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Friday, March 20, 2020

War Weary, Pandemic-Strapped America and Its Soldiers


As the pandemic-strapped U.S. continues into a second decade of the war on terror and a new war on COVID 19  our citizens and our volunteer military are growing disinterested in warfare and focused on re-aligning our priorities.  

The Military Industrial Complex (MIC) has made grand strides in technology, spending billions on new air craft and naval vessels, cyber warfare tools and sensors, while we have downsized combat soldiers to stand in the job line or wait for admission to veterans’ hospitals as our health care infrastructure was sacrificed for war profiteering. 



“Although no one can agree on an exact figure, our dozen years of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and neighboring countries have cost at least $1.5 trillion.

Yet from a strategic perspective, to say nothing of the human cost, most of these dollars might as well have been burned. “At this point, it is incontrovertibly evident that the U.S. military failed to achieve any of its strategic goals in Iraq,” a former military intelligence officer named Jim Gourley wrote recently for Thomas E. Ricks’s blog, Best Defense. “Evaluated according to the goals set forth by our military leadership, the war ended in utter defeat for our forces.”

In 13 years of continuous combat under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the longest stretch of warfare in American history, U.S. forces have achieved one clear strategic success: the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Their many other tactical victories, from overthrowing Saddam Hussein to allying with Sunni tribal leaders to mounting a “surge” in Iraq, demonstrated great bravery and skill. But they brought no lasting stability to, nor advance of U.S. interests in, that part of the world.

When ISIS troops overran much of Iraq, the forces that laid down their weapons and fled before them were members of the same Iraqi national army that U.S. advisers had so expensively yet ineffectively trained for more than five years.”

The Tragedy of the American Military 


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.


"Cost-plus contracts have long been criticized by government watchdogs like the Project On Government Oversight and waste-conscious lawmakers. Most recently, incoming Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) bluntly stated that these contracts are “disgraceful” and should be banned."
Your Tax Dollars Defrauded



“There are 26 veterans from the United States’ two most recent wars serving in the House and Senate.

Many say their experience in Iraq and Afghanistan taught them that the American military cannot fix what is fundamentally a cultural and political issue: the inability of governments to thwart extremism within their own borders.

Ted Lieu of California, said he would not support giving the president the formal authority he had requested because, like many veterans, he finds it difficult to see how the conflict will ever end.

“The American military is an amazing force. We are very good at defeating the enemy, taking over territory, blowing things up,” said Mr. Lieu, who served in the Air Force and remains in the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel. “But America has traditionally been very bad at answering the next question, which is what do you do after that.”

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now serving in Congress have emerged as some of the most important voices in the debate over whether to give President Obama a broad authorization for a military campaign against the Islamic State or something much more limiting.”

Veterans in Congress Bring Rare Perspective



“A people untouched (or seemingly untouched) by war are far less likely to care about it,” Andrew Bacevich wrote in 2012. Bacevich himself fought in Vietnam; his son was killed in Iraq. “Persuaded that they have no skin in the game, they will permit the state to do whatever it wishes to do.”
 The Tragedy of the American Military


Foreign aid in the billions continues to the Middle East.  US weapons export sales have reached a crescendo, increasing by 31% to 94 countries. with the Middle East receiving the line share.

US Arms Exports Increase 31% 

A single Weapon, the 1.4 Trillion dollar F-35 will soon account for 12% of our total national debt.

The 1.4 $Trillion F-35 Aircraft 



"The world is a much more dangerous place, there is more radicalism, more countries that are melting down or approaching that state." 

At the same time, the Pentagon is under growing pressure to cut spending and the cost of the all-volunteer force keeps rising, Prince said. 

"The U.S. military has mastered the most expensive way to wage war, with a heavy expensive footprint." Over the long run, the military might have to rely more on contractors, as it will become tougher to recruit service members. 

Prince cited recent statistics that 70 percent of the eligible population of prospective troops is unsuitable to serve in the military for various reasons such as obesity, lack of a high school education, drug use, criminal records or even excessive tattoos. In some cases, Prince said, it might make more sense to hire contractors.”

What's Eric Prince Been Up To?


Did not the Roman Empire run into these issues when they outsourced their wars and went to the baths?

Image: Photolibra
What makes us believe this worldwide war of attrition can continue indefinitely and that our younger generations are going to be willing to enlist and/or pay the bills, especially when our health care is now at the top of the agenda. 

Can we insist our government representatives consider these factors and plan ahead?

Future generations, their wealth, health and treasure will depend on our answers.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

A 14 Year Military Reporter Describes "Budget Day" At The Pentagon

Image:  Beltway Bandits, Cronyism and Department of Defense Exclusive Contracts
The following article in “Task and Purpose” by Jeff Schogol, although a bit risque, is an apt description of the annual event I witnessed for 36 years on the inside of the Military Industrial Complex among the nations largest defense contractors. At times those of us who know the venue well appreciate a lighter view of it. I found Jeff’s talent for knowledgeably creating that view delightful and along the lines of the legendary HBO Movie, “Pentagon Wars” 
– Ken Larson
“TASK AND PURPOSE” By Jeff Schogol
“One thing your friendly Pentagon correspondent has learned is there are two things you can write about on budget day: Toys and people.
Right now, the U.S. military is like a 5-year-old at a birthday party. Every time it sees that another kid has received a present, it decides that it must have the exact same thing. (Oh, China got hypersonic weapons this year? I want one!)”
“Beloved readers: Monday is the most wonderful all days – budget day!
The Defense Department will unveil its part of the president’s budget request. If you’re a trade reporter, budget day is like Independence Day, Christmas, and the Super Bowl wrapped up in a crushing orgasm.
Your friend and humble narrator has covered quite a few of these budget rollouts over the years. Each time, this reporter asks himself the same question: “How the hell did I get through this last year?”
The answer is simple, really: Budget day is a smorgasbord of figures that have little bearing on reality because lawmakers will end up rewriting the budget to reward their constituents. Defense officials also spend hours speaking in tongues by using arcane acronyms like “POM.” (A Program Objective Memorandum outlines defense spending for the next five years. Since that spans two election cycles, POMs are altered so many times that they become totally unrecognizable from their original form.)
Each defense budget is loaded with toys so that defense industry executives can pay the mortgage for their winter homes in the French Riviera. For reporters who cover the Navy, the big question is how many ships the service plans to build.
Navy leadership has stressed that it is committed to having a total of 355 ships by 2030 even though they have no plan to get there. (For their next miracle, they will walk on water and hand out enough fish and loaves for everyone to enjoy.)
Air Force watchers want to know how many F-35 fighters, KC-46 tankers, and B-21 bombers the service plans to pay for – and then act surprised when the aircraft don’t work. The KC-46, for example, is years behind schedule and the need for a new tanker is urgent because the Air Force’s KC-135s first entered service in the 1950s. (Rather than listing everything that is wrong with the KC-46, I’ll sum up by saying this: It’s built by Boeing.)
While the Air Force is tucking $100 bills into the aerospace industry’s bra strap, the Army will get to talk about all of its new and wonderful modernization programs that don’t have a prayer of becoming a reality. Do you remember the multiple times the Army has tried to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle? Yeah, they couldn’t even do that.
God bless the Army, but they are always looking for the gold-plated solution so they can never make a decision. Instead, they will down-select from 150 vendors to 75, and then order five years of intensive testing to find out things such as whether the new squad automatic rifle can fire in space. By the time the Army is comfortable choosing between two options, all the people who were originally in charge of the project have retired or died of old age and Congress will end up cancelling the project.
If you cover the Marine Corps, budget day is about looking for scraps. The Corps’ acquisition budget is tiny compared to the other services because they don’t buy aircraft carriers or bombers. They are constantly looking for a new amphibious vehicle or other weapon systems that are the equivalent of Dollar Store specials. That’s one reason why Marines know there is no better acquisition system than stealing gear from the Army.
The other major category of budget stories looks at whether the military services are adding people – like the Army and Marine Corps did during the Iraq War – or drawing down, as all the military branches did during President Barack Obama’s second term. (The Air Force was so enthusiastic about cutting airmen that one can imagine the service’s leadership singing “It’s Raining Men” at the time.)
When President Donald Trump was elected, there was some speculation that the Marine Corps could become much larger because Trump had endorsed a recommendation from the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank that the Corps have a total of 36 battalions. But in 2017, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis told the Corps to fix its readiness problems without adding more Marines. (Once again, the Marine Corps was SOL. Note the pattern.)
Whatever great and wondrous things are included in the Pentagon’s latest proposed budget, expect your friend and humble narrator to be listening with rapt attention as military officials go through endless Power Point presentations that have all of the excitement of J-Lo and Shakira’s halftime show – without the vibrating derrieres.”


Jeff Schogol covers the Pentagon for Task & Purpose. He has covered the military for 14 years and embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Haiti. Prior to joining T&P, he covered the Marine Corps and Air Force at Military Times.