I’m fairly sure I heard about the movie “The Pentagon Wars” from EconLog, and more specifically with a link to this clip (featuring possibly the worst case of feature bloat and meddling in history), but for some reason I can’t find the original post. At any rate, it’s a fine example for the underserved genre of movies about bureaucracy. There’s no war for the officers to fight, so it’s just a matter of whether the misbegotten M2 Bradley fighting vehicle can be cranked out so those behind it get promoted, with one stubborn non-team player Congressional appointee using every rule in the (literal) book he can to stop it. That man is of course the hero, and as in real life he wins the “battle” to put the crapware back on the drawing board, but the movie explicitly ends by noting that the villains knowingly pushing the defective vehicle forward without adequate testing got promoted or jobs in the defense industry, while Colonel James Burton was forced into early retirement. “This is why we can’t have nice things” the movie. And it’s a hilarious movie, supposedly true, though in the course of writing this post I reread the Wikipedia page and found some new material debunking one of the most damning bits (about exporting the vehicle). Their cited source doesn’t actually say anything about export, but it does have a military historian saying it was very inaccurate (though it did indeed have a “development hell” and lousy testing). I was set to discuss whether the empirical results of Burton’s long-sought test even mattered, since the Israelis deduced it as defective from the designs, but as mentioned that bit may have been invented by the film-makers.
Since “The Americans” has put SecDef Caspar Weinberger back in mind, I thought I’d mention a bit where he’s meeting the officers in charge and angry about leaks in the Washington Post about the weapons program. The officers pipe up that they’ll clamp down any leaks, and Weinberger responds that leaks to the press are the only way he gets any information!