Tag Archives: stupid

A Good Place to Cut the Budget

John Q.  Public is juuuust about the only blogger out there focused on the Air Force. Sometimes, he strikes me as a bit of a gadfly, but mostly it is obvious he loves the Air Force, and is troubled by the institutional shortcomings he sees therein. Fair enough. We criticize all the services frequently, but do so in the hopes of correction, not spite.

One of his favorite targets is a little Air Force dog and pony show called Tops In Blue.

Take, for example, the service’s traveling show choir, Tops in Blue (TiB). At an opaque but reasonably estimated annual price tag of $10 million, TiB generates zero operational benefit while leaving the work centers of three dozen airmen short-handed for a year at a time. It is a mobile monument of waste, showcasing the unwarranted frills that became normalized deviations in the huge Cold War Air Force but are entirely hostile to the notion of fiscal responsibility in an era of austerity. Yet, despite SECAF’s insistence that every dollar must count, TiB persists, surviving sequestration even as needed aircraft and airmen are liquidated to save money.

Yes, the Air Force has a traveling Broadway style song and dance review. Airmen already in the service can audition for the program, and then spend a year traveling to various bases giving their performances to audiences consisting of senior leadership, prominent local civilians, and the general population of a base.

But JQP points out a few issues with this.

  1. It costs money. Most of the money actually comes not from the taxpayers, but from Morale, Welfare and Recreation funds, which monies are collected from post exchanges and other similar sources for the benefits of troops, well, morale, welfare and recreation. Obviously, the money used for TiB is not available for other, likely more pressing MWR needs. And the logistical needs of TiB also impose hidden costs, such as transportation, lodging and allowances for rations per diem that could be used elsewhere.
  2. It takes Airmen away from their parent unit for a year at a time. Units are always shorthanded. And when an Airman is seconded to TiB, it is for one year of what the services call “permissive TDY.” That means they’re still technically assigned to their parent unit. And because of that, the unit cannot receive a replacement for the touring Airmen.
  3. No one likes the show. Seriously, most people don’t even know about it. But it’s the most trite, awful “entertainment” around.
  4. JQP has several sources telling him that being a part of TiB is no bed of roses itself, and that the troupe is routinely treated poorly.

Now, before you think I’m just kicking the Air Force when they are down, lemme tell you this. The Army has a nearly identical touring show, and at a minimum, items 1-3 apply every bit as much to the Army’s troupe.

Worse,  our show isn’t named “Tops in Green.”

No, dear friend, the show is The Army Soldier Show. Yes, the ASS.

It’s Army entertainment like you’ve never experienced before. The Soldier Show is a live Broadway-style variety performance featuring our best talent. It’s singing, it’s dancing and it’s amazing!

You may think I’m being a tad harsh on the dedicated Airmen and Soldiers who go through a lengthy audition period, and face a year of separation from their homes and families to bring you this fantastic entertainment. Maybe. Or maybe I’m not being harsh enough on what is clearly an outdated institution and should be put out to pasture.

By the way, I loathe that Lee Greenwood song.

Addendum- /snerk/ a friend a few years ago mentioned that the Soldier Show was the only place for openly gay soldiers before the repeal of DADT/

4 Comments

Filed under Air Force, ARMY TRAINING

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.

15 Comments

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?

6 Comments

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.

5 Comments

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.

4 Comments

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