Sunday, September 20, 2015

September 20 2015. Lies, damn lies, and the Pentagon. The pervasive cancer of careerism in the military.



OR INVOLVED IN ADVANCING A SERVICE’S INTERESTS  (or protecting one’s boss or oneself)


Intellectual honesty seems to have no place in such a culture.  What postures as loyalty to service trumps integrity every time. If the truth doesn’t fit—why change it!

This mindset and pattern of behavior  shows right through the system—and on into the battlespace. It is one of the reasons why the U.S. is not ending wars—let alone winning them.

It’s not just dishonest. It is a betrayal of trust. It is entirely incompatible with ’DUTY, HNOR, COUNTRY.’

It’s stupid! These jackasses get found out all the time—yet they go on lying because those in command want them to.

Higher want them to because it’s easier than making the hard decisions that are often what is really required. Hard decisions tend to upset people, make enemies, and be career damaging. Higher like their comfort zones to be—comfortable.

I happen to have first hand experience of this kind of behavior—which is now hard-wired into the military culture.

Despite its many obvious advantages, it is one important argument against a fully professional military. Theoretically, a professional military is better trained and generally more experienced—but it doesn’t necessarily work out that way.

When civilians are drafted in to fight a war—as in WW II—they want to get the whole wretched business over with as expeditiously as possible—and then get on with their civilian lives As a consequence, they tend to learn quickly, question freely, and focus only on what is important—which tends to be defeating the enemy.

History shows that previously inexperienced civilians do surprising well after training—if they live long enough. One reason is that many professional soldiers are far more focused on the career aspect of a military career rather than its purpose. Here, I am writing primarily about the officer corps—though long service NCO’s can behave similarly.

When a military life becomes a career—followed by a lucrative second career set up by the first (most senior officers retire into the defense contracting world—so collect a salary in addition to their pensions—so called “double-dipping”) furthering one’s career has a tendency to become the most important thing.

As far as many are concerned, it constitutes a secure, predictable, and adequately financially rewarding way of life where the chances are good—even if the Nation is near continuously at war—that you won’t experience serious combat. But, the issue here is not courage under fire—or the lack of it—but integrity. Careerism and integrity tend to be incompatible.

Careerism gives rise to a pattern of behavior which has much more to do with naked ambition and self-interest than fighting the enemy.

Where the officer corps is concerned, doing whatever is necessary to please one’s seniors tends to be the pattern—and this includes lying to cover up anything which might reflect badly on higher, or the individuals themselves.

The idea is to have a perfect track record—which includes not standing out in any way. Doing anything exceptional tends to inspire jealousy and is highly likely to be counter-productive in careerist terms. That includes distinguishing oneself in combat, writing an original book, or questioning the status quo in anyway. The whole ethos is based upon “going along to get along”—which has a disconcerting tendency to be associated with mediocrity.

The intellectually curious individual with an original cast of mind has a tendency to rock the boat regardless of his or her ambition or efforts to conform—because that is just the nature of such talent—and thus is easily spotted and weeded out. The others do what is necessary, don’t question anything, and lie as often, and as egregiously, as is required.

This is particularly the case where defending a program is involved. The larger programs involve vast sums of money—typically billions—and support large numbers of service and retirement careers. As a consequence they are fought for, and defended, with the kind of zeal and dedication one might prefer to see in combat. Lying is a favorite weapon—though it is often described as dissembling, obfuscating, being economical with the truth—or just a different perspective.

Such lying is endemic and considered the right thing to do even if it results in sub-standard equipment being issued to the troops and ending up on the battlefield. And, yes, it can—and does—result in preventable casualties (incidentally the title of a report I wrote on the Stryker armored vehicle about a decade ago).

War is not only politics by other means, but a major profit opportunity—where the needs of the fighting soldier are almost incidental. Clearly, everyone isn’t bent—because some remarkably good equipment does (sometimes) emerge—but normally at an excessive cost and after an excessive time. The degree of corruption involved would appall you. The multi-decade duration of the major programs is a disgrace. It now typically takes over 20 years to bring a major program to fruition. Given the pace of technological change, you would have to worry about the consequences of such a ridiculous length of time just in itself.

You would wonder why we have Operational Test & Evaluation when its findings are so often ignored.

It’s the kind of thing the Commander-in-chief (the President) should pay some attention to—but doesn’t. Why not? I don’t profess to know. I can but theorize.

  • Not many presidents seem to know much about the military these days—let alone the current military. Neither do their staffs.
  • Important though it is, people don’t generally pick up on culture, as such. They tend to focus on the actions that emanate from such a culture as oppose to the causes.
  • The American public, while now knowing remarkably little about the military, nevertheless give them just about the highest approval rating. This makes it politically difficult for any president to go head to head with the military.

It’s a great pity. In my opinion, sacking a few generals for lying as egregiously as they do might send a message that mistaken service loyalty is lethal to one’s career—and downright helpful to the enemy.

The following two stories are merely illustrative of a structure which has become badly corrupted.

Pentagon weapons tester calls F-35 evaluation into question

  • by Christian Davenport
  • Sept. 15, 2015
  • 2 min read
  • original

A Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighter lifts off from the runway during the first short take-off and vertical landing mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Oct. 25, 2013. (Samuel King Jr./U.S. Air Force photo)

When the Marine Corps put its version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter through a series of tests aboard an amphibious assault ship last spring, officials said that the aircraft performed so well that the service soon declared it ready for combat.

But the Pentagon’s top weapons tester said in a report in July that the exercise was so flawed that it “was not an operational test … in either a formal or informal sense of the term.” Furthermore, the test “did not — and could not — demonstrate” that the version of the F-35 that was evaluated “is ready for real-world operational deployments, given the way the event was structured.”

For the test, which happened in late May aboard the USS Wasp, to be “bona fide,” it would have had to be under “conditions that were much more representative of real-world operations than those that were used during this deployment,” J. Michael Gilmore, director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, wrote in a memo.

The memo, which had been previously reported on by Bloomberg, was released Monday by the Project on Government Oversight, which said it obtained the document through the Freedom of Information Act.

[Meet the most fascinating part of the F-35: The $400,000 helmet.]

Among the problems Gilmore cited were the lack of other aircraft in the test, which would share space on the flight deck and ground support equipment. He also noted that “key combat mission systems were not installed in the aircraft or were not cleared for use.”

During the tests, the aircraft were “not cleared to carry or employ any ordnance,” Gilmore wrote. And he said that uniformed personnel “received significant assistance from embarked contractor personnel who would not be part of combat operations.”

The Marine Corps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Aboard the Wasp in May, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marine Corps deputy commandant for aviation, said in an interview that, “by all accounts [the test] was a great success. No show stoppers at all.”

The testing, which was designed to see how the fighter would perform in operational conditions, was hailed as a moment of triumph for the embattled F-35 program, the most expensive weapons system ever developed by the Pentagon. And the successful completion of the test was heralded as a sign that the $400 billion program had turned the corner after years of setbacks, billions of dollars of cost increases and delays.

The program is “building momentum and a very good momentum, and I see very little to discourage me,” Davis said in May.

But in addition to problems with the testing, Gilmore’s office found that the F-35s used in the tests had their own problems.

“Aircraft reliability was poor enough that it was difficult for the Marines to keep more than two or three of the six embarked jets in a flyable status on any given day,” he wrote.

Another section of the report said that the “number of flight hours flown by each aircraft varied widely, with some aircraft in a down status for up to five days in a row, and other aircraft rarely requiring major maintenance.”

Gilmore suggested that the Marines conduct another test with “a more aggressive set of demonstration objectives.”

That recommendation didn’t seem to carry much weight, however. About a week after Gilmore submitted his memo, the Marine Corps declared that the F-35 was “ready for worldwide deployment.”

[After years of setback, the embattled F-35 fighter jet could soon be ready for combat]

The F-35, manufactured by Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, comes in three variants, for the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. The Air Force variant is expected to be declared ready for combat sometime late next year, the Navy’s in late 2018 or early 2019.

Analysts Detail Claims That Reports on ISIS Were Distorted


A group of intelligence analysts have provided investigators with documents they say show that senior military officers manipulated the conclusions of reports on the war against the Islamic State, according to several government officials, as lawmakers from both parties voiced growing anger that they may have received a distorted picture about the military campaign’s progress.

The Pentagon’s inspector general, who is examining the claims, is focusing on senior intelligence officials who supervise dozens of military and civilian analysts at United States Central Command, or Centcom, which oversees American military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Bridget Serchak, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s inspector general, confirmed that the investigation is focused on Centcom’s intelligence command. “The investigation will address whether there was any falsification, distortion, delay, suppression or improper modification of intelligence information,” she said in an email on Tuesday. She added that the inquiry would examine any “personal accountability for any misconduct or failure to follow established processes.”

The New York Times reported last month that the investigation had begun, but the scope of the inquiry and the focus of the allegations were unclear. The officials now say that the analysts at the center of the investigation allege that their superiors within Centcom’s intelligence operation changed conclusions about a number of topics, including the readiness of Iraqi security forces and the success of the bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria.

The revisions presented a more positive picture to the White House, Congress and other intelligence agencies, the officials said. “The senior intelligence officers are flipping everything on its head,” said one government intelligence analyst, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The analyst said that the complaints involve the highest­ranking officials in Centcom’s intelligence unit, run by Army Maj. Gen. Steven R. Grove.

The Pentagon’s inspector general would not examine disputes over routine differences among analysts, and so it is highly unusual that an investigation would be opened about the intelligence conclusions in an ongoing war. The allegations raise the prospect that military officials were presenting skewed assessments to the White House and lawmakers that were in sharp contrast with the conclusions of other intelligence agencies. The issue is expected to come up Wednesday when Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of Central Command, is expected to testify before a Senate panel about the military campaign against the Islamic State.

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