Military Procurement Process: Changes on the Way?

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There are few things more complicated than the Military Procurement Process.  No doubt, rigorous controls are required for certain mission critical functions, but it seems that bureaucratic roadblocks exists at almost every phase of the military procurement process.

military procurement process

On the eve of the release of a new framework to improve the military procurement process, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry, vented his frustration with the following explanation:

The Army decided in 2005 it needed a replacement for its M9 Beretta pistol and then spent 10 years writing and rewriting requirements.

The final request to gunmakers was 350 pages with 23 attachments and added $15 million to the cost. After a decade, the Army still had not decided what caliber the gun would be or what ammunition it would use.

Meanwhile, U.S. small arms companies make more handguns in a month than the Army will buy in 25 years, the Armed Services panel found.

“So a commercially available revolver or handgun would be just fine. Maybe it’s OK to get our handguns in a commercially available way in the future,” Thornberry said.

An advisory panel – Section 309 – has recommended the following framework needed for acquisition reform in the military procurement process:

1.  Adapt at the Speed of a Changing World
The United States is operating in a global environment that is more fluid, more interconnected, and faster evolving than at any point in history. To adapt to this reality, the acquisition process must be agile enough to respond to rapidly evolving threats, and fast enough to develop and deliver new capabilities within the arc of emerging threats.

2.  Leverage the Dynamic Defense Marketplace
The defense industrial base has changed, and to maintain technological advantage, DoD increasingly must leverage the commercial marketplace. To be successful in this broader marketplace requires a fundamental change in the DoD–commercial relationship. DoD must become an attractive customer with which commercial firms want to do business. This need requires DoD to be a more sophisticated buyer that is responsive to market dynamics, company interests, and the greater economic landscape.

3.  Allocate Resources Effectively
The U.S. military faces multiple threats posed by increasingly capable adversaries and uncertain domains of warfare. It also contends with constrained defense budgets. To more effectively and efficiently allocate resources, DoD must better align and coordinate how it budgets, sets requirements, and acquires what it needs, to include not only major weapon systems, but also the services and low‐dollar items that make up more than half of DoD contract spending.

4.  Simplify Regulations
Some of the regulations and statutes governing defense acquisition are outdated or no longer applicable and should be amended or repealed to make the system more effective and efficient, and expand the number of companies willing to do business with DoD.

5.  Enable the Workforce
The current acquisition laws and regulations are overly complex, difficult to understand and implement, and contain requirements that result in people making suboptimal decisions and being risk‐averse. DoD needs an acquisition system that is simple, understandable, and executable by people operating in an environment that empowers and incentivizes them to make decisions that lead to positive outcomes.

Frankly, the same “reform” recommendations could be issued for the Department of Veterans Affairs.  There is no need to enlist the services of an “independent” panel to make such self-evident recommendations.  In fact, all 5 recommendations could be summed up rather easily:  “Use common sense!”

Clearly, complex weapon systems require a rigorous system of controls and due diligence.  In most other cases, procurement through an “unregulated” market is probably a far more efficient way to source products at a reasonable cost.

For instance, the Beretta M9 which has been standard issue for the last 35 years has now been replaced by the P320 of German origin.  With only 20% of US Army personnel issued “combat arms,” presumably far less require sidearms.  Does it really take this long to “upgrade” our firearm capability when drones seem the weapon of choice.

Wouldn’t it be far more efficient for the US Army (and presumably other arms of the military) to provide a “recommended” handgun to those servicemembers who need them but provide others with the option to bring their own weapon as long as it is duly registered and approved by unit officials?

Clearly, lethal weapons require additional controls, but there are many budget items that receive the same level of controls and regulations that are probably not required.

Bureaucratic procurement controls tends to lead to fraud and abuse as we have seen in the recent scandal regarding parts for Humvees.

The only way to improve the procurement process is to identify those areas which require disciplined oversight, but endeavor to open the playing field to more reputable suppliers.

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Military Brass Buries $125 Billion in Bureaucratic Waste

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In yet another disturbing example of wasteful government spending, the Washington Post reports that the Pentagon brass covered up an internal study suggesting that the military could save $125 billion in bureaucratic waste within 5 years:

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.

Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.

The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.

Needless to say, the White House was quick to respond arguing that the report – Transforming DoD’s Core Business Processes for Revolutionary Change –  was readily available to “anyone with a Web browser at the Pentagon website” since January, 2015.

govt_waste

With an annual budget of approximately $600 billion, $125 billion is not exactly pocket-change, even for politicians who prefer to propose one trillion dollar infrastructure spending plans.

A large portion of these “bureaucratic savings” could well be applied to modernizing our armed forces and provide better equipment and training to men and women in uniform.  In fact, the Perfumed Princes on the E-Ring reportedly preferred to hide these inefficiencies from the public so that the “savings” could be applied to new programs.

While it is clear that the internal study (McKinsey & Co.) exists, it is not evident that the recommendations are “owned” by military leaders and are currently being implemented.  After all, it has been almost two years since the plan was published.  What I would like to see is a progress report to determine what concrete steps have been taken to implement McKinsey & Co.’s recommendations.

Having been subjected to many McKinsey studies in my prior corporate life, it is reassuring to see that the presentation format and buzzwords haven’t changed much in over 30 years.  Frankly, many of these studies are sponsored by “change agents”  who have little confidence in the managers responsible for the efficiency of the organization.

Implementing these changes effectively means ridding the organization of embedded staff and consultants that account for a large percentage of these bureaucratic costs.  There are not many “leaders” (corporate or military) willing to act on these well-meaning recommendations when the lives of friends and acquaintances are on the line.

While it may seem politically fashionable to use the alleged cover-up to draw attention to yourself on Capitol Hill, the current and new administration would do well to implement many of the recommendations rather than confine the study to a circular file (i.e. garbage can).   Sadly, I am not convinced that the Military Brass will do so unless both Congress and the new Administration hold their feet to the fire.

Specifically, a “Project Manager” should be identified and appointed for each major component of the Bureaucratic Waste Recommendations and quarterly reports should be made publically available to assess progress.

The U.S. military budget accounts for some 54% of discretionary spending by the government and represents 37% of worldwide military expenditures.

military budget and discretionary spending

$125 billion is a lot of inefficiency that could be better redeployed modernizing our military and allocated to other needy government programs.

Expecting the same military people who have created these inefficiencies to improve productivity is, in my opinion, a fool’s errand.

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SFTT News: Week Ending December 9, 2016

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Found below are a few news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage SFTT readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Congress Approves 2.1% Pay Increase for Military in 2017
The U.S. Senate on Thursday joined the House of Representatives in approving a 2.1 percent pay raise next year for troops. The upper chamber passed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which included the pay increase, by a vote of 92-7. The House last week approved the legislation by a veto-proof majority of 375-34. The bill now heads to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.  The $619 billion authorization act includes $611 billion for programs overseen by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, including $524 billion for base defense spending, $68 billion for war funding and almost $20 billion for other national security programs.  Read more . . .

special forces

U.S. Military on Brink of Collapse?
Forget about the longtime standard of a military capable of fighting two major wars simultaneously, which the United States abandoned four years ago. The current military would have trouble fighting one major conflict. That is the assessment of some prominent defense experts, who contend the military has degraded to dangerous levels after eight years under President Obama. “We have lost our edge,” said Daniel Goure, senior vice president of the Lexington Institute. “We are no longer technologically superior in a whole list of areas … This is a military that is on the brink of collapse.”  Read more . .

Pentagon “Buries” $125 Billion in Bureaucratic Waste
The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post. The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.  Read more . . .

Tai Chi Could Help Veterans with PTSD
Around 7 to 8 percent of Americans will experience post-traumatic stress disorder in their lifetime, and the condition is even more common among veterans, affecting around 23 percent of those involved in recent conflicts. According to a new study, the ancient Chinese exercise Tai Chi could help veterans manage symptoms of post-traumatic stress.  Read more . . .

Ben Weller - Reuters

Free Guide Dogs for Veterans Available in Florida
Suzy Wilburn’s voice cracked and tears welled up in her eyes when we asked her what her specially trained guide dog Carson means to her. Wilburn says, “I’m allowed to live again. I’m allowed to be in my community and be part of my community and I’m not sitting at home. He saved my marriage. He saved my life.” Wilburn’s dog was trained at Southeastern Guide Dogs which is located in Palmetto where she also works. Spokeswoman Ruth Lando says they provide all of their dogs and services free of charge and receive no government funding.  Read more . .

Equine Therapy for Veterans with PTSD
Those who serve in our military deserve our support, particularly those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to a Rand Corp. studyreleased in 2008, 20 percent of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, but 50 percent of them do not seek treatment because of the stigma associated with mental illnesses. They often self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Families are destroyed and communities lose those who could have made valuable contributions. What is more tragic is through 2014 each day some 20 veterans committed suicide.   Read more . . .

Grant to Address Hyperarousal in Treating PTSD
Mathew and research colleagues at Baylor recently received a grant that will provide more than $1.35 million from the National Institute of Mental Health over two years to study and develop a drug that might mitigate hyperarousal in patients with PTSD. At present, there are two Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs to treat PTSD, the antidepressants Zoloft and Paxil (generics: sertraline and paroxetine). Though clinicians say these medications can be helpful, neither of the drugs was specifically designed to treat PTSD. “There’s a big dearth of effective drug treatments, and that’s what the focus of our research is,” Mathew says. “Psychotherapies help a lot of people, but still many will have residual symptoms or incomplete resolution.”  Read more . . .

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider becoming a member of Stand For The Troops

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Think Tanks and Leadership with Integrity

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I was fascinated by a recent article which appeared in the New York Times entitled “How Think Tanks Amplify Corporate America’s Influence.”

More to the point, I was surprised to see the naivete of influential people like Harvey Cox of Harvard University who couldn’t believe that think tanks could act unethically.

Sadly, the lines between “thinking” and “lobbying” have long been blurred and “corporate America” isn’t the only culprit. There are far too many instances where the DoD and the U.S. Army have employed theoretically disinterested parties to hide outright incompetence and questionable behavior from the prying eyes of the public and the warriors they lead.

Interceptor Body Armor

One needs to look no further than the despicable cover-up of the U.S. Army’s shoddy testing and deployment of substandard “Interceptor” body armor.  This cover-up has been amply covered by SFTT for close to a decade and has been the subject of several damning Inspector General Reports and the media:

For instance, take the GAO (Government Accountability Office) report of October, 2009 which recommended independent testing of body armor after their investigations had uncovered much of the same shoddy body armor testing now chronicled in the latest DOD IG report.   We listened to much of the same nonsense and double-talk from our military leaders, but in bowing to public pressure the Secretary of the Army asked the National Research Council to investigate body armor testing procedures.

I am not sure what became of this National Research Council study, but I suspect that its sole purpose was to lead Congress to think that “things are under control.”  Clearly, they aren’t.

Actually, the National Research Council is a “think tank” often employed by our government to put distance between themselves and potentially harmful setbacks to their careers.   While many believe that contracting academics will provide a “dispassionate” and science-based opinion, academicians rely on government grants.  Cynically, I for one have a difficult time believing they would bite the hand that feeds them.

In any event, the mandate of the National Research Council is to recommend new testing procedures but not opine on the blatant disregard of existing test procedures and guidelines that led to the GAO’s and IG’s damning reports.

I am quite sure that Lt. Gen. Phillips and his cohorts like Col. Cole, Project Manager for Soldier Protection, and US Army Brigadier General Peter N. Fuller, the Program Executive Officer of the Soldier Systems Center, are thrilled to see that a “disinterested” third-party had intervened to cover up their gross incompetence.

Despite much evidence to the contrary that only a blind man could ignore, Lt. Gen Phillips stated that ”I am not aware of any incident down range where the body armor (Interceptor) failed to protect against a round that it was designed to defeat.”  Ummm …

If this were true, why did the DoD turned loose a bevy of beltway lawyers to keep autopsy records secret that clearly indicated that the U.S. Army was sending men and women into combat with defective body armor?

With the support of brilliant pro bono legal representation by a team from the NYC office of Kirkland & Ellis, LLC, a federal district judge in D.C.  issued a ruling in 2010 on SFTT’s editor’s request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) for forensic records held by the Department of Defense regarding the performance of government-issued body armor.

Despite the fact that the U.S. Government lost its appeal under the FOIA some 6 years ago, the autopsy records remain under wraps thanks to the continued efforts of DoD lawyers to “bury the truth.”

In preliminary filings DOD admitted that for the two calendar years (2006 and 2007) for which records were requested 103 KIA’s died from ballistic wounds to the torso. It further admitted that only 51 of these 103 KIA’s (49.5%) had body armor plates shipped back to the US for forensic examination,  and that these 51 KIA’s had a total of 155 plates returned with the “service members.”

Of these 51 KIA’s, 18 had “body armor description sheets with information responsive” to the SFTT editor’s FOIA request. (By DOD’s own definition, a “body armor description sheet” indicates that the “body armor is not perfectly intact.”)

Assuming that only one body armor protective plate was struck in each KIA’s tactical engagement, that means that a staggering 35.3% (18 of 51) of the plates were “not perfectly intact.”

It’s hard to imagine that DOD would not release these records if they proved that although 35% of the KIA’s during the specified two-year period for whom even fairly complete records exist had “not perfectly intact” plates, not a single KIA resulted from penetration of the plates.

As a former banker who suffered through countless countless consulting firms (with a well-scripted mandate) and now a close witness to the tragedy of the military cover-up of defective body armor, I have sadly learned that “think tanks” are no substitute for ethical leadership.

The brave men and women who serve our country so valiantly deserve leaders who put the safety of their troops before their own careers.  Is this asking too much?

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SFTT News: Week ending Jul 29, 2016

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Found below are a few news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

High-Tech “Robo” Technology Raises Eyebrows
Israeli defense company Elbit Systems is turning some heads with its robot warship, the Seagull. The unmanned surface vehicle (USV) operates autonomously and is capable of protecting the maritime environment from underwater threats such as mines or submarines. In a military first, the vessel this week successfully fired a lightweight torpedo via its remote Mission Control System (MCS).  Read more . . .

Unmanned US Military Vehicle

Worldwide Military Expenditure Database at a Glance
The core work of the military expenditure project is to collect, analyse, process and publish data on military expenditure worldwide, and to monitor and analyse trends in military expenditure over time, looking at their economic, political and security drivers and their implications for global peace, security and development.  The military expenditure project is fundamentally data driven. At the heart of the project is SIPRI’s unique, freely available, military expenditure database. The database is updated annually, both with new data for the most recent year and with revisions to past data to take account of new information and ensure consistency over time.  Read more . . .

Next Generation Laser Eyewear Protection
Army land warfare experts are ready to kick off an industry competition to develop a new generation of laser-protecting goggles and other eyewear that safeguards soldiers’ eyes from shrapnel, laser beams, sand and dust, and bright sunlight. Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Natick, Mass., issued a presolicitation Wednesday (W911QY-16-R-0043) for the Next Generation Eye Protection (NGEP) project. Army officials say they plan to award one or more one-year contracts to develop prototype protective eyewear.  Read more . . .

Five U.S. Military Personnel Injured in Afghanistan
Five U.S. special operations members were wounded while working with Afghan special forces in an operation to clear areas controlled by Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said on Thursday. Army General John Nicholson said two of the injured service members have returned to duty, while three others were evacuated but are “in good spirits” and are expected to make a full recovery, he said.  Read more . . .

special forces

Purge of Turkish Military after Unsuccessful Coup
Now, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wages a widespread purge, jailing and suspending tens of thousands of state employees, the military that has long served as a unifying force for the country is deeply divided, diminished and discredited. Nearly half of the top generals and admirals have been jailed or dismissed and thousands of foot soldiers charged. More than 1,500 officers were dishonorably discharged this week in advance of a meeting of the Supreme Military Council in Ankara on Thursday, where leaders were expected to consider a broader restructuring of the military.  Read more . . .

Memorial to Honor Vets Who Lost to PTSD
A unique memorial is planned to commemorate military veterans who have lost their battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to suicide. The Forgotten Warrior Memorial Wall, to be erected in Channahon State Park, outside Chicago, will also serve as a national reminder of all those who suffer the invisible but potentially devastating mental and emotional wounds of war.  Read more . . .

Review of “The Fractured Republic” Helps to Understand VA Scandal
Since the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs first broke in 2014—leading to the resignation of then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki—a public debate has been simmering over what, exactly, should be done to fix the VA. This debate is fundamentally a good thing. In a political system such as ours, debate is crucially important to addressing problems, and few problems are so grave and morally meaningful to a national community as how its veterans are treated. Policy details matter, and most participants in the debate are sincere in their positions and seeking to do right by veterans.   Read more . . .

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider becoming a member of Stand For The Troops.

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Drugs and Super Soldiers

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The Atlantic just published a lengthy article entitled “The Drugs That Built a Super Soldier” describing how Vietnam military personnel were provided drugs to enhance performance or mask pain and injury.    The author, Lukasz Kamienski, reports that:

The conflict was distinct in another way, too—over time, it came to be known as the first “pharmacological war,” so called because the level of consumption of psychoactive substances by military personnel was unprecedented in American history. The British philosopher Nick Land aptly described the Vietnam War as “a decisive point of intersection between pharmacology and the technology of violence.”

In 1971, a report by the House Select Committee on Crime revealed that from 1966 to 1969, the armed forces had used 225 million tablets of stimulants, mostly Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), an amphetamine derivative that is nearly twice as strong as the Benzedrine used in the Second World War. The annual consumption of Dexedrine per person was 21.1 pills in the navy, 17.5 in the air force, and 13.8 in the army.

Research has found that 3.2 percent of soldiers arriving in Vietnam were heavy amphetamine users; however, after one year of deployment, this rate rose to 5.2 percent. In short, the administration of stimulants by the military contributed to the spread of drug habits that sometimes had tragic consequences—because amphetamine, as many veterans claimed, increased aggression as well as alertness. Some remembered that when the effect of speed faded away, they were so irritated that they felt like shooting “children in the streets.”

military drugs

Sadly, drugs have long been in the arsenal of the military to keep warriors alert and focused on the mission at hand or, more recently, over-medicating warriors with prescription drugs to cope with the symptoms of PTSD.

Mind you, drugs alone are not enough for the military brass and its lobbyist buddies to maximize the performance of our warriors.   The U.S. Army is now experimenting with the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.  This $125 million experimental program is designed to improve “Soldier performance and readiness. Build confidence to lead, courage to stand up for one’s beliefs and compassion to help others. Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is about maximizing one’s potential.”

Comprehensive Soldier FitnessWhile is seems sacrilegious to criticize our military leadership, there are simply far too many examples of Ill-advised programs and the promotion of sycophant officers who endorse shoddy equipment procurement practices, yet deny our brave fighting men and women the equipment and support they require to accomplish their mission and receive the medical treatment they deserve following deployment.

The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) repeatedly takes to task the VA on how it treats Veterans.    Recently, the GAO cited that 63% of the cases of Veteran suicides were “inaccurately processed.”

One suspects that this situation –  and many other heart-wrenching reports from the GAO on the incompetence of the VA – would trigger outrage by the public and Congressional leaders.  If so, it is difficult to discern the noise of this outrage.  The media seems more preoccupied with “topical crises” largely of their own making.   Perhaps, “real outrage” doesn’t sell much advertisement to trigger an overhaul of the VA.

Fortunately, many concerned individuals and charitable organizations have stepped in to privately provide the support our Veterans deserve.   While this “private” support may not be as comprehensive as the services available at the VA, it does provide Veterans with caring and inclusive therapy.

SFTT remains hopeful that the VA will seize the opportunity to reform itself.  There are far too many well-intentioned employees within the VA to allow our Veterans to dangle perilously because of incompetent leadership.

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Military News Highlights – Week of March 20, 2016

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Found below are several news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Better than a War on Drugs
Pendulums are made to swing from one side to the other. So it is for the prescribing pendulum for narcotic analgesics in the U.S. today. For decades, until the 1990s, doctors were closed fisted about prescribing pain medications, with little basis for that approach other than an American tendency to puritanical attitudes towards drugs. The result was that far too many people, including those with severe, intractable pain, suffered needlessly.   Read more . . .

Prescription Drugs Targeted by PTSD

Is the Glock Pistol the Next Military Sidearm?
The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff is searching for alternatives to the multi-year Modular Handgun System effort, to include piggy-backing on Army Special Operations Command’s current pistol contract.  Gen. Mark Milley has used recent public appearances to criticize federal acquisition guidelines that all services must follow when choosing and purchasing weapons and equipment.  Read more . . .

The Military is from Mars, Civilians are from Venus
We’ve attended many meetings where it felt like the military personnel were from Mars and the civilians were from Venus: part of the same solar system, but from planets with vastly different landscapes and languages. And we knew many of our friends and colleagues who had also shared this far-too-common experience.   Read more . .  .

LZ Grace:  A Place to Heal
Lynnette Bukowski discusses LZ Grace Warriors Retreat.  Lynnette, and many volunteers, have transformed a 38 acre farm in Virginia Beach into a place for members of the special operations community and first responders to decompress and recharge. Lynnette shares the story of her husband, a Navy SEAL, and discusses some of the unique challenges the she faces in supporting who are accustomed to serving, and often suffering, in silence.   Read more . . .


VA Programs Caregivers May Not Know About
Roughly 5.5 million people serve as caregivers for veteran family members. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a lesser known benefit for these family members. Known as Caregiver Support Services, these benefits aim to help family members who are tasked with the primary care of a disabled veteran. The services available include access to a caregiver support line, support coordinator, peer support for caregivers, adult day health care centers, and home care, among other things.  Read more . . .

A War Correspondent’s Trouble with PTSD
The war was changing me, hardening me. I felt flashes of pure rage when someone ran into me on the basketball court or cut me off on the road. I chose tables at restaurants that were as far from the front doors and windows as possible, in case a bomb went off outside. I would wake up whenever there was a sound in my bedroom and then be unable to fall back asleep. In some of my dreams, loved ones died. In some, I did. I had full-blown PTSD.   Read more . . .

Join SFTT in helping get our Veterans the support they deserve.

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Military News – Week of March 13, 2016

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Found below are few military news items that surfaced during the last week that caught my attention. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage our readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that interest them.

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Wounded Warrior Project (“WWP”) attracts Congressional Scrutiny
A week after the top executives of the Wounded Warrior Project were fired amid accusations of lavish spending, an influential senator on a committee that oversees nonprofit organizations is asking for a detailed accounting by the country’s largest veterans’ charity.   Read more . . .

Ben Weller - Reuters

PAWS: Republican lawmakers’ bill would give veterans puppies for PTSD
Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would create a five-year pilot program pairing veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with a service dog.  Read more . . .

Veteran Unemployment hits 7-year low in October
Unemployment among all veterans reached a seven-year low last month, and the jobless rate among Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans set a new record low in October, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday.  Read more . . .

US Military is looking at Cyborg Soldiers
War may be as old as time itself, but the technology behind it seems to be developing at a breakneck speed. And in the United States, cyborg soldiers are inching closer and closer to reality, as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) seeks to develop an implantable brain chip that would create a direct connection between a human and a computer.   Read more . . .

VA Roles Out Plan to Reduce Veteran Suicides
The Department of Veteran Affairs is rolling out new initiatives to help reduce veteran suicides.  The new plan is the result of a summit that took place in February with VA leaders, health care professionals and veteran organizations. The VA undersecretary for health, Dr. David Shulkin, said roughly 8,000 veterans commit suicide a year.  Read more . . .

Image from Film Full Metal Jacket

Army Takes On Its Own Toxic Leaders
Top commanders in the U.S. Army have announced publicly that they have a problem: They have too many “toxic leaders” — the kind of bosses who make their employees miserable. Many corporations share a similar problem, but in the Army’s case, destructive leadership can potentially have life or death consequences. So, some Army researchers are wondering if toxic officers have contributed to soldiers’ mental health problems.  Read more . . .

Join SFTT in helping get our Veterans the support they deserve.

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DOD Calls for Changes in Military Procurement Practices

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In a delightful article published by Huffington Post entitled “Pentagon’s New Contractor Policy Doesn’t Scare the Defense Industry At All,” Huffington’s editors sadly conclude that recently announced measures to improve the efficiency of the military’s procurement process are likely to produce little more than a yawn from contractors who have long thrived on the ineptitude of the Defense Department.

Ashton_CarterIn a June 28th Memorandum for Acquisition Professionals, Defense Department Acquisition Chief Ashton B. Carter,, calls for military suppliers to “. . . abandon inefficient practices accumulated in a period of budget growth and learn to manage defense dollars in a manner that is, to quote Secretary Gates . . .’is respectful of the American taxpayer at a time of economic and fiscal distress.'”   I  assume that most American taxpayers would be incensed to discover that military spending profligacy needs to be curtailed only during periods of “fiscal distress.”  This seems to be a damning indictment of the questionable and most likely corrupt procurement practices that are now so firmly entrenched at the Pentagon. 

Huffington Post goes on to say, “it’s a testament to how corrupt the now $400 billion a year contracting process has become that the changes outlined Monday seem in any way dramatic; they are, mostly, simple assertions of common sense. Among the new policies, as summarized by me (Huffington Post):

  •  Cut down on awarding contracts without genuine competition.
  • Cut down on contracts in which government pays for all or part of cost overruns.
  • Reward higher productivity, innovation and excellence, rather than other things.
  • Get credit for government’s generous cash-flow policies.
  • Eliminate valueless overhead and administrative fees; for instance, don’t pay contractors’ bidding and proposal expenses when there was no bidding.
  • Add more and better government acquisition workers.
  • Improve audits.
  • Let cost considerations shape requirements and design for new programs such as the presidential helicopter, the ground combat vehicle and the new nuclear submarine fleet.
  • Don’t allow contractors to reduce production rates without approval.”

Our troops in the field are painfully aware of the inadequacies of our military procurement process as evidenced by the improper testing of body armor, the recent recall of military helmets and ceramic plates, the inability of the Defense Department to supply replacement parts for the M2 heavy duty machine gun and the reported ineffectivness of the M4 in Afghanistan.   If the Defense Department really wanted to show the taxpayers and military contractors that they mean business, the should begin by firing government employees whose oversights and/or indiscretions are responsible for those failures and ban military suppliers from bidding on new contracts where neglect has been shown as reported by the DODIG or GAO. 

Mr. Carter’s soft memo to “Acquisition Professionals,” is the equivalent of giving prison inmates a copy of Emily Post’s book on Etiquette.  The military industrial complex is alive and well and thriving at taxpayer expense and in the blood of our young men and women serving in harm’s way.

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USMC General Cartwright argues for change in military procurement

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General James CartwrightIn a refreshing but somewhat rambling presentation, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, USMC General Cartwright, suggests diverting money from high-tech military procurement programs to give our troops the proper combat equipment to fight the “low-end wars” that we are in for the “next five to ten years.”  In an article published in the Army Times, staff editor John Bennett writes that General Cartwright said that “there is nothing out there that tells us we won’t be wrapped up in these conflicts for as far as the eye can see.”  His remarks were at a sponsored forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Echoing a message that seems to be coming from many quarters both inside and outside the Capital beltway, General Cartwright argue that the  US military will be “persistently” wrapped up low-level regional conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq “in different places and at different levels” for the foreseeable future.  Citing Secretary Gates, General Cartwright stated that if the DoD “continues pursuing expensive weapons packed with countless advanced subsystems, it will be able to afford only a handful of each platform.”  Furthermore, he argued that the current economic environment placed a serious constraint on military spending.

Calling for a greater “partnership” with our allies, General Cartwright suggested that the men and women in the field will play a far greater role in these conflicts.  “The question is, how many bomber squadrons do we need versus how many troops expert at stability operations,” said Cartwright.  “We need quantity more than quality.”  If this is, in fact, the new military doctrine of engagement then it seems reasonable to expect that greater attention will be focused on make sure the grunt on the ground has the best equipment possible.  Certainly, this is long overdue given the attention now focused on the poor quality of our body armor and more recently, the failings of the M-4 rifle.

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