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Veteran’s Day 2012

10:15 am in Government by dakine01

Dub and Peggy Taylor circa 1943

I am a Veteran. I served in the United States Air Force from 10 December 1976 to 9 September 1982. After basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio TX (yes, I spent Christmas and New Years in basic,) I did technical school for my future career field at Shepherd AFB in Wichita Falls, TX. My Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) was 67251. In English that means I was an Accounting Specialist. I spent 15 months at Wurtsmith AFB, MI paying bills for the commissary. This means I was doing bookkeeping for the on base grocery store. Wurtsmith was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base with a squadron of B52s and a squadron of KC-135s. My barracks was about 100 yards from the flight line and it got pretty noisy when a squadron of fully loaded B52s and a squadron of fully loaded KC-135s were queued up for take-off.

I went from Wurtsmith to Hickam AFB, HI after two short, cold, rainy summers and one long, cold, snowy winter. When I got to Hickam on 20 September 1978, I was assigned to the commissary accounting section once again. In Michigan, we had been a roughly $500K in revenues commissary while in Hawai’i, we had $2.5M a month in revenues. Yet, even though revenues were 5 times in Hawai’i what they had been in Michigan, the paperwork volume was probably less than a third increased since it was most all of the same vendors or types of groceries, just larger quantities. However, in Hawai’i there were four of us doing the work where in Michigan there had been two of us. When I got to Hawai’i and was told my work assignment, I was also told it was because the section was “behind.” When I saw what the definition of “behind” was, I laughed as in Michigan that level of “behind” would have been considered caught up to current day. It also pointed out the difference between the staffing at a “Major Command” base (Hickam was the home of the Headquarters Pacific Air Forces) and a northern tier SAC base. In SAC, the funds went to support the flying mission. As an example, my first calculator in Michigan was an older, hand cranked machine that I literally burned up within a month. And yes, I do mean burned up. I was running a column of figures and the machine did catch on fire. After this, I was given a new calculator. If I remember correctly, it was a Monroe Litton model 2410 and was the newest machine in the office. When I got to Hawai’i, everyone had Monroe Litton model 2420 which all had digital displays.

After 18 months in Hawai’i, I was moved over to the “Accounts Control” office where I was responsible for the accounting database, liaison with the data processing center, and worked with folks in every part of the accounting system from Base Supply to the Consolidated Base Personnel Office. I worked with the Headquarters command Accounting Office and Responsibility Cost Center Managers across the base. In order to be promoted within the USAF beyond the rank of E4 up to the rank of E7, we had to take tests on our knowledge in our career field. The first time I tested for E5, the test had two questions (out of 100) that were directly related to my work with another 10 being peripherally connected. The next time I tested a year later, 75 of the 100 questions were directly related to my work. When I got my results, I was number 3 USAF wide on the promotion list (though I did not get promoted until the end of the cycle since I had less time in grade as an E4 than others).
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Army Inspector General Audit Uncovers Contracting Problems

10:04 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

[Ed. note: Promoted as this deserves greater attention. It's very important to remember that the Defense Department still can't say how many contractors' and subcontractors' personnel are working for them even after a request from the House Oversight Committee last November.]

The other day I received an email from a friend with a link to an article in the September 1, 2010 issue of Government Executive discussing an audit the US Army Inspector General had conducted on 18 different contracting vehicles (seven contracts and 11 task orders) used to support activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. (The actual audit report is a PDF at the first link of the GE article.)

The GE article and the audit itself seemed to concentrate on the process errors in the award of some of these contracts and Task Orders as sole source and the failures to follow the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and the Defense Acquisition Regulations (DAR) and these are indeed serious problems.

I worked in Accounting and Finance while I was in the USAF, for the Defense Logistics Agency as an in-plant QA specialist for a couple of years as well as other contracting support activities after that. Some of the FAR and DAR can be a real pain to comply with and the lead times necessary to plan for a contract award can be years, depending on the scope of the effort. I’ve been involved as a "Non-government Technical Adviser to the Source Selection Board" and I’ve been on both the winning and losing end of various contract awards. I’ve been on the winning end where we took a contract away from a preferred incumbent and I’ve been on the losing end of the same situation.

As I read the audit report, the problems with the contracts and task orders highlighted in the report seemed to be as much the result of laziness as anything. A lot of failures to follow all the required processes and due diligence.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

General Protection Racket

1:20 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

Rank creep is almost more pernicious than mission creep.

What am I talking about? Glad you asked. Friday’s New York Times had an article titled:

Generals Wary of Move to Cut Their Ranks

I did some searching for a bit between some other tasks to see if I could find the total number of flag officers (Generals and Admirals) in the US military during World War Two. I was finally able to find this article from Armed Force Journal of June 2008 discussing General Officers being removed from command for cause (incompetence) and finally found this:

We should, to place this period in context, run the numbers. In World War II, 16 million men served in uniform. Of those, roughly 70 percent were in the Army (a force that, at the time, included what we now call the Air Force.) The U.S. had a population of 131 million people, and we lost in combat some 407,000 of the men who were in uniform.

Now, about the generals. During World War II, there were roughly 1,100 generals in the Army….

Sixteen million men in the military and 1,100 generals. Now compare this information with the following from the Times article linked above:

According to the Pentagon, there are now 963 generals and admirals leading the armed forces, about 100 more than on Sept. 11, 2001. Meanwhile, the overall number of active duty personnel has declined to some 1.5 million from 2.2 million in 1985, even though the Army and Marine Corps have grown since the Sept. 11 attacks, to carry out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I just ran some quick math on those figures. In WWII, there was roughly one general officer for every 14,545 troops. Today there is roughly one general officer for every 1,557 troops. According to the Times article

The salary cap for generals is about $180,000, up from $130,000 a decade ago, according to Todd Harrison at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a private research group in Washington. Like all officers and enlisted personnel, generals have the benefit of the military pension system, which gives everybody who serves 40 years a pension equal to their full pay.

…snip…

Salaries and benefits, however, are the least of it. The biggest costs are created by the generals’ staffs — including security details, senior advisers, communications teams, schedulers and personal aides. Mr. Harrison said that the annual cost of salary, benefits and staff for each of the military’s highest-ranking generals and admirals — 40 four-star and 146 three-star — easily exceeded $1 million.

I know from personal experience from my days in the Accounting Office at Hickam AFB, HI about some of those general office benefits. I was responsible for a quarterly report to higher headquarters for CINCPACAF’s (Commander In Chief, Pacific Air Forces) "Major Force Program 09" accounting which was basically the Commander’s expense account. At the time, in the early ’80s the CINCPACAF account ran approximatley $20K per annum. It was used to purchase gifts for visiting foreign generals or gifts for CINCPACAF to give to counterparts when he traveled throughout the Pacific. It was also allowable for CINCPACAF to take his wife and generals visiting from the mainland out to dinner and charge it back. Dinner for four at a top restaurant in Honolulu at the time could run $500 easily.

One of my proudest moments when I was doing this accounting was when CINCPAC (Commander In Chief, Pacific) was forced to pay back a few hundred dollars to the accounts for CINCPACAF. One of the allowed charges was that a commanding general (or admiral) could charge lunch and some entertainment back to the hosting general’s account "incidental to a staff assistance visit." What CINCPAC was doing was driving down the mountain from his headquarters a couple of times a month, having lunch at the Hickam Officer’s Club then playing a round of golf and charging it all to CINCPACAF’s accounts. I complained loudly and finally someone listened.

The Times article quotes mostly retired generals. But we’ve already seen the levels of entitlement in many general officers, just in the last few months (see McChrystal, Stanley and Chambers, James E.).

Yes, fewer general officers would mean more people retiring at lower ranks. More retiring at Major (O4) rather than at Lt Col (O5) or Col. (O6) or as general officers. In many organizations when I was on active duty, positions that had formerly been held by commissioned officers had been transitioned to senior enlisted, many of whom had worked and gotten a Bachelor’s degree or even a Masters. Fill some of the officer positions with Chief Master Sergeants (USAF)/Master Chief Petty Officers (USN)/Sergeant Majors (USA and USMC). These individuals know their jobs, know how to lead, usually have the respect of those both above them in rank as well as those below them. The United States military does not need to have nearly as many general officers today as in WWII for an army today that is not even a tenth as large as the WWII military.

And because I can:

[Ed. note: bumped from Aug 27, 2010 @ 13:56]

So by this standard, I guess Bush will Apologize in 2050

2:18 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

I was surfing through various news sites this morning and over at McClatchy, I see this headline

For those who are too young to know or were asleep during the late ’60s/early ’70s, the My Lai massacre was a slowly unfolding example of the US Army covering up atrocities by soldiers (and where have we heard of this happening recently?). William Calley was the only person convicted during the various trials, although there were others in his command chain who were charged and acquitted, including his company commander, Capt Ernest Medina. Charges were even brought against the commander of the Americal Division, Maj Gen Samuel Koster (charges against Koster were later dropped and he lost a promotion to Lt Gen and was instead demoted to Brigadier before retiring in ’73).

Among the various investigations of the massacre were ones conducted by a young Army major by the name of Colin Powell and a young investigative reporter named Seymour Hersh. The My Lai investigation was actually Hersh’s first major expose and resulted in a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

So here we are, forty plus years after the massacre where former 2nd Lt Calley is quoted

"There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai," Calley told members of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, [GA] on Wednesday. His voice started to break when he added, "I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."

And as always, there are two or three relatively anonymous heroes in this story, most especially Warrant Officer One, Hugh Thompson, Jr, who led a helicopter crew that confronted Lt Calley and his men.

One man (and his crew) stood up for what is right. One man "followed orders" and was convicted (officially of 22 murders although the death toll reported ranged from 347 (the official US Army number) up to 504). No other convictions of anyone at any level. Cover-ups at multiple levels. The victims were all "VC" or "guerrillas."

Over forty years for the one man convicted to apologize.

I do hope folks aren’t holding their breaths waiting for George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and all the others to apologize for their atrocities.

And because I can: