Tag Archives: stupid

A little inside baseball

So, I’m stealing this from a forum I belong to:

52 Lima who’s stationed in fort Gordon GA, ” all grunts are stupid dumbasses that couldn’t score over a 35 on the ASVAB, and are good for nothing but cannon fodder, that don’t make up the backbone of the army, we’re better off without them. “

Yeah….

A little translation. As far as I can tell, 52L isn’t even a current MOS, so I think someone is just yanking some chains.

The ASVAB, Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery, is a battery of tests designed to show, well, aptitude in several areas, in order to judge the likelihood that an enlistee will be successful in training in whatever specialty they enlist for. There are about half a dozen different scores such as General Technical and whatnot. And then there’s the score that counts when you enlist. The “overall” score is from 1 to 99, roughly indicating the percentile one falls into in terms of IQ across the population. It’s a cross between native intelligence and education. The minimum score for enlistment in the Army is 32.

There’s long been a perception that the combat arms, Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Combat Engineer, etc, are jam packed with enlistees who scored in the lower tranches of the ASVAB. A common insult of a not so bright fellow soldier is to call him a CAT IV, for the lowest tranche of the ASVAB.

But here’s the thing. Yes, combat arms, and the Infantry, take their fair share of folks who are not towering intellects. But oddly, there are a ton of people who are incredibly bright, scoring far, far above average, in the 90 percentile and above, who chose the Infantry.

Think about it. A lot of very bright young men go through high school and just aren’t challenged. They live comfortable suburban lives, hear the tales of their elders, play sports maybe, and cruise through high school with little or no effort.  But the summons of the trumpet is strong. They know they’re smart, but do they know if they are men? What more traditional test of manhood is there than war?

Anecdotal evidence (and yes, I know the plural of anecdote is not “data”), when I was a recruiter, applicants with scores from 32-50 that enlisted tended to end up either in Field Artillery, Motor Transport, or other related support fields. Applicants with scores from 50-80 tended to end up in technical fields. With only one exception* can I recall an applicant with a score over 80 not joining the combat arms. He enlisted  as a Blackhawk mechanic, became a crew chief, and enjoyed the heck out of it.

As my Bradley crossed the berm into Iraq at the opening of Desert Storm, the topic of conversation amongst the grunts in back was… Shakespeare.

*Women excepted, of course. The field of choice for very high scoring women was either Military Police, or the medical field technical specialties.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING

The Defense Budget continued, Navy Edition.

Earlier, we looked at places where the Army could shave some program dollars out of its pie. Maybe I’m biased, but I think with FCS dead, the Army is in the best shape procurement wise. That is, I don’t see a lot of huge boondoggle, gold plated programs that should be axed. If I’m wrong, let me know.

Sadly, that’s not the case with the Navy. I can really only think of one major Navy shipbuilding program that’s even close to being well run- the Virginia class SSN’s. And I’m aghast that I can look at a program that is putting the cheap follow-on to the SSN-21 class into the water at $2 billion a pop, and call it a good deal.

But that’s about the only bright spot in the Navy combatant shipbuilding picture. The poster-child for failed shipbuilding programs is the LCS (or as it is widely derided as, “Little Crappy Ship”).  What was originally conceived as a small, disposable $100 million dollar ship to fight swarms of small boats in places like the Arabian Gulf has become a bloated monstrosity at 3000 tons. It’s proponents swear it isn’t a frigate, but it is being bought in suspiciously frigate like numbers, while the current FFG-7 frigates are being retired. It is supposed to be a relatively affordable ship, but it can’t quite ever seem to come in on budget (about $604 million). Instead of buying one new type of ship, the Navy has instead decided to buy two different models of the LCS. There is absolutely no commonality between the two types.  Both ships use new untested combat systems, the proposed main battery of Non-Line-Of-Sight missiles has been cancelled by the Army and its development by the Navy is uncertain. Each ship is supposedly able to be tailored for various mission by the use of plug and play modules for the Anti-Surface, Anti-Mine, and Anti-Submarine warfare roles. But none of the modules is currently ready for deployment, and the development of the modules is of course, behind schedule and over budget. That’s before we even look at the suitability of the concept of operations. What happens when you have ships deployed with the anti-surface warfare modules, but run into a minefield?

The LCS is also “optimally manned” which means they have a ridiculously small crew of 40 or so people permanently assigned, to be augmented by small teams of sailors to operate whatever modules and aviation assets are assigned. With such small crews, roughly a third the size of a normal crew for a ship this size, the routine maintenance of all the ships systems just will not get done. Several folks have done the math and found that to do the maintenance, training, and personnel qualifications needed, each crewman has to work around 28 hours a day. And since the crew is so small, the Navy’s concept is to “hand pick” the crew for these ships. The problem there is the rest of the Navy is heading to an “optimally manned” model, so everyone needs highly trained crewmen, but no one wants to take on board the basic seaman right out of the training pipeline.

When the original concept was conceived, for a much smaller $100 million ship, high speed was specified- about a 50kt top speed.  That may have made some sense for a small 500 to 700 ton ship. It’s ridiculous for a 3000 ton frigate. But the requirement for ultrahigh speed has driven every other facet of the design of both models of the LCS. It has lead to the choice of hull-forms, construction materials,  and powerplants. Both designs are either currently faced with powerplant and hull problems, or very shortly will be. And the huge powerplants needed to propel these ships suck up fuel at enormous rates, sharply decreasing the ships ability to stay on station. At top speed, you have less than a day’s fuel.

The Navy was so frustrated with the poor progress of the program, they said they were going to downselect from two designs to one, and then buy ten of the winner. Lo and behold, the selection team came out of their meetings and magically changed their collective mind to buying ten of each, but they pinkie swear they’re gonna get costs under control.

The other major Navy surface combatant program was so expensive and such a boondoggle that it was cut short at three ships before the first one was even started. The DDG-1000 program was initially conceived as the follow-on to the hugely successful DDG-51 Arliegh Burke class of destroyers. It turned into such a nightmare, the Navy has started DDG-51 production again just to have some ships, any ships, coming down the ways. The DDG-1000 program simply tried to have too many new technologies come to maturity all at the same time in one new program. It is going to have an entirely new hull-form, entirely new powerplant design, entirely new radar system, entirely new missile launcher system, entirely new computer and networking architecture, and entirely new gun system. All at the same price that a late model DDG-51 would cost. Sure. That’s going to happen. Oh, and did I mention it’s going to be a stealth ship? At about 14,000 tons and 700 feet long, it is feasible to actually minimize its visibility to radars. But the ship is optimized for land attack from the littoral region  50 miles off shore. How do you hide a ship that big from the thousands upon thousands of fishing vessels that are out every day and night? You can’t. All it takes to locate the ship is an eyeball and a radio.

The LPD-17 program is also a deeply flawed program. The LPD-17 class is an amphibious transport designed to put Marines ashore. Traditionally amphibious ships have been relatively cheap vessels. The LPD-17s are about a billion dollars apiece. That’s pretty damn expensive, but would be almost bearable if the damn things worked. But between an overly complex design (a titanium fire main? really?), execrable quality control during construction, and abysmal training (and “optimal manning!”) for the crews, the ships have a history of engineering failures.

While neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations have been particularly generous to Navy shipbuilding, they haven’t been especially parsimonious, either. But while successive administrations have been willing to provide sufficient funds, the Navy has squandered money, time, and trust by pursuing fatally flawed shipbuilding programs. This failure on the Navy’s part will impact our national security, and some poor sailors will pay the price with their lives.

So what should be done? Well, the problem is, all three of these programs are “too big to fail” and to keep the fleet from shrinking even further, the Navy needs ships under construction yesterday. But doubling down on stupid is a recipe for disaster. My recommendations are as follows:

  1. LCS Replacement- Build a modernized FFG-7 class, replacing the (now removed) Mk-13/SM-1 missile system with a vertical launch Evolved Sea Sparrow System. Build 75 new hulls.

  2. DDG-1000- Build two, use as testbeds for the next generation destroyer/cruiser program, begin design of a next generation DDG/CG program to be evolutionary, not revolutionary.

  3. LPD-17- Cancel and replace with a modified LSD-41 platform.  Make it a bare-bones platform. The LHA is the centerpiece of the Amphibious Ready Group, so minimize the duplication of capabilities as much as possible.

What are your thoughts?

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Filed under navy, Politics, stupid

About damn time.

Look, I’m not exactly the biggest proponent of women in the Army. I’ve worked with quite a few. Some were terrific Soldiers whom I was proud to serve with. Others were an embarrassment that I hated to be seen with.

But if women ARE going to serve, the least the Army can do is give them a decent uniform. For over 30 years, women have worn the same combat uniform as men. By that I mean that BDUs, and the newer Army Combat Uniform (ACU) have been cut for men, and women, whom you might have noticed are built a little different, have had the options of Small, Medium, and Large. While the vast majority of male Soldiers could make a work uniform look good, most women looked horrific in theirs. That’s finally going to change.

As the service unveils its new and improved Army Combat Uniform, there is another uniform on the way. And ladies, it’s all about you.

While women may be proud to wear the ACU, it is anything but a unisex uniform. And it is no secret that many women have complained about the fit. Many are left to buy larger sizes to accommodate their varying attributes, which leaves them looking like a walking tent.

“We need to ensure our women are wearing something they are comfortable in, and it doesn’t make them look like their uniform doesn’t fit,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, Program Executive Office Soldier.

Adding styles and sizes for women means a better-fitting uniform for about one in every six soldiers — 15 percent of the Army’s 560,000 soldiers are women.

The Army’s answer is a female-cut ACU that boasts more than a dozen changes suited to meet the size and shape of every individual, according to Sgt. 1st Class William Corp, modernization NCO for Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment.

I’ve already got some serious issues with the ACU, especially  the cost, but it is high time the Army give the women in its ranks a uniform that they can be proud of.

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Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING

My blood pressure just spiked

There’s stupid, then there’s Assistant Professor grade stupid:

Amy Hagopian, assistant professor with the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health concludes military recruiters are a “threat to the health of adolescents.”

Hagopian says, “A review of the medical literature suggests military service is associated with disproportionately poor health for young people. The youngest recruits have the greatest number of mental disorders in the U.S. military, including alcohol abuse, anxiety syndromes, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

First, the good professor has  bias that should discount any and all research she may have conducted on this matter. If you read the article, this has been a hobby horse of hers for some time.

Second, her argument that research shows high rates of poor health is pure crap. The average recruit is in far better physical condition that the age group population as a whole. As to mental health issues, there’s a reason why service members show higher rates of the listed disorders. It’s because the military is the only organization that screens for these disorders, diagnoses them, and treats them.  Universities and employers don’t care. They may have some services that offer walk in services, but they don’t take a look at every person.  How hard do you think I’d have to look to find a couple of undiagnosed cases of alcohol abuse in a campus fraternity/sorority system? Or anxiety disorders around mid-terms? Or how about PTSD in victims of on campus sexual assault who never reported their attack? I’ve seen women burst into tears for being yelled at in the office. Is that not anxiety disorder? But they were not diagnosed. I’ve seen men that couldn’t take the pressure of sales jobs that suddenly “fell ill.” Isn’t that PTSD?

I spent a long time as a recruiter. And I spent a goodly portion of that time working to gain access to high schools. Some schools welcomed me with open arms. Others treated me like a leper. But I’ll tell you this, the Recruiting Command response to this putrid slur was spot on:

“We show America’s youth what the core values of the Army are – physical fitness, moral fitness, the kinds of behaviors that we expect of our soldiers,” Smith says. “To say these men and women are somehow equivalent to a sex predator is just wrong headed.”

As a recruiter, I wasn’t selling a tangible product, I was selling an ideal. No one wants to work for an organization that doesn’t stand for something. Most of us want our lives to have meaning, and for many of us, that means belonging to something larger than ourselves. When I worked in high schools, my job was to represent the best that the Army stood for. I didn’t do that by “grooming” kids. I did that by living the values that I held dear.

As a practical matter, when recruiting high school seniors, unlike a predator striving to separate a child from his parents, as a recruiter, I instead worked very hard to get access to the parents. You know the hardest part of recruiting a high school senior? Selling mom on the idea. And you may take my word for it, no bullshit friendly approach is going to convince Momma that you have their son or daughter’s best interests at heart. You either mean it or you don’t.

So, Amy Hagopian, why don’t you quit with the smears and rigged “research” and find something useful to do with your life?

Thanks to Ghengis at Ace’s, where some of the comments are great as well.

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Filed under army, Politics, recruiting, stupid

Some people should keep their cakeholes shut.

I just spotted this asshat over at Just One Minute and also at Blackfive.

Bryan Fischer, who judging by his bio hasn’t ever witnessed anything more valorous than a state senator giving a speech, seems to think that the Medal of Honor has become feminized. In reference to SSG Guinta’s investment with the Medal of Honor, Fischer has this to say:

This is just the eighth Medal of Honor awarded during our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Sgt. Giunta is the only one who lived long enough to receive his medal in person.
But I have noticed a disturbing trend in the awarding of these medals, which few others seem to have recognized.
We have feminized the Medal of Honor.
According to Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, every Medal of Honor awarded during these two conflicts has been awarded for saving life. Not one has been awarded for inflicting casualties on the enemy. Not one.

First, Fischer (and McGurn of the Wall Street Journal) is factually incorrect in his assertions. Of the eight Medals of Honor bestowed so far in the War on Terror, not all have been simply for saving the lives of fellow soldiers. In fact, the very first one awarded, to SFC Paul Ray Smith, was explicitly for engaging the enemy in desperate straits. That his fight had the effect of saving his fellow soldier’s lives was undoubtedly a factor in the award. But he earned is award by engaging the enemy.

Fischer seems utterly clueless about the circumstances that lead to acts of valor. When everything is going well in a fight (and here, well is a very relative term), there is no need for anyone to engage in heroics. Indeed, it would likely be counterproductive. It is only when things are deep in the shitter that an individual can possibly perform above and beyond the call of duty. Not surprisingly, those desperate moments usually see our soldiers at grave risk. So the aspect of saving a fellow soldier’s life is almost inherent to the award of the Medal of Honor.

Secondly, how is rewarding the bravery of men whose actions define “selfless sacrifice” in any way “feminizing” the Medal of Honor?  Selfless sacrifice is the heart and soul of soldiering. From the minute a man (or woman!) raises his hand and takes the oath of enlistment, he agrees to put the needs of his fellow soldiers, his unit, his service, his entire country, before his own desires. That willingness is at the very core of the warrior ethos, the very set of manly attributes Fischer seems to think we have ceased to honor. There’s a reason we call it the “service” and not the “personal gain.”

I would tell  Fischer to stick to his ministry, but just looking at his writings, I’d say he’s pretty crappy at that, as well. Maybe he should just crawl back under the rock from when he came.

7 Comments

Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING, stolen valor, stupid

An interesting take on procurement blues

We’re gonna be hammering on what a mess procurement is for a while. Here’s an interesting look at the F-35 program that isn’t nearly as pessimistic as Eric L. Palmer’s usual take on the subject.

Here’s a taste of Prof. Thompson’s view:

The biggest reason, a reason few outsiders seem to grasp, is bureaucratic politics in the Pentagon. You see, there are these factions that benefit from generating cost estimates, conducting tests and doing other things associated with new weapons programs, and said factions tend to make the usual problems any development program encounters either look worse or actually be worse. Take the cost estimates. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin has recently signed the fourth consecutive production contract with the defense department in which the actual cost of building the F-35 came in well below the cost projected by Pentagon estimators. About 25 percent below, in the latest contract. Yet cost estimators continue to apply pessimistic assumptions to projecting future costs, based on historical data from other, older fighter programs. So they come up with wildly wrong cost estimates that the contractor beats every time. It has to beat them, because nobody is going to buy a single-engine fighter for much more than what the latest F-16 sells for today, so that’s how Lockheed needs to price the new plane.

I’m not at all sure how much faith to put in this article. I’m not nearly as antagonistic to the F-35 as Palmer is, but I have to wonder how much of this is more “wishcasting” than forecasting by Prof. Thompson.

If you think of the F-35 as the follow on to the F-22, you’re wrong. And Palmer would argue that if you think of it as the successor to the F-16, you’ll come away disappointed. Me? I think it is likely to be a pretty good successor to the F-16 in the strike role. Or at least, the Air Force “A” model, and the Navy “C” model have potential. I still can’t believe the Marines need a supersonic $150 million dollar close air support platform.

Meh. This is all just an excuse to show this video of the first F-35C arriving at Pax River.

Your thoughts?

5 Comments

Filed under planes, Politics

A Sad Anniversary

It was one year ago today that 13 American soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their nation.  American soldiers enlist knowing they will almost certainly be sent to a theater of war. Many know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’ll go outside the wire, and be at grave risk, every day, for months, a year, on end. They’ll come home for a year, and go right back and do it again. They have a right to think that at their home station, they are safe from perils of war. Instead, they were slain by the hand of a man they should have been able to trust as their own flesh and blood.

Dave in Texas brings you the story. Go, read.

The Army is a huge, often impersonal organization. There will inevitably be occasions where members fail to live up to the highest standards of the service. Lord knows, many was the time I struggled to make the right choice.

But as horrific as the cowardly attack was, it was the actions of the Army beforehand that were shameful. As the Army fights a war on two fronts against radical Islamists, it bowed to the demands of political correctness, and kept in the service a doctor who was so marginally competent, he’d never make a living in private practice. As this evil fool became more radicalized, and was seen to less stable, his superior officers let the problem slide, and then shifted it from their desk by allowing him to transfer to another station.

Courage is a funny thing. Physical courage is common. It’s surprisingly easy to place your only body at risk. Why else would people be in bar fights, go rock climbing, or play football?

But moral courage… That is a far more difficult proposition…

How seductive the call of our lesser selves that distracts us from our duty. Had any officer made the correct and right, and moral call, and prevented Hassan from advancing in the Army, those 13 soldiers would not have been cut down.  But it was so easy for Hassan’s superior officers to just pretend that the problem would go away. It was easier than sitting him down and telling him to his face he wasn’t good enough to be an officer. It was easier than sitting down with their own superiors and saying that Hassan needed to go. Instead of holding Hassan to the standards set, it was easier to pretend that he was “close enough for government work.”

Ever been on a bus, train, subway, and that weird dude comes on board? He’s nutty, but you avoid eye contact? Just hoping he’d go away and leave you alone. Hassan’s superiors did the same damn thing. And it got people killed.

Having screwed up, the Army doubled down on stupid and cowardly. When the investigation into the shooting was conducted, the Army couldn’t even bring itself to admit what the problem was.  I understand that we aren’t at war with every single Muslim in the world. But the Army couldn’t even bring itself to say what Hassan himself proclaimed was his reason for his murderous rampage.  Not one mention of him being a radicalized Muslim in the whole report. There are Muslims in the Army who serve with honor and distinction. But there have been multiple incidences where Muslims wearing the uniform have put their perverted vision of their faith ahead of their oath to their nation. With the increased emphasis on mental health in the services, the Army can’t even approach it from a mental hygiene point of view- how do you tell if one of your soldiers is becoming radicalized? When does devotion become something sinister? Where do commanders draw the line? Nothing the Army can do will erase the moral failings of Hassan’s commanders who failed in their duty. But it is not too late for the Army to atone for its shameful failure to address the issue of radicalized Muslims in the ranks. How many more soldiers will die at the hands of another soldier before the Army does the right thing?

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Filed under army, Politics, stupid

A Real Stimulus?

One of the quirks we find ourselves facing is the social welfare programs with unsound Constitutional basis are “entitlements” and not discretionary spending, but the duties of government most explicitly outlined fall under discretionary spending.

Former Congressman Jim Talent makes the case that now is not the time to cut the defense budget.

First, the framers of the U.S. Constitution envisioned national defense as the priority obligation of the federal government. The first power granted to the president in Article 2 is “Commander-in-Chief of the Armies and Navies of the United States, and of the Militias of the Several States.” Of the 17 powers granted to Congress in Article 1, six relate specifically to defense, and the Constitution grants Congress the full range of authorities necessary to establish the defense of the nation (as it was then understood).

The other powers granted to Congress are permissive in nature; Congress can choose to exercise them or not. But the federal government is constitutionally obligated to defend the nation. Article 4, Section 4 states that the “United States shall guarantee to every State a republican form of government and shall protect each of them against invasion.”

I’m quite sympathetic to this argument. Further, Mr. Talent notes that the recapitalization of our forces could easily be funded with the unspent monies from the so-called “stimulus” (which was really nothing more than a bail-out of state social welfare programs, with some bonus pork thrown to traditional Democrat allies).

Congress could reverse the decline in military capability simply by capturing the unspent portion of the stimulus package and spending it judiciously on modernization over the next five years. As the panel report demonstrated, it is possible to marshal a strong bipartisan consensus for such an effort.

The problem is not budgetary. The problem is getting our government leaders to focus on the vital connections between strength, prosperity, and freedom. The best and cheapest way to protect American security is to sustain American power at a level that reduces risk, encourages global economic growth, and deters the wars that cost America so much in lives and treasure.

The elegance of this approach is that it would have the twofold benefit of first, restoring our forces material strength, and secondly, acting as true stimulus spending. Buying real, tangible equipment means manufacturing, which means good jobs in a wide variety of Congressional districts. That money gets spent in those communities. And that helps the local economies, and the economy as a whole.

I don’t support defense spending as a means of stimulating the economy. But I’m more than happy to tout that benefit of defense spending.

So how do I square this stance with my call below to axe several high profile programs? That’s simple. Defense dollars will always be limited. And I do not believe these programs provide a sufficient return on investment, if you will. I do not think they are the best way procurement dollars can be spent. Each of these programs are the legacy of the “transformational” school of thought that envisioned fighting a “Desert Storm Redux” and posited that would could fight those wars even cheaper by further leveraging our technological edge. Well, I certainly don’t want to sacrifice our edge, but there is a lesson that the Soviets knew that we should never forget- quantity has a quality all its own. There is simply too much land, sea and sky for our forces to cover if we maintain such a small number of platforms. The Navy, the strategic service of our nation, is already far, far too small. The Air Force is hurting badly. The Marines are still searching for relevancy in Afghanistan, when they should be focused on being America’s door-kickers, and strategic reserve.  The Army, ironically, is probably in the best material shape, despite having borne the brunt of fighting in two wars the last 10 years.

1 Comment

Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING

Brrrt!!

Sox has been known to drive me nuts.

But on his worst day, he’s never done this.

IMPORTANT UPDATE!!!:

Sox?

5 Comments

Filed under stupid

Politics and markets

Geoff and I are long-time blog buddies. He’s got a great post up at Ace’s place about how President Obama doesn’t quite seem to get the whole “business” thingy.

The President finally realizes that he can’t make it without support by, and support for, American businesses. But does he really get it? I don’t think so:

…in his post-“shellacking” news conference Wednesday, Mr. Obama came close to conceding the chamber’s main argument, that American businesses have concluded — wrongly, in Mr. Obama’s view — that his policies are antibusiness.

“And so I’ve got to take responsibility in terms of making sure that I make clear to the business community as well as to the country that the most important thing we can do is to boost and encourage our business sector and make sure that they’re hiring,” Mr. Obama said.

Emphasis mine. You see, Mr. President, there are two things wrong with your statement. First, it’s not your business as to whether they’re hiring – they’ll hire when they need to. Don’t micromanage our businesses.

Second, “boosting” and “encouraging” the business sector is only indirectly related to hiring, because success in business doesn’t necessarily depend on number of bodies. Successful businesses are profitable, stable, and strategically positioned to prosper in coming years. If hiring supports those goals, then they hire, but if downsizing, outsourcing, or freezing hiring supports those goals, that’s what they do instead.

So telling business that you’re now going to support them so that they can start hiring is like telling someone you’re going to start a restaurant so people can poop more. It’s a likely consequence of feeding them, but it has nothing to do with why you’re running a restaurant.

That’s a pretty good start, Geoff, but you missed an important item. What we’re talking about here is government interference with the markets. In effect, even if President Obama were to try to urge companies to hire, or even if Geoff’s preferred course were pursued, it would still be a government skewing the market. The policies would inevitably be in favor of supporting existing companies. There would be no support or incentive for new innovative companies to either outperform legacy firms, or to establish new niches in the market. Those companies are the ones that would truly need to conduct new hiring. The creative destruction of the market is the engine of job creation. Propping up legacy firms, or encouraging rentseeking behavior does not.

We’ve railed before against government picking and choosing who wins and who loses in the market. It’s sad to see lessons still aren’t being learned.

1 Comment

Filed under Politics

Time to cut some programs?

I’m always concerned when I find myself in agreement with Eric L. Palmer. The guy is such a curmudgeon. I know quite well what he dislikes, but I can’t for the life of me think of what he likes.

In any event, he’s calling on the next Congress to cut several programs from the defense budget.

What are the defense programs that should be killed right away?

Easy. No really; it is an easy decision when looking at the following failed programs.

Kill:

DDX
LCS
EFV
JSF

I think the only real quibble I have here is that I’d kill the F-35B, but leave the rest of the JSF program. It’s a terrible program, but it’s all we have. And I think the A and C models can be salvaged if we don’t waste time and money on the F-35B.

DDX is a boondoggle. An evolutionary design to follow on to the highly successful DDG-51 fleet makes sense.

LCS needs to die in a fire. Sadly, the Navy just doubled down on stupid. Instead of Little Crappy Ships, the Navy should build FFG-7 -The Next Generation. Replace the Mk13 launcher with a VLS with ESSM, and maybe swap out the SPS-49 with another radar.

Other than that, just get to building them quickly.

The Marines Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle is another “bridge too far” in terms of making a technological leap. Time to kill it.

As one of the commentors over at ELP suggests, it’s time for MV-22 to die as well. I’ve addressed that issue before.

What say you? What programs would you kill? Am I right, or am I wrong. Sound off.

6 Comments

Filed under army, Around the web, marines, navy, planes

Citizens Against Government Waste makes a bad call.

I’m generally very sympathetic to CAGW’s purpose. Indeed, I hate gold-plating programs with a passion. One of the best things SecDef Gates has called for is the “80%” solution- programs that are very good at doing 80% of all possible tasks, for far less money than you’d need to spend on a “perfect” program.

Comes now news that the Air Force is at long last looking to replace its fleet of UH-1N helicopters. These durable birds have been serving since the early 1970s, and are due for replacement.  Buying UH-60M Blackhawks from the Army seems straightforward. After all, the whole point of the UH-60 design was to replace the Huey.

But CAGW sees the larger price tag, per unit, of the Blackhawks:

Citizens Against Government Waste — a non-partisan watchdog group — also has taken issue with the Air Force’s pursuit of the Black Hawk to replace the Huey.

“Instead of having an open competition for a helicopter that meets the CVLSP requirements, the Air Force wants to cut corners and buy a bigger, more expensive helicopter from the Army. This would be like buying Humvees to replace mail trucks,” the watchdog group wrote on its website.

CAGW is taking a very near-sighted look at this issue. Yes, the Air Force is pretty clearly trying to do an end-around the normal contracting procedure. Why? Because it is badly broken. The Air Force can’t run a competition without being sued by the loser of the competition. See “KC-X” or the “CSAR-X” programs. That takes time, and time is money. Let’s suppose the Air Force decided they wanted to buy the AW319, which is nominally a cheaper aircraft. What would the hidden costs be? Well, they’d have to run the new chopper through the entire Operational Test & Evaluation rigmarole, something they won’t have to do with UH-60s. They’d have to establish an entirely new training pipeline, from aircrews to mechanics. They’d have to establish and manage an entirely new logistics pipeline for thousands of unique parts. They’d have to establish entire libraries of maintenance and operations manuals. With the UH-60, a basic platform they already use, they’d have to make only minimal changes.

Buying the UH-60 comes with a fixed, known cost, and can be done now. But buying any other aircraft, or even just running a competition, even if the Blackhawk wins, introduces both delays into the program, and price uncertainties. Further, does anyone think that if there was an open competition for the CVLSP, the Air Force wouldn’t succumb to the temptation to load the requirements up with goodies that should really be in the “nice, but not needed” category?

We see a classic case of a simple solution to what is frankly a very simple problem. And yet, people are determined to make it complicated. 

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Go to war? There’s an app for that.

I’m a low tech guy. My phone makes calls. Barely. But smart phones are all over the place, and the iPad is quickly becoming ubiquitous. Not surprisingly, a lot of smart people have figured out that there is potential for a lot of cheap, simple apps that can support the warfighter.

The SoldierEyes Common Operating Picture, for instance, is like a mini Blue Force Tracker, explains Evan Cormin, who works on the project: a real-time way for soldiers to monitor where friendly forces are at any given time, represented by little blue boxes. And not just friendlies: Plug in an enemy’s position, and the cloud shares it with anyone else running SoldierEyes, whether out on patrol or back at the command post. Its GPS components allow soldiers to use the map for navigation while they see where their friends and foes are.

Load Augmented Reality, another SoldierEyes sub-app, ditches the map. Instead, it uses your handheld’s camera to give you a picture of what’s in front of you — but with the colored boxes of friendlies and enemies in position on the screen. The idea is make sure that soldiers getting out of their vehicles don’t lose a sense of their surroundings once the Humvee doors swing open and they aren’t behind a computer screen anymore.

These are exactly the kinds of things our troops need, and they are being invented without a multi-billion dollar, multi-year development program that gives the OSD staff a chance to build empires. Moar, please. Faster, please.

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Filed under Afghanistan, army, ARMY TRAINING, infantry

More on the Defense Budget

I’m a little under the weather, and haven’t gotten around to a follow up on this post. Fortuitously, The Daily Mail has an article that addresses that very topic.

But Chief of Staff General George Casey told the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference that cuts had been reached by instead trimming overheads and low-priority programs over the next five years.

Casey and Army Secretary John McHugh told the military trade show they were keenly aware of the strains that two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had put on soldiers.

They said they would not cut programs that are aimed at slowing an alarming rate of suicides among troops, and will help soldiers deal with injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.

‘For us the most important thing is we get through the next several years without having to cut force structure,’ said Casey.

We’ve already got a very small army. But with budget cuts coming, there’s only going to be two options: cut the size of the force, or cut back the number of commitments the Army has.

H/T: War News Updates, which you really need to be reading on a daily basis.

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The 101st Airborne Drops on Michigan

Personally, I would have used a JDAM, but one good trooper is more than enough.

Courtesy of Mesablue at the H2.

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Hope in Afghanistan?

The Washington Times has an article out that says some folks in the military are starting to see progress from the troop surge.

“What is happening is, the Taliban’s freedom of movement,” he said. “We are literally taking away from them things they are used to. We are denying them some of the safe havens that they have in the south. We are denying them the support zones they’ve been operating out of with impunity.

“Support zones are up in the mountains, where they use villagers to help hide their weapons caches. Safe havens are up there, too, usually away from everybody, and we are denying them the use of those. We are interdicting and disrupting their operating areas, which had a tendency to focus on the roads quite a bit, and we’re interdicting what they’re doing there.”

But all is not sunshine and puppies:

Gen. Petraeus is on a schedule to show positive results by July 2011, when President Obama’s war strategy calls for the beginning of a troop exit.

The four-star general’s job may have gotten tougher last week, when James L. Jones, a retired four-star Marine Corps general, quit as Mr. Obama’s national security adviser. He will be succeeded by Thomas Donilon, a Democratic Party operative and lawyer who served as Gen. Jones’ deputy and who opposed more troops for Afghanistan, which puts him at odds with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

GEN Jones successor, Tom Donilon, has virtually no qualifications in the national security field other than being wrong as often as Joe Biden (hence his elevation in this administration). He’ll be at loggerheads with Gates. I won’t be a bit surprised when Gates elects to “spend more time with his family.” The next SecDef will probably be another clueless functionary.

Here’s the problem- the military is trying to  find a way to win this war. The Obama administration is trying to find a way to quit. But the administration is also leery of being accused of cutting and running. So they put on a show of a surge, set preconditions that effectively doom it (hello, July 2011!) and then will say the war is unwinnable. Well, here’s the thing. No war is unwinnable. But you can take a tough fight and work to lose it.

Let’s face it, in 2006, all the Democratic Party establishment, and a pretty fair portion of the GOP thought Iraq was hopeless. But Jack Keane, mentioned early in this article, managed to get President Bush’s ear, and convince him that there was indeed a path to victory. Keane was, more than Petraeus, the real architect of the surge in Iraq (he was the idea guy, Petraeus was the guy who had to make that idea work).

A similar operational concept is being employed in Afghanistan right now. It is NOT a carbon copy. The theaters are very different, and so are the players. The challenges of the terrain, and the fact of Pakistani duplicity are real problems. But as you can note from the article, there is real cause for optimism. Sadly, I’m not at all convinced the President will seize this initiative and continue a tough road. After all, he’s never done things the hard way before.

H/T: WNU

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Segway Company Owner saves uncounted lives.

I saw the bit in the news about the owner of the company that currently makes the Segway, James Heselden, fell to his death off a cliff while on his personal Segway. Other than a chuckle about the irony of it. But what I didn’t realize was that Mr. Heselden invented a product has saved untold numbers of American and British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Hesco barrier is the modern replacement for the sandbag. A simple open box reinforced with wire, the Hesco is versatile, cheap, reusable, and very good at stopping bullets, RPGs, car bombs, fragments and virtually every other direct fire threat to troops.  It is somewhat amazing that no one thought up the Hesco Barrier before, but they are ubiquitous now, and saving lives every day. Their light weight (before you add dirt, of course) and low cost has allowed our outposts to be fortified to a level that was previously unheard of. We’ll never know just how many lives have been saved by Hescos, but it is surely hundreds, and probably thousands.

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Set up for failure?

Via NepLex, the Washington Post has an editorial that says that Obama’s minimal addition of troops to the surge in Afghanistan may not have been so much a strategy of minimalism, but a check-the-box exercise intended to generate an excuse to cut and run.

Perhaps the most damning assessment of the president comes from Gen. Lute, who Mr. Woodward says concluded that “Obama had to do this 18-month surge just to demonstrate, in effect, that it couldn’t be done . . . the president had treated the military as another political constituency that had to be accommodated.”

Apparently, being Commander-in-Chief is a distraction for golf and driving the economy into the ditch.

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Not bad, Air Force, not bad…

Finally, the Air Force does something besides building golf course that just happens to have runways nearby…

H/T: WNU

Heh: from the comments-

Continue reading

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Obama’s war.

During the campaign for the 2008 election, then-Senator Obama repeatedly argued that President Bush was fighting a lost war in Iraq, while ignoring the truly important theater of operations- Afghanistan.

He repeatedly pledged to end the war in Iraq, and win the war in Afghanistan. Right up until he was elected. Turns out, things look a little different when you’re sitting in the big chair.

And like every administration since Nixon, Bob Woodward has penned an “inside look” at the Obama administration. It isn’t due out till next week, but the NYT gives us a glimpse of the juicy bits.

The president concluded from the start that “I have two years with the public on this” and pressed advisers for ways to avoid a big escalation, the book says. “I want an exit strategy,” he implored at one meeting. Privately, he told Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings, and while Mr. Obama ultimately rejected it, he set a withdrawal timetable because, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”

What is interesting about this bit is that it so closely fits the mold of how the GOP has portrayed the Democratic Party for 40 years, that is, weak on defense. Oddly, President Obama had a very good chance to change this perception with the support of a fair portion of his party. Despite the opprobrium heaped upon President Bush during the war in Iraq, most Democrats couched it in terms of it being a distraction from the “real war” in Afghanistan. They were pretty gung-ho to get rollin’ with the war there. Or at least saying they were. And many “Blue Dog” Dems were not blind to the fact that their party has a reputation of being soft on defense and anti-military. Further, they noted that in spite of stupendous levels of scorn heaped upon Bush about the war, he still managed to be re-elected to the Presidency. And few GOP members of Congress lost their seats in 2006 or 2008 over support for the war. They lost mostly for economic reasons. If President Obama had moved aggressively to enlarge and energize the war in Afghanistan, he would have had significant support from the Dems. And with the GOP, he would have been pushing on an open door. It was a perfect opportunity for President Obama to demonstrate the bipartisanship that he had promised during his campaign.

Sadly, President Obama, with no executive experience, and little real world experience at all, managed to convince himself that the anti-war, liberal wing of his party would hold sway. He also seems to have convinced himself that his military advisors were conspiring against him to enact their own agenda. This lead to a waffling over policy that managed to alienate both political parties in the run-up to his decision to order a troop surge of 30,000 troops through July, 2011.  In the end, no one was happy with the compromise. The military leadership felt the increase wouldn’t amount to the critical mass to successfully implement a COIN strategy, the GOP and moderate Dems felt the President was soft on the war, and the liberal wing of the Dems were emboldened to argue against the war.  Well, done, Mr. President.

Now, I’m always more than a little skeptical of anything Woodward writes. He himself has an agenda- sell books. Controversy and discord are the route to that goal. Having said that, the insights that the NYT shares with us show a great deal of personal conflict in the Obama administration:

Although the internal divisions described have become public, the book suggests that they were even more intense and disparate than previously known and offers new details. Mr. Biden called Mr. Holbrooke “the most egotistical bastard I’ve ever met,”[ed. concur] although he “may be the right guy for the job.”[ed. Biden's been wrong on every other thing, so he's doubtless wrong here as well.] A variety of administration officials expressed scorn forJames L. Jones, the retired Marine general who is national security adviser, while he referred to some of the president’s other aides as “the water bugs” or “the Politburo.”

Every administration is going to have a good deal of disagreement over policy and politics. And one of Woodward’s prime methods of gathering information is to play off individuals who wish to advance their own agendas against others. But after listening to insider gossip like this about administrations for over 30 years, I’m struck by something here. In this administration, the lines are almost always drawn between academics and policy wonks who are supposed experts, and those folks who have actually worked in their fields of expertise. And sadly, the academics and wonks seem to rule the roost.

Mr. Obama’s struggle with the decision comes through in a conversation with SenatorLindsey Graham of South Carolina, who asked if his deadline to begin withdrawal in July 2011 was firm. “I have to say that,” Mr. Obama replied. “I can’t let this be a war without end, and I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”

As a practical matter, some consideration of politics is inherent in every policy and decision in war. I get that. But I get the distinct impression that for President Obama, that consideration came well before the tactical, operational, and strategic implications of his decisions regarding the war. Can you imagine President Bush putting domestic political considerations at the forefront of his decisions regarding the war?

H/T: CDR Salamander.

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Filed under Afghanistan, army, ARMY TRAINING, Around the web, history, iraq, Politics, war

C-17

I don’t think it would take a rocket scientist to figure out I’m a fan of the Air Force’s C-17 airlifter. Indeed, I’m continuously stumped when trying to suss out why the Air Force has worked hard to stop buying them. The original programmed buy has always been for about 210 aircraft, but Congressional support for continuing buys has always been strong. In essence, Congress is offering the Air Force free airplanes (that is, money budgeted to C-17 buys wouldn’t be taken from other programs), but the Air Force keeps acting as if buying C-17s will cost them elsewhere.

There’s no such thing as too much airlift. If it were my choice, once the C-17 had its bugs worked out, I’d have doubled they buy to about 400 aircraft. As it is, the fleet is being used at MUCH higher tempos than had initially been projected. That means that airframe lifetime is being used faster and that maintenance costs are going to skyrocket. I think we’ll find in the long run that buying more jets up front would be cheaper than keeping the fleet flying in the out years. Unfortunately, fleet management hasn’t been much of an intellectual strength for any of the services lately (with the possible exception of the Army keeping the M1/M2/M3 fleet viable).

Anyway, all that is just an excuse to post this video.

H/T: Theo

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Observe, Detect, Identify, Neutralize

We’ve talked before about the anti-IED project in Iraq and Afghanistan known as Task Force ODIN.  Via War News Updates, here’s an further look at how the military is trying to defeat the IED threat.

Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, roughly half of all our casualties have been caused by IEDs, and the military has recognized that this is a threat that we well be facing long into the future. It has spent enormous sums of money trying to find technical means of detecting and defeating IEDs. High tech is something the US is good at, so we tend to like to take a high tech approach to most problems. That’s much of what the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization has been trying to do.  But the problem with that is that IEDs are almost by definition somewhat low tech. And that means that the most effective counter is going to be somewhat low tech as well. The human eyeball is still the most dangerous sensor on the battlefield.

From the article at the Washington Times:

Of the 909 NATO military personnel killed in 2009 and this year, 540 died from IED attacks, according to the monitoring group icasualties.org.

Mr. Hunter became so frustrated by the lack of the task force’s counter-IED assets in Afghanistan that he wrote to Gen. Petraeus as he took command in July.

“Regrettably, unlike Iraq, our forces in Afghanistan seem to lack a clear and coherent counter-IED strategy to combat this threat,” Mr. Hunter wrote. “We firmly believe that the lessons learned from Task Force ODIN in Iraq can be replicated in Afghanistan, dramatically reducing the rate of casualties due to IEDs. … Simply put, Task Force ODIN currently in place in Afghanistan is not the Task Force ODIN that was extremely successful in Iraq.”

Iraq and Afghanistan are different theaters, and what works in one won’t always work in another. But there is simply no excuse to not even attempt to duplicate success.

Go read the whole thing.

And the New York Times had an embedded reporter covering this issue as well:

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See, this is why we can’t have nice things…

Possibly the most dysfunctional thing in the world is the procurement procedure for major items in the US military.

How bad is it?

Every time there’s a Democrat in the White House, or the country is in a recession, you start to see a lot of news articles about streamlining the procurement process. Sadly, what happens is, every attempt to make the process fair, avoid graft and waste, and to make sure the services are buying stuff they really need results in this nightmare.

Putting the Department of Defense in charge of procurement and logistics (as opposed to the individual services) has been an unmitigated disaster. And it is only going to get worse.

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Finally.

I’ve been reconciled to women in the Army for a while now. Just as long as they aren’t in the infantry, I’m OK with that.

And let’s face it- it ain’t easy being a woman in the service. Just one of many indignities that they have to tolerate is that the ACU uniform looks like crap on most of them. Why?

Because it was designed to fit men.

And I’m not sure if they teach this in high school health class anymore, but men and women are different. No, really!

So, after about 30 years of wearing designed-for-men BDUs and ACUs, the Army is going to get around to sizing ACUs to fit women.

Many female soldiers have complained that their uniform was designed for men. In order to get the uniform jacket to fit across the chest, for instance, they have to buy larger sizes — making the shoulders far too big.

The military plans to introduce uniforms cut for female soldiers. Women make up more than 15 percent of the U.S. Army.”We need to ensure our women are wearing something they are comfortable in, and it doesn’t make them look like their uniform doesn’t fit,” Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller told Army Times.

There is a tension between having a serviceable, cheap, functional uniform, and having a uniform that presents a professional, military appearance. Here’s hoping they can strike that balance.

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Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING

Death By PowerPoint

I was kind of lucky I left the Army when I did. PowerPoint was just coming into vogue. In fact, it was still something of a useful tool back then. Even cutting edge.

Sadly, like almost every other tool at the bureaucrats disposal, it became bloated and went from being a means to an end in itself.

Most of you have seen some interminable training or marketing presentation at work. Guess what, the Army is even worse. There are a slew of officers at work who do nothing but generate PPT presentations.  And we aren’t talking about stateside staffs, or offices buried deep in the bowels of the Pentagon. We’re talking about the operational forces in theater in Afghanistan or Iraq.

With that much information, virtually all of it useless, you are almost certain to attain paralysis by analysis. But that is the nature of a bureaucracy.

So it is more than a little surprising that a Reserve officer has thrown the bullshit flag.

For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information. Even one tiny flaw in a slide can halt a general’s thought processes as abruptly as a computer system’s blue screen of death.

The ability to brief well is, therefore, a critical skill. It is important to note that skill in briefing resides in how you say it. It doesn’t matter so much what you say or even if you are speaking Klingon.

Not surprisingly, COL Sellin has been relieved.

Hat tip to the invaluable War News Updates. Be sure to watch the video.

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