Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Can We Still Trust Our Military?

 

shutterstock_244390996Many of our Ricochetti are active in, or retired from, the military and I thank them with deep gratitude for their service. But this year, reports regarding our military’s abilities to manage effectively, operate efficiently, and take security seriously have shaken my faith in it. The latest report of the Department of Defense’s Inspector General included a mind-boggling finding: The US Army has so poorly managed its finances that it has had to make trillions of dollars in adjustments to “create an illusion that its books are balanced.” That’s right: trillions. From Reuters:

The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up. As a result, the Army’s financial statements for 2015 were “materially misstated,” the report concluded. The “forced” adjustments rendered the statements useless because “DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions.”

It continues:

The spokesman downplayed the significance of the improper changes, which he said net out to $62.4 billion. “Though there is a high number of adjustments, we believe the financial statement information is more accurate than implied in this report,” he said.

Since the Army issues a budget report and a financial report, a former Defense Inspector General said he believes that “fudged numbers were inserted” into the financial report to make them match the budget report. He also suggests that the problems in reporting go back to at least 2010.

The report goes on to say that the Defense Finance and Accounting Services is studying the report “and has no comment at this time.”

In addition to this significant internal mismanagement, we’ve seen the military acquiesce to political pressure regarding intelligence gathering:

The August 10 report of a joint task force of the House Armed Services Committee and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence shows that a serious corruption of intelligence by U.S. Central Command (“CENTCOM”) senior officers has been used to feed President Obama’s narrative that the fight against the Islamic State has been going well since 2014.

And as reported in the American Spectator:

Based on its own investigation, the Joint Task Force has substantiated that structural and management changes made at the CENTCOM Intelligence Directorate starting in mid-2014 resulted in the production and dissemination of intelligence products that were inconsistent with the judgments of many senior, career analysts at CENTCOM. These products were consistently more optimistic regarding the conduct of U.S. military action than that of the senior analysts. Based on specific case studies evaluated by the Joint Task Force, during the time period evaluated by the Joint Task Force, CENTCOM produced intelligence that was also significantly more optimistic than that of other parts of the Intelligence Community (IC) and typically more optimistic than actual events warranted. Additionally, many CENTCOM press releases, public statements, and congressional testimonies were also significantly more positive than actual events.

The report also says that, despite receiving the survey results in December 2015 as well as whistleblower complaints, “neither CENTCOM, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, nor the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) took any demonstrable steps to improve the analytic climate within CENTCOM.”

So we have serious management issues at the Pentagon — specifically within the Army, which has falsified financial information — and we have a compromised DoD that is willing to submit to political pressure from the administration to falsify intelligence information.

And yet, both presidential candidates are asking for increased military spending.

Should we worry about the ability of our military to keep this country secure? What are the implications of these kinds of issues? Should we worry about our military personnel on the ground, who risk their lives for this country?

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  1. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ultimately the military is just another bureaucratic arm of the government and subject to all the maladies of any other department.

    Civilian control of the military is both a feature and a bug. Remember, the tall brass is always subject to political nomination and approval by the Senate.

    • #1
    • August 25, 2016, at 11:32 AM PDT
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  2. MarciN Member

    EJHill:Ultimately the military is just another bureaucratic arm of the government and subject to all the maladies of any other department.

    Civilian control of the military is both a feature and a bug. Remember, the tall brass is always subject to political nomination and approval by the Senate.

    There is so much truth in that.

    Our town hired a police chief years ago, and the town went through an exhaustive search to do so. The town said, essentially, “This is the job we want done, and this is how much we can pay you to do it. Can you do it?”

    “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” the candidates all said.

    We hired one of them.

    A year later, in the first of many such dealings with the new police chief, he said to the town, “I can’t do this job with the resources I have available. I didn’t know these circumstances existed when you hired me. I need thus-and-such that will cost this many more dollars to do this job you hired me for.”

    This is the way government and its employees dance.

    It gets to be funny after a while because it is so predictable.

    • #2
    • August 25, 2016, at 11:38 AM PDT
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  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    EJHill:Ultimately the military is just another bureaucratic arm of the government and subject to all the maladies of any other department.

    Civilian control of the military is both a feature and a bug. Remember, the tall brass is always subject to political nomination and approval by the Senate.

    I’m not sure I’m willing to settle for those explanations, EJ. When the military screws up, especially when it comes to decisions regarding our national security, I think I’m right to hold them to a higher standard. I understand that some politics will influence them, but I have no sympathy for the military brass who try to save their you-know-whats. How is we can scream at the IRS for their bad behavior but not the military?

    • #3
    • August 25, 2016, at 11:39 AM PDT
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  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    MarciN: A year later, in the first of many such dealings with the new police chief, he said to the town, “I can’t do this job with the resources I have available. I didn’t know these circumstances existed when you hired me. I need thus-and-such that will cost this many more dollars to do this job you hired me for.”

    I hope they fired him, Marci. On the one hand, it is absurd, but again, lives are at stake. When do we start holding people accountable?

    • #4
    • August 25, 2016, at 11:42 AM PDT
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  5. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan – All I am saying is, “You’re surprised?”

    The honor we expect is there, but it becomes compromised the higher on the latter you climb. I trust the field level commanders more than I trust the desk jockeys.

    • #5
    • August 25, 2016, at 11:48 AM PDT
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  6. MarciN Member

    Susan Quinn:

    MarciN: A year later, in the first of many such dealings with the new police chief, he said to the town, “I can’t do this job with the resources I have available. I didn’t know these circumstances existed when you hired me. I need thus-and-such that will cost this many more dollars to do this job you hired me for.”

    I hope they fired him, Marci. On the one hand, it is absurd, but again, lives are at stake. When do we start holding people accountable?

    Susan, I should have added the comment below that I started to write before I read EJHill’s remark, which made me laugh.

    I would not trust any Democratic Party analysis of the military. It’s the first thing they cut whenever they can. They do not take the military as seriously as they should. And mismanagement ultimately leads to having to spend more money.

    Just for contrast’s sake, consider Mitt Romney’s op-ed piece from a couple of years ago.

    • #6
    • August 25, 2016, at 11:51 AM PDT
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  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    EJHill:Susan – All I am saying is, “You’re surprised?”

    The honor we expect is there, but it becomes compromised the higher on the latter you climb. I trust the field level commanders more than I trust the desk jockeys.

    I guess I wasn’t surprised, EJ. Just seriously disappointed. There is also the political correctness stuff that has bothered me: women having to sign up for selective service if we institute the draft; women in combat; the transgender issue–that influence policy. I just hope the brass doesn’t do something stupid that would jeopardize those field commanders.

    • #7
    • August 25, 2016, at 12:10 PM PDT
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  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    MarciN: I would not trust any Democratic Party analysis of the military. It’s the first thing they cut whenever they can. They do not take the military as seriously as they should. And mismanagement ultimately leads to having to spend more money.

    You do understand the DoD Inspector General (IGs have a good reputation for being objective) wrote up this report.

    Hillary supports increasing the military. My point is that I don’t want to have to spend more money due to mismanagement; wouldn’t we be throwing good money after bad, so to speak? And the military is responsible for the mismanagement, not the administration. I feel like I’m not making myself very clear.

    • #8
    • August 25, 2016, at 12:15 PM PDT
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  9. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn: The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year.

    Those number don’t seem to jive with the actual budget for the entire military, let alone just the Army:

    BI_Graphics_US Military Budget

    http://www.businessinsider.com/how-the-us-military-spends-its-billions-2015-8

    So what am I missing here?
    This doesn’t mean that I think there is no waste or plain stupidity involved. Nothing that big will ever be that pure.

    • #9
    • August 25, 2016, at 12:17 PM PDT
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  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    OkieSailor:

    Susan Quinn: The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year.

    Those number don’t seem to jive with the actual budget for the entire military, let alone just the Army:

    BI_Graphics_US Military Budget

    http://www.businessinsider.com/how-the-us-military-spends-its-billions-2015-8

    So what am I missing here?
    This doesn’t mean that I think there is no waste or plain stupidity involved. Nothing that big will ever be that pure.

    Thanks for your comment, Okie. That’s the point. I believe if you read the article I linked, they worked so hard to make numbers work that they make no sense:

    “At first glance adjustments totaling trillions may seem impossible. The amounts dwarf the Defense Department’s entire budget. Making changes to one account also require making changes to multiple levels of sub-accounts, however. That created a domino effect where, essentially, falsifications kept falling down the line. In many instances this daisy-chain was repeated multiple times for the same accounting item.”

    • #10
    • August 25, 2016, at 12:25 PM PDT
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  11. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn:

    OkieSailor:

    Susan Quinn: The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year.

    Those number don’t seem to jive with the actual budget for the entire military, let alone just the Army:

    BI_Graphics_US Military Budget

    http://www.businessinsider.com/how-the-us-military-spends-its-billions-2015-8

    So what am I missing here?
    This doesn’t mean that I think there is no waste or plain stupidity involved. Nothing that big will ever be that pure.

    Thanks for your comment, Okie. That’s the point. I believe if you read the article I linked, they worked so hard to make numbers work that they make no sense:

    “At first glance adjustments totaling trillions may seem impossible. The amounts dwarf the Defense Department’s entire budget. Making changes to one account also require making changes to multiple levels of sub-accounts, however. That created a domino effect where, essentially, falsifications kept falling down the line. In many instances this daisy-chain was repeated multiple times for the same accounting item.”

    Quoting Casey Stengel, “Cain’t nobody here play this game?”
    At least they fight better than they figure.

    I do wonder though if there is some devious agenda involved. Can it be purely incompetence? Seems unlikely to me. I’m no wiz at math but even I can do better than this.

    • #11
    • August 25, 2016, at 1:27 PM PDT
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  12. doulalady Member
    doulalady Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    When my son was in the Army, 2003, they were still using typewriters. They may still. As technology has improved a soldier on the ground had better personal, computers than the bureaucrats he had to deal with.

    I suspect the army’s accounting practices are on the level of throwing all the receipts in a shoe box, not being able to find the faded receipt wanted, and then making up a number just to get it done. And so it goes on up multiple chains of accounts.

    In a study I heard about on econtalk low level officers admitted that there were not enough hours in the the day to fill in all the accountability, oversight, and compliance forms that they were being inundated with so they just filled them in with fake numbers so that they could get on and do their job of trying to win a war.

    Dishonest? Yes. Ignorant, yes. Criminal probably not. More neglected than negligent.

    My own husband, chair of a physics department, has has to increase his office staff from four to eighteen in the last few years because of the massive influx of compliance forms to be completed for every bureaucracy in the university, and from every government agency from city to the Feds. A lieutenant in the field can’t do that, and the inspector general’s report shows one symptom of this cancer which is compliance.

    • #12
    • August 25, 2016, at 1:44 PM PDT
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  13. Guruforhire Member

    In 2004 I was leaving the DFAC and read the army times.

    There was a story where a SFC and Chief Warrant Officer were put in jail during their Iraq war.

    Their Crime?

    During the push into baghdad vehicles that broke down were pushed off the road and abandoned. They took parts off the abandoned vehicles to repair other vehicles to get them into the war effort.

    So fighting and winning wars is not apparently what the army is for. I did not re-enlist.

    In the unit I was in at the time our armorer was dyslexic and transposed some numbers on the armory inventory. Instead of realizing the guy is dyslexic they tried to put in him in jail too. Thank god for the E4 mafia.

    • #13
    • August 25, 2016, at 3:59 PM PDT
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  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Guruforhire:In 2004 I was leaving the DFAC and read the army times.

    There was a story where a SFC and Chief Warrant Officer were put in jail during their Iraq war.

    Their Crime?

    During the push into baghdad vehicles that broke down were pushed off the road and abandoned. They took parts off the abandoned vehicles to repair other vehicles to get them into the war effort.

    So fighting and winning wars is not apparently what the army is for. I did not re-enlist.

    This sort of thing is now happening to try to keep our jets in the air. Is anyone listening! Thanks for your service, Guru, and I’m glad you came home safe.

    • #14
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:03 PM PDT
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  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    OkieSailor:Quoting Casey Stengel, “Cain’t nobody here play this game?”
    At least they fight better than they figure.

    I do wonder though if there is some devious agenda involved. Can it be purely incompetence? Seems unlikely to me. I’m no wiz at math but even I can do better than this.

    So what do you think might be going on? I suspect that the military thinks that it’s just not important to manage funds. This problem has been happening for years.

    • #15
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:05 PM PDT
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  16. Guruforhire Member

    Let me tell you about drip pans.

    Drip pans get lost or run over in the field or otherwise destroyed. But the EPA requires every HMMV and trailer to have a drip pan under it. There is no drip pan budget.

    So Ol’ sarge will walk down the motorpool and yell at people about how after lunch every vehicle had better have a drip pan underneath it. So we would wait for the unit to goto chow, and we would “tactically redistribute governent resources” and put their drip pans under our vehicles. People will get sneaky and chain them to the vehicle and we would just pop the locks. And this will go on for some number of months until someone finally breaks down and orders enough drip pans.

    • #16
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:07 PM PDT
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  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    doulalady:I suspect the army’s accounting practices are on the level of throwing all the receipts in a shoe box, not being able to find the faded receipt wanted, and then making up a number just to get it done. And so it goes on up multiple chains of accounts.

    In a study I heard about on econtalk low level officers admitted that there were not enough hours in the the day to fill in all the accountability, oversight, and compliance forms that they were being inundated with so they just filled them in with fake numbers so that they could get on and do their job of trying to win a war.

    I agree! But this is our military! They are ordering and purchasing the materials that our forces need. They also have the same educational degrees that we have, so why aren’t they doing their jobs? Incompetence? Carelessness? Lack of interest? It really concerns me that these people are supposed to be taking care of the military and the United States and they aren’t doing their jobs?

    • #17
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:08 PM PDT
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  18. Guruforhire Member

    One day I sent a comm modem to third shop to be repaired, and I did a proper hand reciept to the third shop for 1 comm modem.

    It came back without the new expensive cards that ran around 100K a pop. I pointed out that my comm modem did not come back complete. Their response was that it wasn’t their problem because I did not itemize all the sub-components.

    They can only claw back half of my pay for 3 months over the mistake buy my lieutenant was starting to freak out.

    Eventually, when a pretty good sized investigation was brewing, they found the card in a drawer.

    Thus I did not lose my paycheck. But I did have to give company wide training on the importance of itemizing all sub components on a hand reciept.

    • #18
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:11 PM PDT
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  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Guruforhire:Let me tell you about drip pans.

    Drip pans get lost or run over in the field or otherwise destroyed. But the EPA requires every HMMV and trailer to have a drip pan under it. There is no drip pan budget.

    So Ol’ sarge will walk down the motorpool and yell at people about how after lunch every vehicle had better have a drip pan underneath it. So we would wait for the unit to goto chow, and we would “tactically redistribute governent resources” and put their drip pans under our vehicles. People will get sneaky and chain them to the vehicle and we would just pop the locks. And this will go on for some number of months until someone finally breaks down and orders enough drip pans.

    So much for relying on the people in the field. This is the military that is supposed to be protecting us from countries like Iran and Russia. This is the military that is supposed to keep us safe from terrorists. So far, you and I seem to be the only ones concerned, Guru. Is the military a sacred cow? Am I missing something?

    • #19
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:12 PM PDT
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  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Guruforhire: Thus I did not lose my paycheck. But I did have to give company wide training on the importance of itemizing all sub components on a hand reciept.

    You’re making me crazy. In a good way.

    • #20
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:14 PM PDT
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  21. Guruforhire Member

    Susan Quinn:

    Guruforhire: Thus I did not lose my paycheck. But I did have to give company wide training on the importance of itemizing all sub components on a hand reciept.

    You’re making me crazy. In a good way.

    Your mistake is thinking, shotgun 2 bottles of vodka and try it again. It worked for me.

    • #21
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:26 PM PDT
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  22. Guruforhire Member

    So this one time, we had a female sergeant who had a man take down:

    • a picture of his wife
    • who was in a swimsuit
    • which was hung in his locked wall locker

    Why you might ask?

    she felt sexually harassed having to inspect his room.

    • #22
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:34 PM PDT
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  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Guruforhire:Why you might ask?

    she felt sexually harassed having to inspect his room.

    I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you….(ears covered)

    • #23
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:40 PM PDT
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  24. Guruforhire Member

    Now let me tell you about MPs.

    So its post 9/11 and things have gotten pretty exciting being in a forward rapid deployment unit. You would think that the responsibility for gate guard and roving patrols would fall on the MPs. you would be wrong. The absolute right people to do this is the signal battalion. So I got put on lots of roving guards around the base, and would irritate the MPs trying to nap in their patrol cars in the DPW area.

    So the armies idea is that if you have written orders and you have them between the webbing and the kevlar parts of your helmet than you can be held accountable for whatever is written on them. Having learned my lesson as I have previously described, I read everything given to me.

    My orders stated that I was to detain anybody who was in possession of a weapon for a lawful purpose. At which point I informed the officer and sergeant of the guard that it was necessary for me to detain the entire formation and if we could march to the MP station in orderly fashion I would appreciate it.

    he he he he…. This did not go over well.

    • #24
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:43 PM PDT
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  25. Guruforhire Member

    So another time I was on CQ making sure that one stole the building by sitting at a ramshackle desk for 24 hours straight in a kind of boredom test of endurance event. The entire units mission was to die in the first few minutes of an artillary barrage by north korea (I am being serious, its die and if you don’t die run away). So quite a lot of stuff that went on was kind of a waste of time. How am I supposed to practicing dying in my bunk if they keep waking me up at 4am with all these raid sirens. anyway.

    The MPs were out after curfew smoking in the parking lot and yelling various taunts at the signal unit. My platoon sergeant finding himself very much incensed by the various slights to our manliness and moral virtues, was returning said taunts from my CQ area (in doors). The MPs on duty then came by, entered by CQ area and arrested him for being out past curfew.

    At which point I went and sprung him from the clink, and took him home with a long winded witness statement explaining the situation with the curfew violating MPs and that the sergeant was in the CQ area.

    This being an official sworn statement, he was all like “you know I am just trying to look out for my guys” and I said “yeah I got you sarge”

    After exchanging meaningful glances I took ol sarge home.

    • #25
    • August 25, 2016, at 4:54 PM PDT
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  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Guruforhire:So another time I was on CQ making sure that one stole the building by sitting at a ramshackle desk for 24 hours straight in a kind of boredom test of endurance event. The entire units mission was to die in the first few minutes of an artillary barrage by north korea (I am being serious, its die and if you don’t die run away). So quite a lot of stuff that went on was kind of a waste of time. How am I supposed to practicing dying in my bunk if they keep waking me up at 4am with all these raid sirens. anyway.

    The MPs were out after curfew smoking in the parking lot and yelling various taunts at the signal unit. My platoon sergeant finding himself very much incensed by the various slights to our manliness and moral virtues, was returning said taunts from my CQ area (in doors). The MPs on duty then came by, entered by CQ area and arrested him for being out past curfew.

    At which point I went and sprung him from the clink, and took him home with a long winded witness statement explaining the situation with the curfew violating MPs and that the sergeant was in the CQ area.

    This being an official sworn statement, he was all like “you know I am just trying to look out for my guys” and I said “yeah I got you sarge”

    After exchanging meaningful glances I took ol sarge home.

    Guru, I’ve so appreciated your stories, and they are certainly illustrative of your disdain for the military and its competence. I think you and I have a good connection. So I’m going to ask you for a favor. I would be very grateful if you could pull all these comments together and make an insightful and powerful statement. I think you are pointing to some important issues from an in-the-field perspective, and although your stories make your point, I think it would be even more effective to address the issues of overall competence of, and trust in, the military. Obviously you don’t have to do that, but I’d really like to hear what you have to say. It might even make a good OP. I have a feeling that people have become complacent in their expectations of the military, and I find it disturbing.

    • #26
    • August 25, 2016, at 5:04 PM PDT
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  27. Front Seat Cat Member

    That can’t possibly be accurate or true – it hurts my head – if there is any truth, it is that there is enormous waste across all government sectors, and cutting the military budget to the point where those in uniform don’t have what they need to fight and win is unacceptable. I am sick over the lack of quality care for our wounded warriors and vets, the pathetic facilities and response times.

    • #27
    • August 25, 2016, at 5:09 PM PDT
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  28. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Front Seat Cat:That can’t possibly be accurate or true – it hurts my head – if there is any truth, it is that there is enormous waster across all government sectors, and cutting the military budge to the point where those in uniform don’t have what they need to fight and win is unacceptable. I am sick over the lack of quality care for our wounded warriors and vets, the pathetic facilities and response times.

    That’s how I felt, FSC. But the IGs in various departments have reported poor operations, time after time, knowing they will be condemned or criticized. They are to be admired, not scorned.

    • #28
    • August 25, 2016, at 5:43 PM PDT
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  29. Guruforhire Member

    The thing about what you are talking about is that you are judging the army by the wrong metrics.

    It doesn’t exist to do paperwork. The paperwork isn’t even a means to an end. The army exists to kill people and break stuff, and it is remarkably good at it. Paperwork largely exists to prevent the army from doing what its good at, and give congress people something to complain about.

    Its not a health care program, so it sucks at health care, its not a vehicle for the preservation of capital so it sucks at that, its not a scholarship fund so its not good at that, etc etc.

    But it does do a pretty solid job of blowing the hell outta stuff.

    We have this device we lovingly call a grid smasher. A grid meaning a grid square or 1 square kilometer. So we have the ability to point at a map and say, “sergeant! you see everything in this box? Make it not there.” and then shortly thereafter nothing that used to be there is there anymore.

    My relationship with the army is complicated.

    Anyway, I hope that ties my humorous ancedotes to your larger concern about military competence.

    OK one last thing:

    I firmly believe (I really do, I am but I am not being funny) that the primary reason we haven’t had a military coup is because nobody wants to do, or even knows how to do, the paperwork.

    • #29
    • August 25, 2016, at 6:16 PM PDT
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  30. Henry Castaigne Member

    Susan Quinn: I guess I wasn’t surprised, EJ. Just seriously disappointed. There is also the political correctness stuff that has bothered me: women having to sign up for selective service if we institute the draft; women in combat; the transgender issue–that influence policy. I just hope the brass doesn’t do something stupid that would jeopardize those field commanders.

    Political correctness is starting to infect the least politically correct (and most respected) institution in our country. Tell me Susan, isn’t that happening in Israel too?

    • #30
    • August 25, 2016, at 11:16 PM PDT
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