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Friday, December 14, 2012

The Real Issue of Gun Control




As  former military men, security specialists and those who have taken lives in combat, we  assure you of the following:

If you are carrying a gun and you are NOT one of the following:


1. A soldier

2. A policeman or a duly authorized security officer

3. A licensed hunter of wild animals in the woods


 You are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

VETERANS DAY - 11 NOVEMBER 2012







12 Names on a Wall in Washington D.C.

Forgotten by Many but Not By Me

To those who died serving USAECAV 1966-1968 Countrywide 

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall Page
 

Database of the 58,195 Names on The Wall in Wash,D.C. This is the most accurate database online.

kl

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

VOTE TO "DE-CONSTIPATE GOVERNMENT"

VOTE:

The candidates who will make conscious decisions to participate in bipartisan plans to "De-Constipate" government as a first priority.

The laxatives are: Leadership, Listening, Compromise and Action - in that order.


Thursday, November 01, 2012

PRACTICAL REALITY IN GOVERNMENT FOR 2013


George Friedman at STRATFOR recently offered two commentaries on our nation and its future leader that we find worthy for consideration on the eve of the 2012 Elections.



Mr. Friedman points to a practical reality.  Presidents manage as they must. The real issue for the winner of this election will arise when the Chinese and our other major creditors stop showing up at our bond auctions and our credit and credibility diminish to dysfunctional levels on the world stage.

Until then our stagnated, polarized, congress will kick the can down the road as they have with current legislation that postpones any consideration of the issues until after the election and lays the challenge off on Sequestration, due to begin in early January, 2013.


The new White House occupant (or the same one) will be just as bound and tied by the inability of our elected representatives to compromise. This situation is an economic illness.

We have seen a similar situation take down other countries in recent times and place them at the mercy of the international community.  It has threatened the financial future of Greece and other countries in Europe. 
 

Our country has caught a catchy illness of political diatribe and inaction.  Let us hope for some leadership in Congress that is driven by the practical reality of the world at large and is not based on the rarefied air of financial pocket-lining on the Washington D.C.  Beltway.  

The clock is ticking:







Monday, October 01, 2012

A BRIDGE TO THE FUTURE FOR THE COMMON GOOD


On August 1st, 2007, I was having dinner in a restaurant next to the Highway 61 Bridge in Hastings, Minnesota with a retired businessman, his girlfriend, and a local lawyer and his wife.  Glancing up at the TV over the bar, we were witnesses to the news of the 35W Bridge collapse into the Mississippi River.  

As we left the restaurant we looked up at the underside of the Highway 61 Bridge since we had parked on the land side parking lot beneath it.  We noted the general condition of the structure and wondered if it too was a risky passage, 26 miles further downstream over the same body of water on which the 35W tragedy had occurred.

Within months the Minnesota DOT had come to the conclusion that the bridge was indeed  risky.  They began making immediate temporary repairs while planning for a new span.  The existing Hastings Bridge had been erected in 1951. Its planned replacement, scheduled for 2019, was accelerated to commence in 2010, based on the condition of the structure and the fact it is one of the busiest bridges in the state, handling enormous traffic as a major north/ south artery from the Twin Cities. 

BRIDGE AT HASTINGS IN 2007


“BRIDGING” FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND CONTRACTING INTERESTS  

Planners at the Minnesota DOT are to be applauded for the manner in which this project has proceeded and the people of the community, as well as their civic, government and industry leaders should be congratulated for the businesslike, cooperative and efficient manner in which this project has been conducted. 

Local community meetings solicited input from the citizens on the design. The options were carefully weighed in terms of environmental and aesthetic impact.  Hastings, Minnesota is an old river town with a preservationist ethic that spans generations. That fact was not ignored.  The Highway 61 corridor has remained open, eliminating a major detour for commuters.

The state ran a competitive bidding process.  The winning contractor joint venture was a team of reputable companies who planned to use state of the art pre-stressed concrete as a design to construct the longest such span on the North American Continent, costing millions below the state estimate for the job.

Heavy girders have been manufactured locally in Minnesota and transported from north of Minneapolis to the Hastings site with computer steered special transports involving minimal disruption.  The large, arch frame for the bridge was recently floated downstream from a staging area near Lock and Dam 2 on the Mississippi after having been assembled by skilled union iron workers. 
It was lifted in place on 24 September by the largest heavy lifting equipment company in the world, who traveled from Europe to support the project. 

The Coast Guard, Corps of Engineers, State DOT, Hastings Community and all related support organizations have worked in a cooperative manner to achieve a demanding schedule.  The bridge work will be completed and the new span will open in the near future.  

OUR NEW HORIZON

 POLITICIANS

I have yet to hear a politician or agency official attempt to take credit for this project or pursue some form of attention-seeking advantage as a result of it.  In an election year, considering the nature of politics these days, that is a highly unusual occurrence. 

I am sure there will be events commemorating the project success, as there should be; but it is my hope those events will celebrate the true nature of the achievement. 


SUMMARY

It has been a pleasure observing the Highway 61 bridge replacement over the Mississippi at Hastings. Its planning, execution and achievement have been exemplary to an old project manager who has witnessed difficulties with entrenched bureaucracies in industry and government for years.

This has been a shared, community, cooperative venture, worthy of note when considering models for the future of our country and the path it must take to overcome many challenges – political, economic and technological.

Certainly similar projects can be undertaken involving other infrastructure programs such as  education using the same form of cooperative, shared, professional action.

Let’s build bridges like this one in many other fields of endeavor!



Saturday, September 01, 2012

THE UNITED STATES VETERANS ADMINISTRATION - PROGRESS AND PROCLIVITIES


INTRODUCTION

We have noted improvements in the medical element of the U.S Veterans Administration with significant advances in patient care, records keeping and service to soldiers in need when they return from war or fall into circumstances in which they require assistance:


We believe the VA medical care veterans are receiving, and the associated facilities are top notch.  We base this belief on having received this care  ourselves and observing the results from others receiving VA medical services around us.

As the US has continued its war fighting incursions into foreign countries, the VA has been required to expand exponentially in terms of coverage, organization, programs and budget from the tax payer coffers. The most current budget request by the Administration for the VA tops $140 Billion for the next fiscal year.

This growth has resulted in administrative and management challenges due to the broad swath the VA must cover across the spectrum of our society and the transitions in which it must participate within people’s lives from the aging vet to the returning combatant.

RECENT DISTURBING TRENDS AND OCCURRENCES

At this juncture it must be noted that the VA is falling into several of the traps that other large federal agencies have encountered.  The government is in the business of spending money, not making it and growth of the type the VA has undergone requires strong management and oversight. 

Below are examples of areas outside the medical care elements of the organization that are never the less posing substantial risk to the care of our veterans.

Blatant Issues in Handling Veterans Care Application  Backlogs

As noted by Time Magazine:

The Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general reported that paper had piled so high at the VA’s regional office in Winston-Salem, N.C., that it “appeared to have the potential to compromise the integrity of the building.”




Mismanagement of Human Resources and Training

As noted by DOD Buzz:
The chairman and ranking members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee are demanding a complete accounting of where and how the Department of Veterans Affairs has spent money on employee conferences since 2009.
The latest demand comes as the committee’s senior members released additional information gleaned from a preliminary VA Inspector General’s report on two Orlando, Fla., conferences held for VA human resources employees in 2011.
Among the findings, the VA spent $52,000 producing two 8-minute videos in which an actor portraying Army Gen. George Patton laid out the role of VA human resources personnel and exhorted them to meet their mission. A shortened version of the video is available below.
The department also spent $84,000 on VA-branded promotion items, including up to $25,000 for pens, highlighters, post-it notes and hand sanitizers.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., want three years worth of data because they say past VA testimony on conference costs has been contradictory, ranging from $20 million in both 2011 and 2012, to $100 million.”


Mismanagement of Small Business Set-aside Programs

As noted by POGO:
A new report by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (IG) has found another large business improperly benefited from federal small business contracts. The offender this time is Health Net,  ranked 221 in the most recent Fortune 500 with $11.9 billion in revenue last year.

As POGO takes great pains to point out, the contractors themselves aren’t entirely to blame for misconduct in federal small business contracting. In this instance, the IG found that VA personnel responsible for administering the contracts were fully aware that Health Net, not ETS, was performing all of the work. The VA also did not properly justify its decision to award the contracts as SDVOSB set-asides rather than through full and open competition.”



CONCLUSION

The areas noted above must have management correction, be controlled and brought to the same standards of performance as the medical arm of the Veterans Administration Community. 

The proclivities involving  lax administration, wasteful human resources process and abuse of small businesses, many of which veterans themselves run, must be corrected. 

Doing so will insure an acceptable level of focus on assistance to the men and women who have served in our armed forces.    





Sunday, July 01, 2012

A CITIZEN’S GUIDE TO CRITIQUE THE PENTAGON


Lt. Colonel Daniel L. Davis

INTRODUCTION

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.

OUR VIEW

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.”


A FELLOW VETERAN’S VIEW

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.”
AN OFFICER’S VIEW
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.”


A PENTAGON DEFENSE ANALYST’S VIEW

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.”
CONCLUSION:
The material here is submitted on its own merits. Consider it carefully as the Pentagon consumes 70% of US disposable tax revenue and our national debt approaches $16 Trillion.  

Ask yourself if there are other alternatives for the future of our country.


Friday, June 01, 2012

CITIZEN PARTICIPATION AND TRUE STATESMANSHIP IN GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS


FORMER SENATOR BILL BRADLEY

ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENTS IN OUR AGE

Tyranny sprouts within massive organizations through influences that embed themselves in economies and assume a life of their own. These organizations become entrenched and difficult to change because they are wired to so much of economic and public life (a defense company in every state, a pork project tacked onto a defense appropriation). We target our elected officials as figureheads for our frustration, when in fact the real culprit is a big, faceless machine grinding onward, never changing, because we (the citizenry and the politician) will not bite the bullet and dismantle it.

SENATOR BRADLEY

We applaud the recent commentary in the May 14th, 2012 article in Time Magazine by former Senator Bill Bradley entitled “Citizens United”:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2113798,00.html


Here is an extract:

“To begin, citizens should insist on a presidential campaign about the future, not a blamefest about the past. Candidates' narratives can have a historical dimension about how we got where we are, but the bulk of their story must be about the future. If what you hear is only blame or bromides, change the channel. Haven't we had enough of those two things over the past 12 years?

Without leaders who level with the people about what needs to be done and how long it will take, there is no way to build support for the tough decisions necessary to solve our problems. People are tired of seeing moneyed interests dominate the House of Representatives — the people's house. They're tired of narrow interests raiding the U.S. Treasury in collusion with members of Congress who, when they leave office, are employed as lobbyists by the very industries whose interests they promoted in Congress. (The same applies in spades to congressional staff.) They're tired of seeing their Presidents appear at fundraisers and hedge their bets and compromise their beliefs to raise campaign money. People are tired of being taken for granted. They yearn for leaders who will level with them, not pander to them.”

As students of history we know much of what we are experiencing today in war and politics is tied to human nature.

As Mr. Bradley concludes:

“Now is the time for citizens to insist on answers to real questions and for the media to serve the public more diligently than they serve their advertisers. Now is the time for follow-up questions and enough airtime for candidates to lay out their programs. What, specifically, will they do about jobs, the deficit, political corruption? How do they see America's role in the world? Now is the time for politicians to show us that they are more interested in doing something than in being somebody. There is a great difference between a leader and a celebrity. The nation has had enough of politicians fascinated with celebrity. What we need are courageous leaders who serve the public and not themselves, who devise a plan to save the country and fight for it because they know that the well-being of millions of Americans is at stake.”

 OUR CONCLUSION

A new brand of politics and accountability must then emerge, one that will deal from within when organizations self-destruct catastrophically from greed and avarice. The big issue after such events will be: "What do we put in the place of such bureaucracies gone afoul ?" The US political system classically appoints a blue ribbon panel to study such problems spread the blame and write a detailed report no one reads. We must do better then that in the future. The impending trauma will not permit it.

Now is indeed the time for true statesmanship in government business.





Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Supporting Veterans to Attend Accredited College Programs

This article is brought to you courtesy of June Olson. June recently graduated with a degree in educational psychology. She currently works as a writer on all things education and is always interested in connecting with bloggers online.  You may reach June at june.olsen80@gmail.com
____________________________________________________________________

The argument that many veterans need education and numerous support systems when they return from service is a no-brainer. Adjusting to civilian life after being away at war or stationed abroad is no joke. An economic downturn adds to the problem by making it hard to find a job. Feeling stressed and confused, a veteran must then compete with masses of qualified candidates for very few jobs. Veterans need effective support systems and support for colleges online or on campus that consider all aspects of their needs, including financial assistance and access to educational and/or vocational training.      

When a veteran returns from war, life can be overwhelming. Going from the camaraderie of military life to living alone or readjusting to family is only one factor. Flashbacks to horrifying war images can be common emotional setbacks. Figuring out the next step in life can be mind-boggling and stressful. Especially for veterans who did not go to college or train for an occupation before joining the military, career options can seem limited. Veterans often transition from a situation of a set military schedule and structure to a life of ambiguities and lack of direction.

Searching for work in a tight job market only complicates things. A veteran might be a skilled carpenter but live in an area with no openings in carpentry. Gaining knowledge and skills that can be applied to available jobs is an important first step. Starting college or going back to finish a degree becomes essential for getting a job.

Fortunately, help exists. Veterans interested in college programs that offer two-year degrees or higher can benefit from GI bill programs. The Post-9/11 GI Bill gives veterans who served for at least 90 days on or after September 11, 2001 access to benefits for attending accredited colleges and universities. Benefits include a percentage of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance, a stipend for books and supplies and $500 in cash for veterans who must relocate from a highly rural area to go to school. This program also offers tutorial assistance benefits and reimbursement of up to $2,000 for a certification or licensing test. Veterans can receive benefits for up to 36 months under this bill, which helps them get back on their feet.
 
The Yellow Ribbon Program is another alternative. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, degree-granting institutions can make funds available for veterans through this program. The tuition amount is left up to the university; the VA matches that amount and pays the university directly. Veterans must then apply to the university, which then looks at its number of open slots and notifies the veteran of acceptance into the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Between 2008 and 2010, the number of veterans who took advantage of VA education programs increased tremendously. Although the number of VA undergraduate attendees decreased during that time, attendance in non-degree and vocational programs saw a significant rise. This trend may continue as more veterans take advantage of educational benefits programs.

Short-term training and education assistance is also available for unemployed veterans through the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. For veterans who are at least 35 and ineligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or other VA-sponsored education benefit programs, this program may be the answer. It gives participants a year's worth of full-time pay while enrolled in an approved technical school or community college. They must train specifically for high demand occupations in a program that leads to a certification or associates degree. Through this and other GI bill programs, veterans can ease the transition to civilian life by going to school and becoming equipped for a tight job market.