Lacey followed Keep From All Thoughtful Men with this book on the broader topic of the bureaucratic warfare in Washington during World War II. The book tells the fascinating story of the interagency decision-making process that flourished in FDR's administration during the wartime mobilization – who was effective at it and who was not. KFATM makes up one chapter of it, but interestingly Lacey's conclusion on the role of the economists has changed. He no longer believes that the economists caused Army chief of staff George C. Marshall to conclude that the D-Day invasion had to be postponed from 1943 to 1944, but instead notes that it was simply one of several factors in his decision.
One of the most interesting observations in the book, however, is in Lacey's introduction, where he explains that he thought the story the book would tell is how inefficient the U.S. government was at making war, especially in producing the material that was needed for combat, but when he finished, the story was the opposite. While there were of course miscalculations and inefficiencies for a variety of reasons, some of which were hardly the result of poor decisionmaking – the pitting of agency against agency and power broker against power broker actually tended to result in a fairly optimal result in the end, since all viewpoints tended to have a chance at being heard, and the bad ones usually melted away. The inefficiencies seemed to me to be caused in large part by FDR and Harry Hopkins' desire to avoid having a strong leader coordinating the home front until late in the war, preferring to control the decisionmaking or at least the decisionmaker.
This is in sharp contrast, he notes, to more authoritarian planning systems such as Germany and Japan, for example, where gigantic errors in planning by unchallengeable leaders or factions remained unexamined and undisturbed. The administration can be faulted for a less than optimal process, but at least it avoided the enormous errors that could have occurred had Donald Nelson exercised almost supreme power – and then been wrong. The system was actually very Washington – agency heads and industry heads fought each other for money, power and influence, and had opportunities to make their cases to the powers that be, and in most cases the solutions that the process generated worked out to be either magnificent (the creation of adequate aircraft manufacturing plants before the U.S. entered the war using the expected demand by foreign powers such as Britain and France) or at least adequate when it counted. The example here is the relative priority in shipbuilding given to shipping tonnage, escort vessels and landing craft, as well as combatants such as battleships, aircraft carriers, screening vessels and so forth. The balance changed throughout the war based on needs at any given time, but the end result that there was enough – even if only barely – of everything when it was needed.
For example, adequate shipping capacity was always a significant constraint, but it didn't cause Britain or the USSR to drop out of the war, or prevent the US from entering the European theater as a combatant within a year of Pearl Harbor. Escort vessels for convoys was always a need, but there was enough to keep losses at an acceptable level. And landing craft were always in short supply, but production was able to turn to maximizing landing craft in time that Eisenhower only had to delay D-Day one month, and the Anvil invasion by an additional two months due to landing craft shortages.
Again, Germany is the primary example of how wrong this could have been done. German naval production emphasized surface combatants over submarines far too long – a decision that at least balanced the concerns in the late 1930s would likely have won Germany the war against Britain by 1941. Similarly, German aircraft design was largely ineffective at producing the planes Germany needed from 1942 on due to an air force that was unable to get good ideas past Goering and later Hitler. An example here is Hitler's micromanaging of the best aircraft that German industry did come up with – the Me 262 jet fighter in such a way that it contributed virtually nothing to the German war effort.
The branch politics of the American war effort nearly did the same thing with the superior piston-driven engine fighter of the war, the P-51 Mustang, but in the end, the fighter that the Allies needed finally became available as ideas that were simply too good to fail rose through the process. Similarly, the Navy's torpedoes were almost useless until 1943, but eventually their defects became known in time for improved versions to become possibly the key piece of ordnance in starving the Japanese war machine. Time and time again, the Allies' system was able to identify and corrected problems while their opponents did not.
All in all, a really good book if you want a look at what was going on behind the scenes.