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The Political Economy of Privatization: Its Impact on the American Military
AIR WAR COLL MAXWELL AFB AL
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Privatization, a concept few military members believed had relevance for the armed forces a decade ago, is now central to the debate over how the Defense Department should be structured to meet the challenges of the coming century. Advocates have hailed privatization as the golden grail of economic efficiency in a time of collapsing defense budgets. Opponents have castigated privatization, asserting that it operates as a Trojan Horse, hollowing out the foundational support structure of the military and creating a brittle operational force. The proposition of this article is that military privatization cannot be professionally analyzed if it is viewed in isolation. While it might appear to a casual observer that military privatization initiatives have materialized out of thin air, in reality they represent a logical progression of larger historical currents. To place military privatization in context, this paper first reviews the collapse of socialism as a credible doctrine for the organization of human society. For it is primarily from the ashes of socialism that the global privatization movement has arisen like a phoenix over the last twenty years. The now extensive experiences of other nations in this field hold valuable lessons of how privatization can be accomplished with the least social trauma. These lessons are directly applicable to military privatization. Within the Defense Department, privatization is not the revolutionary concept that proponents and opponents often assert. In reality, the debate over privatization represents only the most recent wave in a much larger philosophical struggle to control the organizational heart and soul of the military a debate that was unleashed when Robert McNamara become Secretary of Defense in 1963, although it has remained largely subterranean in recent years.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE