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Friday, August 01, 2014

Why is the US Spending So Much Money on Fighting a War that has Claimed so Few US Victims?


                                                     Image:  Sodahead dot com
QUESTION ON QUORA:
"The cost of war is in the trillions.  That type of money could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives in the medical industry or literally millions of lives in the developing world. Why is the US spending so much money on fighting a war that has claimed so few US victims?"

OUR ANSWER:
Aside from the threat of another 911 and the fact that we have lost over 4,000 young soldier’s lives, the real reason is there is money in it for big business and the Military Industrial Complex.  War is a racket. So is occupying under the guise of democracy. People make big money at it and an entire Military Industrial Complex thrives on it.

The details of exactly how this occurs were in a warning by President   Eisenhower as he left office.  His words were very prophetic:
The Military Industrial Complex (MIC) consists of both the Pentagon and the  contractors that serve it, their  lobbying firms and the politicians who  promote weapons systems,  incursions and services to the government for  profit and gain. 

The MIC has tremendous power, even though it is presently being tested by  Sequestration.   For further details and  specific example of how the MIC has influenced our decision makers and  contributed to the deaths of our finest youth, please see the following:

ABOUT THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

It is corrupt and driven by corporate influence:
 http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/11/halliburton200711

It is broken and riddled with incompetence:

http://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2008/04/us-federal-government-procurement.html

http://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2007/01/what-american-public-must-know-about.html


A quote many years ago from Major-General Smedley D. Butler: Common Sense (November 1935)

" I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service as a   member of our country's most agile military force---the Marine Corps. I   have served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to   major-general. And during that period I spent most of my time being a   high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the   bankers, In short I was a racketeer for capitalism

Thus, I helped  make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil  interests in  1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place to live  for the  National City Bank boys to collect   revenues in…. I helped  purify  Nicaragua for the international banking   house of Brown  Brothers in  1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican   Republic for  American  Sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras   "right" for  American  fruit companies in 1903. In China in1927 I helped   see to it  that  Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years  I  had,  as the  boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded  honors,  medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have  given Al  Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his  racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three  continents. War Is A  Racket"

The beat goes on today with the KBR's the Lockheed Martins and the other huge corporations supplying and supporting wars.

Every major aerospace company from IBM to Lockheed Martin and Boeing has totally stand-alone divisions that serve as cost centers and pursue monumental interests in the politics of government   and the billions in service contracts that are outsourced there.  This has gone on for years.  I watched it for 3 decades on the inside of these companies.

These companies routinely spend more in lobbying expenses than they pay in income taxes each year. 
http://www.ibtimes.com/30-major-us-corporations-paid-more-lobby-congress-income-taxes-2008-2010-380982 

The interests of these firms is now changing slightly with Sequestration   and many are making acquisitions and marketing services in the Health   Care sectors or escalating their interests in civil aviation, education   and other fields.

If it was too costly to do business with the government, 302,315 companies and  some of the largest corporations in the world would not be involved in it.  See  the  below link to contract awards and amounts in 2010 to large  enterprises: 
1. LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION  -                    $34,288,619,722
2. THE BOEING COMPANY                                          19,358,512,809
3. NORTHROP GRUMMAN CORPORATION                   15,472,742,729
4. GENERAL DYNAMICS CORPORATION                      14,903,216,900
5. RAYTHEON COMPANY                                             14,880,453,061
6. L-3 COMMUNICATIONS HOLDINGS, INC.                     7,629,644,919
7. UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION                    7,330,0
23,190
8. OSHKOSH CORPORATION                                         7,197,520,183
9. SAIC, INC.                                                                  6,595,330,339
10. BAE SYSTEMS PLC                                                 6,587,705,335

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Are Americans Truly Independent?


















THE BRANCH UPON WHICH WE SIT

Technology has permitted marvelous advances and opportunities in communication and convenience. 

It has also impacted independent thought and created concerns with respect to privacy and transparency in government. Our focus has shifted recently to sophisticated forms of government technological control that may be both legal and illegal, and are being challenged in our court systems.

Mass marketing and communications have created expectations beyond reality in venues from romance web sites to building wealth.  They have also confused us about our government functions, our elected representatives and where they are taking us.

We have grown used to the convenience of viewing the world through media sound bites, opinionated, biased, news and insincere, short sighted, money driven politicians, who are financed by loosely controlled contributors and influenced by lobbying firms that spend enormous amounts of money made available by the wealthy to impact our opinions.

We have become less competitive in the global economy, as a concentration of wealth has shifted to a very few and our corporations evolve operations outside the country, taking the resulting tax relief, profits, investments and resources with them. 

http://business.time.com/2012/01/27/are-companies-more-powerful-than-countries/


THE CONUNDRUM

Consider simpler times a few years past (say 50). Trust was necessary in many venues as a means of survival on a day-to-day basis. We relied on others extensively for our well-being from our local store to our banker, from the policeman to the politician. And we knew them all better, we could reach out and touch them and we were not viewing them in sound bites and web sites, nor were we being bombarded with multiple forms of input to digest about them.

Americans have very little trust in the current era.  We see a negative, idealistically bound, bloated government, growing like a money- eating beast and putting generations in hock with unwarranted incursions into foreign countries and a focus on big corporations and big business. 

THE CHALLENGE

The key to our true independence is in becoming involved as individuals, taking flight on wings that grow strong by exercising our intellect, our shared opinions and our participation in government.  We must research a personal perspective based on our personal values and take time in the fast pace our culture demands to communicate with those we elect to government before and after the election.

Trust is hard to establish in the modern era.  We see very little true statesmanship in the good people we send to Washington, who promptly become ground up in the huge machine there in order to survive.  That machine must change and the people we send to change it must share that objective with us. 

HOW STRONG ARE OUR WINGS?

Communications and expectations are two vital elements in measuring trust.
To an extraordinary extent, the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectations contribute to it. 
To become truly independent, we must become much more sophisticated ourselves in the manner with which we view all this input and sift it in a meaningful way to have true trust.

To a very large degree this is a personal responsibility. We must become involved, make prudent judgments and think for ourselves, then communicate our expectations to those who represent us.

If we do not, we run a high risk of tyranny and that fact is inescapable.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Goodbye to a Great Friend

One of the finest Labs in town, a great friend and a Nabisco Graham Cracker aficionado.  Please accept our memorial (above left)  off "Sadie Point" and rest in peace.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

A VETERAN CONNECTS THE DOTS IN THE MILITARY AND VETERANS HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS MAZE


The Massive backlog recently highlighted in the press and in Congress  reveals a dire necessity for simplification, communication and  efficiency in processes, systems and government service contracting in DOD and the Veterans Administration as well as better management of federal government contractors. 

The news media, the auditors and the average American are pointing the finger at the President and the Head of the VA.  One cannot ignore the accountability aspects of these individuals.  

However, the real root causes lie in the massive volume of war veterans returning from our pointless incursions in the Middle East over the last decade, coupled with the historically poor process and systems work conducted between the Department of Defense and the VA and poorly managed military contractors taking home millions on systems specifications that change like the wind blows.  

It is not unlike the Obama Care fiasco.

After returning from two combat tours in Vietnam, I worked in the government contracting environment for 36 years then went through the VA system as a Veteran getting treatment at retirement in 2006

In 2006 I found the VA had a magnificent system capable of handling medical records and treatment anywhere in the world once a veteran was in the system; a key point.  Please contrast the below Time Magazine Story with current events and ask yourself : Why have we had such deterioration?  

http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1376238,00.html

ANSWER:   We have not experienced deterioration - within the VA itself, except  from pressures due to millions returning from war and from human beings who look for excuses when systems fail.

We have had 10 years of Middle East incursions, a sudden discharge of veterans and poor systems management from the DOD to the VA, from the systems contractors to the state veterans homes.  

Veterans fall through the cracks as a result.

 This is an F-35 aircraft, cost plus scenario, revisited in the form of veterans care systems mismanagement and it will cost billions to fix.  THAT IS THE COST OF WAR.

Unlike the F-35 we must have veterans health care or our volunteer army will disappear.

THE TOTAL SPECTRUM MUST BE VIEWED TO MANAGE THE ISSUES. 


BACKGROUND

A recent 3 part special in Time Magazine addresses the serious gaps between treatment,  benefits and services processes and systems between the military  services and the Veterans Administration:
"While awaiting  processing, "the veteran’s claim sits stagnant for up to 175 days as VA  awaits transfer of complete (service treatment records) from DoD,":

After years of work to move toward integrated electronic records that would eliminate this sort of delay, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently  conceded that the Defense Department is not holding up its end of the bargain to improve the disability process.

"I didn’t think, we knew what the hell we were doing.":
 

http://www.federalnewsradio.com/394/3288748/Hagel-orders-DoD-to-restructure-path-toward-integrated-health-record 
 

HISTORICAL SIMILARITIES

The above scenario is not unlike the Walter Reed Army Hospital care  fiasco a few years ago, before the facility was shut down and consolidated with the Bethesda Naval facility.

OTHER SYMPTOMS

The VA decided to have those who would  actually use the system (claims processors) work with software  developers. This process took longer but will create a system more  likely to meet the needs of those who actually use it. VA also worked  closely with major Congressional-chartered veterans’ service  organizations.

2013 was the year in which regional offices were to be being transitioned to the new electronic system.  It obviously has not occurred as planned.


ROOT CAUSE

Both DOD and the Veterans  Administration use service contractors to perform this type of systems development.  Government Computer News (GCN)  carried a story on the  difficulties experienced with, "Performance-Based Contracting", which  has been made part of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) in an  attempt to pre-establish at contract award those discrete outcomes that determine if and when a contractor will be paid.


http://gcn.com/articles/2006/12/01/performancebased-contracting-still-baffles-agencies.aspx 

Interestingly enough, the article splits the blame for the difficulties  right down the middle, stating the government typically has problems  defining what it wants as an end product or outcome and looks to  contractors to define it for them. More than willing to do so, the contractors detail specific end products or outcomes, set schedule  milestones and submit competitive proposals.

The winner is selected based on what the government thinks it needs at  the time to fulfill its requirement and a contract is negotiated. Once underway, the government decides it wants something else (usually a  management-by-government committee phenomena with a contractor growing  his product or service by offering lots of options). The resulting  change of contract scope invalidates the original price and schedule, so  a whole new round of proposals and negotiations must occur with the  winner while the losers watch something totally different evolve than  that for which they competed. The clock keeps ticking and the winner  keeps getting his monthly bill paid based on incurred cost or progress  payments.


CONCLUSION

The present state of the economy and the needs of our servicemen will not allow the aforementioned to  continue. Government agencies are now hard pressed to insure the most  "Bang for the Buck". It is in the long term interests of the politician, the DOD, the VA and astute contractors to assist in that endeavor. 


(1)The only way to achieve such an objective is through sound technical, cost and schedule contract definition via an iterative process of baseline management and control.

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2009/08/contract-baseline-management-in-small.html

(2)  Government civil servants must be trained to report systemic poor service up the line in lieu of hiding bad news from superiors or developing workarounds.  This must be an expectation built into their job description and they must be rewarded and promoted for meeting that requirement just as they are for the other requirements of their jobs. 

The first whistle to be blown must be to the boss when the service issue occurs, not to the press a year from the occurrence. 

Our returning soldiers and those who have served before deserve better"





Thursday, May 01, 2014

"ACP Advisor" - A Free Veteran Focused “Quick Question" Community



ACP AdvisorNet is a nonprofit  venture from American Corporate Partners.
I have enjoyed my participation there, joining volunteers from industry that assist veterans with free advice in making the transition from military service to civilian jobs, small business and career development. 

This is a free online business Q&A  community that connects veterans and their immediate family members with business leaders across the country. 
Through an interactive and easy-to-use interface, veterans can ask questions about career development, employment and small business, follow Q&A threads and message users to network and initiate further dialogue.
Veterans also have the ability to search a directory of Advisor+ participants who have elected to make themselves available for private, in-depth conversation.

The site is open to all current and former service members and their immediate family. Business leaders nationwide looking to share their expertise and advice can sign up as an Advisor or Advisor+ participant.  
 All users are able to see the professional and/or military backgrounds of other users, promoting an environment of accountability and trust.

American Corporate Partners (ACP) AdvisorNet for Veterans

https://acp-advisornet.org/about/