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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

How the Pentagon Became Walmart

Photo:  Getty Images

“Asking warriors to do everything poses great dangers for our country — and the military.
Our armed services have become the one-stop shop for America’s policymakers.
Here’s the vicious circle in which we’ve trapped ourselves: As we face novel security threats from novel quarters — emanating from nonstate terrorist networks, from cyberspace, and from the impact of poverty, genocide, or political repression, for instance — we’ve gotten into the habit of viewing every new threat through the lens of “war,” thus asking our military to take on an ever-expanding range of nontraditional tasks. But viewing more and more threats as “war” brings more and more spheres of human activity into the ambit of the law of war, with its greater tolerance of secrecy, violence, and coercion — and its reduced protections for basic rights.
Meanwhile, asking the military to take on more and more new tasks requires higher military budgets, forcing us to look for savings elsewhere, so we freeze or cut spending on civilian diplomacy and development programs. As budget cuts cripple civilian agencies, their capabilities dwindle, and we look to the military to pick up the slack, further expanding its role.
“If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The old adage applies here as well. If your only functioning government institution is the military, everything looks like a war, and “war rules” appear to apply everywhere, displacing peacetime laws and norms. When everything looks like war, everything looks like a military mission, displacing civilian institutions and undermining their credibility while overloading the military.
More is at stake than most of us realize. Recall Shakespeare’s Henry V:
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage 
In war, we expect warriors to act in ways that would be immoral and illegal in peacetime. But when the boundaries around war and the military expand and blur, we lose our ability to determine which actions should be praised and which should be condemned.
For precisely this reason, humans have sought throughout history to draw sharp lines between war and peace — and between the role of the warrior and the role of the civilian. Until less than a century ago, for instance, most Western societies maintained that wars should be formally declared, take place upon clearly delineated battlefields, and be fought by uniformed soldiers operating within specialized, hierarchical military organizations. In different societies and earlier times, humans developed other rituals to delineate war’s boundaries, from war drums and war sorcery to war paint and complex initiation rites for warriors.
Like a thousand other human tribes before us, we modern Americans also engage in elaborate rituals to distinguish between warriors and civilians: Our soldiers shear off their hair, display special symbols on their chests, engage in carefully choreographed drill ceremonies, and name their weapons for fearsome spirits and totem animals (the Hornet, the Black Hawk, the Reaper). And despite the changes ushered in by the 9/11 attacks, most of us view war as a distinct and separate sphere, one that shouldn’t intrude into our everyday world of offices, shopping malls, schools, and soccer games. Likewise, we relegate war to the military, a distinct social institution that we simultaneously lionize and ignore. War, we like to think, is an easily recognizable exception to the normal state of affairs and the military an institution that can be easily, if tautologically, defined by its specialized, war-related functions.
But in a world rife with transnational terrorist networks, cyberwarriors, and disruptive nonstate actors, this is no longer true. Our traditional categories — war and peace, military and civilian — are becoming almost useless.
In a cyberwar or a war on terrorism, there can be no boundaries in time or space: We can’t point to the battlefield on a map or articulate circumstances in which such a war might end. We’re no longer sure what counts as a weapon, either: A hijacked passenger plane? A line of computer code? We can’t even define the enemy: Though the United States has been dropping bombs in Syria for almost two years, for instance, no one seems sure if our enemy is a terrorist organization, an insurgent group, a loose-knit collection of individuals, a Russian or Iranian proxy army, or perhaps just chaos itself.
We’ve also lost any coherent basis for distinguishing between combatants and civilians: Is a Chinese hacker a combatant? What about a financier for Somalia’s al-Shabab, or a Pakistani teen who shares extremist propaganda on Facebook, or a Russian engineer paid by the Islamic State to maintain captured Syrian oil fields?
When there’s a war, the law of war applies, and states and their agents have great latitude in using lethal force and other forms of coercion. Peacetime law is the opposite, emphasizing individual rights, due process, and accountability.
When we lose the ability to draw clear, consistent distinctions between war and not-war, we lose any principled basis for making the most vital decisions a democracy can make: Which matters, if any, should be beyond the scope of judicial review? When can a government have “secret laws”? When can the state monitor its citizens’ phone calls and email? Who can be imprisoned and with what degree, if any, of due process? Where, when, and against whom can lethal force be used? Should we consider U.S. drone strikes in Yemen or Libya the lawful wartime targeting of enemy combatants or nothing more than simple murder?
When we heedlessly expand what we label “war,” we also lose our ability to make sound decisions about which tasks we should assign to the military and which should be left to civilians.
Today, American military personnel operate in nearly every country on Earth — and do nearly every job on the planet. They launch raids and agricultural reform projects, plan airstrikes and small-business development initiatives, train parliamentarians and produce TV soap operas. They patrol for pirates, vaccinate cows, monitor global email communications, and design programs to prevent human trafficking.
Many years ago, when I was in law school, I applied for a management consulting job at McKinsey & Co. During one of the interviews, I was given a hypothetical business scenario: “Imagine you run a small family-owned general store. Business is good, but one day you learn that Walmart is about to open a store a block away. What do you do?”
“Roll over and die,” I said immediately.
The interviewer’s pursed lips suggested that this was the wrong answer, and no doubt a plucky mom-and-pop operation wouldn’t go down without a fight: They’d look for a niche, appeal to neighborhood sentiment, or maybe get artisanal and start serving hand-roasted chicory soy lattes. But we all know the odds would be against them: When Walmart shows up, the writing is on the wall.
Like Walmart, today’s military can marshal vast resources and exploit economies of scale in ways impossible for small mom-and-pop operations. And like Walmart, the tempting one-stop-shopping convenience it offers has a devastating effect on smaller, more traditional enterprises — in this case, the State Department and other U.S. civilian foreign-policy agencies, which are steadily shrinking into irrelevance in our ever-more militarized world. The Pentagon isn’t as good at promoting agricultural or economic reform as the State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development — but unlike our civilian government agencies, the Pentagon has millions of employees willing to work insane hours in terrible conditions, and it’s open 24/7.
It’s fashionable to despise Walmart — for its cheap, tawdry goods, for its sheer vastness and mindless ubiquity, and for the human pain we suspect lies at the heart of the enterprise. Most of the time, we prefer not to see it and use zoning laws to exile its big-box stores to the commercial hinterlands away from the center of town. But as much as we resent Walmart, most of us would be hard-pressed to live without it.
As the U.S. military struggles to define its role and mission, it evokes similarly contradictory emotions in the civilian population. Civilian government officials want a military that costs less but provides more, a military that stays deferentially out of strategy discussions but remains eternally available to ride to the rescue. We want a military that will prosecute our ever-expanding wars but never ask us to face the difficult moral and legal questions created by the eroding boundaries between war and peace.
We want a military that can solve every global problem but is content to remain safely quarantined on isolated bases, separated from the rest of us by barbed wire fences, anachronistic rituals, and acres of cultural misunderstanding. Indeed, even as the boundaries around war have blurred and the military’s activities have expanded, the U.S. military itself — as a human institution — has grown more and more sharply delineated from the broader society it is charged with protecting, leaving fewer and fewer civilians with the knowledge or confidence to raise questions about how we define war or how the military operates.
It’s not too late to change all this.
No divine power proclaimed that calling something “war” should free us from the constraints of morality or common sense or that only certain tasks should be the proper province of those wearing uniforms. We came up with the concepts, definitions, laws, and institutions that now trap and confound us — and they’re no more eternal than the rituals and categories used by any of the human tribes that have gone before us.
We don’t have to accept a world full of boundary-less wars that can never end, in which the military has lost any coherent sense of purpose or limits. If the moral and legal ambiguity of U.S.-targeted killings bothers us, or we worry about government secrecy or indefinite detention, we can mandate new checks and balances that transcend the traditional distinctions between war and peace. If we don’t like the simultaneous isolation and Walmartization of our military, we can change the way we recruit, train, deploy, and treat those who serve, change the way we define the military’s role, and reinvigorate our civilian foreign-policy institutions.
After all, few generals actually want to preside over the military’s remorseless Walmartization: They too fear that, in the end, the nation’s over-reliance on an expanding military risks destroying not only the civilian competition but the military itself. They worry that the armed services, under constant pressure to be all things to all people, could eventually find themselves able to offer little of enduring value to anyone.
Ultimately, they fear that the U.S. military could come to resemble a Walmart on the day after a Black Friday sale: stripped almost bare by a society both greedy for what it can provide and resentful of its dominance, with nothing left behind but demoralized employees and some shoddy mass-produced items strewn haphazardly around the aisles.”

Saturday, August 06, 2022

A Thank You and 4 Gifts from Ken Larson


Approaching 15 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. 
Although some were originally published a few years ago, the documents contain live links that take the reader to updates on the latest topic information  at my web sites. 

My best wishes for success to you all. 

Ken Larson

Thursday, August 04, 2022


Lt. Colonel Daniel L. Davis


This article has been updated to adjust the amount of the national debt in the concluding paragraph from what was then 16 Trillion in 2012 when we first began to discussing  this topic to what is now approaching 31 Trillion. 

We offer in this posting not only our opinion on the massive Military Industrial Complex, but also the opinions of three experts who have lived war fighting - on the recent fields of battle, and in weapons systems development.

The quotations are extracts from larger articles. We suggest the reader follow the links after each to become further informed. 

It is our hope that the facts offered here will contribute to the knowledge of US citizenry regarding hard decisions forthcoming on the nature of war fighting and its role in the future of our country.


This Blog was founded in 2006, based on the 36 years experience of a soldier in war zones and major corporations in the US Military Industrial Complex.   Our view is expressed in the below article, an extract of which reads:

Presidents, Congressmen, Cabinet Members and Appointees project a knowledgeable demeanor but they are spouting what they are told by career people who never go away and who train their replacements carefully. These are military and civil servants with enormous collective power, armed with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Defense Industrial Security Manuals, compartmentalized classification structures and "Rice Bowls" which are never mixed.

Our society has slowly given this power structure its momentum which is constant and extraordinarily tough to bend. The cost to the average American is exorbitant in terms of real dollars and bad decisions. Every major power structure member in the Pentagon's many Washington Offices and Field locations in the US and Overseas has a counterpart in Defense Industry Corporate America. That collective body has undergone major consolidation in the last 10 years. What used to be a broad base of competitive firms is now a few huge monoliths, such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Boeing.

Government oversight committees are carefully stroked. Men like Sam Nunn and others who were around for years in military and policy oversight roles have been cajoled, given into on occasion but kept in the dark about the real status of things until it is too late to do anything but what the establishment wants. This still continues - with increasing high technology and potential for abuse.”


Paul Riedner is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. December 13, 2011 – Minneapolis Star Tribune Commentaries. Personally, sacrificed four years in support of the war effort -- one deployed as an army engineer diver.
There remain countless inner struggles that lurk in dark corners of my psyche. They are difficult to measure or even explain.
What does it mean to have been a part of this war?
To have been a part of: 4,500 American deaths; 33,000 Americans wounded; estimates as high as 600,000 Iraqi deaths; more than $1 trillion in taxpayer money spent; $9 billion lost or unaccounted for; huge corporate profiteering; a prisoner-abuse scandal; a torture record worthy of the Hague; a hand in the financial crisis, and runaway unemployment when we get home.
I've learned that we are easily duped and that we quickly forget. Saddam has WMDs. No, we are exporting democracy. No, we are protecting human rights, and by the way, their oil will pay for it all.
I've learned that 9/11 was used against us. We gladly handed over our civil liberties in the name of security. And recently our Congress quietly reapproved the unconstitutional Patriot Act.”
Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel L. Davis in the United States Army, serving as a Regular Army officer in the Armor Branch. He has just completed his fourth combat deployment. (Desert Storm, Afghanistan in 2005-06, Iraq in 2008-09, and Afghanistan again in 2010-11). In the middle of his career he served eight years in the US Army Reserve and held a number of civilian jobs, one of which was an aide for US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (Legislative Correspondent for Defense and Foreign Affairs).
From “Dereliction of Duty II
Senior Military Leaders’ Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort 27 January 2012”

We have lavished praise a few of our senior military leaders for being “warrior-scholars” whose intellectualism exceeds those of most wearing the uniform. But what organization in the world today – whether an international terrorist organization or virtually every major company on the globe – needs physical territory on which to plan “future 9/11 attacks”? Most are well acquainted with the on-line and interconnected nature of numerous global movements. We here in the United States know video conferencing, skyping, emailing, texting, twittering, Facebooking, and virtually an almost limitless number of similar technologies.

And a few men have convinced virtually the entire Western world that we must stay on the ground in one relatively postage-stamp sized country – even beyond a decade and a half – to prevent “another 9/11” from being planned, as though the rest of the world’s geography somehow doesn’t matter, and more critically, that while the rest of the world does its planning on computers and other electronic means, al-Qaeda must be capable only of making such plans on the ground, and only on the ground in Afghanistan.

When one considers what these few leaders have asked us to believe in light of the facts pointed out above, the paucity of logic in their argument becomes evident. What has been present in most of those arguments, however, has been emotionally evocative words designed to play strongly on American patriotism: “…this is where 9/11 was born!” “these young men did not die in vain” “this is a tough fight” etc. It is time – beyond time – for the evidence and facts to be considered in their comprehensive whole in a candid and honest public forum before we spend another man or woman’s life or limbs in Afghanistan.”


Franklin C.   "Chuck  " Spinney Pentagon’s Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation (better-known by its former name, Systems Analysis, set up to make independent evaluations of Pentagon Policy)

Author - "Defense Facts of Life: The Plans-Reality Mismatch", which sharply criticized defense budgeting, arguing that the defense bureaucracy uses unrealistic assumptions to buy in to unsustainable programs, and explaining how the pursuit of complex technology produced expensive, scarce and inefficient weapons. Spinney spent his career refining and expanding this analysis. The report was largely ignored despite a growing reform movement, whose goal was to reduce military budget increases from 7% to 5% after inflation. Two years later, he expounded on his first report, including an analysis on the miscalculation of the burden costs of a majority of the weapon systems and re-titled it "Defense facts of life: The Plans/Reality Mismatch", which later became simply known as the "Spinney Report":
And that's why we ought to treat the defense industry as a public sector; and if we did that then you wouldn't see these gross disparities in salaries creeping in. But essentially if you try to understand what's going on in the Pentagon and this is the most important aspect, and it gets at the heart of our democracy. Is that we have an accounting system that is unauditable. Even by the generous auditing requirements of the federal government.
Now what you have to understand is the kind of audits I'm talking about these are not what a private corporation would do with a rigorous accounting system. Essentially the audits we are required to do are mandated under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, and a few amendments thereafter. But it's the CFO Act of 1990 that's the driver.
And it basically was passed by Congress that required the inspector generals of each government department, not just the Pentagon, but NASA, health, education, welfare, all the other departments, interior department where the inspector general has to produce an audit each year. Saying, basically verifying that the money was spent on what Congress appropriated it for. Now that's not a management accounting audit. It's basically a checks and balances audit.
Well, the Pentagon has never passed an audit. They have 13 or 15, I forget the exact number, of major accounting categories. That each one has it's own audit. The only one of those categories that's ever been passed is the retirement account.
Now under the CFO Act of 1990 they have to do this audit annually. Well, every year they do an audit and the inspector general would issue a report saying we have to waive the audit requirements, because we can't balance the books. We can't tell you how the money got spent.
Now what they do is try to track transactions. And in one of the last audits that was done the transactions were like… there were like $7 trillion in transactions. And they couldn't account for about four trillion of those transactions. Two trillion were unaccountable and two trillion they didn't do, and they accounted for two trillion.”
The material here is submitted on its own merits. Consider it carefully as the Pentagon has consumer nearly 70% of US disposable tax revenue in recent years and our national debt approaches $31 Trillion.  National Debt Clock

Ask yourself if there are other alternatives for the future of our country, to include statesmanship, international economic cooperation and de-weaponizing efforts among great nations.  

Why Do They Ask If You Are A Protected Veteran In A U.S. Job Application?

Image:  U.S. Department of Labor

The companies to which you are applying are doing business with the Federal Government. As such they must abide by the law with regard to hiring protected veterans and report statistics on their compliance. That is why the application data regarding protected veterans is tracked.
The definition of a protected veteran under the law is below:
“The law, sometimes referred to as VEVRAA or Section 4212, requires employers doing business with the Federal government to take steps to recruit, hire and promote protected veterans. It also makes it illegal for these companies to discriminate against protected veterans when making employment decisions on hiring, firing, pay, benefits, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, and other employment related activities.”
You are a “protected veteran” under Section 4212 if you belong to one of the categories of veterans described below:
Disabled Veteran
A veteran who served on active duty in the U.S. military and is entitled to disability compensation (or who but for the receipt of military retired pay would be entitled to disability compensation) under laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, or was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability.
Other Protected Veteran
A veteran who served on active duty in the U.S. military during a war, or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge was authorized under the laws administered by the Department of Defense.
Recently Separated Veteran
A veteran separated during the three-year period beginning on the date of the veteran’s discharge or release from active duty in the U.S. military.
Armed Forces Service Medal Veteran
A veteran who, while serving on active duty in the U.S. military, participated in a U.S. military operation that received an Armed Forces service medal.”

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

10 Reasons To Avoid The Next World War


Conflicting parties must recognize the following facts:

1. The pace of technology, communication and weapons has now outpaced the necessity for war as a means of advancing progress. The threat is too great for mutually assured destruction.

2. We are on new ground, never experienced before in terms of being "Wired" as a world - economically, socially, environmentally and scientifically

3. Recent events involving US war "Interventions" and the incredibly out of control nature of the Military Industrial Complex have demonstrated their danger, their folly and their contribution to the largest national debt ever to grace the face of the earth.

4. Alternatives to war in terms of scientific advancement not only are required, but are in progress.

5. The war makers are operating on world credit subject to world approval.

6. The environment is screaming for protection and we will get on with it.

7. Conflicting ideas, if managed constructively, can yield a hybrid solution to a challenge that is a better product or service than either side of the initial equation.

8. The key to managing international relations constructively is fostering an environment respectful of all points of view but led by individuals who are driving to fulfilling peaceful, progressive objectives as a first priority and who blend differences of opinion decisively.

9. Winning and losing are being redefined by the above.

10. We can no longer as a world community continue the present course of wars.

The assumption here is that the reader will be intuitively arrive at the conclusion that war is a waste and avoid it for reasons that are becoming more obvious everyday around the globe and have been addressed in each of the 10 points. 

For those who do not intuitively arrive at this conclusion, war will continue and it will destroy them.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Small Business Mentoring And Social Networking


SMALLTOFEDS” By Ken larson

A Mentor’s 16 -Year Comparative Review of The SCORE And MicroMentor Web Sites  



From 2006 to 2011, I supported SCORE as a volunteer counselor.  During some years I had several hundred clients. The web site was dynamic, fast, easily accessed and fairly simple. 

SCORE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The web site operation is run from SCORE HQ in Herndon, Virginia.  Only U.S. Citizens are eligible to participate since it is heavily funded by SBA government tax dollars.  

SCORE management elected a complicated redesign of the site in 2011. The original design of the site was radically changed.  

I was part of the system conversion test team as a high volume mentor. I warned the conversion team that my tests were failing, I provided detailed data on necessary fixes. The site was rolled out in May of 2011 and crashed.  I moved on to MicroMentor to continue my volunteer work. 

I rejoined SCORE in March of 2019 principally to handle veteran cases referred to SCORE by the SBA.  I continued to conduct my Micromentor volunteer work.

To once again become a SCORE counselor,  I underwent a new member  background check and a two week training program.  I found the ability to see a client profile to whom I was not connected was gone.  SCORE management now screened mentor requests and decided which mentor should get them. 

Every exchange with an entrepreneur is required to be reported by the mentor. The number of hours expended and background provided to the entrepreneur on the content of a conversation is necessary.  A code of ethics training course on conflict interest is required every year for all mentors. 

20% of my clients now come through SCORE. These are mostly veterans and other small businesses who are pursuing small business federal government contracting and small business innovative research programs


MicroMentor is a “Two Way Street” meeting place for entrepreneurs to select a mentor and propose a mentoring relationship and vice versa. I have been a Mentor on MicroMentor for 11 years, joining the site when the SCORE web site crashed. 

MicroMentor is an extension of the world wide NGO, Mercy Corps . The MicroMentor web site operations are managed at facilities in Portland Oregon. 

Both mentor and entrepreneur can see each other’s backgrounds and initiate the process. Thereafter, with no capacity for attachments and a perceived need for privacy by many,.the exchange generally moves to email and evolves in a manner the customer support organization does not see.

With the discontinuation of the Mentor Rating feature, MicroMentor site management gets little feedback from entrepreneurs on the quality of the help they have received unless they (the entrepreneur) make a point of commenting by contacting customer support, or  marketing and PR staffs contact individuals entrepreneurs. 

Thus, in its simplest form,  MicroMentor is a bulletin board of individuals who seek help and those who are willing to provide it if they so choose, while looking at each other’s profiles.

The MicroMentor Q&A feature is a neat catalyst that promotes exchanges and offers the opportunity to exhibit entrepreneur problems, interests and challenges, as well as mentor knowledge and expertise. It fosters a healthy learning environment in itself by simple observation and allows a human interaction dynamic to occur.

Customer support and control of spamming has been superb. MicroMentor Q&A is a very under-rated feature of the site. 

MicroMentor is international. Participants throughout the world have varying outlooks and skills, based on their culture, customs, values and conditions. 

The natural dynamics of human interaction when a match occurs and when circumstances exist at the time for potential success is where mentoring succeeds. 

The system promotion, volume and reach are its greatest assets in creating the probability that positive mentoring dynamics will occur.  The ability of entrepreneurs and mentors to see one another’s backgrounds and communicate directly is a major asset of the site. 

80 % of my client now come through MicroMentor. 40% of those are on the continent of Africa in multiple countries. 

Integrated Social Networking 

The vast majority of my cases over the last 16 year have come to me at both SCORE and MicroMentor from social networking on the Web. LinkedIn, in particular, is a vast reservoir of clients and referrals.

4 out of 5 MIcroMentor clients with whom I work already have a profile on LinkedIn when I begin working with them. If they do not, I suggest they create one. In my view,  a LinkedIn individual and company profile is a vital part of any small company marketing plan, since it is the largest professional business web site in the world and it is FREE.

My two blogs, “Rose Covered Glasses” and “Smalltofeds” generate mentorship users as well by referral. Both blogs are free to me  on Google except for a $10 dollar annual fee to own the “Smalltofeds” domain name. That fee has not changed in 15 years.

Were I to recommend any topic for Mentor and Entrepreneur  training, I would suggest social networking guidance. It has been, and will continue to be, the wave of the future. Why Social Network To Promote Your Small Business?

Friday, July 22, 2022

"Helmets to Hardhats" Non-Profit Connects Over 30,000 Veterans To Federally-Approved Apprenticeship Training Programs And Careers

Image:  Helmets to Hardhats
"MILITARY.COM" By Darrell Roberts

"The training is privately funded, provided by the trade organizations themselves at no cost to the veteran. 

This apprenticeship training does not cost taxpayers a dime. Union members, along with their signatory contractor partners, invest more than $1.3 billion annually to fund and operate nearly 2,000 apprenticeship training facilities across North America."


"Returning home can be an overall overwhelming experience. With that said, this Veterans Day, I have a challenge for you.

Talk to a veteran, and tell that veteran that once he or she returns to civilian life, there are groups that want to help -- and, more importantly, there are viable pathways to new, fulfilling careerswaiting on them.

I lead an organization that focuses on connecting veterans to career opportunities in the construction industry: Helmets to Hardhats.

Helmets to Hardhats is a national nonprofit designed to support transitioning active-duty military service members. We work every day, in every part of the country, to ensure all service members understand that hope and opportunity await them upon their return home.

While many companies and groups claim to help employ veterans, are those veterans connected to jobs, or are they connected to careers?

There is a big difference.

This is why Helmets to Hardhats introduces transitioning service members to promising career providers and vice versa. Because that is what they deserve: careers.

Veterans must simply create a profile with us to help training directors determine what transferable skills the applicant acquired during his or her military service.
I know the challenges associated with coming home. I served in both the Navy and the Army National Guard.

This is why I am exceptionally proud of the work we do – of the apprenticeship training programs with which we are affiliated. Each of our efforts feeds into a comprehensive approach, creating viable pathways to success for our nation’s heroes.

Helmets to Hardhats has made nearly 30,000 successful career transitions thus far. That means we have helped roughly 30,000 hard-working men and women find a place in the unionized construction industry.

And our work is far from finished.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the female veteran population and the minority veteran population are both on the rise. Our organization works with all populations, including historically underserved communities and disabled veterans, to be sure all veterans have a fair shot at succeeding.

Here is how it works: Our regional managers hit the pavement each day to get more veterans registered for the federally-approved apprenticeship training of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU). Along with our boots on the ground, we also use the digital space to ensure all veterans are aware of, not only the apprenticeship training, but also the good-paying careers associated with this training.

 And no prior experience is needed. Most successful placements are veterans who begin with little to no experience in his or her chosen field.

Veterans even earn wages and benefits as they work through the earn-while-you-learn training. And, since these apprenticeship training programs are regulated and approved at both the federal and state levels, veterans can supplement their incomes by also utilizing their GI Bill benefits.

That means two checks: one from the contractor and one from the GI Bill.

In today’s hyper-partisan climate, it can be difficult to find programs that truly work, and even tougher to enjoy support from both sides of the aisle. Yet NABTU’s apprenticeship training does just that.

What’s not to like?

If you take away one piece of information after reading this, please know that this is not about finding jobs for veterans. This is about so much more. This is about connecting our brave service members to life-changing, lucrative careers.

By working alongside both labor and management, veterans are empowered to succeed – and there is no greater deed than helping a brother or sister who has served our country. So, even if you tell just one veteran, I challenge you to pass this message along:

Veterans should know that when they get home, Helmets to Hardhats is here. Apprenticeship training is available. Careers are waiting for them."


Darrell Roberts is the Executive Director of Helmets to Hardhats

Thursday, July 21, 2022

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

Although by far the most powerful country in the world, the U.S. is suffering from a lack of long term vision. The individual citizen is as much at fault for this condition as the politician or the military industrial complex.  

From our political parties to our relationships with each other and with other countries, from corporate board rooms to Wall Street stock run ups, we have lost our long term vision in favor of short term gains. 

The results are polarization between the "Haves" and the "Have Nots", ignoring environmental and geopolitical realities, engaging in costly war intrusions, neglecting education/infrastructure and accumulating a $30.5 Trillion National Debt, heavily mortgaging future generations.

National Debt Clock
Geopolitical Realities and the US Role

George Friedman accurately sums the present geopolitical state in a recent article atSTRATFOR”:

“To put it simply, a vast swath of the Eurasian landmass (understood to be Europe and Asia together) is in political, military and economic disarray. 

Drawing on the recollection of Desert Storm  it was assumed that American power could reshape the Islamic world at will after the US was attacked September 11th, 2001.

All power has limits, but the limits of American power were not visible until later in the 2000s. 

At that point two other events intervened. The first was the re-emergence of Russia as at least a regional power when it invaded Georgia in 2008. 

The other was, of course, the financial crisis. Both combined to define the current situation. 

The United States is, by far, the world’s most powerful nation. That does not mean that the United States can — or has an interest to — solve the problems of the world, contain the forces that are at work or stand in front of those forces and compel them to stop. Even the toughest guy in the bar can’t take on the entire bar and win.”A Net Assessment of the World 

China the Peace Maker 

David Grammig enlightens us in a recent article in “Geopolitical Monitor to an alternative to war and debt laden international finance being practiced by the Chinese:

Geopolitical calculations are as much a reason for this 2-trillion-dollar project as economic ones.

The OBOR project represents one of China’s new overarching foreign policy goals, and it demonstrates a willingness and ability to challenge old power structures, especially in Central Asia and the Middle East. 

The Silk Road, or OBOR project, aims at creating an enormous economic bloc and fostering trade, cultural exchange, political collaboration, and military cooperation among its members – under Chinese domination.

An obvious competitor against Russia’s Eurasian Union and India’s Act East and Connect Central Asia initiatives, the OBOR project has many Central Asian and Middle Eastern states justifiably worried of being caught up in a race for dominance in the region, producing somewhat cautious reactions to China’s big plans. Yet, some countries in the region – even those torn by sectarian conflict – may still be inclined to step into a new age due to China’s vast investments and its associated desire to protect its economic engagements.

The United States and its military interventions on the other hand, which aimed at securing political influence and protecting economic interests, bore no sustainable fruits and have led to growing instability in the region. Furthermore, US policy in the Middle East yielded anti-American resentment in the public and political spheres. 

China’s approach, however, will most likely not lead to demonstrations, burning flags, and attacks against its embassies, because it will not be seen as a war-mongering imperialistic force, giving itself a chance to establish itself as a partner whose outstretched hand is worth taking.” China - The New Peace Maker in the Middle East 

The US Market Mirage 

“One of the hardest-dying ideas in economics is that stock price accurately reflects the fundamental value of a given firm. It’s easy to understand why this misunderstanding persists: price equals value is a simple idea in a complex world. But the truth is that the value of firms in the market and their value within the real economy are, as often as not, disconnected. In fact, the Street regularly punishes firms hardest when they are making the decisions that most enhance their real economic value, causing their stock price to sink.

There are thousands of examples I could cite, but here’s a particularly striking one: the price of Apple stock fell roughly 25% the year it introduced the iPod. The technology that would kick-start the greatest corporate turnaround in the history of capitalism initially disappointed, selling only 400,000 units in its debut year, and the company’s stock reflected that. Thankfully, Steve Jobs didn’t give a fig. He stuck with the idea, and today nine Apple iDevices are sold somewhere in the world every second.

CEOs, who are paid mostly in stock and live in fear of being punished by the markets, race to hit the numbers rather than simply making the best decisions for their businesses long term. One National Bureau of Economic Research study found that 80% of executives would forgo innovation-generating spending if it meant missing their quarterly earnings figures.

Nobody–not Economists, not CEOs and not policymakers–thinks that’s good for real economic growth. Yet the markets stay up because of the dysfunctional feedback loops. Eventually, of course, interest rates will rise, money won’t be cheap anymore, and markets will go back down. None of it will reflect the reality on the ground, for companies or consumers, any more than it did during the boom times.”
The Market Mirage 

Achieving Strategic Vision

From the above analysis by experts, it is apparent that the US is in dire need of strategic vision.  To achieve it we must:

Face environmental, geopolitical and economic realities, stop war interventions and invest in relationships within and without our country by offering mutual collaboration.

Cease dwelling on threat and build long term infrastructure, education and international development.  The threats will melt away. 

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

Elect a Congress and an Administration that know how to strike a balance between long and short term actions. We must then let them know what we think regularly by communicating with them. 

Know that most cultures and societies in upheaval today are watching our national model and choosing whether or not to support it, ignore it or attack it.