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Our Well-Oiled Military Machine
Death of the Devil's Advocate - PDF - / Send As Email
. . . and why they'll do it again.
by Eric Schnurer
In The Washington Monthly, July 1979, pp. 52-54 - Previous Article / Next Article

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record" about the problems Wimex
was having. After he did, the GAO
conducted an investigation of the
Wimex project that substantially
confirmed his charges.
Today Bradley is unemployed, living
on his wife's salary and a $1,000 a
month pension. He has amassed
$50,000 in legal bills in his battle to
regain his job. He is not likely to
succeed. Both Bialick and Champaign
testified against him at his civil service
hearing.
So the men who made the mistakes
are still in charge, and the one who
didn't is out in the cold. The Wimex
story could be a rerun of hundreds of
Pentagon scandals that have sapped
our defense and helped bankrupt our
Treasury over the years, from the P-40
of World War I1 to the C-5A and the F-
14. In each case, the Pentagon has
entrusted our safety to the men who
have the least incentive to tell us when
something is going wrong. So we end
up with guns that jam, missiles that
miss, computers that "crash." To
prevent this sort of disaster, we have
for years needed people with access to
the facts who are able, before it is too
late, to ask the questions that men like
John Bradley can only ask at the risk of
their jobs. When Harold Brown
became Defense Secretary, he seemed
to be taking an important step in that
direction. In the accompanying article,
Eric Schnurer describes how the idea
went over with the Pentagon bureauc-
racy, and what happened. Suffice it to
say, the defense industry will sleep a
little easier, but the rest of us
shouldn't.
Death of the
DeviPs Advocate
by Eric Schnurer
Some people think Phil Donahue
invented the idea of playing "devil's
advocate" as a cute way to keep
housewives amused between the time
the early-morning "I Love Lucy" re-
runs end and the early-afternoon
episode of "All My Children" flashes
across the tube.
This is not correct.
The origins of the devil's advocate
actually lie in the rituals of canoniza-
tion. When someone was up for
sainthood, one of the final steps was
the appointment of a "special prosecu-
tor" charged with researching the
candidate and mounting a case for why
Eric Schnurer is a staff reporter with The
Washington Monthly.
52
sainthood should be denied. Support-
ers of those the "prosecutor" was
arguing against saw him as presenting
the devil's brief. Hence, "Devil's
Advocate."
It appears that the Pentagon still
views the technique as demonic. Thus
it was that Secretary of Defense
Harold Brown last October gave in to
the pressure and quietly exorcised
from his Office of the Secretary an
independent office designed to ensure
that all new weapons are honestly
tested and evaluated before millions
are spent on their purchase. Its sin was
that it did its job too well.
The institution of a separate and
independent check on weapons pro-
curement was a major reform advo-


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