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Defense Issues in Tonight's Debate: Not So Much

A few thoughts about tonight's town hall-style debate... Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may mention the issue of cost-plus contracts, something he sees as a root cause of the enormous cost overruns plaguing today's systems.

McCain raised this issue in the last debate, saying the country should "do away with cost-plus contracts" because weapon systems costs "are completely out of control." How far will McCain go in his criticism of the acquisition system? It would be a very tempting soft target in light of the country's financial meltdown and in light of McCain's strongly held belief that weapons can be developed more quickly and for less cost than they usually are now. I've put in calls to some of his defense advisors and will update this if I hear from them.

But Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) defense advisors have looked at this issue and don't accept the idea that there is any way to get rid of cost-plus. So many changes are made to major acquisition programs and they are so technologically risky that few companies would be willing to bid on fixed price contracts for systems like Future Combat System, they argue.

Also, I hear Obama is extremely unlikely to raise any defense issues in tonight's debate. It's all economy and other domestic issues all the time. We'll see if anyone in the audience asks about them.

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