Category Archives: Around the web

The coming battle over military retirement.

The Army, and the other services, of course, like to say that people are their most valuable asset. Not surprisingly, they’re pretty much the most expensive one as well.

Recently, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission returned a report on how to modernize the current military retirement system to reduce costs to the government. It’s recommendations are  not especially popular with the military population.

In simplest terms right now, 20 years of service earns you retirement at half of your final basic pay, starting immediately, for life, adjusted for inflation. 30 years earns three-quarters pay. It’s somewhat more complicated than that, actually, but that’s close enough.

The MCRMC has recommended reducing the pension soldiers receive, boosting a 401k style investment program, delaying payment of retirement until 60 years of age, and other changes. Worse still, they want to slough retirees off the TriCare For Life medical program and onto Obamacare.

Jonn at This Ain’t Hell discusses just what a 20-year pension means.

I retired at the age of 38 along with my family. I went to college the month after I left the service. It was a fairly tough transition – I worked a full time job with a security company as a rent-a-cop on a construction site, I also worked as a work/study student in the campus VA office, all while carrying a full load of classes. The pension helped us meet our transition expanses until I graduated.

After college, I went into sales with an investment company, a totally foreign environment. While I struggled to learn the business and how to teach other people what they needed, the Army pension paid the bills. Eventually, I failed at that business because some people are too stupid to help, and I’m no salesman,

When I went to work for the National Archives, most of the people my age had been at the job longer, so I was behind my peers in pay, but living in the District of Columbia, my employer didn’t take that into consideration and I still had to pay rent and bills. My pension gave me parity with my peers in an expensive environment.

Obviously, few people retire at the age of 38 and never work again. On the other hand, outside some very specific career fields, veterans who retire and then enter the work force do suffer from being years behind their peers in the civilian workforce. Their wages at their new jobs reflect their entry level status there, not the 20 years experience in the service.

Furthermore, while most jobs in the military are not terribly physically grueling, many are, and it is a rare retiree who doesn’t have some dents and dings in them. The issue is serious enough that many struggle to complete a second career.

That’s not to say that the retirement system isn’t overdue for an overhaul.

One major problem with the system is that it is somewhat all or nothing. A guy who leaves the service before 20 years essentially gets nothing. Heck, most employers vest a pension*at five years.

The big problem the military faces is that people live much longer today. When the 20 year retirement was instituted, retirees had the decency to die within about 20 years, give or take, of retirement. Today, a service member who retires at 38 years of age still has a life expectancy of another 35-40 years. And who knows just how much longer that number will be in 35-40 years. Worse still, from the government’s point of view, much of that life expectancy comes from great medical care, which is expensive, and which is a cost the government is paying.

From the DoD’s viewpoint, retirees threaten to become a costly retirement program with an armed wing. The costs of service members are somewhat high while they’re on active duty. But they really become expensive after they retire. I’m actually somewhat sympathetic to that argument.

The problem is, touching the military retirement system is fraught with political dangers. It’s extraordinarily unpopular, both with veterans (even those who left long before retirement) and with the public at large.

The other thing that really, really sticks in the craw of retirees is that they provided service to the nation. Their retirement was earned. And yet they see an ever expanding number of programs that provide money and health care, not only to people that are simply poor, but even to those who flaunt the law and come here illegally. It’s not at all surprising that veterans and retirees think cutting costs there is a good first step before touching the earned benefits of our nation’s veterans.

Here’s the commission’s report:

 

 

*Those that still have a pension, yes.

4 Comments

Filed under army, Around the web

SJWs defined.

To leave behind defense and technology and history for a moment, let’s address one of the more annoying groups of people in current society- the Social Justice Warriors, as they proudly proclaims themselves.

My first thought has long been that if you have to modify “Justice” with an adjective, it’s not justice.

Second, while we’re not especially fans of Science Fiction/Fantasy writing, many of you, dear readers, are. And there has been a distressing trend in that genre for so called SJWs to work to exclude any and all they perceive to be outside the acceptable bounds of “proper” thinking from being nominated or receiving awards, being allowed leadership positions in industry groups, or sometimes even membership, and even efforts to exclude them from merely publishing their own works.

The irony here, of course, is that SF/F is usually seen as a means of using an alternate universe or reality to highlight the human condition. Stripped of the norms of our own society, we can better see the commonalities, and variances of humanity by seeing it in a new light.

But some authors, wishing merely to write an interesting story, are vilified for not including enough characters who are gay, trans, of color, sufficiently socialist, what have you. Not that the author is explicitly denigrated these categories, but that they have failed to sufficiently celebrate and promote them, regardless of whether such advances the author’s story, or help explore the themes the author is focused on.

Charlie Martin, writing over at Sarah Hoyt’s place, nails the identity of these repulsive little SJWs and their power fetish:

They’re clearly the sort of penny-ante fascists who congregate in the elective posts in community theatre, school boards, and homeowners’ associations, who like being able to lord it over a bunch of other people but don’t have the balls to actually run for something important.

If you are a SF/F fan, read his whole piece.

7 Comments

Filed under Around the web

Diversity Thursday Addendum

Presented without comment:

10689666_10152767169344615_1994060439706493954_n

H/T to Brian P.

4 Comments

Filed under Around the web, budget, history, leadership, Personal, Politics, Uncategorized

Lexington’s Incomplete Modernization and Her Sinking At Coral Sea

CV-2_Lexington_and_CV-3_Saratoga

When the massive hulls of battlecruisers Lexington (CC-1) and Saratoga (CC-2) were designated to be completed as aircraft carriers  under provisions of the 1922 Washington Treaty, they represented a multi-generational leap forward for aircraft carrier design.  Eight hundred and eighty-eight feet long and displacing more than 44,000 tons loaded, these sleek monsters were capable of 33+ knots (some tales that Sara and Lex reached 40 knots during Fleet Problems in the late 1930s have never been verified) and could carry almost ninety aircraft.

9843567286_587f4955a0_b

They were, in fact, far more modern in the 1920s than the fragile and short-range airplanes they carried.  Other than the mammoth IJN Shinano (built on the hull of the third Yamato), which never operated with aircraft, Lexington and Saratoga were the largest aircraft carriers built until the Midways entered service post-war.  They were 12 knots faster than the battle fleet, and potentially capable of powerful, far-ranging strikes not conceived of before they entered service.

USS Lexington Class Firing

The design of Lex and Sara was still largely experimental, and contained some oddities that time and experience would either correct or eliminate.  Famously, these two aircraft carriers were armed with a heavy cruiser’s guns.  Each carried eight 8-inch/55 caliber Mk IX naval rifles in specially contrived twin mounts.  The gun housings lacked armor, consisting of little more than splinter shields, in order to save topside weight.  (While the mounting of heavy caliber guns seems in retrospect an anachronism, doubts about the ability of aircraft to actually engage and sink surface ships who might cross paths with the carriers were well founded in the early 1920s.  Despite Billy Mitchell’s experiments, the age of dominance of air power had not yet arrived for the world’s navies.  Indeed, the loss of HMS Glorious in 1940 and the sinking of three more aircraft carriers by gunfire over the course of the war might give more justification to the heavy main battery than commonly believed.)  The aligning of the centerline of the flight deck with the hull centerline was discovered to necessitate significant ballast to port to offset the weight of the island.  All future designs, starting with Ranger (CV-4) would have the appropriate offset of flight deck centerline on the hull.

5 25

Both vessels were given what was for the time a massive anti-aircraft battery.  Twelve of the new 5″/25 caliber Mk 10 AA guns were fitted, six on each side in single mounts, and controlled by the then-state of the art Mk 19 director.   A number of .50 (12.7mm) caliber machine guns installed in 1929 comprised the sole light AA capability.   As the size, speed, and lethality of carrier aircraft increased through the 1930s, however, it was soon clear that the .50 caliber machine guns were of dubious utility, and the development of the heavier 1.1″ (27.6mm) quad mount machine guns began.  Design delays in the 1.1″ AAMG were the impetus for the mounting of a number of 3″/50 caliber AA cannon until the design was ready for fielding, which occurred in early 1941.  The 1.1″ AAMG turned out to be a mixed bag.  When working properly, the 1.1″ proved effective in action, but maintenance and reliability issues, and the obvious requirement for a heavier projectile in the AA role against modern aircraft, led to the shipping of the famous twin and quad 40mm Bofors AA cannon beginning in mid-1942 on most US warships.

Pic_5

However, that decision was still in the future when plans were drawn up in 1940 to modernize Lexington and Saratoga as Pacific war clouds gathered.   It was planned to remove the 8″/55 Mk IX mounts on both vessels, and replace them with four twin Mk 12 mounts carrying the highly effective 5″/38 caliber dual purpose gun mated to Mk 37 gun directors, two mounts per director.   The 5″/38 was more accurate than its predecessor, and had an effective ceiling of 37,200 feet, 10,000 feet higher than the 25 caliber gun.  In addition, the plans called for the replacement of the elderly Mk 19 directors, first developed in 1925, with the newer Mk 33.  The Mk 19 was incapable of computing for dive bombing, and was almost entirely ineffective at tracking 250-knot aircraft now fielded by the Japanese, further restricting the effectiveness of the 5″/25 to under 17,000 feet.

cv2-9

The coming of war in December of 1941 meant that Lexington would be a desperately needed asset, and indeed she was active for the first four months in the Pacific war as a part of Task Force 11.  During a brief refit in late-March, 1942, Lexington’s 8″/55 mounts were landed, but the Mk 12 5″/38 mounts (and Mk 37 directors) to replace them were not installed, as Lexington was desperately needed in the fight against the Japanese Navy.  In addition, the Mk 33 directors destined for the older 5″/25 batteries were likewise not fitted.  In place of the planned 5″/38s, a temporary installation of more 1.1″ AAMGs and some 20mm Oerlikon cannon was instead completed.

Lex 42

020343e

Photographs of Lexington as she steamed into the Battle of the Coral Sea are noteworthy for the absence of her familiar 8″/55 mounts, or the presence of the 5″/38 mounts which Saratoga would receive while being repaired from torpedo damage a couple of months later.   What Lexington was left with for anti-aircraft defense was a heavy battery of older 5″/25 guns whose effectiveness was hampered by outdated fire control, and light AA in insufficient numbers to effectively defend her.   Whether this made any difference in the loss of Lexington is anyone’s guess, but the possibility certainly exists.  The mating of the 5″/38 with the Mk 37 director was the most lethal anti-aircraft combination to go to sea in World War II.   Perhaps such a combination could have caused the Japanese torpedo and dive bombers who fatally struck Lexington on 8 May 1942 to have missed, or might have destroyed them before they struck the ship.   What is indisputable, however, is that Lexington was sent into action against a modern and capable enemy with equipment and weapons that were known to be obsolete and lacking in combat effectiveness.  Operational tempo had restricted the US Navy’s ability to sufficiently modernize a capital ship to acceptable standards to meet the requirements of combat at sea.  Despite the very recent rapid expansion undertaken in America’s shipyards, the United States went to war in the first six months in the Pacific with the Navy it had, not the one it would require to fight and win.

USS_Lexington_brennt

There is a lesson in there, somewhere.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Around the web, Artillery, budget, Defense, doctrine, engineering, guns, history, logistics, marines, navy, planes, Politics, ships, Uncategorized, veterans, war, weapons, World War II

My Brother’s Old Adage…

beleuchtung-dji-phantom

“Ya get drunk, ya do sh*t!”

Apparently.

It was 42 degrees and raining lightly around 3 a.m. on Monday when an inebriated off-duty employee for a government intelligence agency decided it was a good time to fly his friend’s drone…

In the process of what officials describe as nothing more than a drunken misadventure, the employee managed to highlight another vulnerability in the protective shield that the Secret Service erects around the White House complex.

We will assume he had the next day off.  Though my guess is he didn’t get everything done that he had planned.  And he probably had to answer a lot of questions with a headache.  It also reinforces my old First Sergeant’s adage.  “Nothing good happens to a drunk after midnight.”

11 Comments

Filed under Around the web, engineering, helicopters, Humor, obama, planes, Uncategorized

Veti-Gel, the future of trauma first aid?

Via our friends across the pond.

1 Comment

Filed under Around the web

Seriously, NOT The Duffel Blog

In keeping with the second half of the blog’s name…

Dwarf Stripper Kat Hoffman Finds Love With Army Sergeant

But hey, if they’re happy, more power to ‘em. The world can always use a little more love.

Heh. Little.

3 Comments

Filed under ARMY TRAINING, Around the web