Tuesday, July 2, 2013



Actually, if you know anything about the Pentagon at all, you would not be remotely surprised at the lack of planning and coordination. In fact, some would say—with very good reason—that the Pentagon spends far more time and resources on internal warfare, rather than fighting external enemies. They call this ‘inter-service’ rivalry. If you added the adjective ‘vicious’ you would be closer to the mark. And, over a career, trillions of dollars are at stake. That is seen by most as a good enough reason to sacrifice one’s integrity. You just have to go-along-to-get-along—and that general’s star will be yours. In fact, that star (more is better) may well make you a millionaire. Why not indeed! Over 70 percent of your peers are working for defense contractors. This is capitalism in action. 

Indeed, not only are the the services largely preoccupied with fighting each other, but they make the whole business more complicated by squabbling with the Department of Defense’s giant civilian democracy. Add in positive legions of defense contractors—many of dubious reputation—and the differing agendas of retired members of the Club of Generals—and it is positively amazing that anything of military value emerges at all.

Well, occasionally it does, but only after excruciating development times—we are normally talking decades these days—and at a cost which may well be described as grotesque (or do I need a stronger word?). As a consequence, the American Way of War is the costliest in the world—by a wide margin—and it is highly debatable whether it is effective.

Yes, we can destroy things and kill a lot of people—many not necessarily the enemy—but that is not the same as winning wars. Do our generals seem to understand that fact? The evidence is not encouraging. We have great soldiers in the lower ranks, and extraordinary courage is often displayed—but careerism seems to take over at light colonel level.

The above photo shows a Boeing's Phantom Badger vehicle emerging from a V-22 aircraft. The significant point is that it fits. Well, it certainly should since it was specifically designed to do so because the original designers of the Osprey hadn’t considered the possibility that the aircraft might need to carry a military vehicle—so none fitted—not even that staple of military transport, the ubiquitous HMMWV. And, in case you are not clear on the subject, the V-22 was designed, solely and entirely, for war—over two and a half decades at that. You might think that a penny would have dropped during that time..

Given that war has been mechanized since WW I (1914-18), you might well find that a curious omission. Anyway, as a consequence of the military utility of the Osprey not being thought through properly, its fuselage is an awkward size and really not too good even for carrying troops. The thing is unnecessarily and foolishly cramped. As for its other faults, I’m writing a blog, not a book (right now).

Well, perhaps development had to be rushed, and the project was underfunded—or the developers were new at the game?

What charitable thoughts! In fact, development took over a quarter of a century, the corporations concerned were those novices, Bell and Boeing—and if I told you the cost in billions of dollars, I would be putting your heart at risk. But, I’m prepared to gamble. How would $39 billion grab you? And no, that is not close to the full program cost. I’m merely talking about development. But, where does development stop and fly-away cost step in? Well, that is a little hard to answer, you understand. Further development is always required. The costs? Develoment is about exploring the unknown. Besides, why should we know when the Pentagon can't even be audited?

Yes, it us entirely true that the Pentagon can suck money in, fail to account for it, and suffer no consequences. Yes, that is illegal. Yes, Congress does nothing.

So what are the costs of reinventing the jeep—a task which should have been entirely unnecessary—and what are the costs per unit of the Badger? I don’t know as yet, but I am sure they are exorbitantly high—and that you, the American taxpayer, will be—once again—paying the bill.

Will you check it carefully? No, you will not—and therein lies the real tragedy. Far too many Americans know too little, and don’t seem to care.

Meanwhile the MICC—the Military Industrial Congressional Complex—gnaws away at our standard of living, the quality of our lives, and any faint remnants of probity.

Frankly, it is pretty damn evil. Frankly, the fact that you don’t care is no better.

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