Can a bureaucratic military force be considered an enterprise? Certainly, by definition, state-owned organizations can be a considerable undertaking. Success requires initiative and resourcefulness in every organization and while hazards are always present in military operations, a government bureaucracy can never comprehend the risk inherent to entrepreneurial enterprise. This contrasts with Huntington’s assessment of what makes a professional military organization being the degree of “corporateness” it embodies. State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s) are characteristic of military material producers in Communist China and multiple profit seeking businesses around the world are owned and operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). This can also be likened to the contracting companies in the United States that exist solely to fulfill government orders. Firm, fixed contracts and cost plus pricing characterize the unique arrangements that ensure a survival income for the business and ensure these vendors do not sell their military technologies to competing military actors.
These arrangements simply make them a privatized extension of the government and not, necessarily productive ventures able to survive upon directly fulfilling customer needs. Fixed structures, hierarchy and processes are shared by many active organizations, whether governmental or not, and personnel that consider themselves professionals in their given field also lend to a belief in corporate enterprise, but is this true? Borrowing terms from the corporate world, such as enterprise and professionalism cannot mask the bureaucratic nature of governmental organizations and the people that staff them.
While military members certainly assume risk in their war making activities, the nature of this risk is entirely different from the essential risk of profit and loss assumed by professional, commercial enterprises. It is the absence of these feedback signals, the only accurate way of conveying information from customers to providers, that leaves bureaucracies blind to the efficient employment of finite resources. Lacking these active feedback signals directly from their customers, i.e. the taxpayers employing them to provide defense and security, bureaucracies are compelled to develop arbitrary regulations and judge the performance of personnel based on their adherence to these regulations. Performance is measured by obedience rather than the results of their activity in terms of customer satisfaction. This leaves bureaucratic security agencies blind to efficient allocation: how much security to provide, where, and at what time. Covering over this inherent blindness, characteristic of bureaucratic organizations, with the terminology of corporate enterprise is no more effective than placing a smiley face sticker over one’s gas gauge.