Bottom Line vs. Front LineIssue: Fall 1993
In early August of 1990, the U.S. Air Force's First Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, was ordered to the Middle East as Operation Desert Shield got under way. The unit began to arrive in eastern Saudi Arabia fourteen hours later. Ten years earlier in 1980, the same fighter wing failed its operational readiness examination: 47 out of its 72 aircraft were grounded for lack of spare parts. In the intervening decade, the Army, Navy, and Air Force's coffers swelled with modern sophisticated weaponry and supporting equipment; their ranks filled with ambitious, highly motivated young officers and enlisted personnel. The Defense Department is the one part of the federal government in which throwing more money at a problem produces useful results. It is also the one agency of the government most susceptible to decay and failure when funds are withdrawn.