Here's how the thinking goes:
1) More expensive stuff is always better than less expensive (cheaper) stuff.
2) The Army always buys from the lowest bidder.
3) Therefore, the stuff the Army buys is never as good as the stuff it didn't buy.
4) You got issued crap.
2) The Army does not always buy from the lowest bidder, sometimes the better product does cost more and is what is procured.
Does the Military always get the "best" stuff? Unfortunately, no. But, generally speaking, it does get stuff the meets the requirements.
Oh, I'm intimately familiar with the process. I've spent most of my adult life in Defense Contracting at several levels and job titles.
What you say is exactly right - though i can't vouch for rank and file attitudes. But I think you get it.
The Requirements are the Bible. They reign supreme over all other considerations. Those companies that don't religiously follow those Requirements lose the contract. Way down at the end of thousand and thousands of stipulations is the price.
This whole "buys from the lowest bidder" stuff makes for wry humor and passable lampoon, but it's far from accurate.
You know, right now, about a third of the stuff the Pentagon is buying comes from a desperate search for companies able and willing to simply build the stuff. They don't care about price. They just want the goods. A lotta companies refuse to do business with the DoD and what ones that still do aren't much for efficient product output.
The Requirements don't come from people - they come from Committees. Multiple passes through multiple bureaucrats and endless, boring meetings filled with slugs and dopes on their way to another meeting with just a few gems - a decidedly brainy guy or two - in each room. In some respects, I'm surprised we're not shooting beachballs from guns with lampshades. But it seems to work out.
Not seen by the rank and file are the Requirements for building and deploying this stuff. When the M16 came along, we were still thinking we might have to suddenly deploy a quarter million rifles, with ammo and support, out to BFEgypt on a moment's notice. Now, starting at Square One, would you rather field M14s? or M16? The M16 design wins, hands-down, no-contest.
But that's a Requirement that the Infantryman never sees. He never sees it because he HAS a rifle in his hands and is not waiting weeks for one. In fact, almost ALL of the Requirements are unseen and largely irrelevant to the Infantryman. It's not that he's unimportant, it's just that getting the rifle and ammo TO HIM is pretty darned important. But the warfighter is... well... sometimes reluctant to embrace this.
I'm generally no big fan of the Logistics division of the Pentagon, but I gotta tip my hat. They can get the ball rolling like no one else.
And you can apply this philosophy to everything from toothpicks to MRAPs. Absolutely ALL of the Requirements were met, it's just that almost all of them had little or nothing to do with the end user.
Which I admit is a flaw. The poindexters come up with a smashing good idea; they take it out to Aberdeen or Edwards and show some brass. If we're LUCKY by about the third demonstration, someone will show up with a grunt or dogface that actually uses - or will use- this gizmo. He points out the (usually) obvious stuff the Committees were denying; the brass gets huffy; and it's back to the drawing boards. After several more iterations, compromises, and usually personnel - if everything goes right - it's finished. Everyone is impressed and cigars all around.
As a result, some stuff is crazy good. But some stuff not so much. It's only as good as the people writing the Requirements and the people listening instead of talking. But that's just a largely objective perspective. Once a warfighter is given a crap detail on the wrong day, suddenly ALL of his gear is crap. His HumVee is the worst bucket of bolts ever assembled -- and REMAINS that way long after his retirement. Same with his rifle, belt, boots, rations, and ruck. All subject to passionate opinion and moods for years to come. Whether Medical, Motorpool, or Missile tech, I've never met military personnel that couldn't complain all evening about the crap they had to make do with.
"They gotta like it" are words that are just never put in the Requirements. Okay, maybe the dance band at the Officers Club, but nowhere else I can ever think of.