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Film / The Pentagon Wars

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Sgt. Fanning: ...A troop transport that can't carry troops, a reconnaissance vehicle that's too conspicuous to do reconnaissance...
Colonel James Burton: ...and a quasi-tank that has less armor than a snowblower, but has enough ammo to take out half of D.C.
—A summary of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle

The Bradley Fighting Vehicle, as designed, was a deathtrap. If it were to be sent into combat without significant modifications, it could kill hundreds of its own passengers. So what do you do when the top brass orders you to make it pass the tests, so that it can be deployed in the field on schedule and make them look good? Do you make a somber, tragic movie showing the depths to which humanity can sink? Do you do a scathing news exposé of the affair and demand accountability?

No, you make the 1998 HBO Black Comedy film The Pentagon Wars. The film stars Kelsey Grammer as Maj. General Partridge, who wants the Bradley in production no matter how much of a liability it is to its own crew; Cary Elwes as Lt. Colonel Burton, who will do everything he can to prevent that from happening; and Viola Davis as an admin sergeant assigned to help Burton.

This movie is based directly on the memoir The Pentagon Wars: Reformers Challenge the Old Guard by Colonel James G Burton, and presents him as he presented himself: an idealistic crusader going against a corrupt and inefficient military procurement system. Historians of the U.S. military have actually found Burton's account of the Bradley's development and his part in it to be biased and misleading, so the narrative of this movie should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

This 1998 made-for-TV movie provides examples of:

  • America Is Still a Colony: Invoked for laughs by General Partridge, when Col. Bach and Maj. Sayers tell him that Burton has unearthed a British Army study that the Bradley's aluminum armor catches fire and gives off toxic gas when hit by a shell:
    Partridge: God damn it! We fought a revolution so we wouldn't have to pay any attention to the fucking British!
  • Analogy Backfire: General Partridge makes this mistake in front of a Congressional Committee when discussing the accuracy of the Paveway bomb, which missed 50% of the time.
    General Partridge: In baseball a guy who hits .400 is considered pretty damn great.
    Congressman: In baseball the losing team isn't killed by their opponents.
  • Armchair Military: Col. Burton is disillusioned by how little the top brass at the Pentagon actually cares about the men in the field, and how little they know about the conditions those men might be facing in combat. Sgt. Fanning points out that since the United States hasn't fought a major war since Vietnam, most of the general officers have climbed the ladder through bureaucratic skills and networking, rather than combat experience.
  • Armed Farces: A slightly more serious example, but the movie is very openly satirical.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Perhaps you'd like to tell us how much has been spent so far to develop the Bradley?" Partridge is notably very, very reluctant to say the answer when he reads the amount ($14 Billion, with a "b") off a file.
  • Artistic License – Geography: No, Normal, Illinois is not 'just outside of Chicago'.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Averted. Despite being an Air Force lieutenant colonel, Cary Elwes remembers to keep his finger off the trigger of the M-16 he holds during his speech, even though the rifle is unloaded. The corporal who hands it to him also visibly checks the chamber for a round before handing it over to him.
  • Artistic License – History: Some basic research into the actual Bradley program will quickly reveal that most of the events depicted in the movie were either exaggerated at best or completely fabricated at worst.
    • The movie glosses over some of the central points of the book, particularly with regards to the broader context of the Pentagon at the time with the "Reformer Movement." Also, Israel never acquired the M2 Bradley, instead continuing to operate the M113 (the Bradley's predecessor) well into the 21st Century (M113 production ended in 2007).
    • The movie glosses over the development of what was actually several IFV prototypes such as the XM800T, XM734 and XM701, implying there was one direct line of evolution rather than a gradual evolution of expected capabilities caused by the failure or cancellation of other projects. Rather than being a case of constantly-escalating requirements, the previous prototypes simply didn't meet one or more of the requirements and thus had to go back to the drawing board.
    • It also glosses over a lot of the conflict regarding the testing procedure, one-sidedly portraying it as an effort to cover up flaws rather than a sincere disagreement on the style of testing used. For instance, testing individual components such as armor plates under laboratory conditions was considered more yielding of scientifically-useful data, even if it was less visible in-context what that data really meant. Also, some tests that were skipped were simply recorded as "failed" without bothering with testing, because it was seen as pointless to test against threats that they knew would defeat any armor.
      • In one particular scene, Burton examines the wreckage after a destructive test and discovers the fuel tanks were filled with water and the ammunition inert and filled with sand. This was done to demonstrate what would happen inside the vehicle in the event of a penetrating hit, showing which fuel tanks and ammo stowage would be hit — and thus needed more armour — and which would not, something that would be impossible to determine if the vehicle was blown up and debris scattered over a field. Burton viewed this as evidence of The Conspiracy.
    • A major idea of the film is that the Bradley is a Master of None, not fitting the role of a recon vehicle, an armored personnel carrier, or a tank destroyer. However, the Bradley's actual function is that of an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV): a vehicle that carries a squad of troops to the battlefield, and then sticks around and helps them out with a suite of weapons on par with those of a light tank. This isn't a concept that the designers cooked up just to pretend it had a job, either; the Soviet BMP-1 had pioneered that exact role since 1966, and a major reason for the Bradley's development was to give the US an answer to it.note 
    • The biggest source of artistic license is the original book itself. James Burton describes himself as the Only Sane Man trying to do the right thing and to sort IFV development out, but in reality... James Burton was an established member of a think tank group called the "Reformers", whose ideas can be summed up as "in order to save money and lives, we should spend less on development and use as much of the old tech as possible". Burton himself openly stated that things like aircraft radars and guided missiles are nothing but "high-priced junk". As a part of the Bradley development team, Burton fundamentally misunderstood the whole idea of an IFV. The Bradley was designed as a cannon-armed IFV from the beginning in 1965, and a missile launcher was added when the program of a separate armored recon vehicle was abandoned and the Bradley took its role. The Bradley's survivability was questioned long before Burton became involved, resulting in the future M2A1 iteration. And, to top it off, Burton's proposed "Advanced Survivability Bradley" turned out to be much larger, with extremely vulnerable ammo and fuel stowage. To elaborate, the fuel was stored outside the armor, and could probably have been detonated by artillery shrapnel or a hand grenade.
    • Other accounts and records of the program paint Burton as an Obstructive Bureaucrat who ended up being more of a detriment to the program due to the highly impractical and unrealistically strict testing standards he tried to enforce. Other accounts suggested at the time that since one of his own experimental airplane designs was rejected by the Department of Defense, Burton was deliberately trying to sabotage the Bradley program out of spite.
      • The incident that in all versions proves to be too much for Col. Burton supports this interpretation: he was angry that the Army put the Bradley's water supply close to its center, where any round that penetrated it would likely pierce the water tanks, which could help douse fires. This would further Burton's ostensible goal of making the Bradley more survivable in combat, but according to Burton, that's just cheating.
    • General Partridge is browbeaten by the Chair of the HASC into admitting the project cost $14 billion. The actual cost was $8 billion, out of a total $12 billion budget.
  • Artistic License – Military: The real Colonel Burton was a full colonel, not a lieutenant colonel. The director felt Cary Elwes was too young to be a convincing colonel, but it leads to an unusual case where a lieutenant colonel is telling off four-star generals.
  • Author Tract: The movie goes to length to portray the Pentagon's acquisitions process as corrupt, ineffective, and flawed. The original book was a nonfiction tell-all whistleblower piece about this exact subject.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: Inverted to hell and back with the Bradley when Burton arrives: it is The Alleged Car and a Hummer Dinger, a rolling death-trap inefficient as a troop carrier, a weapons platform or even just an armored vehicle, and you can forget about using it in its original capacity as a scout — it will draw the gunfire of every enemy on the field. Of course, it was never intended as any of these things, as noted in Artistic License – History - its job is to drop the troops off and then provide supporting fire.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat:
    • Col. Smith, every time the Generals above him demand a change to the Bradley's design.
    • Partridge and his cronies attempt to turn Burton into this by almost-literally burying his office in 17 years' worth of paperwork and memos, attempting to render him simply too busy to oversee the joint tests. Instead, he becomes a Badass Bureaucrat.
    • Secretary Weinberger gives off the impression of a man desperately trying to effectively lead the Defense Department, but is getting BS'd every step of the way by his generals.
    • Even the congressional hearing members questioning Partridge get a little of this after being lied to and having the hearing drawn out for so long when it's obvious that he's lying.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While Burton does manage to expose the Bradley's flaws and force the army to design a much safer version, it's still not enough to change the system that created it in the first place. General Partridge still gets his promotion and his private sector job opportunities, while Burton is forced to retire.
  • Blatant Lies: How they ultimately resort to covering the Bradley's faults, right down to "revising" Col. Burton's scathing report to say the exact opposite of its original statements.
    • Early on, Burton witnesses a live-fire test with what he's told is a Soviet anti-tank rocket. He points out the writing on the rocket and its case isn't even in Cyrillic.
  • Blind Obedience: The lieutenant Partridge orders to rewrite Burton's scathing report doesn't even bother to ask why he's completely reversing the conclusions in the report or covering up his conclusions that the Bradley is dangerous.
  • Bothering by the Book: Both sides engage in this, escalating into My Rule Fu Is Stronger than Yours. They also both dip into shady, even outright-illegal, shenanigans to try and advance their agendas.
  • Brick Joke: "Paper cuts, Fanning. Vicious paper cuts."
  • Bumbling Henchman Duo: Colonel Bach and Major Sayers, Partridge's devotees at the testing facility. John C. McGinley, the actor who played Bach, would also be part of a similar duo in Office Space.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Burton has shades of this in the film. Highlights include stealing the door off of an ammo dump in order to test a Romanian rocket off the books. It's pretty heavily implied that Burton is acting this way because if anyone tries to court-martial or reprimand him for doing these things, they will draw more attention to the Bradley's failings as a vehicle, which is what Burton wants.
  • Chewbacca Defense: The framing narrative is Partridge putting up one of these at a Congressional hearing explaining the development cycle of the Bradley. Subverted in that, from the very first scene, it's obvious that the hearing officials are annoyed at Partridge's Blatant Lies.
  • Cool Old Lady: Madame chairwoman of the Congressional hearing, who is very willing to tell off Partridge and determined to get to the bottom of the matter.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: The majority of the officers involved in weapons testing are portrayed as careerists perpetuating an absurd system to ensure their promotion to General and guarantee lucrative jobs in the defense industry once they retire. Even General Smith, who was initially portrayed with some sympathy as the Bradley's original designer, ultimately played the game and refuses to help Burton more directly because he has too much to lose.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Secretary Weinberger gets a few, "According to this, one missile locked on to a ventilation fan in the latrine, and destroyed the latrine. Were we test-firing at latrines that day?"
  • Development Hell:
    • The Bradley has been in development for 17 years as the movie opens. Sadly, Truth in Television: Most military projects of this sort takes decades. The problem is that the combination of having the companies designing component features locked in from the start (despite the fact that technology changes extremely rapidly compared to the production period) and the evolving realistic needs of the military, and the demands of the brass, result in a remarkably broken system for development. As this film demonstrates. invoked
    • Secretary of Defense Weinberger also chews out a group of Generals for a number of other programs that were in development at the time, including the M247 Sergeant York (cancelled due to cost overruns), the A-12 Avenger II (also cancelled due to cost overruns), and the UH-60 Black Hawk (one of the few exceptions, but it was still in development at the time).
  • Disapproving Look: a great one by Secretary Weinberger, his squint saying "do you think I'm that stupid?", when General Partridge tells him he didn't know Burton had been fired. As the dialogue goes on, it changes into a Death Glare.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Colonel Bach and Major Sayers obstruct Burton at every step, but they freak out when he calls their bluff and orders a live fire test on the Bradley with living people inside. They still conceal the test results, but they refuse actually let anyone die in the process - not least because half a dozen dead soldiers would quite definitely arouse suspicion about the Bradley.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Partridge does not seem to realize Burton's motivations are genuine. At first he thinks Burton doesn't understand how the office-politics works, then he thinks Burton is trying to spite him, then he accuses Burton of trying to get media attention or trying to set Partridge up for his own career.
  • Executive Meddling: In-universe. The top brass change their minds several times about what kind of performance/armament they want the Bradley to have, often in mid-design. Causing major delays and budget overruns. Even worse, they tend to criticize the very features they requested previously, i.e. demanding a larger gun, and then complaining that it gives the vehicle a tank-like silhouette and will encourage the enemy to target it first.
    Designer: " Do you want me to put a sign on it in fifty languages, "I am a troop carrier, not a tank, please don't shoot at me"?"
  • False Reassurance: As spoken by Kelsey Grammer in perhaps the snarkiest moment in the movie.
    "General, were you for or against the Major's testing regimen?"
    "Absolutely not."
    "Absolutely not, yes? Or absolutely not, no?"
    "Absolutely not, absolutely."
  • Faux Affably Evil: General Partridge. His establishing moment is when he first meets Burton, when he affably implies that if Burton makes sure the Bradley passes testing, he'll make sure Burton ends up with a cushy job in the defense industry. Then, as Burton is leaving, Partridge chews him out for being late.
  • The Film of the Book: Of The Pentagon Wars by USAF Colonel James G. Burton.
  • Girl Friday: Sergeant Fanning, Burton's assistant at his Pentagon office.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: Partridge. The film's Framing Device is him having to explain How We Got Here during his hearing.
  • Heel–Face Turn: A subtle one, but the enlisted men in charge of preparing the Bradley prototypes for testing gradually come to believe in Burton and stop sabotaging the tests, even before he gives them a big speech, when his antics demonstrate both how horribly unsafe the vehicle is and that they finally had an officer not afraid to ruin his career to stand up for them.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The enlisted men display a great degree of cynicism towards Burton because a neverending cycle of officers just like him have come through and ultimately decide to play the game because they want their promotion.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Partridge reassigns Burton to Alaska in an attempt to get rid of him...which ends up leaving him available to testify at the Senate subcommittee hearing, since he's no longer under the command of a general away in Germany unable to order him to testify.
  • How We Got Here: The movie starts near the end of the Bradley's development cycle when the vehicle is almost ready for production, and later spends about fifteen minutes showing how the Bradley was first conceptualized and then constantly subject to changing and contradictory demands in order to become the confused mess it was.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Partridge accuses the Congressional committee of forgetting what the point of military procurement and development is and of not worrying about the soldiers in the field. Meanwhile, he's covering up the development of a vehicle he knows to be a deathtrap.
    • The contractors building the Bradley accepted extensive safety alterations for models intended for foreign buyers, but denied any safety flaws to the American military.
    • The generals leading the design process frequently request pie-in-the-sky additions and changes to the Bradley's design that require drastic and efficiency-reducing changes in order to be implemented, only to then criticise the changes once they see them... only to then demand more drastic and efficiency-reducing changes. At one point, one general scoffs at a previous instruction to include portholes in the side to enable troops within to fire at the enemy, sneering that they're not designing something for the navy here... only to then get a gleam in his eye and eagerly ask if it can be made amphibious mere seconds later.
  • Implausible Deniability: The officers in charge of the Bradley program refuse to admit flaws that are blatantly obvious to anyone who looks.
    • Partridge does this a lot before the Senate, including denying any deceptiveness in obviously-rigged tests.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Burton and Fanning share a bottle of whiskey at a particularly low point in their investigation, where Burton laments the fact that the equipment development system has become so corrupt that it's lost sight of the soldiers in the field who are going to depend on that equipment for their own safety:
    Burton: You know, Fanning, I've worked in the Pentagon long enough to understand that it's not a charity. It's all cash flows and egos. Fine. That's what drives it, that's what makes it work. But somehow I always thought, at the end of the day, the men came first.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: The climax. Partridge tells an assembled audience how amazing the Bradley is, only to watch it spectacularly explode seconds later from a single hit.
  • Irony: Burton notes that Omar Bradley was A Father to His Men and would have been horrified that a vehicle bearing his name was such a death trap.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Partridge is Army, Burton is Air Force, and only "work" together because the Pentagon has decided to make weapons testing a joint operation.
  • Just Following Orders: The excuse given by the men rigging the live-fire tests.
  • Karma Houdini: The generals in charge of the program. Despite trying to push through a vehicle that they knew to be a deathtrap likely to get American soldiers killed, most of them get high-paying jobs in defense contracting or get promoted.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Partridge is a version Played for Laughs. He tries every kind of obstruction, logic fallacy, half-truth and plain lie to hinder Burton and when he finally finds himself in a situation where the other person not only isn't fooled but also outranks him, he just keeps digging himself deeper with his outrageously blatant dishonesty.
  • Master of None: The end result of designing Bradley for every role imaginable is that it's not good at doing any of them. It's too big to be a reconnaissance vehicle, too lightly armored to fight against tanks, and it can only carry six fully equipped soldiers instead of the originally planned eleven. Its only standout features are its good mobility and high firepower, neither of which is particularly useful because of the aforementioned weaknesses.
  • Metaphorically True: Technically, the Romanian anti-tank rocket was an enemy munition. But it's obviously crude and weak by the standards of munitions made by more serious threats such as the Soviet Union, which the test was obviously concerned with.
  • Modern Major General: What, exactly, is Partridge good at other than careerism?
  • Moving the Goalposts: The various ways the Bradley “passes” its readiness tests.
  • Mysterious Informant: Burton receives tip-offs about the Bradley from an unknown informant, who he later figures out is General Smith. Smith does want the Bradley's flaws exposed, but he draws the line at risking his own career by publicly supporting Burton's allegations.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter:
    • A Congressman, asking Partridge about one of his "conversations" with Burton: "Did you or did you not confront Col. Burton outside the Pentagon pharmacy and say, (reading) 'If I hear one more word about your - expletive deleted - report, you're gonna be sitting on your brains?'"
    • During a heated argument with Burton, Col. Bach says something along the lines of " the motherfucking head!" which Partridge reframes to the Committee as "unfortunate remarks about Col. Burton's mother."
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Burton ultimately exposes the Bradley's dangerous flaws and forces extensive redesigning, which saves soldiers' lives in the Gulf War and equips the Army with a genuinely effective fighting vehicle instead of a notorious deathtrap. In reward, he's forced into retirement.
  • No Name Given: The congressional committee grilling Partidge remain unnamed
  • No Product Safety Standards: You'd really think a vehicle designed to go into combat wouldn't be made with armor that gives off toxic gas when struck by enemy fire.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Part of the system's M.O. is to place deliberately incompetent officers in charge of parts of the testing program that might reveal flaws. For instance, the department of Ruminant Procurement (in charge of procuring sheep) states that it will take around sixteen months to approve what type of sheep to use in the testing.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Pentagon is filled with them. Partridge is the most notable example. For example, when Colonel Burton requests sheep for a live fire test on the Bradley, Partridge has a whole new department created for the purposes of animal procurement just to slow down the process of Burton actually getting hold of some sheep for his test.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Burton realizes the full extent of just how much Partridge is willing to work him out of the loop when he's told the Bradley is already in production despite not being tested.
    • Partridge and his cronies get this at the very end when they're told the Bradley's fuel and ammunition are "to spec" for a final demonstration. To spec as in, not rigged.
    • Partridge has several during the HASC hearings. First when he says that a full fuel tank would have exploded during a test (which was exactly the point of the test). Another when the Chair of the Committee asks how much has been spent on R&D and Partridge seems to see that number ($14 billion, with a "B") for the first time and realize how screwed he is.
  • Only Sane Employee: Col. Burton is apparently the only officer in the joint testing program who realizes the Bradley isn't just a means to shuffle money and promotions around, but a vehicle that will carry American soldiers into combat and had better damn well be battle-ready.
  • Open Secret: Everybody involved in the program but Burton seems to already know the Bradley is deeply flawed.
  • Passed-Over Promotion: Colonel Smith, the Beleaguered Bureaucrat who managed the Bradley design project was passed over from being given the coveted general's star for a long time due to the Bradley's Development Hell. This is eventually subverted when they promote him to keep him from asking any more questions.
    Colonel Smith: "Look at these eagles! I've been a bird colonel so long, I'm starting to grow goddamned feathers!!"
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Any time Burton and Partridge speak to one another directly.
  • Rank Up: Smith finally gets his General's star to keep his mouth shut. If you take notice of the three Generals who have been demanding changes to the Bradley, they've gained extra stars over the years Smith has been dealing with them.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The House Armed Services Committee. Yes, you read that right. The United States Congress is actually wise and sensible for once by hearing out both Partridge and Burton and ordering a live fire test of the Bradley.
    • Subverted with Defense Secretary Weinberger: he insists on transparency from the Pentagon and has no patience for Partridge's double-speak, but ultimately does nothing to remove the prevailing atmosphere in the military-industrial complex ("get it done, I don't care how") that is Inherent in the System.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Burton. It backfires somewhat, as it places him under the command of someone else other than the general that Partridge had been counting on to be unavailable to authorize Burton's testifying at the committee hearing.
  • Reassignment Backfire: Partridge has his old friend, Burton's commanding officer, assign him to Alaska. If he hadn't done that, the Congressional Subcommittee would have needed to get approval from Partridge's friend to have Burton testify. Instead, he has a new commanding officer who permits it.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Burton steals the armored door off an ammo dump in order to test the Romanian anti-tank rocket. The only reason he gets away with destruction of government property is nobody in a position to court-martial him over it wants to call attention to the substandard munitions they had been using in testing. Basically, he dared them to do something about it knowing it would blow the lid off their cover-up as well.
  • Rewatch Bonus: In the scene where Col. Burton gives a speech to the enlisted men maintaining the Bradley towards the end, he's attempting to persuade them to ignore their orders and prepare the Bradley to combat specification (including ammunition, fuel in the tanks, lacking fire retardant sealant, et cetera), ignorant of the fact they already did so. On rewatch, it's clear a few people try to interrupt him and the rest know what he's getting at long before he makes his point, but they just decide to roll with it when he keeps talking.
  • Rule of Three: Before asking General Patridge about the Bradley, Defense Secretary Weinberger asks two other officers from the Army and Navy about the weapons they're developing, both of whom assure him that "everything is just peachy." Based on what Burton has already seen of the Bradley, the audience can tell that they, and Partridge, are lying through their teeth.
  • Spear Carrier: All of the testing crew besides Dalton and Granger are glorified extras.
  • Soldiers at the Rear: Burton uses the story of the M-16 to accuse the enlisted men working on the Bradley of not caring because they never knew anyone who died because of defective equipment. This is deliberate however; as enlisted men, a lot of them probably did have close friends who died in combat because of defective equipment and Burton knows this.
  • Stopped Caring: Many officers at the Pentagon are so jaded and used to the system that they no longer care about the end result and the men on the ground. Also goes for the enlisted men at the testing facility, who get a "white knight" like Burton every other year and see them inevitably choose their careers over doing the right thing.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Col. Burton can either skip the vaporifics test or wait at least sixteen months for ruminants (sheep) to be approved by an office deliberately dragging its feet. Instead, he just goes out and buys sheep from a local farmer himself.
    • When presented with the option of either letting the Bradley go to test, or risking his career by going on the record supporting Burton's claims, General Smith chooses to step back and just leak the fact that the matter is being debated to the media, to draw scrutiny towards the Bradley without having to denounce it himself.
  • Tank Goodness: Averted to high heaven with the Bradley. Starting with the fact that it was never supposed to be a tank in the first place!
  • The Inspector Is Coming: Burton is the inspector, and the testing facility hastily tries to cover up obvious design flaws and flawed testing methods.
  • Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup: Part of the reason why the Bradley was in development so long. Colonel Smith comes up with an effective troop carrier, only for the committee he answers to constantly revise the design for their own vested interests (one insists on developing it as a scout vehicle, another is constantly pushing for anti-tank weaponry, and the third just seems to throw out whatever comes to mind), resulting in a Frankenstein's monster of a vehicle that does lots of different things poorly and not one thing well.
  • Truth in Television: Although Burton’s book is considered a skewed and misleading account of what happened with the Bradley in particular, the kinds of problems satirized here do happen in any large bureaucracy. Nobody wants to tell the truth because it would make them look inefficient by comparison and essentially end their careers.
  • Underling with an F in PR: When the House Committee asks Partridge for a bottom-line figure on how much has been spent developing the Bradley to date, Partridge hems and haws and shuffles through the papers on the table, until his lieutenant helpfully picks out the correct paper for him, getting a Death Glare as thanks.
  • Undisclosed Funds: Averted - $14 Billion, with a "B".
  • Vast Bureaucracy: The Pentagon. Played for all the dark laughs it can obtain (trying to stall Burton's test with live animals by making a division to research the "perfect" live animal to use—a process that will take a year, at the fastest) and drama (everybody on the Bradley project that isn't a Jerkass War Hawk getting the decency ground out of them on-screen because it's the only way that they will get anything done).
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Before asking Partridge about the progress of the Bradley, Secretary Weinberger mentions two other projects in development, the M247 "Sergeant York" self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, and the A-12 "Avenger II" attack aircraft. Both projects were expensive failures, canceled after the events of the film (in 1985 and 1991, respectively), and the fact that their respective developers assure Secretary Weinberger that "everything is just peachy" only confirms what Burton suspects about the Bradley.
  • Villain of Another Story: The officers behind the testing of the various other behind-schedule weapons all clearly have a lot of waste and problems going on that they steadfastly lie about to the Secretary of Defense, although whether any of that stoops to Bradley levels of negligence is unclear.
  • You Didn't Ask: One reason why Burton was never told about the aluminum gas study. Also when the Bradley explodes during the demonstration at the end—the soldiers didn't rig it to blow up, nor did they rig it to prevent the thing from blowing up like they had been doing. They just didn't tell Burton because he didn't allow them to explain when he was making his speech.
  • Your Mom: At one point as Partridge's Voice Over covers an argument between Burton, Bock and Sayers he does note that it's regrettable how certain things were said about Colonel Burton's mother.


Video Example(s):


The Bradley

The revolutionary Bradley fighting vehicle was, in its original form, an overdesigned armoured personnel carrier that was also supposed to be part-reconnaissance vehicle, part-tank destroyer.

It would have also been a death trap for its occupants in a battle situation.

How well does it match the trope?

4.67 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / MasterOfNone

Media sources: