Sting: Fake Coppers Scored $1.2 Million in Weaponry From The Department of Defense


Chris Hondros/Getty Images

❝ When you think of a federal sting operation involving weaponry and military gear, the Government Accountability Office doesn’t immediately jump to mind. The office is tasked with auditing other federal agencies to root out fraud and abuse, usually by asking questions and poring over paperwork.

❝ This year, the agency went a little more cowboy. The GAO created a fictitious law enforcement agency—complete with a fake website and a bogus address that traced back to an empty lot—and applied for military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense.

And in less than a week, they got it.

❝ A GAO report issued this week says the agency’s faux cops were able to obtain $1.2 million worth of military gear, including night-vision goggles, simulated M-16A2 rifles, and pipe bomb material from the Defense Department’s 1033 program, which supplies state and local law enforcement with excess materiel. The rifles and bomb equipment could have been made functional with widely available parts, the report said.

They never did any verification, like visit our ‘location,’ and most of it was by email,” said Zina Merritt, director of the GAO’s defense capabilities and management team, which ran the operation. “It was like getting stuff off of Ebay.”

Modern communications technology surely makes it easier to screw up. If you’re a screw-up.

Trump promises more subs – even though there’s no one to build them

❝ Donald Trump loves submarines. And America’s submarine industry has every reason to love Trump back. The hawkish, protectionist president has vowed to grow the US Navy, particularly its submarine force, to its biggest size in decades.

But experts agree there’s no realistic way the Trump administration can add the extra subs in time for the former reality television star to plausibly take credit for the build-up. Submarines are just too expensive and complex to build fast…

❝ To produce extra subs, Electric Boat in Connecticut and Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, the two shipyards that make all of America’s undersea combat vessels, will need to expand their facilities and add thousands of highly-skilled workers. Congress will need to approve much larger annual shipbuilding budgets, possibly for decades on end. Potentially several presidential administrations will need to sign off on those budgets…

…”More than unrealistic,” in the words of one Congressional insider who works on naval issues but spoke on condition of anonymity. “It would be impossible.”…

And, of course, The Donald lies about the comparative size of our Navy and how and why we need to grow it.

❝ For starters, Trump can’t exactly order a submarine all on his own. Congress writes budgets and appropriates money. And lawmakers might balk at the pricetag of Trump’s sub plan. Buying just one submarine sets taxpayers back around $3 billion. Getting to 66 attack subs could end up costing around $60 billion, according to the Congressional insider.

And that’s only counting construction costs. Operating those subs adds hundreds of millions dollars more per year. Every submarine the Navy adds grows the fleet’s overhead—and Congress knows it.

To build more subs, you not only need space at the shipyard. You also need workers…It can take up to seven years to train a welder qualified to work on nuclear-powered subs…

Trump could outsource the construction. China, India, France and Russia have – for one reason or another – shipyard space that could fill the bill. Hilarious as that would be, I don’t expect it. I do hope the next sensible administration we have – starting with a build-up in the 2018 midterm elections to the 2020 elections – we can start returning funds to useful projects. Instead of fondling the diseased ego of Donald Trump and his fellow travelers in the Republican clown car.

It’s Time to Audit the Pentagon – And Congress will let it slide, again


Pogo

❝ In 1994 Congress passed legislation requiring every federal agency to be auditable. Since then every agency has complied — except for the Department of Defense.

❝ “We have known for many years that the Department’s business practices are archaic and wasteful, and its inability to pass a clean audit is a longstanding travesty,” Chairs John McCain and Mac Thornberry of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, respectively, said recently in a joint statement. “The reason these problems persist is simple: a failure of leadership and a lack of accountability.”

Increasing Pentagon spending under these circumstances is the opposite of fiscal responsibility. In fact, giving the Pentagon $54 billion and finding out why later is bad budgeting.

Both the Republican and Democratic party platforms included the need to audit the Pentagon, and Congress should resist calls to give more money to an agency they know to be irresponsible with taxpayer dollars.

Someone mail me a penny postcard when sufficient members of Congress grow enough bony matter reinforcing their spineless lives – and challenge Pentagon incompetence, thievery and collusion in theft from American taxpayers.

The Pentagon decides on a new military handgun


Donald Trump Jr. holding a Sig Sauer MCX…brother Eric, 2nd from right

The US Army has confirmed that its new XM17 handgun is to be a 9 mm Sig Sauer model P320 and the contract allows the government to buy Sig Sauer’s proposed XM1152 Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) and XM1153 Special Purpose (SP) ammunition and training rounds.

The long-running XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) contract, intended to replace legacy 9 mm M9 Beretta pistols, was awarded…with a total $580+ million maximum ceiling.

It is understood that Sig Sauer bested bids from Beretta, FN Herstal, and Glock, after Smith & Wesson and partner General Dynamics Ordnance Tactical Systems (GDOTS) had earlier been dropped from the programme. A total of nine bids were submitted, according to a separate Pentagon statement. The US Army declined to reveal the other bids…

The MHS programme, which is expected to reach full-rate production in 2018, could result in buying between 280,000 and 500,000 weapons for the army, navy, air force, marines, and US Special Operations Command. The army has said it wants more than 280,000 handguns…

I’m not commenting, today, on the predictable waste of dollar$ from the Pentagon. This project or any other is subject to the politics of our military-industrial complex – which has little to do with defense or sanity.

I grew up in the “arsenal of America” – in Connecticut. Where mass production was invented as an innovation to produce muskets for the American Revolution. Where firms like Colt, Winchester, Remington and Ruger got their start because of talented, trained and experienced machinists and designers. Natives and immigrants alike.

It was only my generation that ended the lineage of folks from my family who worked on firearms, from assembly lines to talented prototype gunsmiths who spent their lives designing fine guns for peace – or war.

The furor over Beretta’s award years ago will not be matched over Sigg-Sauer getting this juicy contract. Their headquarters is in the US, nowadays – even though they’re a subsidiary of Lüke & Ortmeier Gruppe. And they love their friendship with the Trump family.

Pentagon paid for a report on wasted taxpayer dollar$ – It’s so bad they’re trying to hide it, now!


Click to enlargeDavid B. Gleason Photo

❝ In a bombshell article, The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon hired an outside consulting firm to identify ways to streamline its bureaucracy. It turns out the American military needs a lot of back-office support to keep running and that’s where most of the waste, fraud and abuse piles up.

The consultants did their job and identified $125 billion worth of unnecessary spending. The recommended plan called for some simple, common-sense changes such as making early retirement more attractive, streamlined information technology departments and cutting back on civilian contractors.

If the U.S. military made these changes, it could save more than a hundred billion in taxpayer dollars over five years…So…the suits at the Pentagon buried the report out of fear Congress would use it to cut the defense budget…

“We’re spending a lot more money than we thought,” reads the first line of the report.

No shit. But here’s the thing, for the people who spend their days watching the Pentagon for waste, fraud and abuse neither the report nor its suppression came as a surprise.

“This report confirms what anyone who’s paying attention already knows: there are a lot of opportunities to increase efficiency and effectiveness without increasing spending,”…Mandy Smithberger of the Project on Government Oversight…

She’s right. Budget hawks have long known that the Pentagon’s $600 billion plus annual budget is rotten to the core…

❝ The Pentagon’s property management division employs 192 thousand people, yet has no idea how much property it owns nor how much it’s worth. Existing best estimates say the U.S. military owns half a million properties on 30 million acres across the globe.

It’s worth — the Pentagon accountants think — around $800 billion total. Worse, as of a 2014 according to the Government Accountability Office, the property managers have literally no idea what’s going on in half those buildings.

The United States Department of Defense [sic] is the largest single employer on Earth. They pay little more than lip service to the kinds of efficiency many long-standing government agencies offer. When the Pentagon echos the Republican lying mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs…” they mean jobs for themselves, their kin, their retirement, their individual and personal investments, commitments, to suppliers.

RTFA for a quick journey through the fiscal corruption of our military-industrial complex. Incidentally, you’ll find a link to the actual 77-page report inside the article. It’s been removed from any featured spot on any DOD website; but, it’s still up and alive.

Testing the Navy’s unmanned sub chaser

❝ The 132-foot-long unmanned and unarmed prototype, dubbed Sea Hunter, is the naval equivalent of Google’s self-driving car, designed to cruise on the ocean’s surface for two or three months at a time – without a crew or anyone controlling it remotely.

❝ The Pentagon’s new unmanned submarine chaser is currently undergoing at-sea testing off the coast of California…The prototype vessel, known as Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) or Sea Hunter for short, is built to track enemy submarines over thousands of miles of ocean for months at a time and without a single crew member on board.

❝ In the video below, the ACTUV is actually testing its Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) system, which could be towed behind boats or ships carry out intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and communications ops by extending the equipment range compared to a ship’s mast.

❝ DARPA signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Office of Naval Research in September 2014 to jointly fund an extended test phase of an ACTUV prototype. The vessel was christened in 2016 in Portland, Oregon. Pending the results of those tests, the program could transition to the Navy by 2018.

To be followed by a Marvel movie released in the summer of 2019.

The price of patriotism

❝ Nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay huge enlistment bonuses a decade after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan…

The Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California Guard under pressure to fill ranks and hit enlistment goals. If soldiers refuse, they could face interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens…

❝ Faced with a shortage of troops at the height of the two wars, California Guard officials offered bonuses of $15,000 or more for soldiers to reenlist.

A federal investigation in 2010 found thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were improperly doled out to California Guard soldiers. About 9,700 current and retired soldiers received notices to repay some or all of their bonuses with more than $22 million recovered so far.

❝ Soldiers said they feel betrayed at having to repay the money.

“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. “People like me just got screwed.”

Van Meter said he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the military says was improperly given to him.

❝ The California Guard said it has to follow the law and collect the money.

One of the benefits of serving as mercenary for the last bastion of imperial war.

Indoors or outdoors – but especially indoors – the Pentagon’s newest scout is an autonomous drone

❝ There is little detail in the $1 million contract..The award, from the Army, but through the Pentagon’s brand-new tech-focused “Defense Innovation Unit Experimental” DIUx, is for a nine-month “prototype project in the area of Autonomous Tactical Airborne Drones.” Two other salient features stand out in the little, obligatory blurb attached to the notice. The contract comes from the Naval Special Warfare Command, which mostly oversees Navy SEALs, and the contract was awarded to Shield AI.

❝ What, exactly, will the “Autonomous Tactical Airborne Drones” do? Judging by video from Shield AI, it looks like they’ll fly into unknown airspace, inside of buildings…

❝ The quadcopters, which appear to be modified commercial models with extra sensors attached, are exploring buildings, mapping the insides of spaces, and then transmitting that information back to humans who may soon need to go into that building. That’s useful for fighting in a building, which is a staple task of special warfare units.

And no one in the building, presumably, will notice this critter flying around, eh?

Boeing gets $2 Billion in bonuses for failed missile defense system

❝ From 2002 through early last year, the Pentagon conducted 11 flight tests of the nation’s homeland missile defense system. The interceptors failed to destroy their targets in six of the 11 tests — a record that has prompted independent experts to conclude the system cannot be relied on to foil a nuclear strike by North Korea or Iran. Yet, as The LA Times reports, over that same time span, Boeing, the Pentagon’s prime contractor, collected nearly $2 billion in performance bonuses for a job well done…

❝ An LA Times investigation by David Willman also found that the criteria for the yearly bonuses were changed at some point to de-emphasize the importance of test results that demonstrate the system’s ability to intercept and destroy incoming warheads.

Early on, Boeing’s contract specified that bonuses would be based primarily on “hit to kill success” in flight tests. In later years, the words “hit to kill” were removed in favor of more generally phrased benchmarks, contract documents show.

❝ L.David Montague, co-chair of a National Academy of Sciences panel that documented shortcomings with GMD, called the $2 billion in bonuses “mind-boggling,” given the system’s performance…

The cumulative total of bonuses paid to Boeing has not been made public before. The Times obtained details about the payments through a lawsuit it filed against the Defense Department under the Freedom of Information Act…

❝ By relying on bonuses, Montague said, the missile agency has effectively told Boeing: “We don’t know what we’re doing, but we’ll decide it together and then you’ve got to work toward maximizing your fee by concentrating on those areas.”

Um, where can I get a job like that?

Pentagon research in artificial intelligence moves us closer to robot wars

Human-robot strike teams, autonomous land mines, and covert swarms of minuscule robotic spies: the US Department of Defense’s idea of the future of war seems like a sci-fi movie.

In a report that dreams of new ways to destroy adversaries and protect American assets in equal portions, the DOD’s science research division cements the idea that artificial intelligence and autonomous robotic systems will be a crucial part of the nation’s ongoing defense strategy.

US military already uses a host of robotic systems in the battlefield, from reconnaissance and attack drones to bomb disposal robots. However, these are all remotely-piloted systems, meaning a human has a high level of control over the machine’s actions at all times.

The new DOD report sees tactical advantages from humans and purely self-driven machines working together in the field. In one scenario, a swarm of autonomous drones would flock above a combat zone to jam enemy communications, provide real-time surveillance of the area, and autonomously fire against the enemy.

Might be satisfying to some to presume our robots are only killing their robots. Kind of like believing that hacker techniques are only used by the NSA, FBI, etc., to spy on other folks in other countries.

Wishful thinking.