11 April 2022

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Pierre Sprey Award for Defense Reporting and Analysis


Long time readers of The Blaster will recognize the name Pierre Sprey, he was a close friend and colleague of mine for over 43 years.  He often contributed to the contents of the Blaster, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly.  Sadly, Pierre passed suddenly last August (Washington Post obituary), profile (here), and design philosophy (here).  Several of Pierre's friends, led by Ben Cohen, a co-founder of Ben and Jerry's, have collaborated to establish an annual defense-related journalism award in Pierre's name.  Attached herewith is the press release announcing the award and its guiding philosophy.  Included are links to the award's web site and application procedures.

For Immediate Release: April 5, 2022

Contact: Edward Erikson, Edward.Erikson@Gmail.com  202-420-9947

Government Watchdogs Announce New Pierre Sprey Award for Defense Reporting and Analysis 

Funded by the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, the award celebrates “clear-thinking and courageous” analysis that exposes the military-industrial complex  

Washington, D.C. — The newly launched Pierre Sprey Award for Defense Reporting and Analysis is now accepting submissions. Named after the late defense analyst noted for his critiques of the U.S. military-industrial complex, the award is intended to celebrate clear-thinking and courageous journalism that exposes systemic, intentional, and corrupt standard operating procedures at the highest levels of the Pentagon, Congress, and weapons manufacturers. It recognizes work that furthers public understanding of the need to reform our nation’s military establishment and the systems that feed off it.

A Yale- and Cornell-educated aeronautical engineer, Sprey was one of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s “whiz kids” during the Johnson administration and was highly influential in the design of the F-16 fighter jet and the A-10 Warthog. After spending years in Washington, he became a leading critic of the war industry, revolving door, and obscene military budgets. Along with Colonel John Boyd, Tom Christie, and Chuck Spinney, he was a leader of the highly effective military reform movement in the 1980s.

He continued to be an active critic of high-tech weapons systems that are exorbitantly expensive and ineffective throughout his life. 

Submissions will be reviewed by a panel of Pierre Sprey’s peers, including Tom Christie, a former Director of the Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation who worked at the Pentagon for more than three decades; Franklin Spinney, a former Pentagon analyst; Winslow Wheeler a national security expert who worked on Capitol Hill with both Republican and Democratic US Senators; and Andrew Cockburn, the Washington, D.C. editor of Harper’s Magazine

“This award memorializes the work and example set by a brilliant engineer and mathematician who combined creativity and elegance of design with a fearless integrity to inspire several generations of military officers, defense academics, analysts, and investigative journalists,” says Franklin Spinney.

"Pierre was more than a good friend and extraordinary teacher. Time after time he would deliver a stunning analysis that would make me think, ‘That just can't be true.’ He would then go through his profound ability to collect data I didn't know existed and to rip it apart and then rebuild it into findings that tore huge holes in conventional wisdom that the practitioners of business as usual did their best to ignore once they found they couldn't refute it. That is the spirit of this award," says Winslow Wheeler. 

"Pierre was always Insightful, always razor sharp, often provocative, but always right," says Tom Christie.

“Absurd levels of Pentagon spending bear no relationship to what’s needed for our security,” says Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. “Pentagon spending is driven by profits for weapons manufacturers who bribe Pentagon brass with the promise of cushy  jobs when they retire. Pierre understood that and fought against it by designing cost effective weapons.”

The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2022. Winners will be announced in February 2023, with awards conferred at a ceremony in March. There will be a first prize of $10,000 and two runner-up prizes of $1,000 each.

Learn more about the Pierre Sprey Award for Defense Reporting and Analysis here.