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Does the Pentagon Really Waste $125 Billion on Pencil Pushers? Probably not

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Keven Drum casts a skeptical eye on the $125 billion “waste” at the Pentagon. It looks a lot like a consulting company trying to drum up business with phony figures and bogus estimates. Read his post here. His post begins:

The Washington Post has a big article up tonight about military waste:

Pentagon hid study exposing $125 billion in wasteful spending

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post….The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel.

Hmmm. I have some doubts about this. For starters, that $125 billion over five years. That comes to $25 billon per year, or about 4 percent of the defense budget. That’s not peanuts, but it hardly seems big enough to represent “far more wasteful spending than expected,” as the article says.

But that’s not the main thing that makes me skeptical about this. My big problem is that this is a McKinsey report, and I have a fairly cynical view of McKinsey-driven “process improvement” blather. For example, the report suggests that the Pentagon can save loads of money by increasing its back-office productivity by 4-8 percent per year. “Private sector industries commonly show similar gains,” they say merrily, so why not the Pentagon?

This is exactly the kind of thing that gives business consultants a bad name. Do private sector businesses really show routine annual productivity gains like this in their back-office operations? I doubt it very much. And even if they do, can the federal government do the same things that private industry does? Hard to say. In any case, it turns out that McKinsey’s biggest finding is that the Pentagon is spending more on its contracts than it should. Here’s how they propose to fix this: . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2016 at 10:36 am

Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste

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In the Washington Post Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward offer a way Congress can trim the budget substantially:

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.

Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.

The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.

The study was produced last year by the Defense Business Board, a federal advisory panel of corporate executives, and consultants from McKinsey and Company. Based on reams of personnel and cost data, their report revealed for the first time that the Pentagon was spending almost a quarter of its $580 billion budget on overhead and core business operations such as accounting, human resources, logistics and property management.

The data showed that the Defense Department was paying a staggering number of people — 1,014,000 contractors, civilians and uniformed personnel — to fill back-office jobs far from the front lines. That workforce supports 1.3 million troops on active duty, the fewest since 1940.

The cost-cutting study could find a receptive audience with President-elect Donald Trump. He has promised a major military buildup and said he would pay for it by “eliminating government waste and budget gimmicks.”

For the military, the major allure of the study was that it called for reallocating the $125 billion for troops and weapons. Among other options, the savings could have paid a large portion of the bill to rebuild the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal, or the operating expenses for 50 Army brigades.

But some Pentagon leaders said they fretted that by spotlighting so much waste, the study would undermine their repeated public assertions that years of budget austerity had left the armed forces starved of funds. Instead of providing more money, they said, they worried Congress and the White House might decide to cut deeper.

So the plan was killed. The Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings. A 77-page summary report that had been made public was removed from a Pentagon website. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2016 at 9:32 pm

3,500 US veterans ‘to put bodies on the line’ in pipeline protest

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Two interesting things about the Dakota Access Pipeline protest: First, it’s growing. Second, the NY Times and Washington Post are giving it very little coverage. I did a search of the NY Times, for example, and it seemed that most reports were secondhand: from Reuters or Associated Press. The Times apparently doesn’t think it’s worth sending their own reporters there. The mission of the Times seems increasingly to protect power.

PressTV has a report, with photos. From their report:

According to reports, as many as 3,500 veterans are joining protests against the multibillion-dollar oil pipeline project near a Native American reservation.

Thousands of veterans have already arrived at the Oceti Sakowin Camp near the small town of Cannon Ball in North Dakota.

The veterans, organized under the banner “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock,” said on Saturday they will put their bodies on the line to assist thousands of activists who have spent months demonstrating against plans to route the pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Invoking the nonviolent protest tactics of Mohandas K. Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the veterans pledged to peacefully support the unarmed Native American protesters.

“In the ultimate expression of alliance, we are there to put our bodies on the line, no matter the physical cost, in complete nonviolence,” wrote the group’s in its “operations order.”

“Our mission is to prevent progress on the Dakota Access Pipeline and draw national attention to the human rights warriors of the Sioux tribes,” the group added.

The Army has warned that it would close the camp and force out the protesters, who have been staying there in the region’s freezing cold temperatures.

When the Army is mobilized against American citizens, it’s always a bad sign—and generally indicates that the Powers That Be feel threatened.

But click the link to see the photos.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 December 2016 at 10:53 am

No one can stop President Trump from using nuclear weapons. That’s by design.

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That’s is a chilling thought. Donald Trump is impulsive and vindictive, you will recall. Alex Wellerstein, a historian of nuclear weapons at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., has an interesting (even frightening) column in the Washington Post. Wellerstein also runs the website Restricted Data: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog.

Sometime in the next few weeks, Donald Trump will be briefed on the procedures for how to activate the U.S. nuclear arsenal, if he hasn’t already learned about them.

All year, the prospect of giving the real estate and reality TV mogul the power to launch attacks that would kill millions of people was one of the main reasons his opponents argued against electing him. “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,” Hillary Clinton said in her speechaccepting the Democratic presidential nomination. She cut an ad along the same lines. Republicans who didn’t support Trump — and even some who did, such as Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) — also said they didn’t think he could be trusted with the launch codes.

Now they’re his. When Trump takes office in January, he will have sole authority over more than 7,000 warheads. There is no failsafe. The whole point of U.S. nuclear weapons control is to make sure that the president — and only the president — can use them if and whenever he decides to do so. The one sure way to keep President Trump from launching a nuclear attack, under the system we’ve had in place since the early Cold War, would have been to elect someone else.

* * *

When the legal framework for nuclear weapons was developed, the fear wasn’t about irrational presidents but trigger-happy generals. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946, which was passed with President Harry Truman’s signature after nine months of acrimonious congressional hearings, firmly put the power of the atomic bomb in the hands of the president and the civilian components of the executive branch. It was a momentous and controversial law, crafted in the months following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with an eye toward future standoffs with the Soviet Union.

The members of Congress who wrote the law, largely with the backing of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, framed it explicitly as a question of who controls the power to use nuclear weapons: Is dropping an atomic bomb a military act or a political one? If it is inherently political, above and beyond a regular military tactic, then that power could not be entrusted to the military. Ultimately, the president was supposed to be the check against the Pentagon pushing to use nukes more often.

The scientists’ fears were based in their experiences in World War II. Their work under the Army Corps of Engineers and the Army Air Forces left them with a sour taste: Generals, they concluded, cared little about ethics, democracy or international politics. Even during the war, some civilians involved with atomic-bombing work feared that the military had become too eager to leave German and Japanese cities in cinders. The secretary of war, Henry Stimson, learned about the ruinous firebombing of Tokyo from the press. He warned Truman that letting the military run the show might cause the United States to “get the reputation of outdoing Hitler in atrocities.”

This division between military and civilian control over nuclear weapons has been weaker or stronger at various points. In the late 1940s, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 December 2016 at 9:25 pm

Gen. Michael Flynn’s Slow Descent Into Madness

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Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Dana Priest tells us today about Donald Trump’s new National Security Advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn:

A lot of reporters and other civilians found Mike, as everyone called him, refreshing. A plucky Irish Catholic kid from Rhode Island, he wasn’t impressed by rank. He told his junior officers to challenge him in briefings. “You’d hear them say, ‘Boss, that’s nuts,’ ” one former colleague said.

….The greatest accomplishment of Flynn’s military career was revolutionizing the way that the clandestine arm of the military, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), undertook the killing and capture of suspected terrorists and insurgents in war zones….[Stanley] McChrystal, who was appointed to run JSOC in 2003, brought Flynn in as his intelligence chief….He “boxed him in,” someone who had worked with both men told me last week, by encouraging Flynn to keep his outbursts in check and surrounding him with subordinates who would challenge the unsubstantiated theories he tended to indulge.

Sounds like a good guy who just needs a little direction. So, um, what happened?

In 2012, Flynn became director of the Defense Intelligence Agency….“He made a lot of changes,” one close observer of Flynn’s time at the D.I.A. told me. “Not in a strategic way—A to Z—but back and forth.”

Flynn also began to seek the Washington spotlight. But, without loyal junior officers at his side to vet his facts, he found even more trouble. His subordinates started a list of what they called “Flynn facts,” things he would say that weren’t true….Flynn’s temper also flared. He berated people in front of colleagues.

….Flynn had been on the job just eighteen months when James Clapper told him he had to go….Flynn began saying that he had been fired because President Obama disagreed with his views on terrorism and wanted to hide the growth of ISIS. I haven’t found anyone yet who heard him say this while he was still in the military….As Flynn’s public comments became more and more shrill, McChrystal, Mullen, and others called Flynn to urge him to “tone it down,” a person familiar with each attempt told me. But Flynn had found a new boss, Trump, who enlisted him in the fight against the Republican and Democratic Party establishments.

Well, I guess it will all work out. Donald Trump will provide a firm hand at the—wait. What’s this? . . .

Continue reading. And do read the rest. It will send chills down your spine.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2016 at 12:39 pm

Another lemon like the F-35? USS Zumwalt Sidelined in Panama Following New Engineering Casualty

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Sam LaGrone reports in the U.S. Naval Institute News:

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) is pier side following an engineering casualty the ship suffered transiting the Panama Canal, U.S. Navy officials told USNI News on Monday.

The guided missile destroyer will undergo repairs at a former U.S. naval station until its fit to complete its journey to Naval Station San Diego, Calif., U.S. 3rd Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Ryan Perry told USNI News.

The ship was in the midst of a southbound transit through the canal when it suffered the casualty, Under orders from U.S. 3rd Fleet commander Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, Zumwalt is now stopped for repairs at the former U.S. Naval Station Rodman, he said.

“The timeline for repairs is being determined now, in direct coordination with Naval Sea Systems and Naval Surface Forces,” he said.
“The schedule for the ship will remain flexible to enable testing and evaluation in order to ensure the ship’s safe transit to her new homeport in San Diego.”

A defense official told USNI News on Tuesday the repairs could take up to ten days.

The ship lost propulsion in its port shaft during the transit and the crew saw water intrusion in two of the four bearings that connect to Zumwalt’s port and starboard Advanced Induction Motors (AIMs) to the drive shafts, a defense official told USNI News on Tuesday. The AIMs are the massive electrical motors that are driven by the ship’s gas turbines and in turn electrically power the ship’s systems and drive the shafts. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 November 2016 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Military

The F-35 Stealth Fighter Is Politically Unstoppable—Even Under President Trump

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I expect we’ll see a lot of reversals such as this one on the F-35: things are going to look a lot more complex to President Trump than they did to GOP Nominee Trump, and of course he’s now responsible for making things work, especially since he also has a GOP Congress (both houses). According to all we were promised, things should now really start to hum. Let’s see: privatize Social Security, kill Obamacare, gut Medicare, deregulate banks and businesses so they can do as they please, . . . It will be interesting times.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2016 at 3:48 pm

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