DoD Acquisition — A Bad Joke

There is broad agreement on the need for acquisition and contracting reform in the Department of Defense. There have been enough studies. Enough hand-wringing. Enough rhetoric. Now it’s the time for action.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

If only, as Hunter mentioned, there was more to it. And how sad to see Obama shills like Center for American Progress and former Reagan DoD minion Larry Korb herald Gates’ proposed budget increases and ancillary measures as real reform.

Much of this conversation is old hat for our merry band here. Together we’ve anticipated this procurement scissors crisis for the better part of 4 and 1/2 years or so. The defense industrial apparat’s inertial divorce from any reasonably coherent American strategy premised on both goals *and* means continues. We’re all adults here. We know how the game is played. Ramp up huge budget proposals before a new administration arrives to either box them in or force them to eat ‘soft on defense’.

Ignore The Strategic Bankruptcy Behind The Curtain

For all of that, Obama is Warlord-lite once again. Agitprop spinners and gullible U.S.-we-canners aside, the defense industry quite rightfully breathes a sigh of relief — as their stocks soar on the news. Indeed:

For one, defense spending is going up next year, by at least 4%, as Gates is proposing, to $534 billion (not counting $130 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan). That’s more than half of all spending Congress has a hand in deciding. The Pentagon budget is not being gutted, despite loud criticism to the contrary.

Long time readers know our take on specific programs i.e. ‘Jedi Knight’ platforms like the F-22, the still touted ‘economical’ (with more importantly stronger international political support) F-35, BMD, the Army’s ‘hey we can be as high-tech as the fly boys’ FCS boondoogle, etc. Over at STSOZ 1.0 we shared at length our general, safe for public/non-sensitive observations on the LCS and the catastrophe of *that* program from Art Cebrowki’s original vision. And let’s not even mention the absurd Zumwalts.

The alleged Gates “cutbacks” are merely a piece with the Potemkin nature of Obama’s budget and TARP/financial rescue plan. Essentially to anyone not still drunk from the Inaugural buzz, the Obama Administration’s claim to fame so far is ‘hey we’re slightly less whacked than those other guys’. Change yes, but less than meets the eye. The ‘vital’ Obama federal budget delivered less than a month ago is blown into vapor by their sudden admission (DOH! – as everyone outside the Administration knew) that the economy in fact wouldn’t grow and begin recovery this June as they claimed. Much less reachg 3.3. GDP next year.

If Obama can present such blatantly delusional, nay, knowingly outright deceptive ‘national priorities’ in a joint address to Congress then one can understand that Gates’ proposed but unsustainable ‘floor’ (read still massively bloated and making permanent as a benchmark the staggering increase since 2002) is similarly a chimera. Let’s just say it out loud: after a couple trillion dollars of printing non-existing money on a meaningless, fictional ‘national budget’ and half assed bank plan, why should the Pentagon be held to a different standard?

Oh there is the usual this-or-that about this-or-that system, platform, etc. True, long overdue outsourced contractor-trimming is *proposed* from insanely out of control to merely dangerously crazed, etc. It’s a real step forward to push out some of the 40% (yes, 40%) of the Pentagon workforce that the Warlord turned over to private contractors. The proposed reforms? To hire real government employees as full time program managers. To hire real auditors. For possible – one hopes – additional (but illusory) savings in 10 years.

All well and good. And we can talk about specifics on any of those issues if people here wish. As long time readers know, the Stiftung has represented about every single major defense industrial/technological/contracting entity at the VP/retired two star, retired three star level across Congress, in OSD, at OMB, HLS and OEOB. We’ve spent time on the Pol/Mil analytical side if that interests people.

___________________________

To recap 4 years of our conversations here, the U.S. is stumbling oblivious into the gaping razor blade jaws of procurement impossibilities without the financial-economic means (or even pretense to means) to paper over all the rampaging irrationality. And with a decadent political process to boot. A defense budget one can rightfully argue, like a CVN, doesn’t turn on the dime. But Obama unfortunately is far more status quo than his Kool Aid contingent will allow. (And would someone rid us please of that nauseatingly naive and smug Maddow? Her usefulness as an Oppositionist came and went long ago).

We’re still waiting for the Harvard-Larry Summers types and other whiz kidz there to glom on the fact we can’t afford any of it. Really. It is that bad. We’ll be waiting a long while. We maintain their ineptitude, American historical immaturity, financial illiteracy and obtuseness will require something like gaiatsu (Japanese for shock, usually a foreign imposed circumstance ala the Arab 1973 oil embargo or Baker at the 1985 Plaza Accords) to impose even a dazed recognition of empirical truth.

In the interim, we commend again to all the Obama drinking game. At every event each time he proclaims ‘Let me be clear’, ‘I can’t say this more clearly’ etc. — do a shot. Pretty soon he will start to sound clear if the proof is high enough. Maybe one day he really gets clear about reality, U.S. power and the cruelly inexorable, undeniable audit of means. If you think Obama’s hair is turning white now, just wait for that moment. As John Madden would say — “Boom!”

What’s worse? Scenario One — Bartlett et al. proclaiming they can make up reality and force the rest of us to chase after them; or Scenario Two — a bunch of self-convinced, complicit, financially self-dealing poseurs jury rigging an economic house of cards, grasping for a toe hold on any reality, trying to convince *themselves* they get it by constantly reminding *us* how clear they are?

A Psych 101 major at any junior college already knows what that means. And rightly so.

Comments

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  2. Aldershot says

    Maddow was such a better guest than she is a host. I can’t take much of her Olbermann mini-me schtick, so only watch occasional links.

    Re reality: yes, I guess it is a little over-rated. Heh.

  3. Anon says

    Btw – if Maddow is gonna do a show like that – despite her impressive education – why not just dump her and have the funnier Ana Faris do the show instead.
    Faris is cute and funny and smart in a ordinary/unique/subversive way – No Rhode Scholar, but she was honored by High Times with a Stony award.
    That would be an excuse for some sillyness

    But Maddow (and Virginia) have no excuses.

  4. Anon says

    We never really like Al Gore’s sense of humor, such as it is (was) – But we do have to give him a thumb’s up for his bracketing Newt & Sharpton together as a team of bipartisan co-operation.

    Just the amound of green-house gas Newt and Sharpton produce by their joint diahhrea of the mouth – is enough to count as a few degrees.

    Together – they have political constituency that consists solely of some black inner city folks and a few white talk show bookers.

  5. Anon says

    When we watch Rachel Maddow – (have not done so in a while) – we cannot but help think of a chapter titled: “Virginia Has No Excuse” in John Guenther’s
    famouse “Inside USA” book from 1947.

    Basically – Guenther describes Virginia’s glorious political history and the magnificient bounty and diversity of the state – Then he notes that this is not that case with Mississippe or the Tennesee Valley — They mistreat their blacks and poor whites and it is not right. But they have the excuse of ignorance, poor weather, bad climate etc.

    But Virginia – Randolf land – has no excuse – Virginia should a beacon – but it was backslidding.

    Maddow has no excuse for her Tweety-level of vacuity and her willingness to frat it up with Olbermann. Yes, she
    can’t be too smart for cable – Yes, her Rhodes scholarship can be used against her – Enemies will call her a literate womyn and that may hurt her influences.

    But really? She has no excuse 0

  6. Anon says

    Perle is also blessed in the way he vexes opponents – Someone in the audience questioned him demanding to know why Cheney visited Langley all those times – obvoiously to skew intel reports.
    Using the full weight of his ‘moral authority’ Perle defended Cheney’s character and said it was not so.

    This anti-Cheney/Perle trope – the Langley visits – is a loser argument – It may titillate MoDo at her JFK manse and Frank Rich might find it amusing and telling – Tweety might shake his head in assent when some retired spy bring it up – And it all may be true.

    But outside the DC bubble – the average American assumes the President and VP have every right to go to CIA HQ – Plus, they assume they try to skew stuff. Everyone loves to skew stuff when they get the chance.

    That’s why Congress is supposed to conduct oversight – Langley is not The Magisterium or The Curia.

    Scheuer may regret this – But it is so.

  7. Anon says

    Speaking of foodchains – we just saw Perle speaking to a Nixon Center panal called ‘Defining Neoconservatism’ – keeping his comic/seer roll, Perle basically denied being a neoconservative and even disputed the usefullness of the label – as he usually does, he gave a seemingly plausible reason and noted, quite correctly, that some use it as a prejudicial broadbrush. Yet, something seems wrong too – He went on to deny Frum was a neocon and that the only true neocon, Irv Kristol, was supposedly a non interventionist. Then he denied any role in Iraq – and he denied any role in the famous ‘clean break’ memo – But then denied any role in opposing that famous memo – But then he denied it had any meaning anyway. Then he embraced Reagan, in total – But denied any role or knowledge in Reagan’s Lebanon failures.
    It got even funnier when Perle was questioned by a defensive seeming and deferential ‘opponent’ in the audience – Perle responded by denying any role in the choice of title of his Frum book “End to Evil.
    In the audience was his fellow erstwhile Hollinger board member Ambassador Richard Burt – Both Perle and Burt, of course, deny any role in any decision that led to the collapse of Conrad Black’s company.
    So far neither have returned their board salries – Afterall, they said they did nothing.
    Perle spoke eloquently and seer-like for an hour or so, denying any plausible connection to anything unpopular connected to his name, any failure, and any crime.

    The hostess Justine Rosenthal summed up the panal perfectly when she told Perle she was not sure he convinced anyone to his point of view, but that he provided tremendous entertainment to everyone.

  8. Aldershot says

    Sinbad, of course.

    Somerby on Maddow:

    …The world around Maddow involves billions of people—people all over the world. They will be all caught in the hazy new systems which are evolving as we speak. Many of them may suffer…Few of us understand the monumental issues being played out in the corridors of power. Maddow has a chance, each night, to help us figure them out…Something is wrong with Rachel Maddow, an odd combination of climber and child. What results, of course, is “corporate news”—entertainment masquerading as news. Yes, it’s aimed at a new demographic, much as another corporate entity once extended its reach from McDonald’s to Chipotle. But the entertainment is presented to capture your eyes for a screen, where other fools can sell you their products…

    http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh041009.shtml

  9. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Aldershot what a great quote. With your permission gonna nick it for the quote database.

    Anon, you’ve painted such a richly hued tableau of the food chain hierarchy. You and Alex both underscore the oddly pre-eminent role Steyn plays in that eco-system.

    You’re quite right about the self-aware flailing by Newt and company. As we’ve talked before at length here, what Newt thinks and plans behind the curtain is not seldom separate from his public pirouettes. Although sometimes as the Benchpresser humorously noted years ago, the thinking and planning part gets omitted, too.

    We can, as the Sovs used to say and the debased American media almost always said under the Warlord, report that ‘ informed sources (cough)’ reveal that in fact Newt and company are fully aware that Steele is a disaster, Cantor a flameout, Boehner a speed bump and the Movement is in disarray (the Republican Party as an functioning political apparatus is a secondary thought as a mere vehicle). ‘Informed sources’ further reveal this is fairly accurate reproduction of actual conversations.

    The hilariously memed ‘tea bag parties’ (the HALO Nation, for get Fox Nation, is howling with laughter) are just an example of throwing *something* at a wall in the hopes of gathering a blindly angry herd stampeding but in omnidirectional patterns.

    ‘Informed sources’ can also report that the political and media leadership also don’t care at *the moment* how this scattershot herding approach appears to outsiders. How funny their conversations are very Labour anti-Thatcherite in many ways –

    “Kick over the wall ’cause government’s to fall
    How can you refuse it?
    Let fury have the hour, anger can be power
    D’you know that you can use it? ”

    All that matters is they have a herd, it’s angry, it is scattered. Where they will lead that herd is on the back burner because they know the rump Movement has never been this ‘activated’ and ‘energized’ in living memory, even 1993.

    One never could accuse the assorted individuals involved to summon people to their better angels or believe politics involved responsibility over expediency.

  10. Anon says

    Someone who can’t seem to find his along the foodchain is Jacques Maratain wannabee, of late – Newt.

    He’s been doing boneheaded stupid things – “bipartisan” pow wows with a declining Al Sharpton.

    We heard he was puffed up and yelling recently about the pirates – Captain Phillips should thank the good Lord that Newt was not CoC – He’d be paying the price for Newt’s useless bluster.

    The timing was perfect too – the hostage is freed right after Newt opens his mouth. Thus, illustration Obama’s key selling point.

    Newt senses this and he flails about looking for some traction: whither dinosaurs? wither crucifix?

  11. Anon says

    It might be interesting to create an actual right wing food chain – Illustrated as a Bell Curve a la Murray.

    Plus – some illustrations similar to the ones Paul Fussell used in his book “Class” to show proles and uppers etc.

    funny stuff.

  12. Anon says

    Slightly above a Moran would be Jonah and VDH – They all sincerly admire VDH’s Werke and regard him as some sort of walking talking version of leather bound book that they have stuffed on the top shelf of their fake mahogany particle board bookcases. Though Steyn is a bit above that – But way below the higher neocons or someone like Larison, he has some of the problems that many autodidacts have. We know some people like this – they are sometimes interesting, occassionally very bright — But invariably lacking in perspective – To go off the reservatiob for a second, Malcom X was a bit like that.

    They often erect a pre-emptive haughty facade and world-weariness as some sort of armor. They seize on spelling errors and grammar snafus of their hated tenure academic rivals etc – Sort of like a parveneu scoffing at a fashion faux pas made by a gauch boourgeois

  13. Anon says

    Sometime you shoud elaborate on this Doc – We defer to your wisdom – But we have been interested in the right wing food chain.

    Someone like Steyn -though he can be flicked away by Alex and others – is relatively high in the pundit food chain in wingland – He’s a bit higher than Malkin.

    Among wingers who are regarded as thinkers or “serious” – the lower level of the foodchain is occupied by highly error prone and defensive types like Robert Stacy McCain. The other McCain writes endless posts based entirely on mishearing something or getting the name of a city or person wrong or confusing some debate point with a hidden slight etc. If Hitchens wrote a novel, he’d probably invite a RS McCain type character so as to bludgeon some point about rural idiocy etc.
    Slightly higher is someone like Moran of rightwingnuthouse – struggling to always sound “serious” and funny, but making many unforced errors. He and LGF both want to be respectable, but are still too sweaty.

    Steyn is above all that and they think he is a genius. But he is way below someone like Larison or any of the smarter neocons

  14. Anon says

    re Alex – It’s just amazing how much truth, culture, and social anthropology he squeezes into that first paragraph about Steyn.

    Steyn’s book is almost totally lower-level racialism barely masked in context of ‘the west. We had to laugh one
    time seeing Steyn semi-defend Buchanan on c-span as someone who says some true things a bit roughly and extremely. In fact, Pat’s far more sopehsticated and subtle than Steyn – Steyn’s dumb-dumb reductionism and coupling it with falsehoods and emphera images only serves to sink some otherwise interesting points.

    Maybe Steyn can dream of Harley Earl driving onto the set of Sanford and Son and trashing it with a 500 hp truck too make room for an Osmond family re-union (eight is enough was too left wing so undermined the otherwise fecund family message)

  15. Anon says

    Aldershot – interesting quote. Perhaps, Concord has declined a bit as a signpost for intellectualism. Does Thoreau over-rate reality? Maybe Mark Penn could show him some numbers …

  16. Anon says

    Or mayve the name should be Kali – the hindu goddess of mayhem and warfare – humorously prayed to by all the unaware but self-consciously secular liberal yoga enthusiasts in our old neighborhood. It’s about as un-Islamic as you can get, but …

  17. Anon says

    Even better than Salaam or Saladin, would be something Persian and pre-Islamic – Technically non Islamic at all – parsee/ zoroastrian, but associated in the collective yelp of the wingnuts with Iranianism, Islam, and otherness. And the very fact of pointing out the facts would be an example of intellectualism and arrogance and elitism and ivyism and make Tweety sweat.

  18. Aldershot says

    “Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin, having a point d’appui, below freshet and frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a Realometer, that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time. If you stand right fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces, as if it were a cimeter, and feel its sweet edge dividing you through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily conclude your mortal career. Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business.”
    -Thoreau

    http://www.princeton.edu/~batke/thoreau/wa02_where

  19. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Great pointers to Alex’s site – terrific writing as always. His take says it better than we could re Steyn.

    Glad to hear that you’ve been in touch with Conrad. Your analysis of events as they unfolded time again proved to be more insightful than that offered by the trad media. Interesting response from him as you note.

    re the dog, the ‘rollout’ fed the media in perfect morsels, agree. The pirate denouement would have been the perfect time to unveil the new pup ‘Salaam’ or ‘Saladin’. Wing nut cognitive dissonance in the megaton range.

  20. Anon says

    Though we found it somewhat tiresome – we do have to gave Obama great political kudos for dragging out and milking his White House/daughters dog purchase for all its worth.

    Obama knows how to ‘monitize’ all sorts of political derivatives – He would (will) have been excellent in Institutional Sales on Wall St.

    We are only dreaming, but we wish he’d name the dog “Salaam” or something vaguely Islamic – just for fun and to shake the nuthouse a bit.

  21. Anon says

    Alex on Mark Steyn:
    http://yorkshire-ranter.blogspot.com/2009/04/artefact-ideology-again.html

    Interesting – when Lord Black’s trial finished we sent him an email re his FDR book and some thoughts on his trial. We also noted that we thought Steyn damaged his case and that the prosecutors read his blog posts and refined some of their arguments for the jury by reverse engineering them.

    Black replied generously and he told us what he thought was wrong about our FDR comments and what was right – But he was conspicously silent on our Steyn note. We think he suspects there is some truth to what we said. Maybe

  22. Anon says

    Alex over at Yorkshire ranter had a great post a few days ago comparing the media garbage put out by Wolfowitz et al to that financial crap and it occured to us that Wolfowitz is sort of symbolic of the age – The arrogance barely masked with sanctimony – the laughably uninteresting sex scandal he had at the World Bank, his constant shilling for war of various kinds etc – His refusal to go away. The establishment embrace etc

  23. Anon says

    It would truly be glorious and a think of beauty to see that smug sanctimonious Wolfowitz war criminal face trial somewhere in Europe – with a preening media friendly self-important prosecutor like Baltasaar Garzon leading the charge – Or better yet, some snippy Dutch judges and powdered wig Brit barristers.

    Alas – it won’t happen – partly for the reasons you note above.

  24. Dr Leo Strauss says

    In an age without consequences, Wolfowitz is still an outrider for a variety reasons it seems. For the Neocons, he is quietly mocked as ‘weak’ for not smashing the State-CIA-Community complex and inept ‘managerial’ (read bureaucratic warfare/Cheney) skills. He’s also silently deemed second class by First Gen Neocons for not really being an ‘intellectual’ – i.e., he has no ‘serious’ academic work/books published.

    And then there are the consequences of his actions. Was he a hopleless romantic (and thus somehow given a reduced sentence)? Or did he always have the mens rea sufficient for criminal intent? Still funny how ‘permanent’ D.C. breaks down along these lines.

    He came up very briefly in a conversation we had recently with a senior SAIS acquaintance regarding something else, his internal handling of some structural academic issues. The conclusion of that conversation, unrelated to PW per se was that if Paul Nitze, Bob Osgood and the ‘soul’ of SAIS stood for anything, it was that ideas have consequences.

    Btw, please pardon the slow updates re posting here, folks. We just did our patriotic duty for President Obama by adding to a computer company’s bottom line redoing all the Stiftung’s internal doohickeys and then caught a nagging chest cold with all the temperature flux recently.

    We aim to have a new divertissement up later today or early tomorrow at the latest.

  25. Anon says

    WTF -we turn on c-span there is Paul D. Wolfowitz lecturing us about Taiwan-US relations. Then I see the AEI sign behind him and start to think we might want to see those war crimes trials start soon, rather than later.

    But what makes Wolfowitz so disgusting is not his unsurprising associaton with AEI, but that he managed to get himself made Chairman of the respected US-Taiwan biz council = – As if he were not a war criminal that just got kicked out of the World Bank.

    Talt about a man with an atrabiliiar complexion – Robespierree has nothing on Wolfowitz – circus lupus maximmus,

  26. Anon says

    “that anxious, slight, ineffectual-looking man, under thirty, in spectacles . . . complexion of a multiplex atrabiliar colour, the final shade of which may be the pale sea-green …”
    Carlyle on Max Robespierre

  27. Anon says

    “… squalidest bleared mortal, redolent of soot and horse-drugs”
    Carlyle on Jean Paul Marat

  28. Anon says

    Pat wants to re-orient American society around a Rome-S Carolina – Mississippi axis, supported by smokestack industries in the outter northern areas

  29. Hunter says

    Pat tries to start a conversation (<-insert ironic scare quotes there as you see fit):
    http://www.amconmag.com/blog/2009/04/10/why-europe-wont-fight/

    What would we do if we were no longer the ‘indispensible nation’? In view of the above mentioned “gaping razor blade jaws of procurement impossibilities” the question should be what will we do. But Pat’s ‘efforts’ notwithstanding, it’s not a question we as a society are even remotely ready to engage.

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