How-To on the Hill

By Marjorie Censer / October 15, 2008 at 5:00 AM

A former Defense Department program analysis and evaluation official said today that congressional intervention in Pentagon programs would be improved by more military experience in the legislature -- but he expressed doubt that Congress will be peopled with more knowledgeable lawmakers anytime soon.

Barry Watts, now a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and the author of a new report on the defense industrial base, said at a briefing with reporters that he doesn't expect congressional intervention in Defense Department programs to end.

“I'm not even sure I would argue that it ought to, but it would be better if it was informed intervention,” Watts said during the morning briefing at CSBA's Washington office. “It would be better if it was intervention with a longer-term view about the industrial base as opposed to, 'I hate that particular contract, I dislike that particular program,' . . . or, 'I love it and I'm going to give it more money.'”

Asked how he would go about creating more informed intervention, Watts, who also previously directed the Northrop Grumman Analysis Center, cited the lack of military experience in the halls of Congress.

“The only way you're going to fix that is to hopefully elect people to the House of Representatives and to the Senate who bring more knowledge and understanding to all this,” he told reporters. “I don't exactly see that as a trend so it's hard not to be depressed.”