It’s been Golts overkill. Despite the risk of overdosing, he has an article in Ogonek from 25 September which merits attention.
One could do much, much worse than to pick him, if you could read only one commentator.
Golts tries to explain why Russia’s OPK, its defense sector, has failed.
He gives prominent examples of defense industrial shortcomings including the most recent Bulava and Proton-M failures. Interestingly, he says all serially produced Bulava SLBMs are being returned to Votkinsk for inspection.
Calling the list of failures “endless,” he concludes, “Production standards are falling uncontrollably not only in the space sector.” He continues:
“The thing is not only particular failures. Experts from the military economics laboratory of the Gaydar Institute suggest that defense order 2013 will be disrupted just as it was in previous years. According to their data, defense order 2012 was revised and lowered at least three times. And still it was unfulfilled by approximately 20 percent. Accounting Chamber auditor Aleksandr Piskunov was extremely forthright in the Duma hearings: ‘Almost one hundred percent fulfillment of state defense orders for the last 20 years hasn’t interfered with the failure of all armaments programs, with fulfilling them at 30, 40, 50 percent.’”
You may recall reading Piskunov here at the start of April.
Then, Golts notes, Putin himself cast doubt on the OPK’s ability to fulfill the current GPV. He recalls the late July meeting when Putin indicated he’d entertain slipping ships and submarines due after 2015 into the next GPV (to 2025), so that there aren’t more “failures.”
Putin said work should be organized so producers’ capabilities coincide with the allocated funding. Money, he said, shouldn’t be hung up in accounts [and stolen] while we wait for ships. Golts reads this as Putin recognizing that the state of domestic industry is such that it can’t assimilate the gigantic sums allocated to it.
The defense sector has structural problems that endless calls for mobilization to face an aggressive West can’t resolve (i.e. a workforce that’s almost reached retirement age, continued aging of basic production equipment).
Golts again turns to Piskunov, who said only 20 percent of defense enterprises approach world standards in terms of technical equipment, and nearly half are in such a poor state that resurrecting them is senseless — it would be better to start from a “clean slate.”
But Golts focuses on poor coordination and cooperation among enterprises, government customers, and sub-contractors. He turns to the familiar case of Bulava — 650 different enterprises reportedly have a hand in turning out this missile.
Most damning, Golts compares today’s “so-called united state corporations” unfavorably to Soviet-era defense industry ministries. Ineffective and bureaucratized, the latter still managed to manufacture massive numbers of weapons. And Gosplan matched prices for products and production by fiat. Today’s goskorporatsii can’t.
There’s another important difference, Golts points out. All Soviet “civilian” industries also produced arms, or parts for them. Average citizens buying civilian goods helped finance military production with their purchases.
But the largest part of this permanently mobilized industrial system died in the 1990s and surviving parts retooled for other production. Many in the latter category no longer wanted part of the defense order which would only make them less competitive in their main business.
Then Golts concludes:
“But it’s impossible to begin serial production of armaments without serial production of components.”
Today’s OPK chiefs don’t have the talents of some of Stalin’s industrial commissars, says Golts. They are, however, good at blaming ex-Defense Minister Serdyukov for “destroying” the voyenpred system.
Golts really gets to it here:
“In reality producers of complex military equipment have a choice. They can either make components in final assembly plants in a semi-artisan fashion. Or they can buy them on the side, risking getting crap made in some tent. It stands to reason the problem isn’t confined to recreating the military acceptance office in enterprises. Complex chains of sub-contractors have to be established. And, we note, even with money — this isn’t a banal task. We’re really talking about new industrialization, the construction of new enterprises. But just what kind?”
Golts recommends a policy of targeted and specialized re-industrialization. Because of the expense, he says build specialized component factories to support production of critical systems where Russia is decades behind developed states — communications, reconnaissance, UAVs, precision weapons. Russia will have to prioritize and Golts doesn’t see tanks, ships, and heavy ICBMs as priorities. Those who pick the priorities have to withstand attacks from lobbyists for these weapons.
Golts believes Deputy Prime Minister and OPK tsar Dmitriy Rogozin knows the bind he’s in . . . and that’s why he says put off the beginning of serial production of many armaments until the next armaments program (2016-2025).
“Generally, the rearmament of the Russian Army is entering a new cycle. Without any kind of results.”