Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger's petulant action in relieving Rear Adm. Thomas J. Cassidy Jr. USN, Commander, Naval Air Pacific Fighter/Airborne Early Warning Wing, Capt. Gary E. Hakanson, USN, Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station Miramar and Cmdr. Jerry L. Fronabarger, (SC), USN of their duties because of an after-the-fact administrative link in the procurement of ashtrays for the E-2C Hawkeye airplane is patently unfair, unprofessional and un-American. It is, in fact, a sophomoric attempt to shift the responsibility and blame from the secretary's own office.
The real culprit in this case, as well as the screwdrivers, toilet seats and all the so-called "overpricing" incidents, is the Armed Services Procurement Regulations (ASPR), which are the responsibility of the Deprtment of Defense.
These rules govern the methods of allowable charges and expenses--general and administrative, engineering, labor, materials, etc.
Adding to the allowable costs are the military specifications that require most hardware to be able to withstand, simultaneously, the rigors of an arctic and desert environment, unrealistic shocks and vibrations, corrosion, fungi, etc., all with--in many cases--an unrealistically high reliability factor.
If Weinberger, who apparently has a lot to learn about leadership and personnel management, would get his house in order by sanitizing the procurement rates and military specifications, most of his procurement "surprises" would disappear.
If Weinberger has any sense of fairness and justice, he will recognize that the fault and responsibility in all of these procurement glitches is squarely his and cannot be transferred.
He should restore Adm. Cassidy and the other two officers to their previous positions now and remove all reference to this hasty and ill-considered punitive action from the record.
He's been dealing with the wrong end of the bull; it's the horns that get the job done.
EDWARD F. GALLAGHER