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Monday, August 01, 2016

Iraq And The Cost of Geopolitical Hubris


“These leaders created a false case for invading Iraq and then utterly mismanaged the occupation.

It seems a long time ago, and in a world far, far away, that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, enthusiastically supported by Tony Blair, went to war with Iraq.

Yet now a long and long-overdue British report into Britain’s role in that war, the report of the official and independent Iraq Inquiry Committee led by John Chilcot, has been published, reopening wounds and forcing Mr. Blair back into the limelight to defend why, despite so much evidence and advice against joining in the Bush administration’s misguided enthusiasm for invading Iraq, he chose as prime minister to throw his full support behind America.

Mr. Blair’s message to Mr. Bush at the time — “I will be with you, whatever” — leaps out painfully from the report’s 2.6 million words, proclaiming a blind loyalty that the Iraq war only helped erode, and that seems especially archaic now that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has raised questions about its role in NATO and its place as America’s closest European ally.

Mr. Blair’s critics are no doubt disappointed that in response to the Chilcot report, he has continued to defend his actions. “I believe we made the right decision and the world is better and safer as a result of it,” he said, which seems willfully blind to the current chaos in Iraq and beyond. But if he would not confess that he erred in his decision, he did acknowledge, “There’s not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about it.”

His plea for understanding the context in which he made his decision to stand with the United States, the confusion and the need for action after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, seems tragically inadequate and self-serving with so many lives lost — more than 200 Britons, at least 4,500 Americans and more than 150,000 Iraqis, most of them civilians — and so much treasure spent prosecuting a war that was built on falsehoods.

While there have been no consequences for Mr. Blair himself, the political judgment of the British has been decisive, rendering the Iraq war as a defining blot on Mr. Blair’s 10 years in office.

The report should not be read as an indictment only of Mr. Blair’s foolish decision. Though the United States was not the subject of the inquiry, it was the Bush administration that falsely sold and launched the invasion. There has been no comparable, comprehensive official inquiry in Washington by independent investigators into the origin and politics of the fateful decision to go to war. Years have passed, but the public, in the United States and abroad, still yearns for the full truth and deserves an American investigation on the scale of the 9/11 Commission.

Given the partisan divide in Washington, however, it is hard to believe a similar exercise would produce anything even remotely dispassionate or honest.

And yet it is the United States, far more than Britain, that needs to understand how national policy can be hijacked by lies and ideology so that there’s less chance it will happen again.”

Iraq War, Lies 13 Years Later

Friday, July 01, 2016

Military to Civilian Revolving Door is Closing


“A 50-year restriction on the rehiring of military retirees as Defense Department civilians would be reinstated, requiring at least 180 days from when they leave the service to when — and if — they are re-hired.

That way the job can be open to competition.

The Senate voted last week to put it to a stop as part of the massive military policy bill that now goes to the House for conference.

Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, military officers facing retirement have had a revolving door to walk through to a civilian job at the Defense Department.
Often it’s the same job they held while in uniform, and often they start the Monday after they retire and start collecting their military pension.

Under this arrangement, 41,630 military retirees — many of them senior officers — walked back into the Defense Department as civilians between September 2001 and August 2014, according to a government study. None of these jobs was advertised to the public. More than a third were hired before they officially retired, and more than half started their civilian careers within a pay period after taking off their uniform, an indication that no one competed with them for the job.

The Senate Armed Service Committee’s report on the issue said the current system “creates suspicions” that the federal merit system is being undermined.

The rule was waived after the Sept. 11 attacks 16 years ago to help staff up the Pentagon for the war on terror. But now the committee, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, is adamant that the flood of retirees who benefited have blocked more qualified civilians who did not serve from getting hired to Defense jobs.

Source: Committee report, National Defense Authorization Act.

“Most military retirees and other veterans already receive hiring preferences in recognition of their service,” says the committee’s report on the National Defense Authorization Act, explaining why the policy should change. “Beyond that, the committee believes veterans and retirees should compete on equal footing with other qualified applicants.”

By leaning too heavily on military retirees without allowing other candidates to compete for these jobs, the Pentagon is closing its ranks to a diverse workforce, the committee report says, “…not just in terms of diversity as it is traditionally defined, but also on diversity of thought, experience, and background within the Department that is desirable in any organization.”

McCain’s declined to comment, but his staff referred a reporter to the committee report.
The change, along with another provision of the defense bill that would scale back hiring preferences for veterans applying for federal jobs from outside the government, represent the biggest changes to the Obama administration’s push to reward veterans. Increasingly, hiring managers and members of Congress are concerned that the leg up given to veterans is not always bringing the most qualified candidates to federal agencies.

The provision on military retirees directs the Defense Department to report by January on how many were hired to civilian jobs in 2015 and 2016; whether they were officers or enlisted personnel and how many men and women were in the overall pool of applicants for civilian jobs.

Defense officials also would have to report on something that right now is hard to quantify: How the soft landing enjoyed by military retirees “has impacted .. the ability of the Department and the military services to consistently hire best-qualified individuals for federal service,” according to the committee report.

Defense Department officials declined comment because the legislation is pending.

The proposed change is drawing mixed reactions from veterans groups. The Military Officers Association of America is in opposition, spokesman Jonathan Withington said in this statement: “Existing policy is consistent with the country’s obligation to provide career opportunities to those who served, especially disabled veterans.”

But the American Legion, the country’s largest service organization, said it supports putting retirees back on equal footing with civilian job candidates.

“We support closing this loophole, because now if a military job becomes vacant it won’t be refilled by another military personnel,” said Louis Celli, Jr., the Legion’s acting legislative director. The current system is “degrading the fighting force,” he said.

And the current system benefits senior officers at the expense of junior ones, Celli said, by allowing them to walk into civilian jobs without competing for them. Someone who retired at a more junior rank would actually benefit from the extra points given to veterans competing for civilian jobs, he said.

“Senior military members seem to have the market cornered on these plush positions,” Celli said. “You’ve got these retired generals who get full retirement benefits and they start a second career, just like that.”

A spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee said lawmakers have not yet taken a position on the proposal.”

Friday, May 27, 2016

Memorial Day - Remembering the Minnesota Vets Home Garden & Gardener

 & Vet Gardner Gordy Schmidt (Deceased)


The Garden is gone and we are humming the Old Joni Mitchel Song:

"They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot"

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Friday, April 01, 2016

Few Military Veterans in Key National Security Roles


“Too few veterans are helping shape national security decisions today.

The lack of veterans in key political posts has left a “deficit” in critical military and security discussions, and helped widen the knowledge gap between civilians and those who served in the military.

[Former Defense Secretary] Hagel said the lack of veterans in key political posts has left a “deficit” in critical military and security discussions, and helped widen the knowledge gap between civilians and those who served in the military.

“When you look at the presidential candidates today, not one is a veteran,” Hagel told the crowd of more than 200. “Our current president and vice president are not veterans. The entire senior White House security staff, none are veterans.”

“That doesn’t mean they’re bad people, that doesn’t mean they’re not smart, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about this country. But there is something missing here. And at a time when everything is hair-triggered, everything is nitro glycerine, and miscalculations can lead to a lot of trouble, we need veterans input.”

Hagel’s remarks were part of a larger event by HillVets to highlight contributions by military, veterans and advocates in politics and wider cultural efforts. The group honored Shaye Lynne Haver and Kristen Marie Griest, who last August became the first women to graduate from Army Ranger School, with a new leadership and service award.

Hagel praised their accomplishments and called the entire U.S. military the best trained and most skilled fighting force in the world.

But he also said he worries that too few Americans understand what that means.

“You all know the numbers — less than 1 percent of our society serves,” he said. “That does not mean this country doesn’t value our military or doesn’t value our veterans. Of course they do.

“But there is developing a wider and deeper gap between civilian society and our military, and our veterans.”

The Burden of War Falls on Fewer Americans Than Ever Before

The former defense secretary and two-term senator said he wants to see veterans in government “in all capacities,” including federal staffers and elected offices.

In the late 1970s, more than 70 percent of Congress has military experience in their backgrounds. At the start of the current Congress, that number dropped below 20 percent.

“We’re losing that perspective, and it’s not good for our country,” he said. “It’s not good for our policy making. We need the input of our veterans.”
Former Defense Secretary Hagel on Veterans In National Security Issues

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Red Flags of Waste in the FY 2017 Defense Budget

“The defense budget process for 2016 (FY 2017) has just started, with the Administration’s $582.7 defense budget.

Here are red flags of waste:

 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). Defense spending is divided into a base amount, in the regular defense spending bill, and another account, OCO, intended for unpredictable wars and commitments abroad, in a supplemental spending bill in 2017. Last year, Congress threatened to put massive amounts of regular weapons purchases into the OCO, to get around spending ceilings (which do not apply to OCO).

Because of last year’s deal about budget ceilings between the President and the Congressional Republicans, it seemed like the OCO maneuver, for padding the defense spending bill, would stop. Wishful thinking. It won’t. The Administration has announced a proposed $59 billion OCO, most of which would actually devoted to overseas operations (although $8 billion is in regular weapons buys). The House majority intends to treat that figure as a floor, not a ceiling, and want to fatten up defense spending via OCO by at least $15 billion, making room for defense pork.

Wasteful individual weapons. The prize, in terms of massive criticism, goes to the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), meant for combat in shallow waters. A few months ago, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter wrote a blistering memo about how the Navy had to cut back its LCS purchases. Just recently, Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said “practically no LCS mission capabilities [have been] proven.” But, the Administration budget would still buy two, and, Congress will want more.

The next overruns of the naval aircraft carrierm known as CVN 79. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) wrote about it, “Poor Outcomes Are the Predictable Consequences of the Prevalent Acquisition Culture.” The carrier is estimated at $11.5 billion, but, says GAO, “CVN 79 is likely to cost more than estimated.” Its predecessor has been plagued with cost overruns and other problems.

 More F-35s. GAO has written voluminously about the shortcomings of the F-35. But, this Lockheed plane is a favorite of the powerful delegation from Texas, where it is made. Per the budget, the Air Force reduced its buys by 5, but, the Navy and the Marine Corps will buy 13 more. Congress will spend for even more.

The Global Hawk. Some years ago, there was an effort to cancel this. As Taxpayers for Common Sense entitled their analysis, “Pricey Drone is a Waste of Money.” It was unreliable in bad weather and needed an expensive retrofit to counter anti-aircraft, and it seemed like there was not a need for both the U-2 and the Global Hawk since both do reconnaissance.. But, the budget includes both.

For some time, the Defense Department has been preparing to undertake a whole new nuclear Cold War. For the Cold War nuclear competition with the Soviet Union, the U.S. had a triad of nuclear armed submarines, bombers, and missiles. The department envisages a complete set of new weapons for all three legs of the triad (call them #6 for submarines, 7 for bombers, and 8 for missiles), plus the new nuclear warheads (9). Altogether, the “nuclear modernization” will cost about a trillion dollars.

Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association wrote, “The United States is planning to rebuild all three legs of the nuclear triad and their associated warheads at a cost and on a schedule that many military leaders say is unsustainable.” But this budget includes $8 billion for submarines, with $40 billion planned, fully funds the nuclear bombers, and spends $9 billion on nuclear warheads.

Further: As for the proposed $1.4 billion for new nuclear submarine, with $10 billion over 5 years, it will benefit Senator Reed’[s state (R.I.) and Senator Blumenthal’s state (Conn.) – both on Armed Services — because of General Dynamics facilities.

Further: In the realm of strategic nuclear weapons, the Defense Department budget does propose to bring to an end one gigantic white elephant, a plant to convert the old plutonium warheads to reactor fuel (MOX). But, a strong story in the New York Times showed that the delegation from South Carolina (the plant location) will probably keep funding it.

Guantanamo Bay. Secretary Carter says he still wants to close Gitmo, which would save half a billion dollars. Needless to say, Congress will not agree.”

Monday, February 01, 2016

U.S. Small Business Administration Offers Help to Veterans


"The U.S. Small Business Administration has resources available for veterans who want to start their own businesses or for small businesses that may have been affected by employees who have been deployed.
The numbers are substantial, according to the SBA: Nearly one in 10 small businesses in this country are veteran-owned; veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans; and businesses owned by female vets have increased 297 percent from 2007 to 2012.
The SBA’s website has collected a list of programs that can offer help, especially in navigating the complexities of returning home for members of the Guard or Reserve after being deployed.
It has information on starting a business, financing, mentoring and training and selling to the government. It can be found on the website Veteran Owned Businesses
One example of a resource is the Military Economic Injury Loan, which provides funds to eligible small businesses to meet operating expenses when an essential employee is called to active duty. The filing period for businesses to apply begins on the date the essential employee is ordered to active duty and ends one year after the essential employee is discharged or released from active duty.
Another aspect to consider are laws that make federal contracting more attractive to veterans, particularly those with a service-connected disability. The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999 established an annual government-wide goal of awarding at least 3 percent of all federal contracts to small businesses owned or controlled by service-disabled veterans.
There’s also Boots to Business, a two-step entrepreneurship training program open to service members and their spouses. The two-day course introduces participants to the opportunities and challenges of business ownership. An eight-week online course allows participants to work through the fundamentals of developing a workable business plan."

Friday, January 01, 2016

U.S. Retains No. 1 Ranking in Global Arms Sales


“American companies account for seven of the top 10 firms, and the other three are European.

New data on global arms sales show steady dominance of the market by U.S. manufacturers even as the volume of transactions by American and European companies has slipped over the past several years.

Sales by the top 100 firms have dipped by 1.5 percent in real terms between 2013 and 2014, and most of the drop came from companies in North America and Western Europe, whereas companies located in other regions of the world have collectively increased their military and defense sales, says a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

This is the fourth consecutive year in which the largest arms producers have seen a drop in sales, according to the SIPRI survey released Dec. 14.

Excluding China, deals by the world’s top 100 arms exporters reached $401 billion in 2014, and U.S. companies captured 54.4 percent. U.S. companies saw business decrease by 4.1 per cent between 2013 and 2014, which is similar to the rate of decline seen from 2012 to 2013.

One company bucking the downward trend is Lockheed Martin, whose sales grew by 3.9 percent in 2014 to $37.5 billion. Lockheed Martin’s lead over the second ranked company Boeing — which had total arms sales of $28.3 billion — increased by $4.4 billion in 2014.

“With the acquisition of helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in 2015, the gap between Lockheed Martin and other companies ranked in the top 10 will widen even further next year,” said Aude Fleurant, director of SIPRI’s arms and military expenditure program.
Western European companies’ arms sales decreased by 7.4 percent in 2014, SIPRI estimated. The exceptions were German and Swiss companies, whose business grew last year.

The SIPRI report confirms what many U.S. industry analysts have said for years about the global defense market becoming more competitive and creating long-term challenges for American firms.

Russia’s arms industry sales continued to rise in 2014 despite difficult national economic conditions, the report said. The number of Russian companies ranked in the top 100 went up from 9 to 11. “Russian companies are riding the wave of increasing national military spending and exports,” said SIPRI Senior Researcher Siemon Wezeman.

The survey identified several “emerging producers” that continue to strengthen their presence in the top 100. They include Brazil, India, South Korea and Turkey. Although their combined arms sales represent only 3.7 percent of the top 100, their revenues rose by 5.1 percent between 2013 and 2014.

While American defense contractors are not expected to relinquish their grip on the market any time soon, U.S. analysts have raised red flags.

“The appreciation of the U.S. dollar could be a huge problem” as U.S. defense contractors try to grow internationally, said Frank Finelli, managing director of The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. If today’s currency trends continue, European and Russian weapons could become 30 percent cheaper than those made by the United States, Finelli said during a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Currency issues aside, U.S. companies will retain their advantage as long as foreign buyers continue to value their military ties with the United States, observed Joel Johnson, executive director of The Teal Group, a market analysis firm.

“Obviously, the exchange rate is not helpful, but I don’t think it is critical,” Johnson told National Defense. “Countries that want a U.S. weapon system because of performance and long-term relationships with the U.S. military are likely to go our way anyway.”

A more worrisome trend for American companies is the commercialization of defense technology. “I do think in the future we will see competition from countries that can provide an ’80 percent solution’ at 80 percent of the price, which may affect both us and our traditional European competitors,” Johnson noted. “Turkey, Ukraine, South Korea are worth watching, particularly with respect to ground equipment.”

The international arms market spotlight in the coming years will be on the F-35 joint strike fighter. Manufacturer Lockheed Martin and its major subcontractors have to be worried that if the Pentagon decides to cut back on future orders, the unit price of the aircraft could increase and make it unaffordable vis-à-vis other global competitors, Johnson said. “I suspect the problem is less about the exchange rate and more about U.S. budget restraints.” 

If the United States decides to curtail F-35 buys, “it could scare off foreign buyers,” he said. “The unit cost impact will be greater than exchange rate impact.”

Tuesday, December 01, 2015


                                                  PLEASE CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Monday, November 09, 2015

12 Names on a Wall in Washington D.C.


Veterans Day 2015
Database of 58 Thousand Plus Names on The Wall in Wash,D.C. This is the most accurate database online.

Sunday, November 01, 2015


In the last 14 years the US has reacted to the 911 tragedy by creating a behemoth machine that:

Knows Only Killing  

This outrageous explosion of watch listing—of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers…  assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield—it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source of the documents told the Intercept. “We’re allowing this to happen. And by ‘we,’ I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it.”

She Kills People From 7,850 Miles Away

Has Little Understanding of Foreign Cultural Factors in Nation Building

Our government has not considered the risks, the indigenous cultural impact, the expense and the sacrifices required to sustain the nation building that must occur after we invade countries in pursuit of perceived enemies and place the burden of governance on military personnel who are not equipped to deal with it or manage USAID contractors who have profit motives in mind and corruption as a regular practice. 

Risks, Expenses and Sacrifices in Nation Building 

Spawns New Versions of Our Old Enemies 

An observer of our military actions over the last two decades in the Middle East could in no way have predicted the splintered, irrational, “Turn-Your-Back-And-You-Have-Two-New-Enemies”, scenario the US faces today. Perhaps a look back over our shoulder, examining cause and effect relationships along the road is in order.

Cause and Effect Relationships in the Middle East 

Creates a Dangerous Outgrowth of Technology in the Military Industrial Complex and Then Exports It for Profit

The United States remains the leading arms exporter increasing sales by 23 percent, with the country’s share of the global arms trade at 31 percent.

Record US Weapons Sales to Foreign Countries – $1.6 Billion in Lockheed Martin Missiles Alone

 Very smart people in the Pentagon believed that connecting sensitive networks, expensive equipment, and powerful weapons to the open Internet was a swell idea. 

This ubiquitous connectivity among devices and objects — what we now call the "Internet of Things" — would allow them to collect performance data to help design new weapons, monitor equipment remotely, and realize myriad other benefits. The risks were less assiduously cataloged.

That strategy has spread huge vulnerabilities across the Defense Department, its networks, and much of what the defense industry has spent the last several decades creating.

The Pentagon Hooked Everything to the Internet 

Defies Financial Control With Dire Consequences for the Nation’s Economic Future

A law passed in 1994 initially set the deadline for 1997, but the Pentagon’s books were in such disarray that it blew past that date. Then, in 2010, Congress told the Pentagon to comply by 2017.

The next year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged that the department would by 2014 be ready for a partial account of its finances – a much less detailed accounting than requested of the military services — but the department missed that deadline too.

Pentagon Remains Stubbornly Unable To Account for Its Billions 

The Above Machine  Cannot and Will Not Continue.

The debt is too great a burden for generations of tax payers.

It is too risky in terms of technology that has fallen fall into enemy hands, either through the "Internet of Things" or by blunders in export management. 

It will be replaced by domestic and foreign relations programs that emphasize global human progress and economic development in lieu of threats.  The result will rely on uplifting, cooperative efforts among nations in lieu of killing. 

The globe has become too small to operate the Military Industrial Machine and the resources that have fueled it will be redirected. 

There simply is no other way. 

The change will be brought about in the following manner:

Facing geopolitical and economic realities, stopping war interventions and investing in relationships within and without our country by offering mutual collaboration.

Ceasing to dwell on threat and building long term infrastructure, education and international development.  The threats will melt away. 

Investing for the long term at the stock holder, company and  national levels based on a strategy dealing with both present day and long term challenges in education, communication and society value transitions.

Electing a Congress and an Administration that knows how to strike a balance between long and short term actions. Letting them know what we think regularly by communicating with them. 

Knowing that most cultures and societies in upheaval today are watching our national model and choosing whether to support it, ignore it or attack it.

The Dire Necessity for U.S. Long Term Strategic Vision 

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Thank You and 4 Gifts from Ken Larson


Approaching 10 years in volunteer small business consulting, I appreciate the nearly 8,000 individuals who have contacted me for advice. 

You have come from many venues through the Micro Mentor and SCORE Foundations, Linked In and other social media sites.  It has been a pleasure serving small business. 

My work with you has kept me active in retirement, in touch with my profession and engaged in a continuous learning mode as we have followed the world's largest consumer - The US Federal Government. 

Please feel free to download any of the 4 free books available here. 

I plan a 5th Edition of "Small Business Federal Government Contracting" in 2016. 

My best wishes for success to you all. 

Ken Larson

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Seizing the Moment in Small Business Federal Government Contracting


Trends on the horizon point to a bright future for small business in federal government contracting.

The federal government is meeting small business contracting goals. 

In 2014, for the first time, the feds exceeded the legal requirement of 23% with a 24.9% achievement or $91.7B in contracts to small business.   The 23% goal mandated by Congress had not been met at the total government level for years. 

Times are Good for Small Business Contractors

The feds are also moving to lowest priced, technically acceptable contracting, driven by budgetary pressures

Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA)

Small business is uniquely qualified for this type of work, particularly in  the services sector, due to lower overhead and G&A rates, as well as agility in work force development.

New industries like Robotics, 3D Printing, Energy, Environmental Protection, Security IT and Geo-spatial IT are creating fields for small enterprises to compete against bigger firms or lead teams involving larger businesses on large scale projects. 

Government small business set-aside procurement is on the rise and becoming recognized by many agencies as a way to remove stodgy, entrenched companies when long term contracts come up for renewal.  These agencies look to smaller firms for cost effective, vibrant management, while inheriting an existing, trained, incumbent work force available to the winner. The process can dramatically grow smaller firms. 

Managing Incumbent Work Forces


A small business anticipating participation in the federal contracting market must make pursuing it part of a long term strategy.  Success in government contracting does not happen overnight. 

Like any other market venue, a niche must be located, market research must confirm the need for products and/or services and the competition; the customer and the potential sales must assessed.  Unlike many other fields, success relies on early requirements identification and strong marketing.

7 Tips for Lean Federal Budget Times

Marketing to Achieve a Small Business Set-aside Contract

5 Factors in Forming a Small Business Contracting Company

The government contracting market allows a small business to pass on the costs of operations at a project level as well as write off company-wide expenses if allocated in a defined manner to single government cost objectives (contracts).  

Small business can also operate in a lower risk environment with contract types suited to the challenges involved.  The trade-offs to these features are requirements for audits and job cost accounting that require verified consistency from cost estimating to billing and contract closeout. This does not occur without preparation. 

Small Business Sytems Development

Entering the market requires carefully sculpting commercial past performance into prospective government contract performance and accumulating strong customer satisfaction ratings.  The feds talk to each other. 

Meeting the Past Performance Challenge

Business Ethics and Past Performance


With the right combination of planning, preparation and opportunity, a small enterprise can seize the moment with:

Identification of specific opportunities that fit company capabilities

Small Business and FEDBIZZOPS

Astute bid/no bid decisions

Making an Astute Bid/No Bid Decision

A solid team of resources both internal and external

Vital Tips for Project Management

Managing Industry Teaming Relationships

A Winning proposal, effective project start-up/execution and quality products and services

Government Contract Proposal Preparation


The small business segment of the huge federal government contacting market is poised to grow exponentially due to advances in technology and the need for flexibility, mobility, agility and economic performance. 

Rule changes are being considered to enhance entrance of commercial enterprises into to the government contacting venue. Congress and the federal agencies are looking hard at constructive changes to make the challenges we have discussed here easier to meet for the small enterprise.  But the rules change slowly.  

The Government and Innovative Technology

Seize the small business contracting moment by being diligent in learning about the market and pursuing it. Make your company well equipped to succeed:
  • Define your niche
  • Learn the rules
  • Plan 
  • Prepare 
  • Execute 

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Meeting Veteran & Employer Challenges During Transition from Military to Civilian Work

Image Eastern Illinois University

Expectations and Reality are Far Apart on Both Sides of the Employment Spectrum

By Ken Larson

Aside from the legal and moral obligations to employ returning veterans, there is a third, vital challenge in the employment transition equation: understanding the vast difference between the military and civilian work environments.  The expectations of both parties must be carefully assessed and communicated with realistic processes for effective transition from military to civilian employment by the veteran.

Civilian Knowledge of the Military Environment Has Diminished

As a country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years. As a public, it has not. A total of about 2.5 million Americans, roughly three-quarters of 1 percent, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many of them more than once.

The Tragedy of the American Military

War was much closer to home when the draft existed and military participation ran higher during WW II and the Vietnam Conflict.

The Nature of Today's Wars and a Cynicism with Regard to Their Outcome Impacts the Veteran and the Civilian Outlook

Ultimately, the military’s discontent may stem from dissonance between the commitment to, and pride in, the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan and the knowledge that these sacrifices have not yielded the desired results.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan arguably have prompted a crisis of confidence within the military itself.

Despite a six-year, $287 million effort to make troops more optimistic and resilient, an Army survey found that 52 percent of soldiers scored badly on questions that measured optimism, while 48 percent reported having little satisfaction or commitment to their job.

Understanding the Military's Morale Crisis

Veterans bring these issues home and find a civilian employment environment that does not have a focus on combat life and death, but rather an emphasis on long term thinking, collaboration, viewing actions with respect to the impact on internal and external customers and politically correct human resource considerations.

The assumption on the part of the employer is that the strength and training of the individual coming out of the military environment permits a reasonable transition. It does not.

We Must Educate and Develop Programs to Bridge the Gap from Both Ends.

A transition partnership between the veteran and the company is necessary. Expectations must be adjusted to reflect the differences in both venues.

Military core values such as – oaths, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a culture of direct command, and a narrow focus on the task at hand are no longer available when the veteran leaves the military. 

In the civilian environment political correctness, strategic group awareness, tact, organization factors, and a broad view of mission and achievement are required.

A veteran is therefore not so much entitled to a job as he or she is entitled to be understood, and to be allowed to understand the civilian job environment, growing into it.

Professional Roles are Vital

There are two important types of professional roles to consider when hiring and managing military veterans in the business venue.

As a veteran who made the transition to civilian professional work and ultimately owned a small enterprise, and as a counselor who supports veterans in becoming business owners, my experience over several decades indicates military men and women do well in Role 1 below. They have the most challenges with Role 2.

Role 1 TechnicalScientific, engineering, logistics, electronics, design and similar skill sets where direct supervision, team building, corporate policy compliance and human resource planning and utilization are not major factors.
Role 2- ManagementFunctional process capacities responsible for hiring, evaluation, supervision, compliance with civilian law and department activities involving group dynamics, customer relations and sensitive human factors.
I came out of the military having had a leadership role in engineering, base development planning and combat support. I served in war zones in Southeast Asia and on highly classified missions. I was not a manager. I was a military leader in specialized skill sets under Role 1 above.

I knew how to direct people who followed orders without question because the Uniform Code of Military Justice to which we swore an oath said they must do so.

I felt uncomfortable in jobs involving Role 2 above because they were foreign to me. I later adjusted, learned the venue and became skilled as a manager in the corporate world. I preferred staff assignments, however for most of my career.

The corporate venue seemed enormously political and bureaucratic to a former war fighter like me. I was not that tactful. I cut to the chase often and did not always take everyone with me when I made a decision.

Once I grew into a Role 2 performer, I found in interviewing, hiring, evaluating and managing young veterans, even seasoned ones, who had retired and joined the civilian work force, that almost all were better suited for Role 1. It took years and effort on my part to fit them into Role 2 and some never made it.
Management Analysis and Moving Forward

The principal reason for the logic conveyed above is that the military environment may seem to be structured in a way that fits Role 2, but the military does not turn out individuals who are suited in the knowledge and experience necessary in the civilian environment and they are not very good at it without extensive training and adaptation.

Enterprises have multiple-faceted challenges and they require multiple- faceted people. Even though individuals may hold a specific position job title, success in the civilian work force demands avenues where the human resource can contribute in multiple ways.

If a contributor has experience and training in several areas the business can utilize, that makes him or her  a valuable resource and it is likely they will be professionally fulfilled and rewarded from doing so. Military personnel have specialty training and focus; few have a wide view of what is in front of them, particularly with respect to military vs. civilian professional settings.

It all comes down to the workers having an element of control in the future success for both themselves and the company and having the opportunity to realize their potential in that regard.

If the professional is in a narrow, technical discipline and his or her expectations are to have others support them in that role or if they are more comfortable in a "Stove-piped" professional setting and not attuned to group dynamics and the often politically correct nature of the civilian organization, they perhaps belong in technical roles and they do not belong in management roles at the onset of their employ.


In fairness to veterans and to our hopes for them in the future, we must understand these above distinctions, build on Role 1, understand the risk in Role 2 and assist wherever possible.

Above all, a respectful partnership and realistic expectations must evolve between the veteran and the company for success in transitioning former military personnel into the civilian work force. This must be achieved through education, training, communication and assessment of both the veteran and the company personnel

About the Author:

Ken Larson is a 2 Tour US Army Vietnam Veteran, retired after 36 Years in the Defense Industrial Complex, having worked on 25 major weapons systems, many of which are in use today in the Middle East. He concluded his career with his own consulting firm.
As a MicroMentor Volunteer Counselor Ken receives many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting.