Signing his procurement directive, President Clinton noted that five of the top 10 U.S. semi-conductor producers refuse defense business because of special requirements that the government imposes.
Were this an issue only for the contractors, Americans might have little reason to care. The problem is, such rules actually can jeopardize military operations and put America's fighting forces at risk. Consider the dilemma that the military faced during Operation Desert Storm, the U.S.-led confrontation with Iraq.
The Air Force found that it needed to improve communication among its units, and that Motorola's commercial radio receivers were uniquely suited to fit its needs. It ordered 6,000 receivers. Motorola, however, said it could not meet the demands of the procurement rules. Specifically, its commercial unit lacked the record-keeping systems required to show the Pentagon that it was getting the lowest available price.
To circumvent the problem, the Japanese bought the radios and donated them to the Air Force.