Friday, December 9, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Army-Navy is Back!

It’s a lot of military-related stuff this week, not so much because of the Army-Navy game but because that’s what’s going on in America.  Or maybe I’m just more tuned into the military stuff because of the game.  Regardless, these are the things to which I want people to pay attention.

Happy Friday, folks.  Let’s get after it.

1. Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste (Washington Post)
The headline is this:
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 Pentagon.
But the really interesting stuff is a little further down:
In a confidential August 2014 memo, McKinsey noted that while the Defense Department was “the world’s largest corporate enterprise,” it had never “rigorously measured” the “cost-effectiveness, speed, agility or quality” of its business operations.
Nor did the Pentagon have even a remotely accurate idea of what it was paying for those operations…
McKinsey hazarded a guess: anywhere between $75 billion and $100 billion a year, or between 15 and 20 percent of the Pentagon’s annual expenses. “No one REALLY knows,” the memo added.
So yeah.  The truth turned out to be even worse than consulting group McKinsey had even guessed.  They estimated 15% to 20% of total expenditures, but the reality came closer to 25%.  To put that another way, the military has 1.3 million men and women in uniform on active duty; these are supported by just over a million back-office folks, mostly DA civilians and contractors.
Here’s the issue: we live in a nation that spends a shitload of money on defense, but only about 1% of our total population actually serves.  We’ve conditioned the masses to “Support the Troops,” but by and large, most folks don’t have the first fucking clue what that actually entails.  They know nothing about the military and care even less.  Liberals says, “Make love not war,” while hawks call every soldier a “Hero”.  Neither of these statements is worth the oxygen expended in making it.
Reality is that the nation’s military needs real oversight, just as it needs oversight on it’s other massive bureaucracies.  We’ve lost the art of asking tough questions, though, of doing more than just posturing in front of the cameras in service to an ideology that may or may not connect with what real people see and feel on the ground.  And here we are.  The truth is what you make it, and facts are in the eye of the beholder.  We no longer have the stomach even to confront the evidence when it’s not what we want to hear.
The Kremlin published a new plan on Tuesday to defend Russia against what it described as stepped-up cyberattacks and “information-psychological” methods by foreign intelligence agencies bent on influencing its population with online information…
The latest iteration of the doctrine comes as American officials have mulled retaliating against Russia for what the Department of Homeland Security said was government-orchestrated hacking before the presidential election, including stealing emails from the Democratic National Committee.
This is the second half of the same idea.  If you can’t control reality, control the public’s perception.  That’s the way the world is headed.  So yeah, Moscow is concerned about cyber-hacking.  But it’s also concerned with countering “foreign influence,” i.e. reputable Western news agencies that provide factual coverage of topics it would rather remained secret.  
In a world where facts are fast becoming either optional or made-to-order, this is probably not a good sign.
3. Friday Flashback: Can’t Touch This
Please Hammer, don’t hurt ‘em!
There’s a whole story on General Kelly, but I want to focus on the larger picture:
Kelly’s nomination could raise questions about what critics see as Trump’s tendency to surround himself with too many military figures. Trump has also selected retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis for defense secretary and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser, while retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus is under consideration for secretary of state.
The President-Elect is a fan
of the U.S. Marine Corps.
I see two issues here.  One, I suspect that Trump likes military officers because of their apolitical approach.  Remember, this is a man who had to beat both parties to get into the White House, who did this largely by scorching the parties’ political bureaucracies.  Okay, but if you take the Washington think-tankers and Congressional staffers out of consideration most of these top-level jobs, that leaves you with core contributors who must either come from the business community or from the military.  Trump has hired loads of people from both areas, and here we are.  That actually is a way to “drain the swamp.”
My second issue is this: though I remain deeply skeptical of the president-elect—especially  because his more ardent supporters have such an alarming tendency towards acting completely nuts—he has nevertheless hired a boatload of highly qualified military professionals to do jobs in which national security expertise is extremely important.  That’s good.
I get that folks are concerned about civilian control of the military, but I don’t see it.  Trump is still going to be president, and the military is still going to be beholden to Congress for appropriations.  However, the American People just expressly rejected the politically correct policies of the last eight years.  We are therefore due for a course correction—a backlash, if you will—which we can only hope puts the business of fighting and winning our nation’s wars at the foreground of actual military policy.  That would not be a bad thing.  I support the aspirations of women who want to join the Infantry, but I would very much like to see Pentagon acquisitions gutted from the ground up, forcing more accountability in a system that has long since run amok (see item 1, above).  I also think it’s a mistake to make anything other than the defense of the nation the military’s primary concern.
5.  For Our Brother (The Players Tribute)
I play football at Army. I am part of a brotherhood. A family.
I am brothers not only with my teammates, but also with every Army player who came before me. We are playing for them at the same time we are playing for each other. We bleed together on the football field before we bleed together on the battlefield. That’s not just talk. That’s very real. A West Point graduate, Maj. Andrew D. Byers, was killed in action last month in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Everybody who goes to a service academy knows the stakes.
But I never thought I would lose one of my brothers while we were still at school together — while we were still teammates. West Point prepares you for many things, but not for something like that.

This is a terrific piece of writing from LB Andrew King, an Army football captain and one of the best linebackers in the country.  Moving stuff.  Well worth your time as you prep for tomorrow’s game.

For what it's worth, Cadet Austin LaChance is the best video/photography guy Army's had in quite some time.  This is hardly the first piece of his that I've run.  

That’s all I’ve got.
Go Army!  Beat Navy!!!

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