughed, and Nixon chuckled along with them. It was a great opportunity to defuse the issue. Instead of hauling out the pompous Pentagon script about his great confidence in Laird, etcetera, he said, "Well, Sarah, after the way you put it, I guess I'd better."

Mollenhoff, unaware that my firing had been agreed on by the Pentagon and the president months before, for years believed that it was McClendon's snapping at his heels that allowed Nixon to brush off the matter as a joke. But Mollenhoff didn't shelve the affair. The next day he got a note from Haldeman stating, "The P. (president) has asked Mayo to bring Fitzgerald into the Budget Bureau to work in non-defense areas."

When Nixon later made a deposition on all this, he correctly stated that he had been in a tug of war between the Mollenhoff-Buchanan side (apparently he never knew that Jeb Stuart Magruder concurred) and the opposition, made up of the Pentagon heavyweights and Bryce Harlow.

In retrospect, it is clear that the administration thought it was arguing over a public relations question. They completely missed the point. In the large sense, Ernest Fitzgerald was important only as a man who represented a thesis vital to the well-being of the United States of America. If any high officer had understood that the real issue was protecting the treasury against the military-industrial combine, he might have advocated replacing me with someone even tougher. The decision to fire me was bound to send a powerful signal throughout the government and the contractor community: the guard dog has been removed because he growled.

On December 17 Nixon scheduled a what-to-do-with-Fitzgerald meeting and called in Robert Mayo, James Schlesinger of the Bureau of the Budget (BoB), Ehrlichman, and (according to Ehrlichman's notes) Kissinger. The meeting log shows that the P's compromise was ratified: "Schlesinger -- Put Fitzgerald in Budget on non-defense problems." Nixon's idea of a compromise -- "to make the President appear to be a just man," in Buchanan's words -- was meaningless. It assumed that I could be buried in the bowels of the BoB, where I could exercise my cost-cutting passions on school lunch programs and the pensions of disabled veterans.

Even the Budget Bureau had a distaste for the idea. At that time I had friends and supporters in the bureau and a record of inciting my colleagues to protect the taxpayers' interests. That would never do. Mayo, the director, and Schlesinger, his deputy, undoubtedly wanted no "maverick in their midst" any more than the Pentagon did. In a much later deposition to my lawyers, Schlesinger stated, "Given Mr. Fitzgerald's reputation as a source of information to Capitol Hill and to Senator Proxmire, specifically, I thought he would be a disruptive factor in the operations of the Bureau of the Budget." When asked where he got his impression of my reputation, the good doctor, bringing to bear all his scholarly principles of valid proof and objectivity, answered, "Well, I think that was acquired generally through the press and probably by chitchat that may have gone along." (His other source was Robert Seamans.) And naturally Schlesinger saw the danger as being "the leaks that have occurred ... and the detrimental effect (they) might have directly on requests to the Congress regarding defense appropriations."

In the end Schlesinger prevailed upon Mayo to meet with Nixon on December 23 and plead that he had no room for me in the BoB. Nixon's small resolve crumbled. Mayo testified afterward in his deposition that the president said, "Bob, you are absolutely right that I don't think there really is a place for Mr. Fitzgerald in your organization." Packard to Seamans to Schlesinger to Mayo to Nixon -- a superb infield single-play combination.

About a week later Ehrlichman told Mollenhoff the news. But Mollenhoff, knowing nothing of the high-level meeting, plunged on in his attempts to help me. While the president could easily swat a Sarah McClendon, Mollenhoff wrote to Ehrlichman, Senator Proxmire and his investigators were another order of menace, "particularly since they have allies in the liberal press and a few allies in the conservative press ... (and) it is obvious that Senator Proxmire does not intend to drop this matter."

Proxmire didn't drop the matter but, unfortunately, he made a tactical error in pursuing it. Because my firing was on its face a violation of Title 18, Section 1505, of the U.S. Criminal Code, which makes it a serious crime to interfere with the work of a congressional committee or to retaliate against one of its witnesses, he turned the matter over to the Justice Department, along with the evidence he had gathered, and asked that the attorney general "apprehend the felons in the Pentagon" who had fired me. Ah, what an age of innocence that was! But, to be fair, neither Proxmire nor any of the rest knew that Attorney General John Mitchell would end up in prison a few years hence.

When Justice got Proxmire's request, it promptly turned the assignment over to the accused: it asked the Air Force to investigate itself. The Air Force lawyers, as was later revealed, put together a sheaf of neatly chosen evidence to show that no crime had been committed. As succinctly summarized by Air Force Assistant General Counsel Hugh Gilmore in a memo of November 25, 1969, to Colonel Simokaitis of Seamans's office, the Air Force lawyers were "assembling the necessary documentation to show that there were no violations of law."

Mollenhoff, for his part, kept the pot boiling. He was able to do so, not because the White House had such respect for an ombudsman, but simply because they feared him. Mollenhoff, an honest cop at heart, with a rare capacity for sustained outrage, had a long record of exposing waste, fraud, and corruption. And because he had a wide circle of political and media connections, the White House staff handled him gingerly. Quite a few people went through quite a few empty motions to keep him from booming. To give a hint of the general White House IQ in those days, on January 3, 1970, Haldeman wrote to his gofer, Larry Higby, asking him "to please find out the status of Fitzpatrick (sic), the guy they fired at the Defense Department." Haldeman added that "after I get this report, you should remind me that the President wants Ziegler to call in Sarah McLyndon (sic. Haldeman also referred to her as "the big broad") and tell her what we have done with Fitzpatrick."

On January 5 Fitzpatrick or Fitzgerald, whatever his name was, packed his briefcase, wrote "time wounds all heels" on his office blackboard, climbed into his old Rambler, and drove away from the Pentagon thinking he would never return.

My more extensive parting comments appeared in the Washington Post the next day. Among the most incensed was Alexander Butterfield, Haldeman's deputy. He addressed his remarks to Higby on January 6. The next day Higby conveyed Butterfield's views to Haldeman in a memo:

Let him bleed for awhile. He is one hundred percent disloyal -- not without expertise in his field, but nevertheless one hundred percent idsloyal (sic). His parting word to the administration appeared in this morning's Washington Post -- they were, in essence, "the big dogs will be all right in this administration, but the little people never will."

That's not exactly what I said, but I wish I had. Butterfield went on to say that it would be "an admission of error" to bring me back into the government.

In his January 7 memo, Higby answered Haldeman's request to "find out the status of Fitzpatrick," relaying the two-week-old news about the meeting with Nixon and the president's decision to keep me out of the BoB.

It was time to hear from "the world's greatest newspaper," as the Chicago Tribune describes itself. That may be more than a little hyperbole, but the paper is very good, especially when it comes to exposing crookedness and duplicity in government. Mollenhoff and Buchanan were friends with Willard Edwards, a conservative journalist on the paper, who on December 10 had reported that the president had decided to give me a nondefense job in the BoB. When it was apparent that the double-cross was in, the Tribune delivered itself on a powerful editorial. As Pat Buchanan recapitulated it in the president's daily news summary:

Despite surface indications that the Nixon administration might be different, Ernest Fitzgerald learned the truth of an old government adage -- never rock the boat. Don't buck the bureaucracy. If you do, they'll get your job. Somewhere along the line, between the President's reported decision to keep Fitzgerald and the final moments of his job, the gears failed to mesh. As he cleared out his Pentagon desk, preparing to go into business as a private consultant, Fitzgerald said he had been offered no new government job. In earlier years, the Johnson and Kennedy administrations suffered from their treatment of another dedicated public servant, Otto Otepka, who also committed the sin of testifying truthfully before a congressional committee. The equally shabby treatment of Fitzgerald adds no luster to the Nixon Administration. It can only be a victory for the entrenched Pentagon bureaucrats.

The coupling of my name with that of Otto Otepka spelled big trouble for me with the liberal establishment. Otepka, a State Department security specialist in the Kennedy administration, had had custody of certain "personnel security files." Like the derogatory dirt files of General Cappucci and "Crazy Billy" Sullivan, Otepka's files contained false charges, gossip, and innuendo. When Otepka was called on to deliver his files to Senator John McClellan's investigations subcommittee, he complied. For this he was fired.

The liberals, outraged, argued that delivering the dirt files to the Senate meant that the subjects of the files suffered disgraceful exposure without any chance to confront their accusers. They missed the point: the wrong was the existence of the dirt files in the first place; Otepka was merely obeying the law and doing his duty. To be consistent, the liberals should have demanded that all government dirt files (except those that were part of an active criminal investigation) be returned to their subjects and the victims of false charges and slander be given free rein to sue their accusers for damages in a civil action. But the liberals were not consistent.

Conservatives, on the other hand, had thundered in Otepka's defense, and Nixon had promised, if elected, to make him whole. But once in office, Nixon choked. Instead of restoring Otepka to the bosom of the State Department, he gave him a luxurious and meaningless job on the impotent Subversive Activities Control Board. The Tribune's parallel between Otepka and Fitzgerald was enough to pull Nixon's chain, so he marked the "treatment of Fitzgerald" passage and noted in the margin, "H (Haldeman) -- I wonder if we fumbled this one -- check it out again -- "

So once again the staff went through the tired motions of checking out nothing. Haldeman bucked the problem to the staff secretary, who bucked it to Kissinger on January 16, who bucked it in a "Secret, Eyes Only" memo to Laird on the nineteenth.

Mollenhoff was tireless, though. He egged Edwards on to do another column titled "Fitzgerald Is Now Nixon's Otepka," and he hectored Laird to reverse the firing decision. This combination of events made the anti-Fitzgeraldians jittery; with another press conference coming in a few days, they worried that the P might backslide again and decide to restore the maverick.

Butterfield was incensed once more. On January 20 he put on his spurs, loaded his horse pistol, and delivered to Haldeman another memorandum on my disloyalty. He cited the infamous National Democratic Coalition dinner, but this time he got the name of the service in question correct: he said I'd planned to blow the whistle on the Air Force, not the Navy. Never let it be said that White House functionaries are incapable of learning. (Appendix A is Butterfield's entire screed, to give readers a sample of a certain brand of military ethics.) Butterfield sent copies of this diatribe to Ehrlichman, Kissinger, Klein, Colson, Nofziger, Magruder, and Ziegler. But he made one serious mistake: Magruder gave his copy to Senator Daniel Inouye, who later brought out the "let him bleed" memo at the Watergate hearings.

It was Magruder, ironically, who on January 21 wrote the administration's official line on the Fitzgerald matter:

The Nixon Administration has no quarrel with the (Proxmire) subcommittee report on the C-5A program and its assertion that the prior administration did not adequately control military spending. Defense Secretary Laird had asserted that the past mistakes in the procurement of this aircraft will not be repeated.

The testimony of Mr. A. Ernest Fitzgerald on the cost overruns was no embarrassment to the Nixon Administration, for it involved actions taken under a prior administration. Conscientious efforts are being made to correct the problems pointed up by an Air Force team that included Mr. Fitzgerald. There is no reason for the Nixon Administration to retaliate against Mr. Fitzgerald, since his testimony dealt with the acts of the prior administration.

Air Force Secretary Robert Seamans has stated that there is no relationship between Mr. Fitzgerald's testimony of November, 1968 and the reorganization decisions to abolish his job in October, 1969.

This masterpiece of hypocrisy, which we later uncovered in legal discovery, was sent to Kissinger by White House staffer William Watts; in the checkoff space labeled "approve as is" were Kissinger's initials. Three days later Watts wrote a "cover-your-ass" memo for the record, noting that he'd told Magruder of Kissinger's approval.

Conveniently for my lawyers and me, Higby bundled up a lot of memorandums on the Fitzgerald problem and sent them all to presidential counsel Fred Fielding with the handwritten notation, "Eyes Only!" The whole package came to us in legal discovery some years later.

Kissinger finally disposed of his "review" of my case on February 2 with this reply to Nixon: "Jeb Magruder's report on Mr. Fitzgerald is attached at tab G. Dr. Kissinger feels no further action is necessary." Recall that Magruder's memo said there was "no reason to retaliate" against Fitzgerald and there was "no connection" between my testimony and the decision to abolish my job. And compare that with Kissinger's ultimate remark on the matter in his book The White House Years: "Former Air Force analyst A. Ernest Fitzgerald who had been fired for denouncing C-5A cost overruns ..." (page 113, emphasis added). Which goes to prove, I guess, that some politicians who lie in office will tell the truth in their memoirs. I'd prefer it the other way around.

In Mel Laird's final word (a memo of February 19 to Kissinger and Haig), he noted, "Stories such as the 10 January editorial in The Chicago Tribune appear to emanate from other White House staff offices. It would be helpful if you could stop such stories at the source."

He meant Mollenhoff. Not surprisingly, his days as an ombudsman were numbered. The presidential log for May 25, 1970, has a handwritten note: "Had Mollenhoff in -- he's quitting to go back to Des Moines Register as Bureau Chief. Good break both ways. Z (Ziegler) especially delighted."

Ron Ziegler, the White House press secretary, Nixon's flack, had good reason to be delighted. Mollenhoff had never made secret his contempt for the flack's intelligence and character. His acid test for a words-of-one-syllable explanation was, "Make it so even Ron Ziegler can understand." But what outraged Mollenhoff most were the public statements Ziegler pumped out daily with their remarkably high fraud content.

What had broken Mollenhoff's ombudsman spirit was a March 8 memo from Haldeman saying, "No member of the White House staff -- and this very specifically includes you -- is to have any communication with or make any statement or provide any information to any member of the press without prior consultation with Ron Ziegler."


The Nixon administration, with all its crimes, is often thought of as an anomaly, but in a great many ways, it was not much different from either its predecessors or its successors. People such as Harold Brown, James Schlesinger, and Henry Kissinger are indispensable front men and mouthpieces for the great, interlocked Pentagon-corporation complex that traffics in the greater part of our federal funds. A large part of their onstage role is to produce threats from abroad (real, half-real, or imagined) and phony economic justification for a corrupt and wasteful spending program.

These men are the Praetorian Guard commanders. But the people I offended originally were the centurions, the permanent Pentagon cadre, a powerful brotherhood. Many, though not all, of them are procurement people who go on steadily year after year, fronting for the big corporations, systematically wasting money, and in the end providing the armed forces of the United States with inferior equipment and weaponry.

On July 9, 1973, several years after I was fired, a Nixon White House lawyer, Dudley Chapman, wrote in a memorandum to his boss, Leonard Garment, that there was "a clear public impression" that I had "an independent, acerbic personality unacceptable to the career military brass and that both Democratic and Republican appointees deferred to that view." I agree to take that as one man's comment. But it is a comment on style, not substance. What was -- and is -- woefully wrong is a matter of substance.
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Re: The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagem

Postby admin » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:39 am

4. The Cost-Plus Economy

FIRED FROM THE PENTAGON and effectively blacklisted in my former profession as an industrial engineer, I took some part-time jobs to support my family. My lawyers filed an appeal with the Civil Service Commission asking that my illegal firing be reversed so I could go back to my unfinished business in the Pentagon. Even the strongest appeal typically takes years, however, and in the meantime I had to make a living.

Senator Proxmire and Chairman Wright Patman of the Joint Economic Committee gave me some work to do for the JEC, and I was asked by the Businessmen's Educational Fund (BEF) to make some appearances and speeches under their sponsorship. The BEF was a very dignified, and expensive, kind of protest movement against the war in Southeast Asia: members were expected to contribute at least $25,000 a year to the organization.

I welcomed the chance to talk to these people about the peculiar processes of the military mind from a perspective a little different from their own. They were repulsed by the whole concept of "body counts" (the counts included women, old men, and children -- some of my military friends said they knew of dead animals being counted). And, like a majority of other Americans, they were shocked by the nightly scenes of war on television.

Beyond these horrors, what worried me about the war was the evident fact that it had no goals. We were supposedly trying to protect the "idea" of an independent, noncommunist government in South Vietnam, but what specific goals we were trying to achieve and what we meant by "winning" were very uncertain.

I told my BEF friends that the body-count idea showed the military analysts' compulsion to quantify and rationalize. One hundred dead bodies here and two hundred there were just like line items in the Pentagon's accounting. Each step would be justified, and eventually they would be figured into some insane and irrelevant total. Perhaps, in the long run, we should worry most about the kind of mentality that produces such totals and believes that they prove something.

In addition, in the minds of the military and their fellows, the war created, subconsciously perhaps, a picture of an ideal society. In theory, our country would be united in a common cause, everyone would have a job, for the war economy would be booming, people (except for war widows and orphans) would be happy, and the military -- once again respected -- would assume its proper leadership role. The hidden elements in this equation were, of course, great waste (of life and materiel), great profiteering by a few, and the artificiality of a military-based economy. This society was draining its resources, both material and moral, and producing nothing.

My father, a skilled artisan, pattern maker, and self-taught engineer, turned to farming after his health went bad. He raised beef cattle. Once, when I recited to him the Pentagon's waste-makes-you-rich theory, he said, "I never saw a cow get fat sucking herself." He was referring to an actual phenomenon: cows that satisfy their hunger by sucking their own teats. That diminishes their urge to graze, and they produce less and less milk and begin to decline. Unless they are broken of the habit, they will die. It was a good parable.

My BEF patrons believed that once the war was behind us, we could make a healthy "conversion" back to the assumptions of a free and peaceable society. The big military contractors would beat their corporate swords into plowshares and gratefully switch from making stuff to kill people to making stuff to help us all live better. As a corollary to that, they envisioned a "peace dividend" of $20 billion to $30 billion a year that could be used for domestic needs.

What they didn't understand was that an influential part of the nation had contracted the cow's bad habit and wasn't about to give it up. My BEF friends looked forward to the end of a militarized wartime society, but I was worried about the advent of a militarized peacetime.

The shrewd old men in Congress, in whom the real power resides when they wish to use it, decided rather too late in the 1960s to end the war by their own kind of attrition. They effectively froze the Pentagon's acquisition budget, which included procurement plus research and development. As General Pete Crow told me then, the war would end when Congress decided to end it. "They'll let us know when they're serious. They'll cut off the money," he said. The mad old days when mad old Mendel Rivers could use cutthroat tactics in the House Armed Services Committee, silencing all dissent against limitless funds for the Pentagon, were gone. Congress finally got serious.

For a moment. Once the war was over, the seriousness began to evaporate. (To paraphrase Senator Aiken of Vermont in another context, Congress declared a victory and went home.) The enormous silent pressures for a military-spending economy weren't to be denied. Even in 1970 it was apparent that our bovine bad habit had become an addiction. Big business, big labor, the big universities had become war-bucks addicts. Bankers needed the contracts to bail out sick corporate clients. Communities fought for them, economists extolled them.

By now a new breed of industrialist knew that the market for killing stuff was rich and easy. Their objectives were as Professor Seymour Melman put it in his book Profits without Production (1983), maximization of costs and subsidy. And by and large the government purchasing market didn't worry much about quality.

In contrast, the market for better living stuff demanded, for the most part, efficient production of quality goods that real people wanted to buy at a reasonable price. This market required working hard and competing hard against the company down the street that was trying to use more efficient means to make even higher-quality goods than yours. My upright and old-fashioned BEF friends didn't understand the gap between new industry and old when they talked about the "conversion" of the economy.

By this time the big contracting corporations were in their second or third generation of management by the "new breed" of executive. These men found that the rewards lay in maximizing allowable costs and getting, under various guises, what amounted to welfare from the government. As business enterprises in the traditional sense, their corporations were not viable. They were massive constructions of organized inefficiency. The main thing to note about the people who ran them is that they had lost the one ruling principle of the old-era capitalists: they no longer cared about delivering the best quality at the lowest price.

There were exceptions, of course. I came to know quite a few people who felt trapped by the system. Many of them had little real work to do, but they had gotten accustomed to the large salaries, fringe benefits, and retirement prospects, and they did not believe they could earn these in a competitive business. They had lost their self-respect and had accepted the corporate immorality. To protest in any way would probably cast them up on the same desert island as Ernest Fitzgerald and Henry Durham. (Durham told the public embarrassing truths about Lockheed's mismanagement of the C-5A transport plane; as a result he was fired, and he received many threats that he would be killed, his house burned, and his teenage daughter disfigured.)

In the late 1960s a subtle antiwar current was emanating from a not very obvious source: the Pentagon. Most people do not realize that the Department of Defense and the dominant palace guard factions of its service departments hate war. Occasional bloodlettings keep the public in the right mood, but actual war is disruptive, disconcerting, and disorganizing. A lot of strangers have to be brought into the armed services, and the pressure is on to work hard and produce results. Worst of all, a great deal of the money is spent on troops and support (the traditional Bs of logistics: boots, blankets, beans, bacon, and bullets). The Pentagon prays that war will never really happen, but it loves its main mission in life: eternally preparing for war. I once heard an Air Force general say that there didn't seem to be much military point to the war in Vietnam, "except that it's helping to buy us a new tactical air force."

In the minds of the military-industrial coalition, "conversion" didn't mean beating swords into plowshares but beating the Bs into enormously expensive weapons systems. Thus, as it became clear that the Southeast Asia war was going to end, the big defense corporations were licking their chops over the bright new prospects. This was revealed very well in Bernard Nossiter's Washington Post article (December 8, 1968) on the giant military- contractor conglomerate Ling Temco Vought (later LTV).

James Ling, the man who created the conglomerate, was quoted as saying, "Our future planning is based on visible contracts. One must believe in the long-term threat.... Defense spending has to increase in our area because there has been a failure to initiate (new weapons systems) -- if we're not going to be overtaken by the Soviets."

Ling's financial vice president, Samuel Downer, described the situation to Nossiter even more vividly when he said, "The postwar world must be bolstered with military orders." He continued:

It's basic. Its selling appeal is defense of the home. This is one of the greatest appeals the politicians have to adjusting the system. If you're the President and you need a control factor in the economy, and you need to sell this factor, you can't sell Harlem and Watts, but you can sell self-preservation, a new environment. We're going to increase defense budgets as long as those bastards in Russia are ahead of us. The American people understand this.

Note how inexact The Threat is. Ling has us ahead of the Soviets but in danger of being overtaken. Downer has "those bastards in Russia" ahead of us. It doesn't matter, though. The main thing is to have faith in the existence of The Threat.


After being fired from the Pentagon, I served as the unpaid chairman of the National Taxpayers' Union (NTU). My close associates at NTU and I hoped to propagate the idea of a budget that would give us a strong defense for an economical expenditure without distorting the normal peacetime economy. That meant cutting Pentagon spending. I felt that the winding down of the war gave us a rare opening to send our message.

The approach we advocated involved a strange-bedfellows alliance. As the Milwaukee Journal reported, about a speech I made in April 1971, "Liberals who want to be effective in cutting defense spending must join fiscal conservatives who are fed up with government waste."

The voices of the Threat's guardians became particularly shrill with alarm when they realized that our seemingly unnatural coalition's message was catching on. Pro-Pentagonist columnist William S. White was one of the shrillest. In his column for April 24, 1971, he reported that the Democratic congressional leaders were "pleading" for Republican help in the effort to repel "a gathering, neo-liberal, neo-isolationist assault" on the Nixon military budget. White declared that our poor, loosely connected band, powered by only truth and ideas, had brought about the "gravest crisis" for America's national security since the 1930s. Heady stuff, that. In a way it was flattering to think that our ragtag band of yins and yangs was more powerful than Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini in World War II, the Evil Empire in the Cold War, or the dread Viet Cong, who were even then, in the fevered fantasies of people like William S. White, threatening Denver.

The NTU did indeed give an umbrella to all sorts: conservatives, liberals, populists, and libertarians. On the board, for instance, were Robert Kephart, publisher of the ultraconservative Human Events, and Marcus Raskin, cofounder of the left-wing Institute for Policy Studies. We wanted to pose a strong challenge to the conventional thinking of people like William White, for we believed that the nation could have a strong defense with a minimum of waste and corruption.


The lessons I had been trying to teach at the Pentagon -- and had taken into more public forums after I was thrown out -- were, simply stated, about designing and manufacturing defense products in the most efficient way, delivering a faultless product in good time to the government, and charging no more than a fair price. In competitive private industry this was done every day in America, and in some sectors it still is. In the defense industry, such practices are more the exception than the rule.

The bad effects of defense industry practices were especially noticeable in the productivity of industrial blue-collar workers. The decline in productivity could be measured readily because we had a long history for comparison. Roughly eighty-five years ago, the industrial experts of that day developed means for measuring, more or less objectively, how much work factory mechanics and technicians should produce in a given period of time. Other industrial engineers and I were worried to see the widening gap between what industrial workers were producing now and what they should be producing.

In the early 1950s, at the beginning of my career as an industrial engineer, I'd helped install work-measurement cost-control systems in large-scale aircraft maintenance and modification. That had been a valuable lesson, and I had later applied some of those techniques to cost-cutting programs in a variety of nonmanufacturing work. Work measurement was one of the primary instruments for determining what a manufactured article should cost. Properly performed, work measurement establishes the time it "should take" a qualified worker to perform a manufacturing operation; for a complex product, the should-take times for a myriad operations must be added to arrive at an estimate. Work measurement was such a powerful cost-reduction and appraisal tool that its use was specifically outlawed by the Pentagon's cost-estimating gurus during my first tour of duty there. At first officials didn't understand what I was trying to do; when they did, they became outright hostile.

Industrial engineers call the raw should-take time for a given task or unit of product "normal-time." Since no one works every minute on the job, allowances are added to the normal time for personal breaks, fatigue, unavoidable minor delays, and the like. The normal time for a job plus all the allowances is the "reasonable expectancy" of the time it should take to do the job, and that is called "standard time."

The reasonably expected amount of work to be done in one chronological hour is called a "standard hour of work." I must emphasize here that the standard hour is a measure of work output and has no necessary relationship to chronological time actually expended doing the job. Old-fashioned, competitive business management tried to get as many standard hours of output as possible for labor hours expended. When a journeyman reached a certain stated level of output, he was "making standard. " Often he could get extra pay for exceeding a "fail day's work" standard of output.
Although military contractors saw little sense in trying to control their costs, out of some atavistic habit they did maintain time standards sections in their industrial engineering departments. The function of these sections was to do work measurement mostly as part of a "management image" facade, but the time standards did exist and were subject to audit, verification, and adjustment if necessary.

Unfortunately, the Pentagonists viewed standard output as a limit on performance. Old- fashioned industrialists measured their improvement on how much their shops exceeded standard output, but the big military contractors viewed normally expected output as a goal to be approached asymptotically -- only under "perfect" conditions at never-to-be-reached production quantities. The old floor for output had become the ceiling.

One aspect of the warped psychology I had to contend with at the Pentagon was that of people I called the "cost Calvinists" for their almost religious faith in one kind of predestination. The cost Calvinists believed that the future cost of a product was preordained by its past cost history, with just a couple of variable factors: the product's parameters -- a change in weight or speed for a newly ordered aircraft, say -- and inflation. Otherwise, once a Pentagon project was set in motion, its costs were inexorably set and were beyond the power of mere men to alter. The project manager's duty was to make sure that the defense contractor had "no funding problems," that is, plenty of money, and that no meddler would come along to impose cost controls or make major cost reductions. The Cost History god must not be angered.

This Calvinist dogma was based on numerous logical fallacies. To begin with, the historical costs were highly suspect; the contractor on a job could do many interesting and self-serving things with a cost trend line. In fact, one of my students, a production superintendent, declared that he could so manipulate the manhours per unit line by including creative labor- time charges that he could write his name with it. And labor costs were only one item. All kinds of extraneous items were added in -- waste in the plant, fraud somewhere along the line, inaccuracies and "accounting adjustments" in past "actual cost" records, and so on.

The general rule was that the fair and reasonable price to pay a contractor was a figure that closely approximated the contractor's cost to make or acquire the product plus a reasonable profit. In the usual course of negotiating contracts with big firms, the government allowed contractors to include all "normal costs of doing business" in their "allowable actual cost" base. (Normal costs were not supposed to include interest, bribes, party girls, or other frills; these were all termed "unallowable.")

The contract negotiations were a kind of ritual mating dance. The contractor-creature would take three steps forward by throwing into the cost sheet some excesses, which, he knew, the auditors would catch and disallow. The government negotiator-animal would then take three countersteps forward and the contractor would take three steps back, putting him exactly where he was at the beginning and exactly where he wanted to be (he would get the excess back in the future with some tricky steps). The negotiator was happy because he could show some "savings."

Straightforward cost-plus-percentage-of-cost contracts, in which profits are calculated as a percentage of the costs incurred, were hypothetically illegal, on the theory that they invited the contractor to pile up as many costs as he could possibly get away with. In actual practice, things weren't quite so clear. Say that a company manufactures an initial order of M-12 Bibelots and charges $100 apiece, with a profit of 10 percent. In due course the government reorders at the same price. But in the meantime, the company has found a more efficient production method for making bibelots and the $50 cost of manufacture has been halved. Question: does the company put the new production methods into effect, cut staff, and thereby make a profit of $35 on each bibelot instead of $10?

Answer: don't be silly. The company either sticks with the same old costly manufacturing methods or, if its methods do change, keeps the excess people on board anyway; a dramatic cost reduction now would mean a reduction of the cost base in future contracts -- and thus smaller profits. Worse, if the new "actual" (and lower) cost records were entered into the cost Calvinists' data banks, the price structure of the whole industry might be in danger. The big, protected Pentagon contractors' real product is allowable costs, the basis for calculating prospective profits; cutting these costs threatens both sales volume and profit.

Another strange phenomenon was something called, in the wonderful Pentagonese language, an "undefinitized" order. This meant that the contractor had received an order for a product or product modification whose specifications were still subject to change. The contractor was authorized to begin work, or at least start spending money, before firm prices were agreed on with the government. Now those undefinitized contract objectives were, in translation, indefinite objectives. The taxpayer can imagine some shambling jumbo corporation with $100 million to spend on indefinite purposes. When the revised contract price was finally set, the product changes sometimes cost more than the price originally estimated for the whole job. I have seen many cases where the changes actually reduced the amount of work to be done -- but the contractor still charged the government a hefty sum just for making any changes.

Usually undefinitized change orders remained unpriced until it was reckoned that the expenditures for change were about 90 percent complete. Then would come the negotiations and the final deal, which usually gave the company all it asked for. Most of the costs incurred were labeled "good costs," the company got additional money to finish the job, and the change order profit was figured on a percentage of allowable costs. Thus, once the contractor got into the changes, the money he spent almost always produced a pure cost- plus-percentage-of-cost return -- the forbidden formula -- in practice.

On the government side, the program manager had at his disposal reserve funds to cover any cost increases that might occur. He was under military orders to get rid of this money -- in Pentagonese, to "execute the program" by meeting his "obligations and outlays" goals. And rarely was any program manager embarrassed by having money left over.

These were the normal machinations to accommodate big contractors; small ones were sometimes held so strictly to commitments that they went into bankruptcy. Where this dodge of putting in continual change orders -- "contract nourishment," in the Pentagonal idiom -- might have awkward political or public relations consequences, the government sometimes simply ignored the contractual commitments and handed the big corporation whatever money it asked for. The bailout law (Public Law 85-804) used in the Lockheed case was just one example, and it set a precedent for the rescue of other failing corporate behemoths. Later the Pentagon had found an even simpler way to resolve a controversy with a contractor about cost overruns: it simply conceded.

In the early 1970s the effects of all these horrendous practices were beginning to show. The direct consequences touched our ability to supply the armed forces. The unit costs of equipment were rising so rapidly that Senator Proxmire used to make speeches about "unilateral, gold-plated disarmament." Instead of a bang for a buck, we were beginning to get a pop for many bucks.

The long-term danger that worried me was the epidemic spread of the cost-plus virus throughout the whole business community. As it had already done in the defense and space industries, so it would drive up unit costs and degrade quality in all industry, especially in corporations that must compete with the defense companies for land, labor, materials, and services.

Nixon's half-hearted price-control guidelines of 1971 gave an impetus to this trend. lf a businessman could show that his costs had increased, he could raise his prices -- and he was very likely to go unchallenged. Management, in industries with those administered prices, could pass on cost increases to their customers without penalty so long as the increases were industry-wide. That way no company had to worry much about its competition.

Congress was not much help in trying to halt the spread of the cost-plus virus. In fact, Congressman Chet Holifield's commission on government procurement was actually helping it by encouraging the spread of Pentagon cost-justification techniques to all contracting agencies of the federal government.

The really insidious part of the cost-plus infection, though, was what it did to managers. On the Pentagon pattern, private-sector managers prospered if they were skillful at justifying higher costs as a way to get higher prices. This was particularly true in the medical and health-care industry and contributed to the skyrocketing costs of medical treatment.

The "management sciences" academics were intrigued with the Pentagon's cost-justification procedures, especially the formula for using past "actual" costs as a basis for extrapolating future costs. Their formula for the so-called learning curve, an exponential hyperbola of the form y = kx-m, looked so scientific and was so widely endorsed by professors of statistics, business, and economics as an inexorable law of human behavior that it had come to be accepted.

The learning curve illustrated on page 49 is said to have an 80 percent slope or improvement rate. The slope and starting point depend on the past history of manhours and costs for the same or an analogous product, cost-estimating theology, and available money. Clearly, the fatter the estimate of manhours and total cost, the easier it is to fit to the learning curve. The curve is a self-fulfilling prophecy if it is fat enough, and estimates that can be made to come true are said to be "credible." Therefore, the fatter the estimate, the more credible it is.

The learning, or improvement, curve, illustrating an 80 percent improvement rate. The number of manhours it takes to build each unit is reduced to 80 percent of the previous value each time the cumulative number of units doubles. For example, the first unit takes 1,000 hours; the second, 800 hours; the fourth, 640 hours; the eighth, 512 hours; and so on. Although it is a curve on the arithmetic scale, the learning curve is a logarithmic straight line of the form y = kx -m, where y is manhours per unit, k is a constant, x is the cumulative number of units produced, and m is the slope exponent (.80 in the example).

Actually, the learning curve hyperbola had been selected in the days before computers. When plotted on logarithmic graph paper, it was a straight line, thereby easing the computational chores of cost-justifying pencil whippers. The magic hyperbola was also indispensable to those managers who wanted to project higher costs as unavoidable. As long as contractors' reports showed that the levels and trends of manhours per unit of product were more or less on track with the learning curve, a government buying office usually wouldn't challenge them. Also, whenever a change was made in the contract, they reasoned, the curve would have to be "spliced. " This meant that the "learning" would have to start over to some degree, thereby jacking up allowed costs again and compounding the already complex mathematical formulas.

In short, the whole approach was tailor-made for charlatans, while having enough pseudoscience about it to gain acceptance among well-meaning academics.

As I went around the country giving talks about military spending, I noted with increasing despair that universities were teaching cost justification instead of the hard-nosed cost- education and cost-control techniques I had learned as a young engineer. David Packard and his confederates were furious when I wrote, in The High Priests of Waste, that the leaders of the military spending complex were fiscal Typhoid Marys, carrying their bad doctrine into many parts of our national business and industrial body.

Admiral Hyman Rickover had been just about as critical as I, saying to Senator Proxmire's committee, "Many large companies are virtually unmanaged." That really didn't hurt profits, though: "Large defense contractors can let costs come out where they will and count on getting relief from the Department of Defense through changes in claims, relaxation of procurement regulations and laws, government loans, follow-on sole-source contracts, and other escape mechanisms."

Packard, it seems, didn't dare attack the admiral, who was powerful, influential, and well connected. I was none of those things, so Packard attacked me personally and viciously in his review of my book.

I resolved to fight back on strictly factual lines by making renewed efforts to show what the bad effects on our competitive private sector would be if the inefficiencies of the Pentagon- sheltered corporate giants were to spread widely. My first educational efforts were directed at the Joint Economic Committee staff. My substitute for the false gospel of "did cost = will cost" in contract pricing was the should-cost approach -- what work should cost after the fat is squeezed out.

At that time my predecessor as Air Force management systems deputy, Ronald Fox, was an assistant secretary of the Army in charge of procurement. Ron, who professed to be a convert to the should-cost approach, contracted with one of my former partners, Mert Tyrrell, to help institutionalize should-cost in Army programs. They had some limited success, although they approached the giant contractors on the biggest, most political programs only gingerly.

Senator Proxmire and the JEC staff were impressed by Ron and Mert's results and by the fact that such an effort was being made at all in the Nixon administration. Proxmire arranged some hearings so that Ron could testify about how well the Army was doing in cost cutting. The unfortunate result was that the Army movers and shakers were so shaken that they moved to put a damper on should-cost. The program, nevertheless, limped along and the concept stayed alive.

At this point I decided to introduce into my congressional educational efforts a very rough rule of thumb for measuring the fat in manufacturing operations, one I'd used successfully as the head of a small but busy management consulting firm. I was often asked to survey a company to determine whether our services would pay off in reduced costs. I called these surveys gold-in-the-mine studies because they were like geologists' surveys of ore-bearing rock: without some good indication of available pay dirt, there would be no point in starting a new mine or continuing to work one that might be almost played out. I usually had to do the survey myself and with my own money, so I developed a number of simple indices of organizational effectiveness that I could rely on in recommending what needed to be done.

One of my most useful measures was the total in-house cost for a standard unit of output by the "touch labor" people. In manufacturing there are only two kinds of people: touch labor -- the people who make things -- and everybody else. The touch labor people are easy to evaluate and measure quantitatively, and everybody else is there to serve and support them. That is, the non-touch labor people should be focusing on efforts to help make the product better, less expensively, and faster. In the most fundamental sense, the output of the touch labor people is the output of everybody else as well. As a common-denominator measurement for labor output, I used the standard hour described earlier.

Later I found total in-house dollars of cost per standard hour of output a useful yardstick for assessing military contracts involving manufacturing, whether for production or for research and development. It was a rough measure, and I was not happy with its roughness, but given the circumstances of that time and the nature of the problem, it was the best measure available.

At that time, in the early 1970s, the government had no approved measures that were meaningful. In what became a real economic tragedy, the GAO, then headed by Comptroller General Elmer Staats, joined with the Pentagon spenders to oppose measures of the performance of military contractors. Specifically, they rejected the old-fashioned should-cost approach, recommended by the JEC, in favor of new-fangled, heavily qualitative procedural evaluations, which were misleadingly labeled "should-cost." They kept the name but changed the concept.

What the Pentagon adopted were the Air Force's old Industrial Management Assistance Surveys (IMAS) with a pro forma review of contractor work measurement systems added, and a few negotiation fillips thrown in. This process, which was predominantly qualitative and procedural, was so vague that the GAO told Proxmire they had no way of quantifying the fat that showed up in the pseudo-should-cost studies. That quantification, of course, was the point of any good should-cost scrutiny.

The pseudo-studies were also, as one might have guessed, much more expensive than the old ones. In the 1960s, four or five people could study a manufacturer's operation for four to eight weeks and typically find ways to reduce costs by about 30 percent. Under the new- look program, forty or fifty people would work for three to four months and come up with much smaller savings. (And it appeared that the initially negotiated savings were either given back to the contractor or diverted to other purposes. Certainly we could never track any should-cost savings being returned to the Treasury.)

Another reason that my dollars-per-standard-labor-hour index was useful in judging the amount of manufacturing fat was that manufacturing methods, especially within subgroupings of the industry -- automotive, airframe, missile, and electronics, for example -- were generally similar. The defense companies with the most diverse processes were the big so-called systems contractors, whose factories typically had three hundred to five hundred different kinds of manufacturing operations. Usually their industrial engineers had usefully accurate formulas to determine should-take times for products in each operation. Few of the operations were unique. The companies had little interest in devising methods to cut down on touch labor. After all, direct labor hours were the most defensible kinds of "allowable costs" in manufacturing. (In a completely automated factory, my dollars-per-standard- labor-hour index would have been irrelevant -- but there were no completely automated plants that we knew of in defense industry.)


In the early 1970s ten dollars per standard labor hour was about the top cost in competitive industry. If the factory labor cost more than that, the business was in deep trouble. In contrast, observe the costs to contractors for the Army shown in the table.

I make no claim that these sample costs per SLH were scientific or even necessarily representative of the overall figures for military contractors. These were the figures we could get in Congress -- and they were very troubling. Remember that competitive industry costs rarely went above ten dollars a standard labor hour, and the best showing in the table is almost twice that. The worst is almost twenty times that.

To find out some of the reasons for the discrepancies, we took a closer look at electronics manufacturer G. We found that he was having quality problems. We were told that the $195.33 included large, but not specifically identified, charges for scrapped material and for corrections to the contractor's work.

I wanted to express the rather arcane $/SLH comparisons in terms that would be meaningful to nontechnical people, especially the JEC members. I consulted some electronics manufacturers for estimates of what contractor G would have to charge if he were to make a nineteen-inch portable color TV set, which in those days sold for about $400 retail. Assuming the efficiency levels shown in G's government contracts and making other markups proportionately high, the set would cost the consumer about $8,000. And considering contractor G's lousy performance, it probably wouldn't work.

The $8,000 TV was a good example for my innocent friends in the Businessmen's Educational Fund who believed in "conversion." It also had very disturbing implications for our competitive position in world markets in the future. With work habits, efficiency, rates of pay, and management practices like those of G, our nondefense electronics industry would die a quick death.

Was I the only one who knew these secrets? Not at all. A great many people in government and in industry had both experience and a sure hand in dealing with cost bloat and poor quality. And military contracting offered dramatic opportunities for cost cutting.

Even if the feared and despised should-cost approach was unacceptable, other cost-cutting remedies could be used. For instance, Admiral Rickover testified before the JEC that only 11 percent of Pentagon procurement (including research and development) could be described as competitive. By that he meant advertised solicitations to all comers and sealed bids. The other 89 percent came through negotiated contracts that were the result of varying degrees of procurement looseness. Even limited bid competitions in the past ("cost rivalry," as I called it) had produced dramatic reductions in what the Pentagon expected to pay or had paid. The JEC gathered some statistics on sole-source contracts that were later subjected to cost rivalry: reductions in unit costs ranged from 16 to 80 percent.

There was another way to inject a little competition into the insulated world of the big defense corporations. Many of them carried on their operations in government-owned facilities. Lockheed, for instance, used Air Force Plant 6 to complete work on the C-5A. Because of the company's disastrous record, I suggested we hold a competition for the operation of Plant 6. David Packard rejected the idea, but later, when it was too late, he agreed that it could have been done.

Admiral Rickover had advocated the same treatment for shipbuilders that used their sole- source position to hold the Navy up for reimbursement for overruns. The Army had its GOCO plants -- government-owned, contractor-operated ammunition plants, tank arsenals, and the like -- and frequently changed contractor-tenants, which demonstrated the feasibility of changing contractors through cost-saving competition. (Though many of the changes, I suspect, were made for political rather than competitive reasons.)

Some successful examples of competition could be found, even in the Nixon administration. A notable one was the "fly-off," or competition between prototypes, that produced the F-16 fighter plane (and I give David Packard a measure of credit for this success). Most of the good work was done in the early 1970s by a maverick group within the Pentagon known as the "Fighter Mafia," led by Air Force colonels John Boyd and Everest Riccioni and an analyst named Pierre Sprey from the office of the secretary of defense. The F-16 was a momentary triumph for the spirit of competition and cost regulation, giving us a good product at a bearable price -- at least until contract nourishment set in.
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Re: The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagem

Postby admin » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:47 am

5. Kangaroo Court

My LONG-DELAYED CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION hearing over reinstatement finally got under way in May 1971. The Air Force, the office of the secretary of defense, and the Civil Service Commission had stalled and stonewalled on producing evidence and witnesses. We never did get what we needed for a fair trial. It was like one of those 1930s courtroom dramas in which a judge is in cahoots with the Bad Guys, a noble young lawyer battles the local Establishment, a booming witness turns up with important evidence but is barred from the courtroom by the judge, and a nervous plaintiff (or was I the defendant, as the government seemed to think?) begins to wonder if God is really on the side of the righteous. But this was happening in real life.

I was much blessed in having not one but several dedicated volunteer lawyers who believed firmly in the slightly-out-of-fashion principle of fighting for the truth. Most of the legal work was being done by John Bodner, Jr., and his partner John Bruce of Howrey and Simon, and by Bill Sollee of Ivins, Philips, and Barker. Ralph Temple, legal director of the Washington ACLU, also helped out when he could. They had no compensation to look forward to and plenty of trouble, yet they were more devoted to me and my cause than if I were a multimillionaire who could pay top fees. Quite a few times, the lawyers and their support people -- paralegals and secretaries -- literally stayed up all night to do research and prepare documents. I'll never cease to be amazed at their generosity and commitment.

I had a different kind of long-lasting amazement for the administrative law judge, or, to be exact, the civil service hearing examiner, Herman Staiman. My first impression of him came at the outset of my hearing when he made it clear that he would be the absolute master of what evidence went into the record; under these rules, if he denied us certain evidence, that evidence was forever lost to our cause. In addition he ruled that the hearing would take place in secret, behind locked doors, with only the principals, their lawyers, and himself present.

The latter ruling was meant to keep Clark Mollenhoff safely out -- not an easy thing to do. When the hearings opened, Clark demanded to be allowed to enter. From inside the hearing room we could hear the Boomer's stentorian outrage, gradually diminishing as he was led away by the guards.

Mollenhoff's chief intention was to see Robert Hampton, chairman of the Civil Service Commission, and to get an explanation of why such a blatantly unconstitutional hearing was taking place. What we didn't know at the time was that Hampton had had a quiet handshake with Air Force Secretary Robert Seamans.

After a few days it was clear what we were up against. Staiman placed the entire burden of proof on me and my lawyers and restricted discovery of evidence to essentially whatever the Air Force chose to present. He limited executive branch witnesses to those officials the Air Force certified as knowledgeable and denied us the power to subpoena witnesses or records. Finally he stated that we must prove malicious intent, or what was "in Seamans's mind" when he terminated me.

Staiman's behavior on the bench was unjudicial, to say the least. He gave hand and eye signals to the opposition's witnesses and made one outrageous ruling after another. My lawyers protested it all, and the protests went into the eventual court record, but that was no substitute for an open hearing that would allow the public and the press to see what was happening.

The corpulent, indolent Staiman, secure in his arbitrary arrogance, was justified in his attitude for all practical purposes; he represented the combined forces of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, the Civil Service Commission, the Justice Department, and the all- powerful Nixon White House. Isolated against this awesome array was a somewhat countrified, mostly unemployed engineer represented by volunteer lawyers. But these weren't your run-of-the-mill volunteers going through the motions to fulfill a quota of public-interest hours. My guys were out to win for me and for the principles at stake.

After putting up with this treatment for a few days, Bodner and Sollee filed an interlocutory appeal with the U.S. Federal District Court in the District of Columbia requesting that presiding judge William Bryant order the Civil Service Commission to respect my constitutional right to an open hearing. In my experience, the so-called Justice Department, charged with representing the United States in court, always excuses and defends official wrongdoers in cases like mine. True to the pattern, when the hearing before Judge Bryant opened, the Justice Department lawyer began by reading civil service and Justice Department regulations to justify their holding closed, star-chamber hearings.

Judge Bryant interrupted. "I'm not interested in all that gobbledygook," he said. "Just tell me how justice is done."

It was a new concept for the lawyer, one that seemed to baffle him. (More than one Justice Department lawyer has since explained to me that their job is not to see justice done but to enforce the law.) The government men had run up against a fair-minded judge and a team of tough lawyers.

Judge Bryant ruled that "this closed hearing is unconstitutional," noting that both the Sixth Amendment and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 77(B) required an open court. As for the Air Force's plea that the closed session was necessary to protect my privacy, he said, "This consideration is obviously of no validity when it is the appellant-employee who wants the open hearing."

President Nixon and the Air Force appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, which upheld Judge Bryant. They considered carrying it to the Supreme Court but in the end backed down.

My civil service hearing before Staiman was resumed on January 26, 1973. The first witness was General Joseph Cappucci of the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). His preposterous testimony was that four secret informers (T-1, T-2, T-3, and T-4) had more or less wandered in off the street with allegations about me that he had felt compelled to investigate.

He then had to admit under questioning that he had tampered with the file on me by retaining the derogatory (false) allegations while destroying other field reports that demonstrated their falsity. He admitted that even after he had determined that the charges against me were not true, he had kept on circulating the dirt file containing them. At this point Staiman shut down this line of inquiry. He would not let us call the secret information even after we had determined that T-1 was my former assistant, Whitey Driessnack. (A closer look at all this would obviously have been painful for the Pentagon and, as it later developed, the White House.)

When Secretary Seamans came to the witness stand, Bodner first asked him if he had had any discussions or meetings with anyone from the White House before he fired me.

Seamans refused to answer.

Staiman then put the question in a slightly different way: "Did you consult with anyone in the White House or on the White House staff before you made your decision to dismiss Mr. Fitzgerald?"

"In answer to that question," Seamans said, "let me say -- if I may go back, Mr. Staiman, that I did not."

Apparently realizing that he had lied under oath, Seamans then tried to waffle. All he could say for sure was that he had not discussed my firing with anyone in industry or Congress. Beyond that, he said, he wouldn't answer unless advised to do so by his counselor Secretary of Defense Elliot Richardson.

After a recess the government's lawyer, Colonel Claude Teagarden, came back and invoked the doctrine of executive privilege.

On the second day of his testimony, Seamans, emboldened by the success of his executive privilege stonewall, was using it every time a question threatened to produce something embarrassing or incriminating. At this point we got one of those lucky breaks without which few citizens can prevail against the federal government. I always tried to have a spectator or two present, even if there were no reporters. We found that the hearing examiner's conduct was vastly improved when a stranger was watching him. Clark Mollenhoff, who had come to hear Cappucci's testimony, had been called away on another assignment. So one of my neighbors, Phil Ryther, was sitting in.

Phil was a former high official in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He had written some unwelcome warnings about unsafe practices by the charter airlines; the FAA, in consequence, had been in the process of railroading him out when his case came to Mollenhoff's attention. At about that time two fatal charter flight crashes occurred, as if to prove Phil's point; he was then able to negotiate early retirement. What he remembered particularly about Mollenhoff was his hatred for the royalist doctrine of executive privilege.

When he heard Seamans invoke executive privilege yet again, Phil left the hearing room, went to a pay phone, and called the Boomer. Luckily, Mollenhoff got the call just before he left for the presidential press conference described in Chapter 1.

At the White House Mollenhoff rose and boomed the question: had Nixon approved of Seamans's invocation of executive privilege? Or had Seamans simply used it on his own initiative? Nixon was taken by surprise -- the question hadn't been in the briefing book. (Years later we learned in discovery that Seamans and Colonel Teagarden had consulted on executive privilege with John Dean the day before. Dean wrote a memorandum for the president, but it didn't reach him until after the press conference.)

As I noted in Chapter 1, Nixon fudged on executive privilege by promising a "precise statement" in writing, but then blurted out the truth about his approval of my ouster.

Later in the Oval Office came the postmortem scene revealed by the tapes. Nixon was not exactly pleased with the unauthorized invocation of the sacred doctrine:

NIXON: Well, anyway, I backed it up --


NIXON: -- which I shouldn't.

EHRLlCHMAN: Yeah, well that's fine and we're --

NIXON: Seamans claimed it.

EHRLICHMAN: We're covering your tracks.

NIXON: I didn't want to have any indication of somebody down the line having used privilege, uh, without --

EHRLICHMAN: Okay, it's okay. We're coverin' his tracks. Uh, Seamans was wrong, he had no right to invoke it, but you backed him up and we can put it, we can put it together in such a way that everything's okay, and, uh, don't worry about it.

Nixon ruminated on this, and in a later conversation picked up on the theme again:

NIXON: But I had to back up the son of a bitch Seamans.

EHRLICHMAN: Here's what we've done. Just so you can get a feel of it. You know the procedure is if a cabinet officer wants to invoke executive privilege, he refers it to the attorney general --

NIXON: Yeah.

EHRLICHMAN: -- and it eventually comes to you if it's, if it's meritorious. So I --

NIXON: I invoke.

EHRLlCHMAN: That's right and so what, what we're saying is, by the language Seamans used, he was beginning the process. Here it goes on. Meanwhile, he has referred this to the attorney general. The attorney general's going to look at this and make a decision as to whether he should answer the question or not. And you were aware of this fact and you acquiesced in the procedure being started. He made no final ruling.

That taken care of, all that remained was Nixon's embarrassing admission that he'd fire me. But there was always an easy way to solve such problems: have Ziegler go out and lie about it.

At the press conference the next day, February 1, Ziegler did just that: "We can find no record ... of the matter ever being brought to the president's attention.... (It) was a matter dealt with solely by the Air Force." Seamans echoed this fiction in a press conference he called a week after Nixon's.

John Bodner's next bold move in the civil service hearing was to request that President Nixon testify. Remember that this was before the crumbling of the Watergate cover-up; Nixon was at the height of his power. To call the most powerful man in the world to testify at a bureaucratic hearing into the firing of a middle-level functionary was lese majesty of an outrageous kind. It was as if some puny colonies in the New World had called George III to account for his actions in 1776. Even my friends thought Bodner was presumptuous. I thought he was magnificent.

In a written plea to Staiman, Bodner eloquently laid out the reasons for calling Nixon; if it was impossible for the president to appear himself, Bodner said, there was a Jeffersonian precedent for his testifying by deposition in a court case. Richard Nixon was served a copy of Bodner's letter, but he ignored it, as had the awed Staiman. Our requests to put on the stand all four T's (the secret informers), Melvin Laird, David Packard, OSI Training Director Michael Ross, and John Dean were also denied.

Aside from Nixon, the most controversial witness we requested was Clark Mollenhoff, who at this time was still struggling with conflicting loyalties. He had been a counselor to the president and he was not yet convinced that Nixon was a crook. He wanted to testify, but first he wanted to give Nixon a chance to remedy the injustice.

When Mollenhoff approached Ziegler with a request to talk with the president, nothing happened, so he wrote a long letter to Nixon on February 13. In it he said that what troubled him most was the testimony of General Cappucci, which revealed the secret informers, the destruction of exonerating material, and the circulation of the dirt file. Mollenhoff spoke of "an enormous wrong," a suspected "malicious conspiracy," and "an irreparable injury" to me.

According to evidence we later discovered in the White House tapes, Nixon, seemingly ready to make amends, conferred with Dean on February 28. Dean had met with Mollenhoff the night before to persuade him to turn over some of his documentation and a summary of the testimony he wanted to give. On February 28 Mollenhoff sent a three-page letter with attachments.

He had fallen into a clever trap quite worthy of John Dean and Richard Nixon: they immediately turned the letter and attachments over to the Air Force lawyers. To squelch Mollenhoff, White House lawyers Fred Fielding and Joe Adams, who were running interference for the malefactors, permitted the Air Force to draft a legal ban on testimony by Mollenhoff on the grounds of executive privilege.

Needless to say, the Boomer didn't buy it. Ignoring the legalistic obstacles, he simply appeared at my hearing and demanded to testify. The most restrained and dignified account of the scene appeared in the New York Times of March 22, 1973:

Mr. Mollenhoff was at the hearing room this morning in a noisy, animated and unscheduled appearance.

He called the proceedings a "kangaroo court" and said that he was ready to testify. "Every effort is being made to keep the facts from being put on the line," he said.

Mr. Staiman said that he was interrupting the hearing.

"If the truth is an interference, then I am interfering," Mr. Mollenhoff said.

"If you don't stop your interruptions, I'll have to ask you to leave the room," Mr. Staiman said.

Mr. Mollenhoff left a short time later.... "It is the most peculiar effort to extend executive privilege to someone who doesn't want it" (he said).

Actually, that is a pale and muted description of the raucous encounter between the big Boomer and the puffy Staiman. Everybody in the neighborhood of the hearing room became well informed about the wrath of a freeborn citizen with powerful lungs who was just trying to do his duty.

When Mollenhoff discovered that Dean and Nixon had passed on the material he had given them in confidence, while withholding it from me and my lawyers, he erupted again. He bundled up documents he had saved from his White House days, along with copies of his letters to Dean and Nixon, and sent them to me.

Righteous indignation was not his only motive, however. Beneath the public Boomer was a man with a warm and considerate nature, and his compelling reason came from there. In his cover letter to me, he said:

The tragic death of Kenneth Cook and the memory of his last visits to my office leave me with no alternative. I do not want to be in the position in your case of asking myself later if I might have done more to correct an injustice, and know the answer I would have to give myself if I remained silent.

I knew how Clark felt because I too had been strongly affected by Kenneth Cook's death. Cook had been an Air Force weapons analyst, a mathematician and physicist with a fine record for evaluations of advanced weapons systems. His downfall came when he made an accurate and damning study of plans for some useless and very expensive secret weapons that his Air Force superiors favored. Under pressure from them, he refused to alter his analysis. So against Ken Cook the military used the cruelest kind of KGB tactics: they declared him mentally incompetent. Two civilian psychiatrists who examined him contradicted the allegation, and even the Air Force's own top psychiatrist found him nothing more than a "perfectionist" who was "relatively inflexible" in defending his views. I had some personal knowledge of the idiotic proposals Cook had examined, and he would have had to be insane to approve them.

I had learned about the Cook case when I was a consultant to Congressman Jerry Waldie's civil service subcommittee. We were told that the Air Force was indeed permitted to declare someone mentally incompetent without getting a psychiatrist's opinion! All it took were statements by three people equal or superior in rank to the victim. Or the local military sawbones on his own could declare a government employee mentally incompetent. (After the Cook case and other outrages, the rules were changed: a psychiatrist had to make the finding.)

After he was fired, Kenneth Cook found it almost impossible to get a job. The ACLU gave him some legal help, but the legal bases for his mistreatment were unclear. Most judges supported the idea that there was no recourse beyond a review by the Civil Service Commission, that pliant creature of the executive branch.

Cook tried hard through legal and political means to get the decision reversed, but politicians and officials alike were indifferent or hostile. He did valuable volunteer work for public-interest groups and members of Congress, helping to debunk the antiballistic missile proposals.

Eventually his slim resources ran out. When he fell behind in paying his property taxes, his home in New Mexico was auctioned off, in spite of public outcry. The sale brought him a check for fifty-seven cents. I saw him the day that happened, and when he showed me the ridiculous check, that strong man broke down and cried. He was never the same afterward. He went through the motions of fighting his case, but despair and poverty began to crush him. He ate only one meal a day. Having no bus fare, he trudged miles between his rented room in Virginia and the congressional or executive branch offices he haunted.

Though I was only partly employed myself, I bought him lunch whenever I could. Clark Mollenhoff did even more. Cook stopped at Mollenhoff's downtown office frequently, and Clark would take time out to buy him a meal and drive him to his next destination.

One January day in 1973, sick, ragged, and weak, Kenneth dropped dead in a department store across the street from Mollenhoff's office. He was just fifty-nine. Aside from a few old clothes and books found in his room, his entire estate consisted of the seven dollars and thirty-two cents in his pocket.

From Ken Cook's sad story, I learned not to be obsessive about injustice. I would fight hard, but I wouldn't let the fight consume me. I learned to close "the case" off in a separate compartment of my mind. Above all, I learned that you can't fight long without friends and allies. And I had some of the best. My skillful lawyers, along with men such as Mollenhoff, Proxmire, and Dickinson, were beginning to turn the tide in my civil service case. And when we finally beat down the absurd attempt to apply executive privilege to him, the Boomer in full basso profundo at last came into Court.

On April 2, 1973, a long New York Times editorial described Mollenhoff's testimony. After noting that he "cut sharply through the double talk and obfuscation with which the White House and the Air Force spokesmen have muddied the case," the Times asked:

Do the military believe that the protection of official extravagance, inefficiency, and collusion with the contractors is vital to national security? If that is prevailing doctrine, then Congress and the American people might as well resign themselves to giving the Pentagon a blank check. ... It is particularly disconcerting that so many members of that cast have played important roles in a succession of alarming episodes -- from Watergate to I.T.T. to Fitzgerald. All these episodes have in common the arrogant use of executive power, the aggrandizement of special interests, and the deception of the American people.

In the April 4, 1973, issue of the Washington Post, columnist Nicholas von Hoffman had a colorful description of the Mollenhoff intervention:

The Big Boomer had fought his way to the witness stand and was letting fly: a good public servant is getting the axe because of the conspiracy in the Air Force ... the scoundrels in the Air Force are trying to frame Mr. Fitzgerald ... the brutality of the military bureaucracy.

Mollenhoff, he added, was a "loudly honest man," and the hearing "had the polite, slightly nasty decorum of an ecclesiastical trial's certainty of foregone conclusion, of a priori judgment." Von Hoffman continued his Inquisition metaphor:

Each time the Big Boomer would let go with another epithet, Colonel Teagarden, the Air Force's lawyer, would coil backward and, like a prosecutorial abbot, turn his head away and smile the corners of his mouth downward in sweet disdain. He and the government had tried to keep the heretical Mollenhoff from testifying, but he was there, bellowing reproofs at them, so they tried to make him out as a maniac with a crazy hair inside irritating his gut.

By this time the government's case had begun to wither. Air Force Assistant Secretary Spencer Schedler appeared on the stand with a severe loss of memory. He couldn't recall his conversations just prior to his testimony to Proxmire's committee. Under sharp examination by my lawyers, though, he was forced to admit that he had not told the truth before the committee. Like Seamans, he kept refusing to answer on the grounds of executive privilege. Forced into a corner by Bill Sollee, he had to concede that he had violated the federal criminal statute against corporations lending employees to political campaigns and continuing to pay them as if they were doing their regular jobs. (As I noted earlier, Schedler had worked on the 1968 Spiro Agnew campaign -- he was on the payroll of the Sinclair Oil Company at the time.)


From the day he became dictator Mussolini began paying back the men who paid him in 1920. He abolished the tax on inheritance, for example, because it was supposed to end big fortunes, and that of course meant loss of money for the rich, who had in a body gone over to Fascism after 1922. But Mussolini did not have the courage to abolish the political democratic system all at once, and he had many opposition parties which criticized and attacked him. His chief opponent was the Socialist deputy Matteotti.

The reason Matteotti had to die was because he committed the one unforgivable crime in a Fascist nation: he exposed the profits in Fascism.

There is no program, no policy, no ideology and certainly no philosophy back of Fascism, as there is back of almost every other form of government. It is nothing but a spoils system. We too in America have a spoils system, which is talked about every four years when a President is elected, and sometimes when a governor is elected, but this refers largely to a few jobs, a little graft, a considerable payoff for the boys in the back room of politics. It is also true that we in America have ruling families, men and corporations who put up most of the money for elections, and do not do so because one candidate has baby blue eyes and the other is beetle-browed. It is done for money, and the investors in politics are repaid. But Fascism is a system whereby a handful of ruling families get the entire nation.

It was Matteotti who discovered in 1924 that Mussolini, who had "marched" to Rome in a Pullman sleeper in 1922, was beginning to pay back the secret forces which had paid the money to put Fascism in power.

On May 27th, a few days before he was kidnapped and assassinated by Mussolini's gangsters and family friends, Matteotti denounced in the Italian parliament a law which would have given a monopoly in oil to the Sinclair firm -- the same corporation run by Harry Sinclair which was involved in the filthy muck of the Teapot Dome Scandal, and incidentally the same Harry Sinclair who told Dorothy Thompson that he and his associates put up most of the money to buy the Presidency of the United States every four years.

On June 10, 1924, when the entire front pages of the American press were given over to the Loeb-Leopold case in Chicago, Matteotti was killed by Mussolini's own orders, and not a line appeared in most newspapers. On the 16th Arnaldo, brother of the Duce, printed a warning in his Popolo d'ltalia against public clamor for an investigation of the murder, saying such a request was in reality a demand that Mussolini abdicate. But the London Daily Herald told the truth. Matteotti, having challenged the Sinclair oil deal, had prepared a documentary expose proving that Balbo, Grandi, Arnaldo, Mussolini himself and the biggest men in the Fascist government had been engaged in a tremendous graft and corruption deal in relation to the oil monopoly.

For all this the Undersecretary of Home Affairs, Finzi, was made the scapegoat; the evidence was plain that he was among the grafters, and as he was also one of the big financial profiteers of a Fascist law legalizing gambling, he resigned in an uproar. In apology the Roman press said that "thousands of jailbirds have joined the Fascist Party since the March on Rome," and that Finzi was not a good party member.

Finzi was a small shot. Matteotti was using the Sinclair oil graft scandal to hit at the big shots, and the Fascists were throwing Finzi to the mob to save the real profiteers of the system. Matteotti had prepared a documentation which showed that the big bankers, the great industrial baronies such as Ansaldo, the great landowners and the war profiteers who had made billions while Italy hungered, were to be given the wealth of Italy.

-- Facts and Fascism, by George Seldes

120 Broadway: Sinclair Gulf Corp.

-- America's Secret Establishment -- Introduction to the Order of Skull and Bones, by Antony C. Sutton

It may have been coincidence, but Schedler was gone from the Air Force a couple of months after his embarrassing testimony, and Seamans left a couple of weeks after that. Was the Air Force quicker to correct public relations mistakes than billion-dollar procurement bungles?

The government's case had turned into an evidential disaster. Seamans had invoked executive privilege fifty-four times, and his assistants had used it repeatedly. Factually and morally we had won, but after three and a half years of the Civil Service Commission's brand of legality, I had the sinking feeling that my effort to be reinstated was doomed. Every indication was that Examiner Staiman was under orders to let the Air Force off the hook.

I didn't realize how much the tide of events in the larger world was running in our favor that spring and summer. Richard Nixon's Watergate stonewall was beginning to collapse and, unbeknownst to us, John Dean was spilling his guts to the staff of Senator Ervin's committee.

The Watergate inquiry produced some small glimmers of light on my case. Dean told Ervin's committee in public testimony that Nixon had asked him to look into my case but that he had been fired before he had done much investigation. His assistant, David Wilson, however, had "a rather extensive file" on me. Senator Inouye wanted to call Wilson as a witness and to dig more deeply into the case, but Ervin overruled him. On June 29, 1973, Bodner requested that file.

Wilson, the file revealed, had tried to reconstruct the circumstances of my firing. There was plenty of documentary evidence that Seamans had consulted frequently with White House people (especially Bryce Harlow) about firing me. As for executive privilege, the Justice Department had told Wilson that Seamans had invoked it improperly, quite without authorization.

If there is any lesson from Watergate and from my case that the American people should remember, it is that executive privilege is usually the hideout of scoundrels. I think Nixon himself summed it up with remarkable clarity when he told Ehrlichman, "You should have the most god-awful gobbledygook answer prepared. Just put it out on executive privilege. Something that will allow us to do everything we want."

After Dean and Wilson left the White House in early 1973, Fred Fielding and Dudley Chapman picked up the Fitzgerald case. On July 9 Chapman delivered a report to Leonard Garment. The uncensored portion that we have gives a straightforward account of my Proxmire committee testimony, an admission of Nixon's hand in my firing, and the remarks about my "acerbic personality" quoted in Chapter 3.

The Chapman Report, as it was known, seems to have been widely circulated in the White House. It produced this reply to Garment from Pat Buchanan:

Fitzgerald has gone through enough, the CSC hearing is doing us no good whatsoever; there is a good measure of justice in Fitzgerald's complaint, and the president would be well served by a speedy and just, if not charitable, resolution of the matter. ...

Perhaps we should get together quietly with Fitzgerald and his attorney and find a resolution satisfactory to him -- and not damaging to the president's interests.

Nothing came of this, although the suggestion was taken up with Melvin Laird, as Buchanan requested. The wrongdoing had been proved over and over again, and it was clear to everybody who knew anything about the case that the administration was guilty. Why, then, did they persist?

I believe that the reasons went far beyond my individual case. I believe that the president himself might have made amends (or so Buchanan told one of my lawyers). But the major principle at stake was that of omerta. The military spending complex simply had to banish the man who broke silence, the maverick who couldn't be trusted to lie. Let him back in and there goes the neighborhood. If my ordeal demonstrated a second lesson to the country, that, I hope, would be it.

In the meantime, in another part of the forest, a different dark force, generally known as the Internal Revenue Service, was at work. On the Watergate stand John Dean revealed how the Nixon White House plotted to use the IRS Special Service Staff to "screw" Nixon's enemies. The infamous White House draft memorandum of August 16, 1971, "Dealing with Our Political Enemies," laid out the objectives:

This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration. Stated a bit more bluntly how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

It went on to say that the tough guys on the staff (Colson, Dent, Flannigan, and Buchanan) should select the victims. The favored agency to do the screwing was the IRS, but -- and this would have come as news to the National Taxpayers Union -- the Nixon hit men considered the IRS too fair and objective. The undated (probably summer 1971) "I.R.S. Talking Paper" describes it:

The I.R.S. is a monstrous bureaucracy, which is dominated and controlled by Democrats. The I.R.S. bureaucracy has been unresponsive and insensitive to both the White House and the Treasury in many areas.

In brief, the lack of key Republican bureaucrats at high levels precludes the initiation of policies which would be proper and politically advantageous. Practically every effort to proceed in sensitive areas has been met with resistance, delay, and the threat of derogatory exposure. New plans were laid:

(A) To accomplish: Make I.R.S. politically responsive. Democrat administrations have discreetly used I.R.S. most effectively. We have been unable.

(B) The Problem: Lack of guts and effort. The Republican appointees appear afraid and unwilling to do anything that could be politically helpful.

For example:

- We have been unable to crack down on the multitude of tax exempt foundations that feed left wing political causes.

- We have been unable to obtain information in the possession of I.R.S. regarding our political enemies.

- We have been unable to stimulate audits of persons who should be audited.

- We have been unsuccessful in placing RN supporters in the I.R.S. bureaucracy.

The agreed-on solution was to lay down the (illegal) law to IRS chief Johnnie Walters. From now on he was to cooperate with White House hatchetman Fred Malek to "make personnel changes to make I.R.S. responsive to President" and was to take on discreet political action and investigations himself.

Along with all the other good stuff he revealed about the exploitation of the IRS, Dean disclosed the "enemies list." But Dean never made clear (in public, at least) what was to be done to the enemies. It took a later and much lower-key investigation by the Congressional Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation to smoke out the actual operation of the IRS hit squad, the Special Service Staff.

It may be that some of the well-known Establishment figures on the enemies list were set upon by this hit squad, but I saw no evidence of it in my glimpse of the operation. The squad did make an effort to nab me.

The first entry in the Special Service Staff dossier on me was a clipping, an October 10, 1971, column by Clark Mollenhoff asking why my Civil Service Commission hearing was still being held behind locked doors. From that point on the staff collected information on my legal adventures. Years later John Bodner, whose name appeared in most of the news stories about me, told me he had been audited nearly every year after he took my case.

When the IRS learned that one of my vehicles for opposing wasteful military spending was my chairmanship of the National Taxpayers Union, they sicced the FBI on the NTU. And they targeted NTU's executive director, Jim Davidson, and our adviser, Bob Kephart.

As for me, the Special Service Staff for quite some time made the mistake of targeting Edward Fitzgerald instead of Ernest. (I often wondered what the IRS and the FBI did to poor Ed. Perhaps they went after him for not reporting the royalties from his translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.)

I must admit that the Staff was bureaucratically neat. They divided the enemies to be screwed into separate groups. Since there didn't seem to be a "whistle blowers" file for me, I was lumped with the NTU, Davidson, and Kephart as "Affiliation: War Tax Resister." My dossier contained several government memorandums explaining what war tax resistance was and who practiced it: Quakers, pacifists, and a group that included Bradford Lyttle, Allen Ginsberg, Pete Seeger, and Kenneth Love. But we of the NTU were in an even more dangerous subsection of tax resisters -- all-tax resisters. As the file notes, the NTU "opposes all taxes, not just those for war."

The Staff was also watching my assistance to Representative Waldie, who was trying to squeeze some fat out of the federal employees' excessively high Blue Cross-Blue Shield Insurance premiums. Doubtless a subversive activity. An anonymous source denounced me as "a troublesome pinch penny." There was some truth to that.

But then came a most embarrassing entry in my file: "Current transcripts reflect taxpayer has filed and paid income tax for period 1971. Overpayment of $1,835.46 has been applied to the 1972 taxable period" (emphasis added). How could I pose as a dangerous radical with that on my record? Would my bolshie friends at NTU ever speak to me again if they knew? Thanks to my supercautious accountant (my wife, Nell) and my ultraconservative tax preparer, I was in the clear. The IRS hit squad persisted with repeated "desk audits," investigations, and close surveillance of my activities, but they lost heart about the time my civil service hearing was declared open. (After Nixon's overwhelming victory in November 1972, the White House dropped its attempts to block Judge Bryant's June ruling that my hearing should be open.) At that point the file peters out.


On August 1, 1973, the team of Nixon and the military irretrievably lost the phony civil service case against me. Again the Watergate investigation produced the evidence, and Senator Inouye brought it out. During Robert Haldeman's appearance on the stand, Inouye introduced the "let him bleed for awhile" memo from Colonel Butterfield to Haldeman. Though Haldeman's lawyer protested, Senator Ervin ruled the line of questioning relevant because it touched the issue of the loyalty owed by staffers to the president even when he and his associates were engaged in illegal activity. It was a key issue in the whole Watergate affair, especially after Butterfield's disclosure of the Oval Office taping system on July 16, 1973.

Haldeman waffled, stalled, and dissembled about White House involvement in my firing. He did not reveal what we later learned, that the Butterfield memo had been the result of a what-to-do-with-Fitzgerald meeting among top White House plotters in January 1970. But Haldeman also -- probably inadvertently -- did us a favor by suggesting clearly that Butterfield's attitude toward me sprang from his loyalty to the brotherhood of Air Force officers. It gave off a strong whiff of conspiracy.
After the disclosure of the Butterfield memo, civilians in the White House and the Pentagon began to show a desire to settle with me. The welter of staff memos we later acquired through legal discovery told the tale. It was suggested to Leonard Garment that the president let bygones be bygones. Peacemaker Mollenhoff met with Laird, now a special assistant to Nixon, and urged that I be reinstated. Laird seemed favorable; even Schlesinger, Laird's successor at Defense, weighed in for a resolution. His assistant, Marty Hoffman, called the White House and offered to help make peace. Apparently this brought a strong negative reaction from the diehards, and Hoffman next proposed that I be stowed away at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW).

The civilians could propose, but increasingly the military were disposing. Al Haig, now a four-star general, had succeeded Haldeman and was fast becoming the real master of the White House staff. As students of the Nixon era will recall, Haig had been Kissinger's assistant at the beginning of the administration and had installed the illegal wiretaps for Kissinger; it's no surprise that he opposed any concession in my case.

One of Bill Sollee's sources was a secretary in the White House who was secretly sympathetic to us. Notes she gave Sollee showed that even Air Force General Counsel Jack Stempler leaned toward a settlement, sensing that he was about to lose the civil service decision. Even so, Stempler (who didn't know me at all) insisted that I was "unable to work with anyone." The White House civilian staff, now a rather different group from that of the Haldeman-Ehrlichman days of arrogance, wouldn't accept that. What scared them was the real possibility that Seamans's lies about my leaking classified documents could bring on a libel suit.

Our White House sources also told us that the staff feared a criminal action against Seamans because it was a crime to retaliate against an employee on the basis of his testimony before Congress or to obstruct a congressional committee. A White House summary memorandum commenting on my lawyers' closing CSC brief noted that the publicity surrounding my case could even hurt the administration's chances of getting what it wanted in the new defense budget. "It makes ... sense to enlist Fitzgerald's skills in correcting the things he criticizes to the extent that they exist."

That was a naive view. The civilians in the White House simply had no idea how gluttonous and fat the military beast was. The military, on the other hand, had a good idea of the scale of the stealing that was going on. At that point it seemed to be a standoff. Then, suddenly, everything began to change.

On September 19, 1973, I was working on a writing project in my office at home when Bill Sollee called and said, "You got your job back." The Civil Service Commission had ruled that I'd been improperly fired and must be restored to duty with back pay. Senator Proxmire's office phoned with his one-word reaction, "Hallelujah!"

I was euphoric. I had won what I considered the patriotic battle, and I had also won a very personal battle. The firing and the years of financial insecurity had been stressful ones for my family. Most of my time had been taken up with legal questions; my part-time earnings in 1973, for example, had been just $6,000. The oldest of my three children was just starting college. The promise of back pay and a steady income was a godsend. Too good to be true?

Of course. As soon as I saw Staiman's written decision, I had a great sinking feeling. He admitted that my firing had been illegal, but he attributed the firing to the Air Force's unhappiness about publicity surrounding my loss of tenure following my C-5A testimony. No witness had ever even suggested this cause and effect. It was a phony verdict meant to stave off the possibility of a criminal prosecution.

Although he restored my job, Staiman denied me everything else. The derogatory information would not be expunged from my file. I was awarded no damages, costs, or attorneys' fees for our enormous expenses in fighting United States government injustice.

Bodner argued powerfully against the decision, citing the testimony of General Cappucci, which -- against interest -- showed the falsity of the Air Force case. But the Civil Service Commission, having dared as much as it wanted to, left the rest up to the Air Force.

The details of my reinstatement were now split between the civilian secretariat of the Air Force and the military Air Staff, which controlled everything except the question of whether to appeal the CSC ruling. The new secretary of the Air Force, John McLucas, decided to stall on that question until the last minute. Finally, on October 3, the Air Force announced it would not appeal. The main burden of the rear-guard battle fell on the Air Staff, which had determined to oppose me at every point and to make me and my lawyers expend time and money on every niggling detail of my return to duty.

I was mortally tired of this unequal fight. I had come to view the opposition as incredibly powerful, corrupt, and dishonest. I could think of few eras in American history when one organization so dominated its province as to be above criticism and above the law. There was the period of the big city bosses -- Tammany and Boss Tweed in New York, for example -- and the time when the Capone gang made the Chicago area virtually a warlord's fiefdom. And there was the era when the robber barons controlled a large part of the American economy. But heretofore in our history we had always made the military answerable to civilian laws and direction.

I have laid out the many small details of my case to illustrate a new development in our history that most Americans are scarcely aware of. In other banana republics the military comes to power with a sudden coup and the installation of a junta. Here it is different. Power in America is not a matter of controlling the police forces and the media. America runs on money. And the military has quietly come to vast economic power by taking vast amounts of the federal income for itself.


I decided to try to enlist the support of Senator Harry Byrd, Jr., of Virginia. I had long been an admirer of the tightwad instincts of the Byrd dynasty, which had dominated Virginia politics since the New Deal days. They had kept the state debt-free up to the time I moved there. The elder Senator Byrd, Harry, Sr., had fought some good battles. He had exposed the government stockpiling of tons of feathers (yes, feathers), and he had pointed to its stockpiling of spruce lumber for the construction of aircraft when spruce had not been used in airplanes for forty years. Senator Harry Byrd, Jr., with some of the same tightwad ideas, had played a big part in defeating the subsidy for the supersonic transport.

When I called on him, Senator Byrd promised to help. This led to a meeting with Jack Marsh, an assistant secretary of defense, and then Marty Hoffman and Hugh Witt of Schlesinger's staff. Hoffman and Witt had put their heads together, and they had a terrific deal for me. I'd work in a part of the Pentagon where I'd be separated from my "enemies" in the Air Force. I'd be assigned to a Department of Defense commission to study the standardization of small hardware parts.

Did they mean nuts and bolts, I asked.

They stammered a bit and finally said, "Well, yes."

Hugh Witt became agitated. He said, "I know what you're going to do. You're going out to tell everybody that we tried to put you in deep freeze by assigning to you a commission to study nuts and bolts."

"Well," I said, "isn't that what you're doing?"

They began to argue that the commission would study more than nuts and bolts (screws and washers?) and that it was an important subject.

I agreed as to the importance, but I pointed out that professional organizations such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and others had already done the job.

In the end they asked with embarrassment that I not tell anyone about their proposal. Until this writing, I have kept their secret.

Meanwhile, with the Air Force stalling on appeal and the secretary of defense dithering, President Nixon expressed the "hope," in a September 19 memo from Garment via Nixon assistant Jerry Warren to Ziegler, that the Air Force would not fight the CSC decision. The hope? Nixon was commander in chief of the armed forces.

On October 17, 1973, I was summoned to the Pentagon for a most interesting interview with William Woodruff, the new assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management. I had plenty of reason to be dubious about this man, who had been an assistant to Senator Richard Russell of Georgia at the time of my testimony on the C-5A -- which was assembled in Georgia by Russell's constituents. Woodruff was also an old crony of General Pete Crow -- they had worked together to minimize my C-5A testimony -- and Crow, now assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force, was top bird in the Air Force military bureaucracy.

Despite our past differences, I planned to start off on a positive note with Bill Woodruff. I asked him what goals he aimed for in his new job. If they were good, I told him, I wanted to help achieve them.

"What do you mean?" he asked. "Goals?"

"What do you hope to achieve?"

He dithered for a minute. Finally he said that he wanted "three years of good service."

Translation from the bureaucratese: retirement with a higher pension at the end of three years. Government retirement pay is based on the three highest-paid years of one's career. He was now making more than he'd ever made as a staff assistant in Congress.

Another of his goals, it developed, was to deny me my old job. I was astonished. I pointed out that the CSC ruling required the Air Force to return me to that job "as though the adverse action had never taken place."

Woodruff began to lecture me sternly. "I cannot erase the stigma on you," he said. I was "under a cloud." There were "a lot of people who do not consider you a good employee." He added that he could make it possible for me to do a good job and "erase those clouds."

I had been under the misapprehension that I, at great expense of time, energy, money, and stomach lining, had won a decision.

He said that I would have to prove myself before I would be allowed to do anything with major weapons systems. "Surely you don't think I would let you look at the B-1 bomber?" he asked.

"Why not?" I said. "From what I hear, it's as fat as a goose."

Not exactly the most diplomatic thing to say. Woodruff noted that Pete Crow and the Air Force military comptroller, General Joe deLuca, would have to approve before I could go back to my old job. I'd also been demoted: I was now to report to Woodruff's deputy, Thomas Moran.

I decided to see whether I could work something out amicably with Moran. When I asked him what his goals were, Moran, a senior apparatchik overdue for retirement, said with refreshing honesty, "My goals are just to answer the mail."

I finally got an audience with the great man himself. Secretary McLucas seemed passive and completely detached. Almost dreamily, he let me know that he was "deferring to the staff," and if I didn't like it, I could appeal to the Civil Service Commission.

I didn't like it, and my lawyers did appeal, but we did not learn until later in legal discovery that the Air Force had already colluded with the Civil Service Commission to approve my assignment to a minimal job. Given what the Air Force had on CSC Chairman Hampton (Seamans had involved him in the secret plot against me back in 1969), only minimal pressure was needed.

The lesser job assignment put me in a dilemma. If I refused McLucas's order to report for duty in the make-work job, I could be fired for not following orders. If I accepted it, I had lost my long fight against wasteful spending. If I tried again in the CSC court, I would probably lose. I decided to accept a narrow foothold in the Pentagon and see what I could make of it.

On December 10, 1973, I reported to Woodruff's office, where he had gathered as witnesses eight or ten weenies from the military staff and the Air Force legal corps.

I had a little surprise for them. I had learned enough about the bureaucratic labyrinth to know that with the reduction-in-force pretense demolished, the action to fire me had to be cancelled retroactively. I told Woodruff and the assembled weenies that I was reporting for duty in my old job.

At first Woodruff was nonplussed, but the weenie lawyers came to his rescue. My old job no longer existed, they said. I had, indeed, been restored to it at 12:01 A.M. that very morning. However, at 12:02 I had been transferred to the new, lesser job. If I wanted to make an appeal, it would have to be about the 12:02 transfer. Of course they denied that the new job was a lesser one.

I imagined a scene that could take place only in the world's greatest bureaucracy: Air Force apparatchiks stealing in the dark of the night to the Pentagon. At exactly 12:01, "Rubber stamps ready, men!" Unheard-of speed in stamping and processing the documents that restored me to my old job. Then at 12:02, with an efficiency never seen in these parts before, processing the transfer papers.

Henry Durham described the end of his career at Lockheed thus:

When it became known that I might go outside with the problem, Mr. Paul Frech, the director of manufacturing, was sent to Chattanooga to see me. (Our) conversation was predictably short. The first thing he said was, "Do you know what happened to Ernie Fitzgerald, who went to Washington with some Lockheed problems?" When I said I didn't, Frech said, "He's now chief shit-house inspector for the Civil Service Commission and will never be able to get a good job as long as he lives" (Erwin Kroll, "The Education of Henry Durham," reprinted from The Progressive, 1972).
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Re: The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagem

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6. Dr. Doom's Dollar Model

I RETURNED TO THE PENTAGON on December 10, 1973, with a gloomy feeling that when nobody was looking, the Pentagon had become an independent entity outside the laws of the United States. What should have been a solid legal victory for me had produced no more than a minor, grudging concession. And the extent of petty vindictiveness was hard to believe. Although the Civil Service Commission had ruled that I had a right to my back pay, the Air Force refused to give it to me. It took several months of legal fighting to get a partial settlement. Both John Bodner and Bill Sollee stuck by me in the continuing legal fight with the Air Force and the CSC.

Bodner was so outraged by their perfidy that he agreed to draw up a damage suit against those who had retaliated against me. I was sick of appeals and legal processes, but I decided to carry on the fight. The complaint was against Alexander Butterfield and several high-level Pentagon officials; though we did not know at the time about the roles of Richard Nixon, Bryce Harlow, Harold Brown, Robert Hampton, and others in the conspiracy, John put in a John Doe clause on the chance that others had been involved.

At first it looked as if John and I were taking on the whole federal establishment on our own, but on February 20, 1974, we received a letter from Ralph Temple of the ACLU saying that both the local ACLU and the powerful national organization "would become fully associated" with us. This meant that the national ACLU would pay the expenses of the litigation and provide some staff assistance. It seemed like a gift from the gods. With those problems in the best of hands, I could concentrate on my much-circumscribed job and look for some ways to save money in the swollen military budget.


After the Saturday Night Massacre and the firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in October 1973, the Nixon presidency had seemed doomed. For me there was one significant quote that other people seemed to have missed in all the commotion. When Attorney General Richardson refused to fire Cox, Alexander Haig ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to do the job, reportedly in these words: "Your commander in chief has given you an order."

This was more than the usual Al Haig bluster; it was a general's symptomatic misconstruction of the Constitution. The president is commander in chief of the armed forces, not of the entire nation. With respect to the rest of us, our elected leader's primary function is "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." But the military mind was formed with the Macedonian phalanx of hoplites, where unquestioning obedience was the key to victory. When a commander gives an order, legality is irrelevant.

The Pentagon, from my worm's eye view, had the ethic of the phalanx, though it had no Alexander. The military men knew by heart every bureaucratic detail, every arcane regulation for what many considered the only legitimate function of government: the common defense, or at least expenditure for defense. They were the only ones with the right vision for the nation. They knew what would make the United States both secure and prosperous: military discipline and military spending.

In many ways James Schlesinger was the ideal person to con America into a defense spending boom after the disillusionment of the Asian wars. He was plausible, intelligent, energetic, and completely uncowed by facts. These talents made him a good propagandist and a favorite of Richard Nixon, who promoted him to higher and higher jobs. As soon as he became secretary of defense, Schlesinger pushed for huge, unprecedented peacetime increases in the military budget. Schlesinger's other great qualification for his new post was that he was really good at scaring the daylights out of the American people. He always saw the Russians or their missiles coming over the horizon in such hordes that the underground circle of cynics in the Pentagon named him "Dr. Doom."

Before his defense appointment Schlesinger had been director of the CIA, where he had brought to prominence an unusual method for assessing the military expenditures of the Soviet Union. This shaggy creature was called the Dollar Model. Using this model, we no longer had to ferret out how many rubles the Soviets were spending on their military establishment; we would just estimate the size of that establishment. Then we (or the private contractors) would estimate what it would cost us in dollars to reproduce that establishment here. In other words, what would it cost the United States to buy for dollars every ship, radar, missile, uniform, tank, plane, and artillery piece now owned by the USSR? And, furthermore, what would it cost us to maintain that establishment under American, not Russian, conditions for the coming year (as if we were paying upkeep on our new purchase)? With the Dollar Model, every price-boosting blunder in a California aerospace plant, every slick bookkeeping dodge by a contractor in Detroit was added to the "cost" of running the Soviet military machine. Each time the C-5A overran its estimate, the Dollar Model price of its approximate counterpart, the Soviet AN-22, increased proportionately.

Estimating the Soviet military payroll was an even more incredible exercise. The Red Army draftees are issued new footrags (reportedly -- not socks) and a few rubles per month; American soldiers' pay is princely by comparison. The Dollar Model attributed American pay to the huge Soviet armed forces and included all military personnel doing essentially civilian duties, for example, as border guards or internal security duty.

And lo! The estimated Soviet expenditures doubled before our eyes. They got no more bang for a ruble, but they "spent" a lot more rubles. That sure as hell increased The Threat. As LTV Aerospace Vice President Samuel Downer had told reporter Bernard Nossiter in 1968, "We're going to increase Defense budgets as long as those bastards in Russia are ahead of us. The American people understand this" (Washington Post, December 8, 1968).

Schlesinger's promotion to secretary of defense gave him a wonderful opportunity to cash in on the misconception he had helped create. He was very good at his scam. He cultivated a deliberate, seemingly thoughtful manner of speech, often fumbling with his pipe, which conveyed an impression of profundity. And he had a disarming habit of punctuating his absurd rationalizations for big spending with flashes of candor that helped earn him a reputation for independent thinking and credibility.

Although I did not admire the man, I respected his shrewd sales ability. So I was encouraged when I came across this passage in his book The political Economy of National Security: "We could, without substantial difficulty, double the amount of the military protection we are receiving even without doubling the military expenditures." With this heartening thought, I tried that much harder every time Schlesinger dropped a hint about some area where he would support cost savings.

At the time I returned to the Pentagon, Schlesinger was making a public noise about the "teeth to tail" ratio of our armed forces -- meaning that the animal had not enough to bite with and a very large rear. Schlesinger seemed to be saying that he wanted more incisors and less derriere. Okay, I thought, I can help with that.

As deputy for productivity management, I had no real authority, but I could initiate modest projects of my own, so long as I stayed away from big weapons buying. I decided to use my little productivity job as a lever to improve the operations of the Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC). This huge, industry-like organization employed more than 80,000 people, with an overstaffed headquarters in Dayton, Ohio, five large Air Logistic Centers (ALCs) scattered around the country, and one smaller installation. The centers supplied, maintained, and modified weapons systems -- planes, missiles, and support equipment. Their operations included practically everything done by the big aerospace and missile manufacturers. Although an increasing share of this work was being let out to private contractors, the AFLC still carried on a great deal of activity. 1 reasoned that if we could make our ALCs models of low-cost, high-quality organization, we could use that as a lever to get the big contractors to improve their performance. Or we could let the ALCs compete with them. There were already large areas of potential direct competition.

Since the time in the 1950s when I had been associated with the AFLC (then called Air Material Command), their use of industrial engineering methods had gone downhill. But a few true believers were left from that era, and they had kept the old cost-control procedures alive. They saw to it that the performance of the maintenance shops was measured by comparing the standard-hour value of work produced directly to the chronological hours spent on that work.

Perhaps out of sentimentality, in that should-cost represented the kind of industrial management that had once made the United States the greatest manufacturer in the world, I was determined to preserve this endangered species in the ALCs. As far as I knew, the rest of the aerospace industry wasn't using should-cost. The private contractors had a stake in adding as much as they could onto the should-take time, usually by multiplying it by a large factor, supposedly to account for the learning curve. For instance, if Aerospace Factory X had a job that should take 100 manhours to perform, they would typically allow ten times the should-take time, or 1,000 hours for the first item made, 800 for the second, 640 for the fourth, and so on (the 80 percent improvement curve).

This system allowed the contractor to set up an inflated level of "actual hours," and this fraudulent measure would then be applied to future jobs. Repeated cycles of this process "justified" an ever-increasing upward spiral of allowed costs.

Although the AFLC had kept, in theory at least, the old cost-control methods, their shops were not highly efficient. They didn't have the big contractors' incentive to maximize allowable costs, but they didn't have much incentive to excel. Their workloads, and therefore their jobs, rested on political considerations more than competition.

I was pleasantly surprised, though, to find that AFLC used my old in-house dollars per standard-labor-hour produced to compare one ALC with another. In 1974 the ALCs' costs were in the $12-$14 range for a standard labor hour. Those standards were too fat. And certain charges, such as depreciation and headquarters' expenses, were not included. But overall the ALC cost for good work (at least as good as that of the private contractors) was under $20 per hour, a fraction of what the contractors were charging the Pentagon.

I'd often been accused of trying to make the Air Force look bad. Here was a chance to make the Air Force look good. I was eager to bring these facts to notice and to build on them in hopes of stimulating better performance across the board. I wanted to use the AFLC as a model for improvement that could be applied to the operations of big contractors when I got back to working on them. I had an ally in Colin Parfitt, an assistant to one of Woodruff's other deputies. An experienced certified public accountant, Colin was too honest and competent to have much chance for notable success in the Air Force.

We did have a few problems. The stickiest one was that in the process of making the Air Force look relatively good, I would make the pet contractors look bad. But I thought I might be able to keep that hidden until the program got under way. The second problem was that I'd inherited some garbage called the productivity program, which was designed quite literally to be useless for budgetary work and so even more useless for cost control and cost reduction.

One wonderful part of this program was a practice called "unbundling." The AFLC measured the productivity of the civilian workers who purchased supplies by comparing the number of manhours they worked with the number of purchase orders they issued in that period. It was easy to look a lot more productive if one large purchase order was unbundled (or divided) into a host of smaller ones. End result? The mythical productivity was increased, but no more real work was accomplished. And with all the extra paperwork, the costs went up.

The situation was even worse if a boss decided that the purchase orders should be carried through in less time. Since the place was run on a cost-plus philosophy and everybody was under pressure to spend the large sums available in the budget, all control vanished. It is easy to get purchase orders out faster if nobody questions the unit cost of what you are buying: don't dicker over prices, don't waste time getting competitive bids, just spend the money.

Early in 1974 I first pointed out that their "productivity" program actually made overall costs rise. Oddly enough, nobody in the Air Force disagreed with me, but nobody changed the system, either.

There was a perfectly good measurement for productivity in the maintenance work AFLC carried out, but the Command forbade its use in the productivity program.
Instead, they used a gobbledygook "market basket" measurement so bad that even the people who concocted it admitted it was invalid.

Even with the backing of the old-time true believers, I couldn't seem to persuade AFLC to adopt a meaningful productivity program. They reared back in horror at the mention of standard hours or should-take times: on March 8 General George Rhodes, chief of staff of the AFLC, wrote me:

We do not believe a work measurement system indicator, such as the Labor Cost Trends (AFLC's work-measurement-based performance indicator) or any similar comparison of standard (earned) to actual or standard-to-payroll hours should be used as a substitute for even the most invalid productivity measurement system indicator.

I took this absurd paradox to my bosses, Bill Woodruff and Thomas Moran, but all they wanted to know was whether Schlesinger's office was happy with the invalid yardsticks. When I said that Schlesinger's people didn't care one way or the other, they said that we were answering the mail, so why worry?

About this time, there arose a monster called ALS, or Advanced Logistics System, which was so foolish that the AFLC fell in love with it. Part of it was a cost-justification scheme called Project Max (after Max Kennedy, its unfortunate instigator); it seems to have been lifted pretty much intact from Boeing's Wichita, Kansas, division. ALS was an attempt to shift the emphasis at AFLC from what work should cost to what it did cost and to engender and justify ever-higher labor costs, just as the big contractors did. The big spenders in the AFLC and Schlesinger's office wanted to get rid of one of the vestiges of sanity left, the ALCs' work-measurement system, and bring in the hairy monster. Because the monster was very costly to feed -- the mere administrative expense was huge -- we had good grounds to oppose it. It was simply too complicated to work. But the AFLC cherished its pet and allowed it to eat money for years, even though Congress kept canceling it. Colin Parfitt and I more or less fought the big spenders to a draw at the AFLC. Project Max didn't go anywhere, but neither did our improvement program. However, the work we did and the allies we made put us in a good position later to effectively apply our analytical approaches to the big contractors.

I didn't realize at the time that Schlesinger was unalterably opposed to what I and my kind were trying to do. I had little evidence that he was working to increase the military budget, but I began to see that the mood in Washington favored that course.

As the hated Southeast Asia war drew to a close, the military were trying to change their reputation for lavishly supplied but ineffective warfare. By 1974 some military thinkers were beginning to counsel a new public relations line. Dr. Theodore Kahn, a retired colonel, writing in The Retired Officer magazine for January 1974, advised:

By defending our country's war role in public forums and in the media, the military inevitably drew upon itself some of the blame for the existence of this policy. Any justification by military officers of political decisions made by our elected civilian leadership will make the military vulnerable as a scapegoat if, later, these decisions prove to be unpopular.

With the waning of the war in Southeast Asia, Congress was eager to get back to the old pork-barrel politics, a natural instinct stimulated by the fact that the country seemed to be entering a recession. As Time put it on June 4, 1974, "The mood on Capitol Hill was shaped by the economic slowdown." In response, Congress saw to it that the aerospace industry began to boom again. From midyear 1973 to midyear 1974 its employment rose from 946,000 to 962,000. Wage rates, too, took off, from $4.91 per hour to $5.36 on average. As has so often been the case in our economic history, defense contract pay and prices were a leading indicator of inflation ahead.

The newspapers often describe this kind of action as "heating up the economy." On that theory, Schlesinger was trying for a barn-burner. On August 13, 1974, he called his top assistants' together and, as this Memorandum for the Record puts it:

Secretary Schlesinger urged the Services to expedite the obligation and expenditure of funds to minimize the impact of inflation on defense Purchasing Power. In this connection, the Comptroller's office will regularly measure the progress of obligations and expenditure for each Service and ensure appropriate visibility.

Then there was Israel. In the opening days of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Israeli forces had suffered unexpected and shocking losses. Americans had enormous respect and admiration for the nation of Israel, and a majority in this country were willing to sacrifice to ensure her safety. The Pentagonians played brilliantly upon this sympathy, putting out the party line in speech after speech: a dollar for the Pentagon is twenty-five cents for Israel.

After living with his predecessor's budgets through fiscal 1975, Schlesinger broke through with big increases in military acquisition in the fiscal 1976 budget and set in motion the post-Vietnam spending spree that continues to this day. From the standpoint of Schlesinger and his big-spender constituency, this was a historically successful breakthrough. They melted the de facto freeze on acquisition spending that had temporarily arrested the growth of the military spending coalition's political and economic strength. More ominously for our future national solvency and our liberties, they set in motion explosive growth in military acquisition spending as a major war was ending, a political feat never before accomplished in our country. The chart, which uses DoD figures, tells the story.

The Defense Department's total obligational authority for acquisition (research and development plus procurement), 1960-1978. Source: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), "National Defense Budget Estimates for FY 1988/1989, " May 1987.

Schlesinger, repudiating his published opinion, now announced that cutting fat out of the military budget without hurting the muscle was a "charming illusion." On January 15, 1975, he previewed his 1976 budget with a ringing "guns before butter" statement. (It is instructive to remember that this idea was first enunciated by Air Minister Hermann Goering in 1936 when he said, "Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat.") Schlesinger said: "It is part of the system that we make sacrifices of consumption or domestic investment activity in order to maintain an appropriate level of defense."

Contrast Schlesinger's outlook with the classic American ideas in Dwight David Eisenhower's famous Cross of Iron speech of April 16, 1953:

Every gun that is fired, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.... We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat (by 1987, the price was twenty million bushels). We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than eight thousand people.. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Because I had escaped the sad fate of Kenneth Cook and had "won" a decision, many potential whistle blowers, or closet patriots, began to bring their problems to me. Everybody had a horror story to disclose, from defective equipment to dubious-quality drug supplies to cases of big-scale theft. I could only tell them that it was easy enough to exercise their First Amendment rights, but that for doing so the government would probably ruin them.

In the past, during the worst of my troubles, I had discussed my situation with Ralph Nader. He had been kind and helpful, but except for occasional forays into the field, he would not tackle Pentagon abuses. He told me that the mess was so huge that it could easily consume all his time and effort. Now that I was back in a Pentagon job, I began spending some spare time with Nader's whistle blower project, which was headed by Peter Petkus, with the assistance of an energetic young woman named Felice "Fritzy" Cohen. They were anxious to do what they could, within their limitations, to offer legal defense in legitimate cases. My association with the project was well within the bounds of the government employees' Code of Ethics, yet it exposed me to considerable carping from my bosses.

My contacts with Nader's group and with congressional staff investigators infuriated the Pentagonists. And as relations with my bosses grew chillier, I began to have some curious experiences. Sometimes I still fell into my old habit of working late at the Pentagon. A couple of nights when I left the almost-deserted parking lot, a nondescript sedan with a government-issue look would pull in behind my car and follow me closely along the circuitous route to my home in suburban Virginia. Two men with short haircuts sat in the front seat; they made no secret of the fact that they were following me. I kept this to myself because I didn't want to sound paranoid. But I remembered the remark of an investigator on Capitol Hill, "If you're in my business in Washington and you're not paranoid, you're crazy."


At this time Senator Frank Church was conducting a sweeping investigation of bribe giving abroad by American corporations, especially Lockheed and Northrop. Because of my familiarity with Lockheed, Church's investigators questioned me several times. For a while it seemed that Church might succeed in exposing a lot of this corruption, but as the scandal grew larger, the opposition grew stiffer. The investigators' success was their undoing. Henry Kissinger, now secretary of state, was a particularly vigorous and effective opponent.

At one point the staff was zeroing in on a tip that some Lockheed equipment was being exported, via third countries, to the Soviet bloc, an early instance of the illegal "technology transfer" that was to become such a heated issue in 1979. But, according to the Church committee staffers, some Republican senators put heavy pressure on Church to kill that line of inquiry for "national security reasons." Quite suddenly during the spring of 1975, much of the steam seemed to go out of the Church committee investigations, cooled by these complaints. To all of us close to the inquiry, Lockheed's millions of dollars spent abroad in "agent commissions" smelled of bribes and kickbacks. But the curtain of official secrecy was a stout one.

Some of Lockheed's imitators in the art of political manipulation were pretty amateurish; the worst and unluckiest of these was the Northrop Corporation. Whereas Lockheed had been king of the hill among Pentagon contractors for most of a generation, Northrop was still trying to become one of the big boys. It had scored a coup in persuading the Navy to buy its new F-18 fighter plane in apparent defiance of a congressional order that the Pentagon buy versions of the same "lightweight, low-cost" fighter for both the Air Force and the Navy. Northrop's F-17 had lost out to General Dynamics' F-16 as the plane chosen for both the Air Force and NATO, so Northrop simply made some changes in the F-17, renumbered it F-18, teamed up with McDonnell-Douglas, and sold the loser to the Navy. That, of course, quieted any urges for competitive excellence that the aircraft manufacturers may have had aroused by the fly-off.

Northrop's product mainstay had been the F-5 Freedom Fighter and its derivative, the T-38 training plane. The F-5 never quite made it with the U.S. military, but it had been a big seller overseas. Why foreign governments loved the F-5 so much was seen as something of a mystery, but disclosures of laundering money for illegal political contributions and even more direct baksheesh (a Persian word much honored in the Middle East) cleared the picture considerably.

Northrop probably would have gotten away with its clumsy black-bag operations if it hadn't been for Watergate: the special prosecutor's office found that the company had made an illegal contribution of $150,000 to Nixon's 1972 campaign. If there had been any criminal indictments, Northrop would have been in boiling water. One Northrop executive had the bad judgment to show back-dated documents to federal investigators (and had to confess the deception), while others told inaccurate stories about the timing of their commitments to make political contributions. Some top Northrop officials pleaded guilty and accepted tiny fines -- two for $5,000 and one for $1,000. It was clear that the fix was in.

Most of the focus of the Church committee investigation was on overseas bribes, but my friends and I were more interested in laundered money coming back into this country for domestic hokey-pokey. We all were familiar with the Mexican laundry where the cash for Nixon had its past washed away, but a lot of other cleaning establishments might have been uncovered if the House Banking and Currency Committee's subpoena powers had not been cut off in the summer of 1972, just when Representative Wright Patman's men were hot on the trail.

One blanchisserie was operated out of Paris by a man named William A. Savy. In the course of twelve years, Northrop paid him about $1,150,000; he returned $376,000 in cash to Northrop vice president James Allen, who distributed it for "political contributions and other purposes."

Some of the money Savy returned went to a Washington lawyer named Frank J. DeFrancis, who was reported to have disbursed it to a "retired general." The "general" turned out to be a former Marine major, John Blandford (who held the rank of major general in the reserve), and who was best known as chief counsel and head honcho on the House Armed Services Committee in the days of Chairman Mendel Rivers.

DeFrancis was fortunate enough to have a fifteen-year contract with Northrop paying him more than $100,000 a year for services that Northrop's executive committee could not identify. And he helped Northrop set up a Swiss corporation whose purpose was to distribute gifts of cash or stock to those who proved "helpful to Northrop."

Northrop cried foul at the congressional investigation because, its officials said, they were only doing what Lockheed always did. Protestations notwithstanding, Northrop's board of directors, aided by its auditors, Ernst and Ernst, set up an executive committee to investigate the charges.

In fact, Northrop's contracts covering DeFrancis and the Swiss deal were copied from contracts Lockheed had with Dr. Hubert Weisbrod, a Swiss lawyer. Weisbrod ran an operation for Northrop from 1968 to 1973, receiving $750,000 in fees -- charged to U.S. taxpayers when Northrop added the sum to its Pentagon bill as "indirect support costs." Under examination, Northrop could not identify any services rendered by the Swiss lawyer, but Northrop's chairman, Thomas Jones, said that Weisbrod helped the company sell aircraft to European governments. Weisbrod himself said he was a "trustee" and that his services consisted of endorsing checks from Northrop for deposit in his clients' Swiss bank accounts. He would not say who his clients were.

Naturally, all these leads tantalized Wright Patman's investigators. One of them, a bright, engaging young Texan named Robert Riggs, on the staff of the Joint Committee on Defense Production, had had a good introduction to the weaknesses of politicians when he served as an aide in the Texas legislature. Robert was one of the promising young investigators I tried to help. Riggs was certain that at least some of the loose hundreds of millions of dollars that had gone for foreign washing and bribes must have floated back to our shores for the fun and profit of native politicians. When the Northrop executive committee's report to the board of directors stiffly admitted: "It is reasonably clear that officials of the Executive Branch agencies have received corporate hospitality under circumstances in which the official involved could have been subject to disciplinary action or public embarrassment for breach of his agency's Standards of Conflict Regulations," Riggs's nostrils widened at the familiar whiff of corruption on the breeze.

"What kind of hospitality?" he asked me. "Do the contractors hire whores for the generals?"

I explained to him that things were not quite so crude as that. I'd seen some expenditures charged off as fees for "public stenographers," but the usual way was to bring together the right mix of friendly women and impressionable brass.

Riggs clung to the belief that the instincts of influential Washingtonians were no different from those of some of the good old boys in Austin. He said that few people really cared that some foreigner was bribed -- it might be necessary just to get his order. And the news about laundries didn't excite the taxpayers much, either. But they really felt stung when they read about their dollars being spent on bimbos. That was a good attention-getter for more serious venality and more serious money.

So began what Robert Riggs called "the great whore hunt." I couldn't help him, but I did introduce him to Dick Bast, a Washington private investigator who had once represented a prostitute who was having contractual difficulties with her defense industry employer. Dick was very helpful.

At about this time in 1975, Ernst and Ernst filed a report with the SEC revealing that during the period 1971-1973, Northrop had entertained 123 military personnel, 21 Defense Department officials, 11 congressmen, 85 congressional staff members, 119 Northrop employees, and 49 unknowns at the corporation's hunting lodge near Easton, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

Ronald Reagan and other politicians had had free trips in the corporate jet; Senator Howard Cannon, then chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Tactical Airpower, an approving body for Northrop's F-18, had almost a shuttle service from Las Vegas to a resort in the West Indies. (Cannon's less publicized job was as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.)

Though the accountants' report was too late to prevent the Northrop follies, it did reflect great credit on Ernst and Ernst, the only CPA firm involved in the bribery mess that produced anything like 530 pages of penance. Most of the heavy matters in the report were not followed up, but the hunting lodge was. When Senator Church's Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on the matter in May 1975, Senator Richard Clark demanded the names of the Pentagon officials Northrop had entertained. He didn't ask for names of congressmen and their staffers who had been at the lodge.

Riggs should have caught the significance of that omission, but he didn't. Instead, he plunged with enthusiasm into the business of hunting the hunters. He talked with prostitutes who had worked for contractors and found that most of these ladies didn't know the names of their Pentagonal johns but might recognize them if they saw them. This sent Riggs scurrying around for pictures of officers and officials, past and present.

It was a war of nerves on both sides. The generals were mightily upset by a newspaper report that a large defense contractor had hired two prostitutes to entertain a gathering of forty or fifty high-ranking Pentagon officials at an Eastern Shore hunting lodge. An Air Force major came into my office, sat down, and read the account. After he'd finished, he remarked, "Forty generals? Two whores? Those guys aren't combat-ready."

My secret sympathizers in the Pentagon, who were always coming up with helpful suggestions, proposed that we keep track of the whore-to-general ratio as a management indicator. They prepared phony letterhead memorandums speculating whether the Russians were ahead of us in this important statistic and, if so, wondering what it would cost to catch up. Could we economize by setting up civil service classifications for call girls? Should we avoid discrimination in hiring? What about seniority?

Riggs's inquiries eventually became too widespread and too pointed to remain secret. One Sunday afternoon in September 1975, he went to the Eastern Shore to interview a duck plucker named Lawrence Gay. Riggs wanted Gay's list of clients, their hunting license numbers, and the record of their kills -- all of which Gay was required to keep for the federal migratory waterfowl regulators. In the middle of the conversation, Gay was called away to the telephone. When he came back, he asked Riggs to return in the evening for the lists. Riggs agreed, but when he visited the house again, Gay had vanished for good.

Riggs's inquiries into other aspects of contractor entertainment began to shake the Pentagon tree. He managed to get a look at a section (suppressed by the Pentagon) of a Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) report that disclosed lavish Northrop selling parties given by Mrs. Anna Chennault (widow of the Flying Tigers hero, General Claire Chennault) and subsidized by the Pentagon. Mrs. Chennault, a favorite of right-wing circles, the China lobby, and several Asian dictators, was known in Washington as the Dragon Lady.

Riggs told his colleagues on Capitol Hill about the report and got the cooperation of Bill Broydrick, a staff assistant to Congressman Les Aspin. Broydrick, who was just about as brash and energetic as Riggs, managed to get a copy of the DCAA Northrop report from an Air Force officer who was playing both sides. The newspapers began printing disclosures from the report, and drop by drop, the young mavericks kept the water torture going.

The first revelation was about Anna Chennault's entertainments. On the Northrop payroll since 1971, she had been hospitable to a great many of the top brass and top politicians who had something to say about military contracts. But when I saw her guest lists, I knew my friends and I were in big trouble. Prominent among the names was that of the House minority leader, Gerald Ford. We were in equal trouble with the Democrats. Another of her prominent guests was Tommy "the Cork" Corcoran, who, since his days as one of FDR's brain trusters, had been a kind of legend in the party. Now he had become Anna's friend, lawyer, and protector -- and he was using his famous charm to bring her together with senior Democrats.

Corcoran's visits to the Hill, as Riggs described them, were pure theater. He would begin by invoking the sainted name of Roosevelt and recall all that he and FDR had been through together during the New Deal and World War. Next he would recount how the dying Claire Chennault had called him to his bedside and with his last breath had pleaded, "Cork, take care of my little girl."

"He shed real tears," Riggs said. "Tears as big as horse turds."

Anna needed about as much protection as a full-grown barracuda, but Tommy the Cork's masterful lobbying did manage to weaken congressional support for Riggs's inquiries.

Then the Pentagonists landed a hard blow on Riggs's political kneecap. Displaying brilliant tactics not learned at West Point, they released a list of the congressional recipients of Northrop entertainment -- to devastating effect. It was bad enough that key representatives and senators were on the list, especially members of the Armed Services and Military Appropriations committees. Even more painful was to find there practically the whole of the congressional staff establishment -- men from the Senate Appropriations, Foreign Relations, and Armed Forces committees, and from the House Armed Services subcommittee; the secretary of the Senate; Barry Goldwater's administrative assistant; John Blandford; and William Woodruff, once counsel to the Senate Military Appropriations subcommittee and, in 1975, my boss at the Pentagon.

Only people who have worked on the Hill can appreciate the gravity of offending this powerful group. They run the day-by-day affairs of the Congress; they are courted by both contractors and the military. If they choose to belong to one of the armed services reserves, that service sees to it that they rise in rank. The unwritten rule in this powerful brotherhood is decorum. When some rich corporation is entertaining, it's all right to eat, drink, and screw as much as you can -- but it must be done discreetly.

Having won the round with Congress, the Pentagonians went after another vulnerable target -- me. I had just reached an agreement with Secretary McLucas about settlement of the legal dispute over my demotion and exclusion from the big weapons projects, when suddenly that agreement was reversed. In a conversation with Robert Riggs, I learned that the Defense Investigative Service (DIS) had targeted me as the source of the leak of the DCAA's Northrop report. They knew I was not guilty, but that didn't matter. At a press conference on October 20, 1975, Dr. Doom himself denounced the leak as "a criminal act."

As though I needed a reminder that I was in trouble, I was again tailed a few nights later. When I left the nearly deserted Pentagon parking lot, a nondescript sedan followed me closely. I slowed up, then put on speed, then slowed again as I headed out the George Washington Parkway toward my home in McLean. The sedan stayed right behind me.

I began to get alarmed as I left the parkway and turned into narrow, winding, hilly Kirby Road. Where the road twisted down between high banks toward Pimmit Run, I steered my old Rambler toward the center line. The sedan had to drop back, but I could hear its engine roar as we approached the bridge. Apparently my new fellow travelers didn't realize that the bridge was extremely narrow. When the driver tried to pull up beside me, he had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting the rail or going into the creek. I drove as fast as I could to get out of that deserted place. When they caught up, I was turning into my street.

I stopped the car, ran into my house, and grabbed my 30-06 rifle. I ran out into the yard again and crouched behind a large tree, working the bolt as noisily as I could. The rifle was empty. I didn't even have any ammunition in the house. My hands shook, but I pointed the rifle at the car. The men lit cigarettes and seemed to be talking it over. I didn't know what I would do if they got out of the car. Finally, they started up and drove away.

The DIS was still trying to frame me for the release of the DCAA report. One evening when I was at Riggs's Capitol Hill apartment, his wife took a phone call for him. She said, "Robert, a man just called and said your car is ready, then hung up." It was a prearranged signal. We left the apartment immediately and walked to the Immigration building a few blocks away. As we entered, a pay phone in a booth in the lobby began to ring. Riggs answered, took some notes, and hung up.

"That's one scared spook," he said, "but he's hanging in." He went on to tell me that the DIS investigators had been trying to interview my trusted secretary, Ann Hayduck, without my knowing about it. Ann was a serious-minded, extremely competent secretary who was nearing retirement. She had loyally resisted the investigators, refusing to be interviewed anywhere but in our office. Riggs's source said that the DIS would get her to talk sooner or later and suggested I wait until afterward to ask Ann about it.

Soon after, I had to go to Alabama to visit my mother, who was seriously ill. In my absence, Riggs found out, the DIS people did interview Ann. When I learned of this, I asked her into my office, closed the door, and suggested she tell me about the interview.

She said that both the DIS men and my office mate, Colin Parfitt, who had helped set up the interview, had told her not to say anything to me. She had agreed not to volunteer anything but had said she wouldn't lie to me if I asked about the episode.

The DIS men, James E. Kartis and Daniel O. Payne, soon found out that I had no access to the Northrop audit report, which Parfitt, who reviewed audits for the Air Force Secretariat, kept in his safe. Both Ann and Parfitt testified to that. But the DIS interviewers were not easily discouraged. They grilled Ann for two hours about my contacts with congressmen, congressional staffers, and the press. Ann said she really lost her temper when they began asking "embarrassing personal questions" about me. She told them they ought to be ashamed of themselves doing this while they could have been investigating people who were taking bribes.

When I confronted Parfitt, he unhappily admitted all Ann had said about his role. Thereafter, he was a staunch supporter of mine.

I asked my boss, Arnold Bueter, to help me get the files on the DIS frame, but he refused. Bill Kinkaid, Riggs's boss in the bureaucracy, also refused. But Riggs, Broydrick, Peter Stockton, and Ron Tammen of Senator Proxmire's office helped me all they could. Broydrick even defused the whole issue of secrecy and the leak of the DCAA audit report by announcing that he had distributed 509 copies of it. That called Schlesinger's bluff; of course, the Pentagon did not prosecute anybody.

As for the DIS investigation of me, Pentagon officials lied briskly when asked about it. Jack Stempler denied any knowledge of it. Terrence McCleary, the DoD comptroller who oversaw the DIS, said my name couldn't even be found in the records, and his deputy, D. O. Cooke, said the file couldn't be released to me because it contained only material affecting the privacy rights of others. Eventually I got enough excerpts from the files to prove that all these officials were lying.

Robert Riggs won another small skirmish in the great hunting lodge affair. On February 3, 1976, when Deputy Secretary of Defense William Clements testified before Proxmire's Joint Committee on Defense Production, he said that the press had blown the whole thing out of proportion. He thought these "highly placed flag officers" couldn't be "impugned over a duck hunt." And, furthermore, nine months of investigation by the DIS had turned up no new names on the Northrop guest list.

That was funny, Proxmire said, because Robert Riggs had turned up fifty-five new names in one afternoon of research on the Eastern Shore. Riggs had gotten the names of purchasers of hunting licenses and duck stamps from the local sporting goods stores and had found a lot of familiar Pentagonal names.

But that was the end of it. The investigation fizzled out, Riggs was fired, and the Joint Committee was later abolished. In Washington you can get away with anything as long as you have the high moguls of Congress as accessories before and after the fact.

Luckily for me, President Ford fired James Schlesinger about then. The voters were beginning to look on the military with a skeptical eye, so the legislators had made small, public-relations cuts in Schlesinger's ballooning budget.

But Dr. Doom wanted it all. He could have praised congressional leaders for helping, though not quite enough, to close his invented spending gap with the Soviet Union. But instead he began to scold Congress for its "deep, savage, and arbitrary" cuts. Ironically, it was Congressman George Mahon of Texas, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who bore the brunt of Schlesinger's fury. Mahon was as stout a friend of the Pentagon as ever escorted a multibillion-dollar budget through Congress. Ford, as a former high mogul of that body, knew the rules of the game: Schlesinger had to go. His uses as a Pentagon front man were over.


In the last year or so of the Ford administration, the national security apparat tried hard to regain the luster lost after the retreat from Vietnam and after Watergate. The first solution that occurs to such minds is to shut people up. It wasn't their own sins that had given them a bad name, but people who talked in public about those sins. What we needed was a lot more secrecy. Congress began to cooperate with the administration in an agreement to limit probes. Incriminating material on hand was not released publicly. The courts produced a number of decisions that upheld aspects of official secrecy.

Then the White House, that leakiest of all vessels, cynically mounted a campaign against Congress for its looseness in handling secrets -- mostly secrets that had to do with government wrongdoing. At one point Ford even had the effrontery to suggest assigning the FBI the job of plugging congressional leaks.

Ford issued an order giving himself broad new powers. As the Washington Post described it on February 19, 1976, "President Ford's new charter for the US intelligence community legitimizes domestic spying and other activities that had been considered legally and politically questionable." In the same issue, an article by Walter Pincus noted that CIA and NSA employees already had to sign secrecy oaths but that the new order extended the rule "throughout the executive branch and on former government employees and outside government contractors." CIA Director George Bush was put in charge of enforcing the order.

The administration was trying to make an issue of "unauthorized disclosures," and Pincus quoted White House Counsel Philip H. Buchen, who said the new procedures would "give the administration a real threat over people who can't be controlled by discipline." The logic was not self-evident. If a government employee broke a law by making "unauthorized disclosures," he could be punished under that law. But legal processes were apparently too chancy for this administration. It wanted something quicker, dirtier, and easier to use on selected targets. Much like the gag rule Colonel Robert Pursley had proposed in 1969 to end "the Fitzgerald kind of thing."

Fortunately, Ford and Bush left office before they could carry out the secrecy order. But the creature, alive somewhere in the basement of the White House, would rise again to haunt us.
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Re: The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagem

Postby admin » Sat Nov 02, 2013 1:09 am

7. "I Will Never Lie to You"

RICHARD THE WICKED, succeeded by Gerald the Banal, was followed by a man who would have us believe he was Jimmy the Good. Former Georgia Governor Carter captured the Democratic Party nomination while advancing some unorthodox ideas about the nation's future course. Speaking to the Democratic platform committee on June 16, 1976, he said:

Without endangering the defense of our nation or commitments to allies, we can reduce present defense expenditures by about five to seven billion annually (emphasis added). We must be hard-headed in the development of new weapons systems to ensure that they will comport with our foreign policy objectives. Exotic weapons which serve no real function do not contribute to the defense of this country. The B-1 bomber is an example of a proposed system which should not be funded and would be wasteful of taxpayers' dollars. We have an admiral for every seventeen ships. The Chief of Naval Operations has more captains and commanders on his own personal staff than serve in all the ships at sea.

The Pentagon bureaucracy is wasteful and bloated. We have more generals and admirals today than we had during World War II, commanding a much smaller fighting force. We can thin our troops in Asia and close some unnecessary bases abroad.

My cynicism about the eternal hypocrisy of politicians began to soften; here was a candidate giving ironclad, specific promises and saying, "I will never lie to you." At that time we were only fourteen days away from the end of fiscal year 1976, during which the Pentagon had spent just under $88 billion. And DoD was asking for a huge increase for FY -77. I thought there could be an interesting confrontation between the five-sided brass and a president who had spoken those bold words to his platform committee. I began to hope Jimmy Carter would win.

My friends believed that Carter would listen to the sound of the blowing whistles and would come down hard on waste and corruption. Then Jimmy Carter told us so directly and personally. On October 23, he came to Alexandria, Virginia -- very near my home -- and gave a speech, saying in part:

As I've traveled across the country, I have heard thousands and thousands of Americans say they don't believe the federal government can be made to work again. This pessimism about government is so widespread that many people have lost faith in the very idea of public service. The word "bureaucrat" has become a pejorative word, almost an insult.

It wasn't always like this and it doesn't have to be anymore. The federal government can be well managed. It can be efficient. It can be responsive. It can once again be a source of pride to the public and the public servant.

I want to talk today about what government reorganization will mean to the thousands of federal public servants. I share the public's disillusion with its government -- and I know that you do, too. But the backlash should not be directed against government employees who want to do a good job, but against the barriers that hold them back.

If I become president, I intend to work with career civil servants, with Congress, with leaders of business and labor, with academics, and with many other groups to devise a reorganization that will eliminate waste and inefficiency and overlapping and confusion in the federal government and make our government truly efficient once again.

Going on in this vein, Carter arrived at a promised four-point program, with the final point directed at my case:

Fourth, I intend to seek strong legislation to protect our federal employees from harassment and dismissal if they find out and report waste and dishonesty by their superiors or others. The Fitzgerald case, where a dedicated civil servant was fired from the Defense Department for reporting cost overruns, must never be repeated.

How often does a candidate solicit somebody's vote by singling him out by name and promising to right the wrongs he suffered? I couldn't help being optimistic. These were words I'd been hoping to hear for years.

That fall I was invited to become a board member of the Fund for Constitutional Government, an organization founded and financially supported by Stewart Mott. I'd become friendly with Mott when I was working with the Businessmen's Educational Fund and had found him sympathetic to my cause. The FCG was willing to expose governmental waste, and it was not a political lobbying organization, so the Air Force general counsel permitted me to join its board.

While I was at a board meeting at the Mott family home in Bermuda, I received a telephone call from two Carter recruiters who had tracked me down. For about an hour they spoke enthusiastically about my joining the new administration as a political appointee to help clean up the mess in the Pentagon. The FCG's president, Charles "Chuck" Morgan, Jr., an ardent Carter supporter, also recommended me to the recruiters. When I returned home, I found waiting for me some forms from the Carter-Mondale Policy Planning Group. I filled them out and sent them in.

Time passed. The transition team, an uninspiring collection of functionaries, began nosing around the Pentagon. Then I began to hear disquieting rumors that Jimmy Carter was meeting with the old Johnson-era national security apparatchiks: Harold Brown, Cyrus Vance, and others. I got a little worried and began to make phone calls. But I was reassured when Mitzi Wertheim, of the transition team, said the new administration still wanted my services. She asked me to write a paper describing my approach to reforming the Pentagon.

In response I wrote a piece titled "Motivating the Pentagon Bureaucracy to Reduce the Unit Cost of Defense," in which I argued that defense debates usually had the fallacy of either/or built into them: we must either allocate more and more money to the military or suffer an unacceptable loss of defense capability. The obvious third alternative was to vastly improve our management of defense. I pointed out that whenever we had a promising effort to follow the third alternative, somebody like James Schlesinger would announce that cutting fat without cutting muscle was "an enchanting illusion."

Only after I'd forwarded the paper to Mitzi Wertheim did I discover that Schlesinger and Harold Brown were leading candidates for the office of secretary of defense. Bad news for the taxpayer, bad news for me. I went to see Chuck Morgan. He'd heard the same stories, but he was more sanguine. His close friend Hamilton Jordan had let it be known that he'd refuse to serve in the new administration if the Johnson-era political hacks were going to be restored to high posts.

As I watched the Pentagon clipping service day by day, I began to see reports on an irresponsible, alarmist organization called the Committee on the Present Danger. The ringleaders of the group were James Schlesinger, David Packard, and Lane Kirkland, who was then secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO and a member of the transition team. Their pitch was: "Our country is in a period of danger, and the danger is increasing. Unless decisive attempts are taken to alert the nation and to change the course of its policy (translation: to speed up Pentagon spending even faster), our economic and military capacity will become inadequate to assure peace with security." It was the old bugle call with a new title.

Carter was listening; the sound of the whistle had faded away and he was listening to the brassy notes of the big bucks. Schlesinger "deeply impressed Mr. Carter during the briefing he gave the President-Elect after his return from a visit to China," reported the Christian Science Monitor on November 29, 1976. Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a CBS "Face the Nation" audience that carrying out Carter's pledge to cut $5 billion to $7 billion of fat "would inject a fundamental instability in the world."

By mid-December I had heard nothing from the Carter camp. Some of my friends sent them copies of an interview with me Rolling Stone had published, in which I'd cited some significant figures about one-year unit-cost increases of 20 percent to 109 percent. There were no replies other than the usual form letters.

A few days before Christmas, Jimmy Carter announced that he would appoint Harold Brown secretary of defense. It was a great setback. Joseph Kraft, in the December 23 Washington Post, bade Rumsfeld goodbye with these words: "(He has acted as) a transmission belt, passing on the requests of the Services to the Congress and the White House without interference. Under this loose rein, each Service has reverted to type, ignoring strategic and foreign-policy requirements in favor of doing its own thing."

Significantly, the Washington Star's headline on Brown's first announcements was: "For Openers, Brown Sounds Like Rumsfeld." Brown said in an interview, "I am concerned about ... the upward trend of Soviet defense expenditures in constant rubles and the downward trend of American defense expenditures in constant dollars." Jimmy Carter's campaign promises began to evaporate like dew under the August sun in Plains.

On December 30, when a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer asked Carter if he would keep his economy pledge, he replied with seventeen words when one would have sufficed: "If I don't, I will be very disappointed in the performance of the secretary of defense." Then, according to the Inquirer, Brown said, "I don't see a reduction in military spending from present levels." The newspaper took the question to Carter's press spokesman, Jody Powell, who said he had "no memory" of Carter's ever promising a $5 to $7 billion dollar cut.

In view of such contradictions, some of the press were sharpening their tone. The Washington Star on December 30 carried an editorial headlined "The $5 Billion Misunderstanding." About Carter it said: "He seemed aware that a dangerously high level of cynicism is abroad in the land about the capacity of government to keep its promises ... (and he) was the first presidential candidate of recent memory who found it useful to pledge that he would not lie to the voters. Did he?"

And Charles Mohr in the New York Times the same day found that Carter had changed from the indicative to the conditional in talking about budgets: "There would be a net reduction in any ... given year's defense budget of five to seven billion, which is brought about because of the changes I've described (better management and reduction of waste). And if we can achieve a reduction of threats to our national security, we might achieve substantial reductions in defense expenditures in years to come." Later in the story Mohr reported that Carter and Mondale would soon meet to find means to stimulate a "still sluggish economy."

In a baton-passing operation, the outgoing Ford administration leaked (read: planted) some helpful Red Menace stories. "New C.I.A. Estimate Finds Soviet Seeks Superiority in Arms" was the headline on a New York Times story on December 26. One of the chief sources was the retiring chief of Air Force intelligence, General George Keegan, who was quoted as saying he'd become "convinced that the Soviet Union was preparing for an offensive war against the United States." But according to the Nation (January 8, 1977) the ghost behind the report was George Bush, outgoing director of central intelligence.

Defense industry executives rushed in to add their weight. Robert Anderson, president of Rockwell International (principal contractor for the controversial B-1 bomber) said in the pages of Business Week, "I have a strong feeling that the Russians are pulling ahead." Raytheon's D. Brainerd Holmes called the Soviets "the U.S. defense industry's greatest ally."

There were a few grumbles. Senator Proxmire called upon Jimmy Carter to restore me to my full duties and to honor his economy pledge, and Senator Howard Metzenbaum joined in. But in the end they both voted to confirm Harold Brown.

Early in 1977 the Pentagon money machine was getting up to full speed. The FY 78 budget submitted by President Carter requested cash outlays of approximately $112 billion, which was about $29 billion above the reduced level promised by candidate Carter on June 16, 1976. To answer your question, Washington Star, yes, Jimmy Carter had been lying.

Under Brown the pressure mounted to obligate and spend. The notes of the DoD financial managers' meeting of February 22, 1977, reports Assistant Secretary (Comptroller) Fred Wacker's words: "Mr. Wacker stated that recent reports indicate that FY 1977 execution is lagging behind plan to date, both in terms of obligations and outlays, and urged the FM's to investigate the significance of this information." Translation from the bureaucratese: you guys aren't spending the money fast enough. Quit stalling!

White House instructions for this speed-up came in the form of a directive titled "The Economic Stimulas (sic) Program." My sarcastic friends said that the spelling showed the educational level of Carter's South Georgia brigade, but I knew that its spirit came straight from Wall Street.

By May 2, 1978, Fred Wacker was almost hysterically telling the financial managers to get out there and spend. He told the meeting of that date: "There is no cap on expenditures and ... the DoD is certainly not restricted from exceeding the established target. Any unexpended balance should be analyzed to determine cause."

Apologist historians of the Carter era have said that the administration discovered the need to step up spending only after the Soviet Union's brutal invasion of Afghanistan, but as I have shown, that is nonsense. The apologist school's theory is that Jimmy the Good tried to live up to his campaign promises but was sneakily undermined by Harold Brown. This derived from the mistaken notion that Brown resented Carter's June 30 announcement that he was canceling the B-1 bomber program. It is much more likely that Brown, though disappointed, accepted that Carter had to make this ritual sacrifice because of his campaign promise. The B-1 had become an important symbol.

The fight to kill funding for the B-1 bomber was, in mid-1977, a conspicuous but misleading success. It was led by a loose grouping of organizations (including my old outfit, the NTU) called the Coalition to Stop the B-1. Pentagon propaganda held that almost every state in the union stood to get contract dollars from the B-1. The coalition countered by pointing out that the cost to the taxpayers of most of those states was far greater than the income. This rarely used device was one that our similar coalition had used earlier to kill the supersonic transport plane subsidy.

My own skepticism about the B-1 was based on its chilling similarity, especially from a technical point of view, to the F-111 fighter-bomber fiasco. All of us who distrusted the campaign to sell the B-1 to the public were relieved at the president's decision. What we did not realize but might have suspected was that the defense budget quietly included $442 million for research and development money that was intended for a B-1 research model. An alliance of Air Force military and Carter office holders thereafter managed to inject other funds -- suitably disguised by misleading labels -- into Rockwell International's ongoing effort to advance the B-1. (An illuminating account of this appears in Nick Katz's Wild Blue Yonder: Money, Politics and the B-1 Bomber.)

In the meantime backing by the "new priorities" supporters for Carter's promised military budget cutting had begun to melt away. They were heavily influenced by the leaders of the big labor unions, who were worried about employment. The principal new priorities lobby, the Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy, even advocated "slow growth in the military budget" in its winter/spring 1977 legislative program.

Prosperity, fear of Soviet strength, jobs -- add to that the Israeli factor. Congressman Les Aspin noted them all in a speech to a meeting of Pentagon suppliers reported in the December 6 issue of the Philadelphia Bulletin. He said that the 1973 Yom Kippur war had convinced Israel that America must be ready with quick and massive resupply in any future emergency. "The Israeli lobby in Congress is no longer in favor of cutting the defense budget," Aspin observed.

Carter's own frugality urge had shrunk, then vanished. By December 17, 1977, in a speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he was actually bragging about a military spending increase: "Under President Ford and under me, the contribution for defense efforts has gone up in real dollars ... in other words, we have compensated for the inflation rate and then added on top of that an additional amount to increase our defense standing -- quite a reversal of what had been done in the past." Then in January 1978, Jimmy Carter proposed to Congress a military budget increase of $56 billion over the next five years, putting the 1983 figure at $172.7 billion.

Partisans of Carter have latterly tried to attribute the new splurge to insubordinate and clandestine activities by Brown. Former Carter insiders told this fairy tale to Nick Katz, who recounted in Wild Blue Yonder (p. 196):

Carter spoke angrily about Secretary Brown, who now increasingly sided with the military in favor of larger defense forces. "Harold's been a horse's ass on defense budgets," Carter told his aides. "He's caused me more work and took a hard line and never yielded."

This conflict of views was never apparent at my level of the Pentagon. Everything pointed to a pact between a free-spending president and a free-spending secretary.

As every recent administration has discovered, extravagance with money can be embarrassing when there is a free flow of information in government. Every candidate for the presidency over the past sixteen years has followed the pattern of campaign speeches denouncing wasteful spending. Often, as in the above-cited Carter examples, they condemn the concealment of such waste and promised a new era of economy and candor.

Then, almost without knowing how it happened, they fall victim to one of the most powerful forces in American society -- what Eisenhower long ago called "the military- industrial complex" and what we have come to know, in our own time, as a machine that eats presidents and well-meaning defense secretaries alive. To keep the giant-scale boondoggling hidden as much as possible, the politicians must resort to suppression.

On January 24, 1977, Senator James Abourezk, chairman of the Senate Small Business Subcommittee, invited me to testify on our options for airlifting military cargo. More specifically, which method was the most cost-effective -- the Military Airlift Command's own operation, large supplemental air carriers, or smaller supplemental carriers? I was a logical person to ask about such matters because as management systems deputy in the Air Force secretary's office, I had done extensive work on the subject. But the request immediately set off a warning buzzer in the Pentagon.

Brigadier General Robert Tanguy was instructed to tell Senator Abourezk that the Air Force preferred to send another spokesman, someone who, needless to say, knew nothing about airlift productivity trends. I could, the general conceded, testify as a private citizen, but nothing I said was to be taken as "the Air Force position" if it didn't jibe with the official spokesman's words.

This daft ruling set off a memorandum skirmish between me and my bosses, who finally agreed to let me testify "unimpeded." However, anything I said could later be declared unofficial if it was deemed contrary to the Air Force position. (That same rule, when placed on me earlier by the Ford administration, was described by Representative Parrin Mitchell as "the height or depth of asininity.")

Abourezk wrote Carter an angry letter, reminding him that he'd campaigned on the promise of open government and a tolerance of criticism but "in this case . . . the Air Force seems to be violating your principles blatantly." Much later he received a reply from the White House saying, in essence, "Thank you for your interest in aviation."

On March 2, 1977, the American Federation of Government Employees gave me their "whistle blowers' award" and the title "Mr. Integrity." I took advantage of their hospitality by making a speech in which I combined candidate Jimmy Carter's proposals for budget balancing and remotivating government employees with my own suggestions from the paper I had sent Mitzi Wertheim the previous fall. All in all, it was a tough talk to address to the leaders of a government union. I told them that integrity started with the understanding that there is no such thing as government money. It is all taxpayers' money. I asked them (along with the rest of us) to shape up and cut out waste. I said that meant they would have to live with lower budgets and help achieve lower costs. I gave some examples of the trials and tribulations good stewards have to suffer, but I reminded them that we were employed by the taxpayers to do an honest job. It was up to us to believe candidate Carter's commitments and to take things into our own hands to follow through.

The average American, brainwashed to believe that all merit-system federal employees are mediocre hacks with very little interest in their work, would assume that such an audience was hostile to my message. But let the Federal Times, a federal employees' newspaper, describe the reaction:

Suddenly, Fitzgerald was part of the audience. He needed to explain no more. The frustration he apotheosized (sic) was written on almost every face in the audience.

Hands were shooting up. Stories about waste, mismanagement, corruption, and cover-ups began pouring out from all sides. Complaints went uninvestigated, complainants were punished, documents destroyed ....

It seemed an endless orgy of accusations in southern lilts, midwestern drawls, and Bronx accents.... There were many Fitzgeralds now, countless numbers, and all of them felt that the big shots who commit crimes go scot free, while the little guys, honoring their Code of Ethics, get slammed for revealing wrongdoing.

Carried away by all this, I went too far. I promised my audience that, as a supergrade (one of the three highest civil service categories) in the office of the secretary of the Air Force, I'd try to follow up on any horror stories they had documentation for or credible witnesses to prove.

In a vulgar but apt phrase from my native Alabama, I was letting "my mouth overload my ass." I began to get more horror stories than Alfred Hitchcock ever dreamed of. Embarrassed yet encouraged by this reaction, I bundled up my speech and some of the favorable press notices and sent them through channels to the president, explaining to the secretary of the Air Force -- an inert figure named Stetson -- that "I would like for President Carter to know how well his program can be received by the rank and file of DoD employees when it is put to them the right way." About a month later I got the package back with a note saying that it was "inappropriate" to send to the president.

I persevered in trying to get a hearing. I got an appointment with Greg Schneiders, a Carter adviser who was now a White House assistant. I gave him my package from the highly successful AFGE pitch and the material I had submitted to the Carter-Mondale recruiters the previous fall outlining my ideas for squeezing the fat out of the military budget. Schneiders was sympathetic but firm in telling me that Harold Brown was in charge of the Pentagon.

I redoubled my efforts to get an appointment with Brown to try to make common cause with him in fulfilling Jimmy Carter's campaign commitments. Senator Proxmire tried to help me get appointments both with Brown and with higher-ups in the Carter White House, but all of our attempts met with stony silence. My friends wrote letters to the president on my behalf and got back form replies from the Office of Civilian Personnel Operations at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. Chuck Morgan, interceding for me, had conversations with Hamilton Jordan, Attorney General Griffin Bell, and other insiders. He never told me specifically what they said, but much later he did remark cryptically, "You never had a chance."

Discouraging though this was, I thought I might get somewhere with Ralph Nader's support. During the Nixon and Ford administrations, Nader had spoken out clearly to defend truth telling in government. And he had helped me personally. At an October 28, 1970, conference of government administrators in Washington he had deplored "the concept of heroism in civil service that called for employees to sacrifice their careers if they dared point out threats to the public purse or safety.... Blowing the whistle is a cardinal safeguard of public interest, and we're not going to let you be heroes." He went on to say that whistle blowers weren't the problem, it was the government employees who lied or covered up facts who were. He wanted punishment for those officials who practiced "bureaucratic unaccountability." His talk drew a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

Nader and his organization did a lot of useful work in outlining what was wrong with the federal government's civil service system. He and his associate Peter Petkus published a good book on the subject called Blowing the Whistle, and another Nader associate, Robert Vaughn, wrote a superb paper called "The Spoiled System" denouncing the regression of the supposed merit system for government employees to a de facto political spoils system.

Nader's group had acted effectively when Nixon tried to put the top three levels of the federal merit system under his political control, a power grab meant to smother dissent and communication with Congress and the press. When Carter came into office and Peter Petkus was given a White House staff appointment, my friends and I took it as a very good sign.

We had another organizational ally in Chuck Morgan's Fund for Constitutional Government. The FCG had helped subsidize an important Nixon-era expose by public- interest lawyers William Dobrovir and Joe Gebhart. Their "Blueprint for Civil Service Reform" was both an attack on Nixon's violations of the federal merit system and a proposal for greater public accountability. Stewart Mott, the FCG's founder; Chuck Morgan, its president; and other board members had strong ties to the Carter administration. Board chairman Ted Jacobs, who had been Nader's second in command, knew many of the ex-Nader people now in government. New Republic editor Ken Bodie, labor lawyer Joe Rauh, and Georgetown University Professor John Kramer had close relationships with Carter officialdom. This was the liberal Establishment. These people, I was sure, would use their muscle to support a superb civil service reform.

Thus I simply refused to believe Inderjit "Indy" Badhwar when he telephoned me in December 1977. Indy, a native of the Punjab, was one of the best reporters I ever knew. Writing for the Federal Times, a funny little weekly (which was, nevertheless, a very good paper) he uncovered scandals of national proportions. Indy and his colleague Sheila Hershow kept a very good scrutiny on the federal bureaucracy. Badhwar said that unimpeachable sources in the government had told him that Carter's and Nader's people were cooking up a new civil service "reform" even worse than the swindle Richard Nixon had tried to sell, which had been hooted down by Congress. Indy said that the new plan would strip government employees of any real protection against arbitrary action by political appointees.

Nonsense, I said. This was exactly the opposite of Carter's campaign promises. Furthermore, there was no way Ralph Nader would ever involve himself in such blatant dishonesty. I told Indy we'd go to see Nader and get his personal denial.

I had an unexpectedly hard time getting in touch with Nader, but finally, through intermediaries, I got an appointment in early January 1978. When Indy and I arrived, Nader was somewhere else. We were taken in to see Alan Morrison, Nader's lawyer; Andrew Feinstein, the organization's civil service lobbyist; and Robert Vaughn. Morrison coldly said that Nader was unavailable -- what did we want?

Indy recounted the stories he had heard about the proposed reform. To my total shock and confusion, Morrison essentially confirmed Indy's story. He said it was true they were going to "trade off" some government employee rights for certain advantages he wouldn't name. It was "too hard" to fire government employees; the system needed an easier way to get rid of people.

Indy and I said that the government had never had much difficulty getting rid of whistle blowers or dissidents, and we cited cases. And if that was so, it shouldn't be too difficult to get rid of those who were bad or incompetent. Indy cited the statistics; a lot of people had been fired in recent years. No argument made a dent. And whenever I tried to see Nader, it was clear that he didn't want to meet with me on this issue. Obviously the deal had been cut.

Indy and I went next to that true-blue public interest organization, the Fund for Constitutional Government. For them I prepared a little test memorandum, which was in essence the FCG-sponsored "Blueprint for Civil Service Reform" with the title removed. It showed the parallels between the Carter and Nixon proposals, and it contained a very slightly modified statement of the Blueprint's proposals. We gave this paper to Chuck Morgan and Anne Zill, Stewart Mott's Washington representative.

The reaction was even worse than we'd had from the Nader people. They rejected the paper out of hand. Morgan said that when a government employee was accused of wrongdoing or inefficiency, he should have to prove his innocence. All other workers except some union members had to, didn't they? He relented a little and allowed a couple of exceptions: when an employee was being accused on the basis of some allegation prohibited by civil service rules or when the employee could claim a whistle blower defense. Otherwise, Morgan insisted, a person was guilty until proven innocent.

Now I was not talking to a Nixon Watergate shyster or a French avocat. I was arguing with one of the finest civil rights lawyers in the country. He had successfully defended Cassius Clay (later Mohammed Ali) when the boxer refused to be drafted into the Army with the reasonable explanation, "I ain't got nothing against them Viet Cong." As an ACLU lawyer, Chuck had fought for the one man/one vote rule that helped give Southern blacks their electoral rights. His record in defense of the downtrodden and unjustly accused did him great honor. What was the reason for his turnaround in this matter?

I think it was simply that the Carter people felt that government employees no longer needed elaborate protection of their rights. The FCG's Ted Jacobs argued that the Carter election had made the FCG charter "to expose government corruption" obsolete.

When the FCG board wanted to talk about the new utopia in a series of quo vadis meetings, I insisted that we include a discussion of civil service reform. The White House considered the FCG important enough to send Simon Lazarus, its chief civil service reform lobbyist and former Nader lieutenant, to explain the proposal. Lazarus made no bones about the fact that Carter was adopting the discredited Nixon plan to politicize the top three civil service grades (GS 16, 17, and 18), but with an added nasty twist. Nixon would have offered three-year contracts to the supergrades; Carter offered no contracts. These employees could be dismissed for "incompatibility"; in fact, they would be political appointees. At first, Lazarus said that the number of such employees would not exceed 10 percent, but after questioning, this percentage became a bit slippery. As former merit system jobs were filled by political appointees, those appointees could "burrow in" and become career employees, thereby freeing up slots for new politicals. Lazarus finally admitted that Carter intended to replace the whole merit system, in time, with politically appointed henchmen.

According to the minutes of that FCG meeting, Lazarus said that the Carter plan, as Chuck Morgan had suggested, was to place "the burden of proof in disciplinary proceedings ultimately upon the employee in question." For all practical purposes, Carter could then get rid of anybody in the civil service.

Lazarus explained that some people were already earmarked for dismissal under the new plan, and he named one of them. Assuming that the person named was a notorious incompetent, I offered to explain the present system's mechanisms for firing incompetents.

No, said Lazarus, the employee wasn't incompetent.

What was the reason for removal, then?

Well, the administration wanted to get rid of him because "he talked to the press and said the wrong things to Congress."

That was the story of my life, and I was outraged. So were Badhwar and Frank Silby, assistant to Representative John Moss. But this roomful of noble and eminent liberals couldn't see anything wrong with dismissing a person for exercising his rights under the First Amendment and for carrying out his responsibilities under the government Code of Ethics.

I wanted to offer evidence against the Carter plan, but Chairman Ted Jacobs repeatedly ruled me out of order. I was reduced to writing letters to my own board of directors, posing questions that were never answered. How would an employee defend himself against a charge of "disaffection"? This charge, which even had a code number in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, was not an act but a state of mind. How did someone on trial prove that he was full of affection and not disaffection? In the end the board approved Chuck Morgan's formula of putting the burden of proof on the accused.

If Sy Lazarus had been frank and consistent with us, Jimmy Carter was just the opposite. First, he argued that it was almost impossible to get rid of unwanted government employees. Then he argued that he wanted new legislation to protect whistle blowers from being fired. But he never seemed to consider that the people who were firing whistle blowers were his own appointees, and all he had to do was tell them to stop.

He lied specifically as well as in general. When he presented his Civil Service Reform Program on March 2, 1978, he said, "Last year, out of about two million (federal) employees, only 226 people lost their jobs for incompetence or inefficiency."

When I heard that, I dug out and circulated a very recent brief from the Air Force inspector general. One section titled "It's Impossible to Fire a Civilian!" read:

How often have you heard that? Do YOU believe it? Well, don't -- it's a myth. The facts are that in fiscal year 1977, 1,230 Air Force civilians were separated for cause. This included directed separations for suitability reasons, resignations in lieu of adverse actions, separations for inefficiency, termination during trial or probation period, and removals for misconduct. The figures for calendar year 1974, 1975, and 1976 and 1,823, 1,495, and 1,433 respectively.

Ken Blaylock, the only leader of a major employee union to support the Carter plan, tried to bail the president out of his embarrassing lie by saying the 226 was a typographical error, that it should have been 22,600. But the White House continued to use 226, then switched to a new figure of 1,157 employees fired in the previous year.

I then went to the source -- John Scholzen, chief information specialist in the Civil Service Commission. He explained that his statistics were for fiscal years but that he'd been asked for figures for calendar year 1976. Another source of confusion was that many people who quit government service did so to avoid being fired. But it was impossible to single those out of the 212,000 people who had resigned.

The CSC figures showed something quite the opposite of a static, entrenched work force whose members could not be fired. I knew that literally thousands of government employees -- usually the most talented -- had quit because of dissatisfaction or disgust with political machinations. Surly secretaries and slow workers are problems in any organization, but these weren't the people committing the expensive atrocities. Most government workers will take career risks to achieve cost reduction or improvement in service if they are convinced that is what their bosses really want. It is when these efforts begin to threaten certain special interests that politicians begin to get scared. In this case, I began to wonder what had scared Jimmy Carter and his retinue so badly.

Civil service statistics showed a rate of turnover that would alarm most private businessmen: 26 percent in one year excluding deaths, 30 percent including deaths. But the problem with the system was that it protected political hacks and drones while it punished or ejected people who had a sincere wish to contribute to the public interest.

Raymond Jacobson, Carter's Civil Service Commission executive director, was quoted in the July/August 1977 edition of the Washington Monthly as saying, "Any unproductive employee can be fired if his supervisor has balls." But the paradox was that the productive ones seemed to get fired and the politically submissive stayed on, no matter how unproductive.

The Carter people simply could not understand that what they were doing was a reversion to the political spoils system of the nineteenth century. Beyond that, they didn't see that they were preparing the way for a Republican stranglehold on the bureaucracy in future years when the Republicans would make the appointments.

I was a lonely protester against Carter's plan. Most congressmen seemed ardently in favor, and a big majority of the public-interest organizations had fallen into line. Ralph Nader, that brilliant but unpredictable man, testifying before the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee on behalf of the reform, attacked "political intrusion into the career service" that led to civil servants "performing political dirty work of whatever administration was in power ... as the fast track to advancement. This eagerness to please has led to violation of criminal laws." What was Nader's solution to this corrupting process? He proposed to make employees he'd described as all too responsive to political influences even more responsive to them. He said:

What is a democratic election for the President of the United States all about in the first place? What good is an election of a president replacing another administration if the president cannot bring in an adequate number of people who share his views and his programs and the issues that were debated during the election and won as a result of the November election?

Ulysses S. Grant or Boss Tweed couldn't have said it better.

Nader and his associates conceded that federal employees would lose certain rights of protection against political strong-arm tactics, but they'd be rewarded with a special office to which whistle blowers could, supposedly, bring complaints. There would be a kind of chaplain called the Special Counsel. In effect, our citizens' employees could no longer protect their rights under the Constitution and laws such as Title 5, Section 7211, of the U.S. Code. These rights were passed on to a third party.

The Carter Reform Act -- or, as many people I knew called it, the Carter Deform Act -- was a reckless reversal of governmental progress since 1883, and promised some dire developments. The Nader followers, my friends at the FCG, and many other well-meaning liberals seemed to think that political corruption had been abolished by the election of Jimmy the Good. How many other times have liberals woven the ropes for their own hanging?

The Carter Act moved relentlessly through Congress, undergoing quite a few changes on the way. The features that supposedly promised greater efficiency in the civil service were amended until they became meaningless. I testified several times, noting that instead of making it easier to get rid of the deadwood, the act would make it easier for the deadwood to get rid of everybody else. No one was listening.

The climax of the president's attempt to sell his reform came on the evening of August 3, 1978, when he spoke in Fairfax, Virginia, in a high school auditorium:

The essence of what we proposed also includes the protection of the rights of those who are part of the civil service system, and we are also very interested in seeing the so-called whistleblowers, those who see defects in our government, violations of law, gross waste, protected when they point out these deficiencies leading to correction of errors in our government.

After laying out his proposal for the special counsel's office, he reached the heights of hypocrisy:

Let me give you a notable example from past history, perhaps the most famous person who has suffered. And that's Ernest Fitzgerald, who, through his own insistence, pointed out an example of great waste in the federal government. Under the present merit system, he has, through his own analysis, been punished because of that whistleblowing experience. That would not be possible under the proposed legislation. He would be protected and could not be punished, could not be silenced, in fact may very well have been rewarded.

The president seemed to be looking right at me as he uttered this astonishing deception. Fred Small, the president of a government worker's union local in Air Force headquarters, shouted back at Carter, "Here's Fitzgerald, Jimmy. Reward him!"

In truth, Carter needed no new laws to protect me. All he had to do was to pick up the telephone, call the Pentagon, and say, "Harold, stop putting Fitzgerald down. Let him go back to work."


Not long after the Fairfax speech, TV producers Judith and Harry Moses, a husband-and- wife team, came to me with a fascinating proposal they were preparing, which documented Carter's close ties with Lockheed. As governor of Georgia, the state where the C-5A was built, he had tried to protect the company during the height of the 1960s scandals. The Marietta Daily Journal of April 9, 1972, reported his defense:

"A company like Lockheed which has the ability and courage to plan and design a new concept in aircraft like the C-5A must be expected to run into certain cost overruns as they must make constant modifications in the aircraft while it is being produced," Carter said.

"The Defense Department understands this and allows for it. It has come into the public light so often only because certain politicians, including Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.) want to create a political issue with it.

"The cost overruns are predictable and easy to understand in a program like that of the C-5A," the Governor said.

The Moseses had evidence to show that Jimmy Carter, while governor of Georgia, was Lockheed's best-known traveling salesman. One evidence of that was a note the Moseses obtained from Carter's gubernatorial records. On April 8, 1972, Lockheed took Carter on a fifteen-day selling tour of South America. On his return Carter wrote to Lockheed-Georgia's vice president, R. D. Roche:

Dear Bob,

One of the finest experiences of my life was being with you on the trip to Central and South America. In addition to the remarkable performance, luxury, and convenience of the Jet Star, the opportunity to learn more about Lockheed was extremely important to me. ... I have carried this message of admiration to our national leaders in the State Department, Defense Department, and the Congress and will continue to do so.... I want to help in an active way.... The first step now in addition to my public and private promotional efforts should be for me to visit Lockheed and know at first hand the problems and opportunities of your company.

Your friend,

Jimmy Carter

This unpaid lobbyist for Lockheed clearly resented the Proxmire hearings and must have heard a good deal of bad language about me from his Lockheed friends. To gain votes in civil-servant-populated northern Virginia, he'd said, "The Fitzgerald case, where a dedicated civil servant was fired from the Defense Department for reporting cost overruns, must never be repeated." And then he produced "civil service reform" bill that would make my GS-17 job (and the jobs of all upper-echelon government employees) political rather than professional. He was, in fact, trying to make it easy to get rid of whistle blowers and closet patriots. This was the man who said to all of us, "I will never lie to you."

Jimmy Carter's Civil Service Deform Act passed the Senate by a vote of 87 to 1 and by an almost equally large margin in the House of Representatives.

Carter's faithless repudiation of his own promises were a grievous blow to me personally. Moreover, the weakness of character that produced the debacle of the Carter presidency set in motion some of our later national calamities and set the stage for others. Clark Mollenhoff's summing up in his book The President Who Failed was prescient:

The greatest tragedy of all was that President Carter's performance created an unreasoned national craving for a strong and forceful leader -- any strong leader. Carter's weakness set the political stage for a bold, strong leader who might be too bold, too strong, too ruthless and too authoritarian to tolerate opposition and more skillful in the exercise of the authoritarian tools of secrecy and political retribution that Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon used quite clumsily.

Jimmy Carter may have been too bumbling and weak to become our man on horseback, but he was plenty strong enough to saddle the horse, to help hoist the new, elected ruler into the saddle, then give the steed of state a slap on the rump to send our new leader on his way.
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Re: The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagem

Postby admin » Sat Nov 02, 2013 1:15 am

8. The King's Lawyers

DURING MY FOUR YEARS of exile from the Pentagon, I had spent a good deal of time trudging along First Street on Capitol Hill, a route that took me past the Supreme Court building. I seldom passed without reading the words "Equal Justice under Law," carved on the portico above the beautiful Greek columns. I was forty-three when the Air Force fired me, but I was still naive enough to believe in those words. Someday, I thought, my case would work its way through all the contrived delays and obfuscations we'd met in the lower courts and be heard in the pure air of the temple of justice behind the Greek columns.

My only experience with the federal courts had been in appearances before Judge Bryant, whose well-reasoned opinions I did not always agree with but always respected. At that time I didn't completely accept the cynical ideas of my friend and part-time employer, Congressman Jerry Waldie, who used to point out that a lawyer's success was judged by the size of his fees, that the legal processes were dominated by the rich and powerful who could pay big fees, and that most legislators and all federal judges are lawyers. Ergo ... I had good reason not to agree because, although neither rich nor powerful, I had some of the best attorneys I knew of representing my case at no small expense of time and money to themselves.

After quite a bit of experience with the federal courts, I learned that the American people have no legal advocate to represent them at the federal level. The Roman Republic provided tribunes; the Scandinavian system of justice has its ombudsman; most of our states have attorneys general elected by (and removable by) the people. But the United States attorney general is the top lawyer -- not for the people but for the president who appoints him. And he has a large and powerful department prepared to battle any opponents the administration might have.

After I returned to the Pentagon in 1974, my lawyers filed two big lawsuits on my behalf, along with several minor ones. The first maintained that the Pentagon had arbitrarily demoted me on my return. The second was a personal damage suit for $3.5 million against those who had conspired in my illegal firing and the refusal to make me "whole again" afterward.

Named in that complaint were Melvin Laird, Robert Seamans, General Duward L. "Pete" Crow, Air Force Chief of Staff John P. McConnell, Colonel Hans "Whitey" Driessnack, General Joseph Cappucci, Spencer Schedler, Colonel James Pewitt, and Alexander Butterfield.

United States District Judge Gerhard Gesell was not sympathetic. In his 1977 ruling he declared that by waiting until 1974 to file suit, I had "slept on my rights" and the statute of limitations had run out. We countered by saying that during that time I had been pursuing legal remedies through the quasijudicial civil service process and interlocutory appeals to the federal courts.

We argued that vital evidence had been concealed. Judge Gesell denied us discovery on the grounds that we were engaged in a "mere fishing expedition." Although we had learned about Whitey Driessnack's role in my firing less than a year before filing suit, Judge Gesell let him off the hook with the others, saying, "It would be anomalous and unjust to allow (Fitzgerald) to begin an action against lesser fry merely because their identity and participation were earlier unknown." He ended up by granting the Justice Department's motion for dismissal of the suit.

The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal as it pertained to the White House staff but upheld it in reference to the Pentagon people. We were left with Alexander Butterfield and persons unknown. The prospect of making the legal discovery process work was a daunting one. Far from standing aside to smile as the sins of the Republican past were brought to view, Carter's administration, with Griffin Bell as attorney general, leaped to Butterfield's defense. Justice Department lawyers represented him, and as we gradually discovered the names of the other conspirators, including Richard Nixon, the same legal aid was furnished them. (Nixon finally dumped his Justice attorneys when their incompetence became a danger to him.)

To obtain the information we needed, we had to search the Nixon papers, which were then in the National Archives, so we got subpoenas for this purpose. We assumed that the archivists were professionals, who in answer to a court order would do a professional job of finding the documents we requested. Not so. We ran head-on into the chief lawyer for the archivist, Steven Garfinkel, who proved to be a master stonewaller, evader, and escape artist. The man would haunt me for years.

Garfinkel took his legal advice from Justice Department lawyer Rebecca Ross -- who was counsel for Butterfield, the defendant! He managed to frustrate the legal discovery process all the way until September 1979, when he was still being deposed and still stonewalling. This was simply one minor example of the official obstructionism that Carter's people seemed to have learned from the Nixonian masters of the art.

Take the case of the crafty Colonel Jack C. Dixon, chief of the Air Force military judge advocate general's litigation division. On March 8, 1974 (before judge Gesell dismissed the suit), he wrote a legal memorandum that included a number of affidavits from our proposed Air Force defendants. When we eventually had a chance to compare the original affidavits with the published versions, we found that the government lawyers had tidied up the truth to make their case stronger.

Judge Gesell's role was a dubious one at times. We tried to have Pete Crow reintroduced as a defendant, partly because his two affidavits had been especially contradictory and partly because he'd had a strong hand in denying my bid for reinstatement in my original job. We wanted to look at his documents. But Gesell, through his law clerk, secretly got in touch with the opposition's justice Department lawyers to ask if Crow had indeed failed to produce some pertinent documents. Now, this is known in law as ex parte, or one-sided, communication, and it is highly improper.

The Justice Department lawyers said the general had told all, which Crow affirmed, of course, and Gesell granted a summary judgment dismissing Crow from the case. John Bodner reacted by charging Crow with perjury and asking the judge to recuse (disqualify) himself from the case. Of course, Gesell ignored the request.

One of the affidavit rewrites did cause a stir in Congress and led to some investigation. It was that of then-Colonel Whitey Driessnack (aka Secret Informant T-1), who was being nominated for promotion to brigadier general. Senator Proxmire thought Driessnack's questionable role in my case ought to be looked into. His request went from senator to senator -- to Hughes to Chairman John Stennis of the Armed Services Committee, and finally to Senator Howard Cannon, a major general in the Air Force Reserve. Cannon simply asked Driessnack if all these unpleasant allegations were true.

Driessnack delivered another affidavit along the lines of the doctored one the government lawyers had purveyed in the court proceedings. In it he said, "Beyond my role as an O.S.I. interviewee, I played no part in the Fitzgerald investigation. I had no knowledge of any events in this connection beyond my own interview." These statements were not true, as his original affidavit later showed.

At the time we didn't know that Driessnack's original, presumably candid, affidavit said:

I was aware that two other sources, not defendants in this action, were also interviewed by the OSI. They were John Badin and Eugene Kirschbaum, the men I had named during my OSI interview as the persons most knowledgeable about the PTC-AFFC contract. In fact, about a month after my own interview, John Badin came to me and told me that an OSI agent named Sullivan was waiting to interview him.... He said that Sullivan had indicated that I had given his name as a possible source in an inquiry into the PTC-AFFC contract. He asked me what this was about and asked me whether I knew Sullivan and could confirm that he was from OSI. I drove Badin over to the OSI office, briefly relating the story of my own interview as we went, and, once there, I introduced Sullivan to Badin, thereby identifying Sullivan as the man who had interviewed me, and left.

(The PTC-AFFC contract refers to an early attempt by the Air Force OSI to frame me by falsely alleging that I'd been involved in the letting of an Air Force contract to Performance Technology Corporation, a firm I had once headed.)

Driessnack's false public statements seriously obstructed our efforts to learn the truth about the scurrilous OSI frame-up attempt. Even after we established that Driessnack was secret informer T-1 for the OSI, we still did not know who the other secret informers were, or what they had said. Had we been given access to the original Driessnack affidavit, we would have known that Eugene Kirschbaum and John Badin were two of the secret informers. We would have learned early on that Badin and Kirschbaum had completely contradicted Driessnack and others regarding any possibility of my having a conflict of interest concerning PTC.

The Senate confirmed Driessnack and gave him his brigadier general's star, and in due course he got his second star, becoming a major general. But the case of Informant T-1 lingered on through two more investigations.

Complicated as all this was, the further history of Fitzgerald v. The Conspiracy is even more tangled and confused. It is a history of missing evidence, cover-ups, conflicts of interest, and plain old-fashioned lying. A good characterization is found in Senator Proxmire's speech (Congressional Record, April 8, 1974): "I can only conclude on the basis of the record in the Fitzgerald case that the Justice Department has, wittingly or unwittingly, become a party to a coverup of criminal behavior on a rather massive scale."

In another corner of Washington, Driessnack came under scrutiny as an outgrowth of an investigation of criminal conspiracy and corruption in the C-5A affair. In early April 1978, Special Agent Robert Golden of the FBI asked me to meet with him about this. I agreed reluctantly. Golden and his immediate FBI superiors wanted to pursue this investigation. I tried to dissuade him, pointing out that high government officials were involved and that Justice was defending some of the people who had made conflicting statements or had covered up material facts. To make the point, I showed him the two Driessnack affidavits (by this time, we had a copy of the original), but I said I did not wish to bring a charge. I felt that the investigation was doomed to go nowhere.

Golden was not a man to give up easily. Several weeks later he called me and proposed that I file a complaint against Driessnack in order to keep the FBI's investigation alive. No, I replied. Whitey Driessnack was, in Judge Gesell's words, one of "the lesser fry."

But the FBI men had their own agenda. On May 23, 1978, Golden's boss, the special agent in charge of the Washington Field Office (WFO), sent a letterhead memorandum to FBI Director William Webster on the subject: "Hans H. Driessnack, Major General, United States Air Force, PERJURY." The key paragraphs were:

It is the opinion of the WFO that by DRIESSNACK altering his unsigned affidavit into its present form of 4/18/74, and the fact that both DRIESSNACK and CROW'S affidavits appear to be similar, it does give the appearance that DRIESSNACK discussed these matters with General CROW prior to submitting the final form of his affidavit dated 4/18/74. If this is the case, WFO feels that DRIESSNACK perjured himself.

Special Agent Golden discussed this with Assistant U.S. Attorney DONALD E. CAMPBELL, Major Crimes, Washington, D.C., and he advised the facts warrant that a preliminary investigation be instituted at this time.

Golden proceeded with energy and apparently gathered additional compelling evidence; on June 9, Director Webster telexed the WFO authorizing it to conduct the investigation on the authority of the U.S. attorney's office. Just three days later Jimmy Carter nominated Whitey Driessnack for promotion to lieutenant general. Strange things began to happen thereafter.

The strangest of them are probably lost to history because of the destruction of documents, but thanks to my former colleague Pete Stockton, I learned most of the facts that follow. Pete was then working for Representative John Dingell and later, in 1980 and 1981, for chairmen Dennis DeConcini and Orrin Hatch of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee. At the time these two senators were the only members of Congress interested in investigating what had happened to me.

The first curious event, which Stockton learned about from a June 15 telex from the WFO to FBI headquarters, was that the FBI sent a copy of the May 23 letterhead memorandum to the military judge advocate general of the Air Force. This, Stockton commented, was like a lawyer sending his initial thoughts and preliminary notes to the opposition's lawyer.

The next day the FBI interviewed Driessnack, who explained that government lawyers had altered his original affidavit but failed to explain why he'd then signed the doctored version. He added that the issue was moot because Gesell had dismissed the case in December -- a misstatement that was to have consequences later on. He denied that he had initiated the derogatory OSI file on me.

On the same day, June 16, the FBI interviewed General Cappucci, who muddled things even more by contradicting his previous testimony about the origin of the Air Force moves against me. This time he said Whitey Driessnack had come up with the PTC conflict-of-interest charge against me, and that had inspired the chief of staff, General McConnell, to initiate the investigation. (Cappucci's testimony before the Civil Service Commission is described in Chapter 5.) This blew away the whole rickety false structure the Air Force had presented to the commission hearings.

Suddenly, but perhaps not surprisingly (considering the gross conflicts of interest), the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., Earl Silbert, called from California and ordered a halt to the FBI investigation until he returned. Silbert was on record in numerous court documents as opposing me and defending, among others, Driessnack and Cappuccio (Watergate Trivia Quiz buffs will also recognize him as the prosecutor who wanted to put the burglars in jail and let the matter go at that -- getting to the bottom of the case but making sure he didn't get to the top.)

On June 19, Silbert's assistant, Donald Campbell, closed out the FBI investigation and declined, on the basis of Judge Gesell's earlier ruling, to prosecute Driessnack or anyone else. Pete Stockton relayed a quote from Golden to the effect that Campbell and the bureau were "under tremendous political pressure to close the investigation." One of Golden's superiors had told him, "You can't prosecute a general." As for the flimsy excuse that Gesell had dismissed my suit naming Pete Crow, Stockton pointed out that Driessnack had not been a party to the suit at that time, nor had the credibility of his affidavit been questioned in the dismissed suit.

Stockton interviewed Driessnack on June 20 and, though nothing new developed, there was one interesting threat. Driessnack was accompanied by the Air Force general counsel, Peter B. Hamilton, who had held a position in the DoD under Melvin Laird; he had helped defend Laird against my suit. Hamilton warned Stockton not "to reopen old wounds" because "there is evidence of conflict of interest on Fitzgerald's part." Again the attack by allegation and vague innuendo -- never substantiated but often repeated. When I tried to clear my name, I always felt as if I were trying to shovel smoke.

The FBI may have been shut up, but it hadn't given up. Stockton and Federal Times reporter Sheila Hershow reported that some people at the Bureau were willing to do a comprehensive investigation of the wrongdoing surrounding my case if the administration would agree. There was no sign of that, however, until Jack Anderson's syndicated column put a firecracker under the Justice Department on June 26. The result was that Donald Campbell suddenly discovered the Air Force OSI reports that Anderson mentioned, became aware of additional witnesses to the affidavit rigging and other shenanigans (three attorneys who had played a part in my lawsuits), and reopened the investigation.

On June 30 Campbell and FBI Special Agent John D. Stapleton interviewed erstwhile opposition lawyers Bruce Clark, a former captain in the Air Force judge advocate general's department, and John Kelson, formerly of the Justice Department's main office in Washington. Clark admitted that there were discrepancies between the first and final Crow and Driessnack affidavits and that the problem of the possible conflicts had been "cured" in the final drafts. Kelson also said that Justice had been so concerned about preserving secrecy about my accusers - T-1 through T-4 -- that "any information relative to their identity ... would have been deleted from any affidavit submitted in this matter." Stockton later commented on Stapleton's report to the FBI: "Clark and the other lawyers were the linchpins in the cover-up of the government conspiracy against Fitzgerald."

Did these rather strong indications of legal impropriety worry the Carter administration? Not at all. After Campbell interviewed Whitey Driessnack again, his report on the talk mysteriously disappeared from Justice Department files. The department was anxious to give the whole affair last rites, but the journalists kept breathing life into it.

Little by little the suppressed facts were coming out. Sheila Hershow's July 3 Federal Times article laid out some of the more striking ones. It cast a lot more doubt on Driessnack's testimony, which was contradicted by five people: civilian official Eugene Kirschbaum (Informant T-21, General Crow, General Cappucci, OSI agent Vincent Sullivan, and Driessnack's own assistant, Lieutenant Colonel John Badin (Informant T-3). But the most important conflict was that although Driessnack had known perfectly well about Informants T-2 and T-3, he had sworn under oath, "I had no knowledge of any events in this connection beyond my interview."

Whitey Driessnack was no more or no less guilty than several of the others, but because he was being promoted to lieutenant general, he became the focus of attention. On July 5, Senator Proxmire requested that Justice investigate "perjury or other criminal violations by Driessnack or others."

Apparently Senator Stennis also asked for a report, and on July 7 U.S. Attorney Silbert replied, beginning his letter with a falsehood: "In April of this year, a complaint was made by a Mr. A. Ernest Fitzgerald to the FBI that General Driessnack had perjured himself in the affidavit of April 18, 1974, submitted in the civil service matter of A. Ernest Fitzgerald v. Robert C. Seamans, Jr. et al."

I had never made such a charge. I was not then concerned with Whitey's statements to the court, which I had reason to think were prejudiced, but with his statements to the Senate. Perjury is a very hard thing to prove, whereas false statements in general, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to perform illegal acts are easier to substantiate.

While asserting that what Driessnack said in his public affidavit was not intended "to mislead or make a false statement," Silbert did corroborate the history of the affidavit: that its first innocent draft had been passed to the Justice Department, and thereafter the government lawyers "cured" it. Silbert, of course, found no evidence of wrongdoing. And that explanation was good enough for Stennis.

But not good enough for senators Proxmire and Patrick Leahy. Proxmire asked for a delay in the confirmation of Driessnack's promotion, and Leahy threatened a debate and a roll-call vote. Leahy also wrote Stennis to say that he thought people who took reprisals against whistle blowers shouldn't be rewarded by promotion. Proxmire's letter to Justice was referred to the Public Integrity Section (PIS) of the Justice Department.

Then the old legerdemain worked again. On the basis of Silbert's letter to Stennis, Campbell closed the investigation on July 11. On July 19 Lee Redick of the PIS drafted a letter informing Proxmire of this. Interestingly, the PIS had made no attempt to conduct an independent investigation (as Stockton's later inquiries proved) but had simply accepted Silbert's vanishing trick. No questioning of those involved, no look at possible conflicts of interest, not even a review of Silbert's file. Assistant Attorney General Philip Heymann notified Proxmire in a letter that paralleled Silbert's to Stennis. That was an example of the Department of Justice under Griffin Bell.

Senator Proxmire put all his correspondence and documents into the Congressional Record; Senator Leahy now focused his efforts on trying to get me a more suitable job.

In all this close-out activity, one new note crept in. Heymann's superficial dismissal of the matter produced a falsification we had never seen flatly stated in writing. He said, "(General) Tuebner raised the conflict of interest charge against Fitzgerald." How many times does a lie have to be disproved before the Department of Justice will give up on it? The "conflict of interest charge" had to do with the Air Force contract with PTC, my former company. As I wrote in a report to the people who had helped me, Eugene Kirschbaum had several times stated that he alone was responsible for that contract and that I had nothing to do with it. Legal discovery had produced a handwritten note from Driessnack to Captain Bruce Clark saying, "I think you will discover that I was my own worst enemy -- I evidently drafted the Secretarial approval for this contract myself in Feb. 1967." I also noted that the Justice Department nowhere acknowledged that Cappucci's intensive, nationwide investigation had cleared me of all charges. But the department could neither forget a lie nor remember the truth when it came to my case.

By August 22, 1978, my senatorial supporters had accepted the close-out. Senator Leahy made a kind of valedictory Senate floor speech saying that the administration had at last agreed to "find an appropriate position for Fitzgerald ... a challenging job which will call for his special talents for protecting against the wasteful expenditure of tax dollars." He went on to say, "Those responsible for the reprisals will not be forgotten and ... they will have to contend with one angry ... U.S. Senator if they or anyone else takes similar action in the future." Leahy said he would make a trade -- he'd vote to confirm Driessnack's promotion if the Pentagon would give me a responsible job.


One more striking example of Justice misbehavior was yet to come. When Pete Stockton ended his consultantship with senators DeConcini and Hatch and went back to work for Congressman Dingell, Jim Phillips and Barbara Newman of Hatch's staff took over. They produced a good deal of damning evidence against the government lawyers and their clients, but the most crucial was a flagrant case of tampering.

This involved paragraph seven of the May 23 FBI memorandum about Driessnack, which said, "If this is the case, WFO feels DRIESSNACK perjured himself." The copy of the memorandum I'd obtained carried that crucial paragraph. In the photocopy that Director Webster sent to Senator Hatch, it had been scissored out, the pieces stuck back together, and the falsified document copied. (The two versions of this memorandum are reproduced in Appendix B.) In the next paragraph a blacked-out name -- revealed as Golden's in the complete copy -- had beside it the notation of the FBI censor, "b7c." (The indecipherable handwriting was that of Pete Stockton.)

This was a clear violation of Title 18, Section 2071, of the United States Criminal Code, which forbids alteration or mutilation of official records, but it seems to have raised no eyebrows.

As for Special Agent Golden, he gave me some interesting background on his part of the case (which I relayed in an August 24 report to the Senate). He said he'd been under extreme pressure from Justice officials not to proceed with the case, which was considered a "hot potato." It was revived temporarily only because of the Jack Anderson piece and pressure from Stockton.

In a later conversation with me and Indy Badhwar (who was then working for Jack Anderson), Golden gave a more detailed account of the rough handling he'd undergone. His superiors were particularly anxious to prevent him from testifying before Senator Hatch's committee even if he were subpoenaed. (Remember, these were not the bad old days of Richard Nixon and Watergate stonewalling, these were the forthright new days of Jimmy Carter.)

Golden told us he'd been really "worked over" by "Shaheen's outfit." Mike Shaheen was a high Justice Department official who had jurisdiction over the Public Integrity Section, among others. Trying to cast Golden as a scapegoat, "they went after me," he said. "Everybody from the U.S. attorney to the special agent in charge of the Washington Field Office." Donald Campbell and Carl Rauh were the henchmen, and Jack Keeney, of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, and Tom Henderson, head of PIS, were "calling the shots."


In the meantime my new lawyers at Hogan and Hartson, principally Peter Raven-Hansen and Kurt von Kann, were energetically pursuing the concealed evidence bearing on my damage suit. At last my persistent lawyers had obtained through discovery the Nixon White House tapes quoted in Chapter 1. Judge Gesell sealed them, but he did allow us to add Nixon and Bryce Harlow to the list of defendants on September 8. With Nixon as the target, the suit now had a better chance of making progress. Judge Gesell, who was clearly displeased at the prospect of trying a gaggle of Pentagon bureaucrats, seemed to relish the thought of bringing Nixon into his court before a jury of twelve good and true.

During this time we were also trying to get the White House to live up to its promise to Senator Leahy to put me in a more significant and useful Pentagon job. Ron Tammen, Dan Grady, and David Julyan, all Senate staffers, along with Anne Zill and other FCG members, kept the heat on. They needed to. The Carter White House had a hard time remembering such promises. Peter Raven-Hansen, Barrett Prettyman, and I finally met with Arnie Miller, the White House personnel chief, on March 20, 1979. Miller said he was treating my case as if it were a civil rights or discrimination case and he'd offer me "the next available job" on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

As a result I was first sent over to the National Transportation Safety Board; when nothing came of that, I was told to call my old friend Susan King, then head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Susan was incredulous that anyone with my cost-cutting background should be sent to her. "Our whole budget is about $20 million a year," she said. "You spend more than that on the coffee spilled every morning at the Pentagon." As for technical problems, she said that the pressing issue at the moment was insecurely fastened button eyes on teddy bears, which children might chew off and choke on.

I told the White House that I did not belittle the problems of loose teddy-bear eyes, but I had no expertise in the matter. And besides, Susan had no need for me at CPSC.

Nothing more was heard from the White House until Richard Nixon, of all people, raised the issue of getting me a job. In his deposition to my lawyers, Nixon shrewdly avoided criticizing me, noted his own "attempts" to give me a federal job, and offered "to intercede privately -- on a very private basis, off-the-record basis, with President Carter, and -- so that his people can assess Mr. Fitzgerald's qualifications and perhaps find him a position which would be even better and more responsible than he had before."

Just what the White House didn't want. By the time I learned about Nixon's remarks, it was 1980; Carter's people were frantically wooing the military spenders and wanted no association with cost cutters. Once the Republicans nominated Reagan, the spenders had no more to fear. (It was a bit like the scene when the rich Roman Didius Julianus went to the Praetorian Guard camp and outbid his rival Sulpicianus in an auction for the imperial throne.)

In August 1979 I was put through eight long days of deposition by Nixon's lawyers and, thanks to excellent preparation by my lawyers, I could not be tripped up. The defendants in my suit now numbered three -- Nixon, Harlow, and Butterfield -- and Nixon was deposed twice, once in October and again in February 1980.

When the Oval Office tape recordings with Nixon's own voice were produced in 1978, his lawyers tried a wonderfully Nixonian trick. They said he hadn't been talking about me but about Gordon Rule, the Navy's chief critic of procurement. Nixon was clearly a little uneasy about this ploy. He probably realized that retaliation against two government employees was not an appealing tale to put before a District of Columbia jury. And he surely realized that the context plainly fixed me as the subject of his remarks. The second Oval Office tape we discovered ruled out Rule. On it Nixon said "Bryce (Harlow) was all for canning him, wasn't he?" But Harlow hadn't been in the White House in 1970-1973, when Gordon Rule had been most noisy in trying to keep the Navy honest. And Rule was never fired, simply transferred out of harm's way.

In the February deposition Nixon abandoned any pretense of mistaken identity. The questioning went this way:

VON KANN: And the next point that you made, that he complained about cost overruns, that's about Fitzgerald.

NIXON: That's correct.

VON KANN: And "cutting up superiors" is about Fitzgerald?

NIXON: That's correct.

VON KANN: And "not taking orders" is about Fitzgerald?

NIXON: That's correct.

Such admissions, along with the thought of having to face a D.C. jury, began to produce hints at a settlement from Nixon's lawyers.

At this point I ought to have been in the driver's seat, but I wasn't. The ACLU, which had been supporting my case since 1974, cooled off considerably, and only the intervention of my faithful supporter Ralph Temple kept our lawsuit from breaking down.

It so happened that at that time the ACLU was backing another suit against Nixon -- and Henry Kissinger. Morton Halperin had sued them for bugging his telephones while he was working for Kissinger in the Nixon White House in the early 1970s. He had already won, in U.S. District Court, a judgment of five dollars: one dollar for himself, one for his wife, and one for each of his children. As the spring wore on, there was a lot of speculation as to whether the Supreme Court would take the Halperin case and, if so, what that would do to my case. Nixon, having appointed four of the nine justices, had a good chance of winning Halperin's suit against him and perhaps even getting himself declared immune from damages in private lawsuits. If that happened, my case against Nixon was lost.

Judge Gesell set a trial date of June 4, 1980, for my lawsuit against Nixon and his co-conspirators. I began to hint broadly that Halperin and the ACLU would be most considerate to forgo their five-dollar suit so that we could proceed to trial in the District of Columbia Federal Court. My case seemed so strong on every count that even the Nixon appointees on the Supreme Court would have to rule in my favor when it finally went to them.

Along with that, Nixon and the others named faced a very real threat. At a pretrial conference Judge Gesell said that if the jury awarded me $10 million in punitive damages against Butterfield, one of the "smaller fry," he would not set it aside. After this statement, settlement negotiations began in earnest.

As usual, I was in a predicament. On one hand my lawyers -- Raven-Hansen, Prettyman, and von Kann -- were eager to go to trial. But the attitude of the national office of the ACLU to my case fell somewhere between indifference and hostility. After twelve years of this fight I was exhausted, and my family had surely felt the strain. I couldn't afford the financial and psychic costs of the trial and the inevitable, endless appeals. We decided to settle.

Nixon was willing, but the Carter people at Justice were still vindictive toward me. In order to bleed me and my supporters a little more, they refused to settle on behalf of Harlow and Butterfield. Accordingly my lawyers reached an "agreement to specify damages" with Nixon. That meant Nixon would make an immediate payment of $100,000, then a second payment of $42,000, and finally $28,000 when the case actually came to trial. The sums were subject to adjustment if the Justice Department decided to settle. It wasn't a good compromise, but it was the best we could do.

On June 20, 1980, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Halperin case, and Judge Gesell suspended our proceedings pending the outcome of Kissinger v. Halperin, which would decide the issue of absolute immunity. Nixon's attorneys and mine notified the court that the size of the payments to me would depend on the disposition of the Halperin case and the outcome of my District Court case. In another development the Justice Department requested that the Supreme Court hear my case against Butterfield and Harlow; my lawyers opposed this in a brief to the court.

On June 22, 1981, the Supreme Court handed down its verdict in the Halperin case by punting on the second down. Justice Rehnquist had recused himself on the grounds that he had been a Justice Department official at the time of the wiretapping. His action meant that the Halperin case could proceed in the lower courts, and mine would go to the Supreme Court. The department then moved to delay Halperin's case until mine was settled.

This put the shoe on the other foot. Halperin had stood in my way and now I was standing in his. As a result I was under tremendous pressure by the ACLU and others to drop my lawsuit so that Halperin could proceed. I was told that it was my patriotic duty to drop it.

By this time my circumstances had worsened. My legal team was breaking up, with Peter Raven-Hansen going to teach law at George Washington University and Kurt von Kann moving to Los Angeles. Ralph Temple had left the local ACLU, which was threatening not to pay my future expenses, an estimated $192,000. I offered to withdraw but only if Mort Halperin really intended to take Nixon to trial.

"If, on the other hand," I said, "Halperin and the national ACLU simply want me out of the way so that they can apply pressure on Nixon for a financial settlement, I want my past out-of-pocket expenses reimbursed out of their settlement monies." With that statement, everyone got very emotional. I had apparently revealed the secret agenda of the ACLU and Halperinm Sally Determan, an ACLU supporter and the "public interest" partner at Hogan and Hartson, had a temper fit when she heard of my remark and withdrew the firm from my case.

So for the moment, I was, figuratively, sitting alone on the steps of the Supreme Court beneath "Equal Justice under Law" with a ton and a half of legal records and no lawyer.

Barrett Prettyman and Peter Raven-Hansen came to my rescue, Barrett by recruiting John Noland, a senior partner in Steptoe and Johnson, and Peter by preparing a superb summary of the enormous mass of paper the case had generated and by reviewing our brief.

Then came the great shock. The Halperin faction of the ACLU joined Nixon's side in my case! Halperin's ACLU lawyer, Mark H. Lynch, along with Nader lawyers Alan D. Morrison and John Cary Sims, filed a motion to intervene in the Supreme Court case Richard Nixon v. A. Ernest Fitzgerald, stating they would make arguments "adverse to Fitzgerald's interests," that "the Halperins agree with Nixon" that the Appellate Court should have heard my case before trial, and that that court might find "that absolute immunity (for Nixon) is appropriate to Fitzgerald."

Here was the voice of liberalism speaking loud and clear, but with a forked tongue. According to their view, bugging Halperin's telephone was a stark violation of constitutional rights, but firing me for trying to save funds belonging to the United States and for using my First Amendment rights didn't count.

The new legal coalition of Richard Nixon, Halperin, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Ralph Nader might seem hilarious to outsiders, but it was painful for me. They alleged that my case presented "a far more attenuated Constitutional claim and one for which absolute rather than qualified immunity might be appropriate."

Then they offered the court a precedent for deciding against me. According to Bush v. Lucas (647 F.2d 573, 5th Cir., 1981), they said, civil service employees "who are fired in alleged retaliation for exercise of their First Amendment rights have no cause for action under First Amendment." Further, they told the Supreme Court that lower courts had held that "criticism of public employees of their superiors is not protected by the First Amendment."

It was a work worthy of Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon in their finest days, and the Nader and ACLU lawyers, having previously been involved in my case, knew it was untrue. John Noland, by patient argument, was finally able to counter this accumulation of fraud, but the damage had been done.

Rehnquist and his friends on the court must have smiled to see the liberals going on record against free speech. And Rehnquist, who as Richard Nixon's assistant attorney general had denounced whistle blowers, did not recuse himself this time.

And what had happened to the friends and supporters of free speech and whistle blowing? The only senator who dared put his name to a friend-of-the-court brief was Orrin Hatch. The only members of the House who would agree to be counted on my side were John Dingell, Robert Dornan, Barney Frank, Albert Gore, Jr., Toby Moffett, and Patricia Schroeder.

Predictably, we lost against Nixon and the American Civil Liberties Union. The only consolation was an excellent dissenting opinion by Justice Byron White.

Although the Supreme Court did rule that we could pursue the case against Harlow and Butterfield, the decision in favor of Nixon set a baneful precedent for Bill Bush's case. Bush, a brilliant and prophetic NASA engineer, had predicted that NASA's misguided policies would lead to some great disaster (as they did in the 1986 Challenger tragedy). When his case came up on appeal, the court took the advice of the Nader-ACLU lawyers and voted 9-0 against him. The court ruled that unless Congress made specific provisions to the contrary, the only way government employees could lodge a legal complaint against their bureaucratic or political superiors was through a Civil Service review. And I knew what that system of justice was like.

Jimmy Carter's civil service "reform" and Bush inspired a whole new set of repressive rules which, taken together, reduced a government employee's workplace rights to something equivalent to those of a slave in the ante-bellum South or of an Indian in the nineteenth century. Slaves had certain rights on paper; their only problem was that they couldn't go to court to have them upheld. Without a remedy, rights are meaningless.

My fortunes revived when John Bodner won a resounding victory in my job dispute. On March 31, 1982, Judge William Bryant, after rapping the Civil Service Commission's knuckles for failing to recognize that I hadn't been restored to equivalent status, ruled that the Air Force must do just that within thirty days. He also noted the Air Force's "improper withholding of documents" showing that the midnight farce I described at the end of Chapter 5 had been planned.

Bodner and I negotiated a settlement that included my return to areas of responsibility I'd had fourteen years previously, direct access to needed information, and authorization to travel to examine Air Force facilities and contractors all over the country. I was also guaranteed necessary authority.

The Air Force paid John Bodner $200,000 for part of my legal expenses. John wanted to give away the whole sum and pay the ACLU nothing, but I and others persuaded him to give the ACLU $60,000. I was promptly rewarded by more hostility from the ACLU. Leslie Harris, the local ACLU's new director, was against participating in my case against Harlow and Butterfield. As a result I had to settle for a modest amount in order to get on with my job.

Fourteen years of enormous legal effort and expense had more or less fizzled out. I felt particularly bad for the lawyers who had tried so valiantly to help me. And I felt morally bruised from all the dishonesty and hypocrisy I'd run up against.

I did have a moment of pleasure when I found out that some of the Air Force civilian lawyers who'd worked against me had been disgusted at Secretary Seamans's concealment of important evidence. (As he admitted in his deposition of September 18, 1979, he'd sent the most incriminating evidence against himself and Harold Brown to his brother at Peabody and Arnold in Boston, where it was stowed away in a safe-deposit box.) Because of that, the lawyers had wanted to suggest that I could keep Seamans as a defendant in the case. It didn't happen that way, but I was uplifted a little to see a refreshing spark of fair play in the dismal night of the federal legal system.
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