The Pentagon’s internal watchdog has questioned the air force’s need for 46 armed Reaper drones, and suggested the flying service is wasting $8.8 billion on superfluous aircraft.
As purchases of General Atomics’s MQ-9 Reaper ballooned from 60 aircraft in 2007 to the current 401, air force officials did not justify the need for an expanding drone fleet…
During that time, costs for purchasing one of the signature counter-terrorism weapons of Barack Obama’s presidency increased by 934%, from $1.1 billion to more than $11.4 billion, according to a declassified September report by the Pentagon inspector general. Purchasing costs are a fraction of what the drones cost to operate and maintain over their time in service: in 2012, the Pentagon estimated the total costs for them at $76.8 billion…
Responding to heavy demand for additional aerial intelligence from troops deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, the former defense secretary Leon Panetta in 2011 ordered the air force to buy sufficient drones to perform 65 combat air patrols, missions that require up to four aircraft to observe a target for nearly 24 hours.
But the air force’s air combat command “did not conduct and maintain consistent, complete and verifiable analyses for determining the necessary MQ-9 procurement quantity”, the inspector general found. Combing through insufficient or incorrect air force analyses, Pentagon investigators found that the officials “could not provide the underlying support for aircraft quantity determinations” and sidestepped a bureaucratic process for determining needed capabilities…
Pentagon inspectors found that the air force’s inability to justify its continuing Reaper purchases risks wasting $2.5 billion for 13 mission-ready drones; $2.1 billion for 11 training drones; $958 million for five test drones; $766 million for four air national guard drones; and $1.7 billion for nine attrition-reserve drones.
The per-cost waste of the questionable drone purchases works out to roughly $192 million for each of the 46 Reapers the inspector general was unable to justify buying.
We all know what Congress’ response will be to this critical finding by the Inspector General. They – Republicans and Democrats alike – will double the purchase.
Keeping the military-industrial complex fat and happy is one of the primary requirements of holding federal elected office.
The Atlantic magazine has unveiled a new cover story bluntly titled “The Tragedy of the American Military.” Written by James Fallows, it explores the problems and culture of the U.S. military after more than 13 years of war, and what it might take to fix them.
In particular, Fallows targets the “chickenhawk nation” that has sent its troops into combat without clear strategies, weapons acquisition programs that are expensive and politically connected, and an American public that is largely disconnected from the wars. Fallows also reports on the findings of a commission that President Obama requested in 2011 to examine how the Pentagon could best be reformed.
The commission, headed by former Sen. Gary Hart (D.-Colo.), made a series of recommendations that will be familiar to those following defense policy in Washington. It sought the creation of another panel to assess the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, a separate effort to determine how the decision-making process for the use of military force should work in the future, and for the president himself to help bridge the gap between those who have served and the rest of American society…
The piece has created buzz on social media, in part because of the senior officials and famous academics quoted in it. But it’s the latest in a long line of journalism this year that grapples with how the military should reassess and reinvent itself following wars that have cost billions of dollars and thousands of American lives, without many clear victories…
Earlier this year, The Washington Post also published a series of stories titled “After the Wars.” Relying in part on a poll conducted along with the Kaiser Family Foundation, it found that 87 percent of the 2.6 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans feel proud of what they did during the wars, although more than half struggle with physical or mental issues and feel disconnected from civilians.
I wonder if our government, the Pentagon or even the Washington Post considered surveying the Iraqis, the Afghans, the civilian populations killed and maimed a hundred times more than our invading military?
All of these pieces expose the same basic issues: There will be no easy fixes for the military adjusting to life after a generation of intense sacrifice. The military is now shrinking and coping with budget cuts that would have been unheard of five or 10 years ago, increasing anxiety for many who want to serve at least 20 years and retire from the military honorably.
People write these articles as if they – and we – don’t discern any difference between war with an honorable task – fighting back against Fascist Imperialism, freeing nations from occupying foreign legions out to steal land and resources for a master race.
Sorry to hurt a few folks’ feelings; but, our military history since 1946 seems more and more like role reversal every decade since.
Mitch McConnell’s new intern
Due to technological revolutions outside its control, the Department of Defense (DoD) anticipates the dawn of a bold new era of automated war within just 15 years. By then, they believe, wars could be fought entirely using intelligent robotic systems armed with advanced weapons.
So, they may as well help it along. Right?
Last week, US defense secretary Chuck Hagel announced the ‘Defense Innovation Initiative’—a sweeping plan to identify and develop cutting edge technology breakthroughs “over the next three to five years and beyond” to maintain global US “military-technological superiority.” Areas to be covered by the DoD programme include robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, Big Data and advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing…
The Pentagon plans to monopolize imminent “transformational advances” in nanotechnology, robotics, and energy…
Pointing out that “sensitive personal information” can now be easily mined from online sources and social media, they call for policies on “Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to determine the Department’s ability to make use of information from social media in domestic contingencies”—in other words, to determine under what conditions the Pentagon can use private information on American citizens obtained via data-mining of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and so on.
Just in case the NSA missed anything.
Yet the most direct military application of such technologies, the Pentagon study concludes, will be in “Command-Control-Communications, Computers and Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (C4ISR)”—a field led by “world-class organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA).”
RTFA for lots more scary crap from the government sector responsible for bringing us everything from Agent Orange to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.
Let me say it once again. Either takeover the Democrats and install a backbone or go the 3rd Party route to twist their arms and inspire the courageous action needed to forestall this version of the future. Because you know we ain’t gonna have any robots big enough to fight back against theirs.
In case the Pentagon didn’t make it clear enough that climate change is a real and dangerous thing in its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) earlier this year, perhaps the new Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap (PDF) will drive the point home. Some of the content is roughly the same, but that title sure makes it sound more desperate.
The gist is that the Pentagon’s futurists foresee a world where our changing climate has tremendous real-world effects, and they want to be ready. Lots of people know the climate is changing, but given the Pentagon’s budget, it’s nice to know they are preparing to protect us from things that might actually harm us …In the 2014 CCAR, the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, writes that the Department of Defense will focus on just those sorts of threats:
A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions. The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters. Our coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, while droughts, wildfires, and more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities. Our supply chains could be impacted, and we will need to ensure our critical equipment works under more extreme weather conditions. Weather has always affected military operations, and as the climate changes, the way we execute operations may be altered or constrained.
Unless, of course, you’re a numbnut Republican or one of the remaining cowardly lions known as Blue Dog Democrats. No action is preferable to delayed action as far as they are concerned. Not that Hagel is much of an advocate when he prates about scientists “converging” towards consensus. Almost as stupid as saying we’re fairly certain astronomers are nearing the day when they can confirm the Earth ain’t flat. Since they’re afraid of offending folks worrying about falling off the edge.
The plan is laid out in some detail in the 20-page PDF that talks about how recurrent flooding is already affecting the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, “which houses the largest concentration of US military sites in the world” (page 2) and how “climate change will have serious implications for the Department’s ability to maintain both its built and natural infrastructure, and to ensure military readiness in the future” (page 8).
The Pentagon is also aware that it will likely need to conduct more humanitarian missions after natural disasters and it will need to have its weapons work no matter what the weather is like out there. We’ll see if the message is heard this time.
Thanks, Mike, great minds and etc.
A U.S. government watchdog agency is asking the Air Force to explain why it decided to destroy 16 aircraft initially bought for the Afgan air force and turn them into $32,000 of scrap metal instead of finding other ways to salvage nearly $500 million in U.S. funds spent on the program.
John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, asked Air Force Secretary Deborah James to document all decisions made about the destruction of the 16 C-27J aircraft that were stored at Kabul International Airport for years, and what the service planned to do with four additional planes now in Germany…
The U.S. government spent $468 million to buy and refurbish 20 older C-27A airplanes from Alenia, a unit of Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA , but later canceled the program because a lack of spare parts was severely limiting their availability for military use.
Instead, the Pentagon decided to buy four larger C-130 planes built by Lockheed Martin Corp to do the work…
In an interview last year with NBC News, Sopko said it was unclear if the incident was criminal fraud or mismanagement, but the waste was not an isolated incident in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon’s inspector general has also investigated the issue, which the non-profit group Project on Government Oversight (POGO) calls “a shining example of the billions wasted in Afghanistan.”
No immediate comment was available from the Air Force or the Pentagon.
You know, the definition of corruption in government isn’t limited to direct theft, stealing from the till – so to speak. When you have a bureaucracy with job descriptions based on interchangeability between the Pentagon and the military-indiustrial complex – there is a whole range of corruption that starts with ordering trials of hardware we don’t need, building the hardware we don’t need and ends with destroying the crap we never needed – instead of at a minimum trying to find other military idiots who will buy this useless crap.
It feels like the volume of waste, theft and corrupt use of taxpayer dollars didn’t decrease a jot between the neocon thieves in the Bush Administration and the vaguely liberal dunces in the Obama Administration.
Snow shoes should work well on Mississippi mud flats
The disturbing events in Ferguson have focused attention on the militarization of America’s police forces. God knows, it’s worrying enough that the police begin to seem more like an army of occupation than agents of law enforcement.
New Orleans and Gulf Coast news site The Lens decided to have a look at just what kind of military kit Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish aquired.
Each county has received from the Defense Department’s 1033 Program since 2007:
Orleans Parish received:
Eight night-vision sniper scopes
20 snow camouflage parkas
A “rough terrain” forklift
40 “laser modules”
14 thermal sights
21 7.62 mm rifles and two 5.56 mm rifles
30 survival axes
Some of the equipment is more mundane, such as:
360 men’s scarves
Four data-entry computer mice
Nine folding chairs
One garbage can
A pair of pliers
Law enforcement in Jefferson Parish received:
Two 5.56 mm rifles and seven 7.62 mm rifles
A utility helicopter
A mine-resistant vehicle
Three bridge erection boats
A utility truck
A personnel carrier
Setting aside the questionable utility of a ‘mine-resistant vehicle’ in police work (how many mines and IEDs does a patrol officer encounter?), and the flat-out weirdness of ‘four data-entry computer mice’, ‘a pair of pliers’ and ‘one garbage can’, what really provokes that ‘what the fuck?’ moment is the ’20 snow camouflage parkas’.
Unless the police are planning to hide in the middle of a crowd of blindingly white people, these parkas aren’t going to be of much use in New Orleans. Between 1853 and 2008 it snowed in New Orleans on 55 days.
I can tell you from personal experience, most of those so-called snow days ended up melting on contact with funky pavement.
So, if you’re in New Orleans and are approached by a group of men dressed in snow camouflage parkas and carrying data-entry computer mice, folding chairs, a garbage can and a pair of pliers: get on your knees and put your hands behind your head, because they’re cops and cops are dangerous.
Mike also suggested you can see the military weapons, vehicles, and other equipment police in your area have acquired from the military. Searchable by state and county.
Political scientist James Doyle had spent almost 2 decades working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on nonproliferation and nuclear security issues when he decided to write a scholarly article questioning the dogma of nuclear deterrence. Suspecting that his bosses at the Department of Energy (DOE) weapons lab in New Mexico might not agree with his analysis, Doyle researched and wrote the article in his free time and included a disclaimer saying the views were his own. And just to be safe, he got a lab colleague steeped in classification reviews to vet the article before he submitted it to a journal.
The 27-page article—“Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons?”—was published in the February-March 2013 issue of Survival: Global Politics and Strategy. And that’s when Doyle’s professional life was suddenly turned upside down.
Within days of publication, congressional staff asked lab officials whether the article contained classified information. A week later, the head of the lab’s classification office decided that it did—a decision later backed by DOE. Doyle soon lost his top-level security clearance, and he says he became persona non grata among his co-workers after accusing lab officials of retaliation and impinging on his intellectual freedom. Those complaints were dismissed, and last week, after 17 years at the weapons lab, Doyle was laid off—the only victim within his 50-person group of what lab officials told him was a reduction in force due to budget cuts.
The reasons behind Doyle’s termination, first reported by the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative news service based in Washington, D.C., may never be clear. The lab’s official statement says “we do not publicly discuss the specifics of personnel matters. Likewise, it would be inappropriate to discuss specifics surrounding security classification.”…
Many outside arms control specialists are skeptical and believe Doyle’s downfall is the result of his airing of views that are unpopular among those opposing disarmament, including some of the panel’s Republican leaders and staff…
Amid the murky circumstances, many nuclear security experts are sharply criticizing the lab’s actions. “It sends a chilling message not just to employees, but also those beyond the lab, that their ability to work on topics subject to classification could be restricted if they become too critical of policies that the lab holds dear,” says Frank von Hippel, a physicist at Princeton University. “It’s a very disturbing situation,” adds Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C. “DOE leadership needs to reverse this decision.”
You thought the Cold War was over, eh?
RTFA for a long, detailed and truly knowledgeable article on the politics of working for an imperial government. The White House, Pentagon and cheerleaders in Congress are unified in their conviction that only might makes right. They continue in the belief that only the threat of worldwide nuclear annihilation can bring peace to the world.
Our government, from the White House down through assorted bureaucrats, continues to pat themselves on the back solid in their belief that threatening the world with death and fire somehow was the motive force behind peace breaking out a couple decades ago. A peace that was destroyed as soon as Republicans were solidly in office backed by Neo-Con ideology.
So, one employee of the atomic death and destruction brigade writes a scholarly re-examination of our Nuclear Weapons Enterprise – and that constitutes sufficient threat that he must be terminated before he infects others with his freedom of thought.
Contemptible as ever. And still above criticism or oversight.
The government stands accused of seeking to conceal Britain’s role in extraordinary rendition, ahead of the release of a declassified intelligence report that exposes the use of torture at US secret prisons around the world.
The Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation programme, due to be released in days, will confirm that the US tortured terrorist suspects after 9/11…
Now, in a letter to the human rights group Reprieve, former foreign secretary William Hague has confirmed that the UK government has held discussions with the US about what it intends to reveal in the report which, according to al-Jazeera, acknowledges that the British territory of Diego Garcia was used for extraordinary rendition…
Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve, accused the UK government of seeking to redact embarrassing information: “This shows that the UK government is attempting to censor the US Senate’s torture report. In plain English, it is a request to the US to keep Britain’s role in rendition out of the public domain.”
Lawyers representing a number of terrorist suspects held at Guantánamo Bay believe their clients were rendered via Diego Garcia. Papers found in Libya indicated that the US planned to transport Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, an opponent of Muammar Gaddafi, and his wife via the territory, an atoll in the Indian Ocean leased by Britain to the US. The government has denied Belhaj was rendered via Diego Garcia, but there are suspicions that others were held on the atoll.
Crider said the UK’s attempts to lobby the US into redacting parts of the report “turns the government’s defence in the Libyan renditions case of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife entirely on its head”…
“The government protested America would be angered if this kidnap case ever went to trial – and now we learn the British government is leaning on the Americans not to air Britain’s dirty laundry. It exposes their litigation stance as mere posturing,” she added.
Confirmation that a British territory was involved in extraordinary rendition could leave the government vulnerable to legal action. Last month the European court of human rights ruled that the Polish government actively assisted the CIA’s European “black site” programme, which saw detainees interrogated in secret prisons across the continent…
The judges concluded that not only was Poland “informed of and involved in the preparation and execution of the [High Value Detainee] Programme on its territory”, but also “for all practical purposes, facilitated the whole process, created the conditions for it to happen and made no attempt to prevent it”, prompting lawyers to ask what else it has been used for since.
The exposure of how far Tony Blair would go to maintain the UK as the United States’ 51st state will open that nation to more than embarrassment for their crimes. Criminal prosecution of the kind already historically required against the United States – should proceed against co-conspirators. Breaking treaties, abrogating human rights on a global scale should have consequences. Citizens of countries committing such crimes have a responsibility to speak out, to demand that the thugs in charge of government should bear the responsibility for those crimes.
Tony Blair and William Hague deserve prison time as much as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
The U.S. military has always been the one place in government with a plan, forever in preparation mode and ready to yank a blueprint off the shelf for almost any contingency. Need a response for a Russian nuclear missile launch? Check. Have to rescue a U.S. ambassador kidnapped by drug lords? Yup, check, got that covered. How about a detailed strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse? As it turns out, check.
Incredibly, the Defense Department has a response if zombies attacked and the armed forces had to eradicate flesh-eating walkers in order to “preserve the sanctity of human life” among all the “non-zombie humans.”
Buried on the military’s secret computer network is an unclassified document, obtained by Foreign Policy, called “CONOP 8888.” It’s a zombie survival plan, a how-to guide for military planners trying to isolate the threat from a menu of the undead — from chicken zombies to vegetarian zombies and even “evil magic zombies” — and destroy them.
CONOP 8888, otherwise known as “Counter-Zombie Dominance” and dated April 30, 2011, is no laughing matter, and yet of course it is. As its authors note in the document’s “disclaimer section,” “this plan was not actually designed as a joke.”
Military planners assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska during 2009 and 2010 looked for a creative way to devise a planning document to protect citizens in the event of an attack of any kind. The officers used zombies as their muse. “Planners … realized that training examples for plans must accommodate the political fallout that occurs if the general public mistakenly believes that a fictional training scenario is actually a real plan,” the authors wrote, adding: “Rather than risk such an outcome by teaching our augmentees using the fictional ‘Tunisia’ or ‘Nigeria’ scenarios used at [Joint Combined Warfighting School], we elected to use a completely-impossible scenario that could never be mistaken for a real plan.”
In other words, it’s about as realistic as the 50 times Congressional Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare.
A relic from the Cold War appears to have triggered a software glitch at a major air traffic control center in California Wednesday that led to delays and cancellations of hundreds of flights across the country…
On Wednesday at about 2 p.m., according to sources, a U-2 spy plane, the same type of aircraft that flew high-altitude spy missions over Russia 50 years ago, passed through the airspace monitored by the L.A. Air Route Traffic Control Center in Palmdale, Calif. The L.A. Center handles landings and departures at the region’s major airports, including Los Angeles International (LAX), San Diego and Las Vegas.
The computers at the L.A. Center are programmed to keep commercial airliners and other aircraft from colliding with each other. The U-2 was flying at 60,000 feet, but the computers were attempting to keep it from colliding with planes that were actually miles beneath it.
Though the exact technical causes are not known, the spy plane’s altitude and route apparently overloaded a computer system called ERAM, which generates display data for air-traffic controllers. Back-up computer systems also failed.
As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration had to stop accepting flights into airspace managed by the L.A. Center, issuing a nationwide ground stop that lasted for about an hour and affected thousands of passengers…
“FAA technical specialists resolved the specific issue that triggered the problem on Wednesday, and the FAA has put in place mitigation measures as engineers complete development of software changes,” said the agency in a statement. “The FAA will fully analyze the event to resolve any underlying issues that contributed to the incident and prevent a reoccurrence.”
In other words, our crap air traffic control software couldn’t understand a problem we generated 50 years ago with old-style technology used to spy on folks. Using it over the West Coast this week.
Sources told NBC News that the plane was a U-2 with a Defense Department flight plan. “It was a ‘Dragon Lady,’” said one source, using the nickname for the plane. Edwards Air Force Base is 30 miles north of the L.A. Center. Both Edwards and NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, which is located at Edwards, have been known to host U-2s and similar, successor aircraft.
The U.S. Air Force is still flying U-2s, but plans to retire them within the next few years.
Uh, the CIA is also still flying U-2s.
This is what the US used for spying on other countries before we caught onto the Soviet Union’s idea of using eye-in-the-sky satellites. The plane’s “operational ceiling” is 70,000 feet. FAA software probably doesn’t normally concern itself with planes flying at that altitude since civilian craft have an operational ceiling well below that.
The computer dicho still rules. Garbage in = garbage out.
Most recently – September 2013 – The Flight Deck Automation Working Group concluded that modern flight path management systems create new challenges that can lead to errors. Uh, yup.
Thanks, Uncle Dave