March 12, 2013 archive

Mar 12

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Mar 12

Lockheed and the Sequester

Given that it’s stupid from a macro-economic sense, one silver lining in the sequester is that the cuts fall equally on the military budget.

Of course the likelihood is that the Pentagon will take it out of soldiers’ and veterans’ wages and benefits, but here are two programs from Lockheed that are absolute boondoggles.

The first is the C-130 program.  Over 2,300 of these planes have been built, far in excess of any operational need.  Good airframes are mothballed in the desert because National Guard units can’t find any useful purpose for them.  The latest upgrade, the C-130J has been plagued with counterfeit parts and propeller cracks.

C-130 Math and a Cargo of Pork

Posted by Jeremiah Goulka, TomDispatch and Mother Jones

8:54am, March 10, 2013

After 25 years, the Pentagon decided that it was well stocked with C-130s, so President Jimmy Carter’s administration stopped asking Congress for more of them.

Lockheed was in trouble.  A few years earlier, the Air Force had started looking into replacing the Hercules with a new medium-sized transport plane that could handle really short runways, and Lockheed wasn’t selected as one of the finalists.  Facing bankruptcy due to cost overruns and cancellations of programs, the company squeezed Uncle Sam for a bailout of around $1 billion in loan guarantees and other relief.



Then a scandal exploded when it was revealed that Lockheed had proceeded to spend some $22 million of those funds in bribes to foreign officials to persuade them to buy its aircraft.  This helped prompt Congress to pass the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

So what did Lockheed do about the fate of the C-130?  It bypassed the Pentagon and went straight to Congress.  Using a procedure known as a congressional “add-on” — that is, an earmark — Lockheed was able to sell the military another fleet of C-130s that it didn’t want.

To be fair, the Air Force did request some C-130s.  Thanks to Senator John McCain, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) did a study of how many more C-130s the Air Force requested between 1978 and 1998.  The answer: Five.

How many did Congress add on?  Two hundred and fifty-six.



According to its 2011 annual report, “82% of our $46.5 billion in net sales were from the U.S. Government, including 61% from the Department of Defense.”  And don’t forget that a significant part of the 17% of its sales that went to international customers in 2011 were actually paid for by Uncle Sam under the rubric of foreign military aid.  Only 1% of its sales that year were to “U.S. commercial and other customers.”  Its CEO made $20,538,981, while the company paid only $722 million in net federal and foreign taxes in that same year.

When it came to the C-130, the process worked like a dream. “By following this strategy from year to year,” writes a team of scholars of lobbying, “Lockheed has been able to turn what was to be the C-130’s doom in the 1970s into a regularly funded military spending program, all without a single request having been sent by the administration to Congress.” Lockheed was so successful on Capitol Hill that its work even garnered a name in honor of the 50 planes bought for every one requested: “C-130 math.”



So what happened to those extra planes?  The Air Force didn’t have the space for them, so they retired some older models that still had plenty of life in them and shunted most of the rest off to the Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard.



The C-130J has been plagued by problems.  In 2004, after the military had acquired 50 of the planes, the Pentagon’s Inspector General found that, even while the Air Force and Congress kept ordering more of the planes, they didn’t meet contracted standards.  The weather chasers couldn’t chase storms because propellers would crack in bad weather.  The military wouldn’t use C-130Js for air drops in Iraq or Afghanistan because they didn’t think they were safe.  “The design of the C-130J is not stable and the C-130J aircraft has not passed operational testing,” the Inspector General concluded.  It “is not operationally effective or suitable.”

Then there is the F-35.

F-35’s ability to evade budget cuts illustrates challenge of paring defense spending

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post

Published: March 9

The biggest barrier to cutting the F-35 program, however, is rooted in the way in which it was developed: The fighter jet is being mass-produced and placed in the hands of military aviators such as Walsh, who are not test pilots, while the aircraft remains a work in progress. Millions more lines of software code have to be written, vital parts need to be redesigned, and the plane has yet to complete 80 percent of its required flight tests. By the time all that is finished – in 2017, by the Pentagon’s estimates – it will be too late to pull the plug. The military will own 365 of them.



When the F-35 finishes testing, “there will be no yes-or-no, up-or-down decision point,” said Pierre Sprey, who was a chief architect of the Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon. “That’s totally deliberate. It was all in the name of ensuring it couldn’t be canceled.”



Initial tests already have yielded serious problems that are forcing significant engineering modifications. The entire fleet was grounded earlier this year because of a crack in the fan blade in one jet’s engine. The Marine Corps’ version has been prohibited from its signature maneuver – taking off and landing vertically – because of a design flaw. And the Navy model has not been able to land on an aircraft carrier because its tailhook, an essential feature to alight aboard a ship, needs to be redesigned. The Pentagon’s top weapons tester issued a scathing report on the F-35 this year that questioned the plane’s reliability and warned of a “lack of maturity” in performance.

When the F-35 program was first approved by the Pentagon, Lockheed Martin said it could develop and manufacture 2,852 planes for $233 billion. The Pentagon now estimates the total price tag at $397.1 billion. And that is for 409 fewer planes.



A bigger problem was the fundamental concept of building one plane, with stealth technology, that could fly as far and fast as the Air Force wanted while also being able to land on the Navy’s carriers and take off vertically from Marine amphibious assault ships.

Instead of meeting the original plan of being about 70 percent similar, the three versions now are 70 percent distinct, which has increased costs by tens of billions and led to years-long delays. “We have three airplane programs running in parallel,” Bogdan said. “They are very, very different airplanes.”



An electrical engineer who worked as a manager at Lockheed’s F-35 program headquarters in Fort Worth beginning in 2001 said the development effort was beset with “tremendous organizational inadequacies” and “schedule and cost expectations that never were achievable.” In his unit, he said, there were no firm development timetables and no budgets. “It was all on autopilot,” he said. “It was doomed from the beginning.”

In 2005, the engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns he will risk job opportunities in the close-knit aviation industry, participated in a two-week-long assessment of the program.”There were reds and yellows across the board,” he recalled. But when he briefed his superiors, “nobody was interested,” he said. And when he gave a copy of the assessment to those at the Pentagon office responsible for the plane, he said, “they didn’t want to hear it.”



The Pentagon’s latest five-year budget plan, released last year, calls for a smaller volume of annual purchases to save money. Sequestration-related cuts this year also will defer a few more planes. But the overall purchase of 2,443 jets remains unchanged.



Although Air Force and Marine leaders have held fast, an unofficial reexamination is occurring within the Navy, which is not as desperate for the F-35 because it possesses a relatively new fleet of F/A-18 Super Hornets. While toeing a public line of support for the F-35, some Navy experts are looking at whether it makes sense to reduce its planned order and plow some of the savings into high-speed drones that can operate off aircraft carriers, according to senior military officials.

Should that occur, or should Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decide to shrink the overall purchase, it could prompt howls from key U.S. allies, including Britain, Italy and Norway, which all have contributed to the development of the aircraft. Their purchase price has been based on a U.S. order of about 2,500 jets. If that number drops, the per-plane cost will rise for the allies, possibly leading them to buy fewer then planned.

For some of them, cost increases and delays over the past decade have been significant enough to prompt a reexamination. Australia is deciding whether to halve its 100-plane order and Canada is reconsidering its plan to buy 65.

A smaller total purchase, of course, further increases unit costs for the United States, which likely would increase pressure to cut more. Procurement officers have a term for the phenomenon, borrowed from the world of aviation: a death spiral.

These are not the only examples of waste, fraud, and graft in the U.S. military inventory (the M1 Tank, Osprey VTOL, and Littoral Combat Ship spring to mind) but when you consider that the U.S. spends as much as the next 20 countries combined you have to ask yourself “Why?”

Mar 12

On This Day In History March 12

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 12 is the 71st day of the year (72nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 294 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1947, in a dramatic speech to a joint session of Congress, President Harry S. Truman asks for U.S. assistance for Greece and Turkey to forestall communist domination of the two nations. Historians have often cited Truman’s address, which came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, as the official declaration of the Cold War.

In February 1947, the British government informed the United States that it could no longer furnish the economic and military assistance it had been providing to Greece and Turkey since the end of World War II. The Truman administration believed that both nations were threatened by communism and it jumped at the chance to take a tough stance against the Soviet Union. In Greece, leftist forces had been battling the Greek royal government since the end of World War II. In Turkey, the Soviets were demanding some manner of control over the Dardanelles, territory from which Turkey was able to dominate the strategic waterway from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

Truman stated the Doctrine would be “the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” Truman reasoned, because these “totalitarian regimes” coerced “free peoples,” they represented a threat to international peace and the national security of the United States. Truman made the plea amid the crisis of the Greek Civil War (1946-1949). He argued that if Greece and Turkey did not receive the aid that they urgently needed, they would inevitably fall to communism with grave consequences throughout the region.

The policy won the support of Republicans who controlled Congress and involved sending $400 million in American money, but no military forces, to the region. The effect was to end the Communist threat, and in 1952 both countries joined NATO, a military alliance that guaranteed their protection.

The Doctrine was informally extended to become the basis of American Cold War policy throughout Europe and around the world. It shifted American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union from détente (friendship) to, as George F. Kennan phrased it, a policy of containment of Soviet expansion. Historians often use its announcement to mark the starting date of the Cold War.

Long-term policy and metaphor

The Truman Doctrine underpinned American Cold War policy in Europe and around the world. The doctrine endured because it addressed a broader cultural insecurity regarding modern life in a globalized world. It dealt with Washington’s concern over communism’s domino effect, it enabled a media-sensitive presentation of the doctrine that won bipartisan support, and it mobilized American economic power to modernize and stabilize unstable regions without direct military intervention. It brought nation-building activities and modernization programs to the forefront of foreign policy.

The Truman Doctrine became a metaphor for emergency aid to keep a nation from communist influence. Truman used disease imagery not only to communicate a sense of impending disaster in the spread of communism but also to create a “rhetorical vision” of containing it by extending a protective shield around non-communist countries throughout the world. It echoed the “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarantine_Speech quarantine the aggressor]” policy Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought to impose to contain German and Japanese expansion in 1937. The medical metaphor extended beyond the immediate aims of the Truman Doctrine in that the imagery combined with fire and flood imagery evocative of disaster provided the United States with an easy transition to direct military confrontation in later years with communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. By presenting ideological differences in life or death terms, Truman was able to garner support for this communism-containing policy.

Mar 12

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Mar 12

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


Triple 21

Mar 12

Late Night Karaoke

Mar 12

The Shame of the Democrats and Progressives

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The shame of the Democrats and the so-called progressives is that it was a Tea Party Republican, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who stood up for civil liberties and the ever expanding executive power with his thirteen hour filibuster. In his article at The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald shreds the progressive Democratic myths and distortions about Sen. Paul’s filibuster and its importance.

In Glenn’s first point, he notes the lack of any empathy for the those whose rights are most abused and dismissed with an “it’s not me; it’s them” attitude.

(1) Progressives and their “empathy gap”

The US government’s continuous killing, due-process-free imprisonment, and other rights abuses under the War on Terror banner has affected one group far more than any other: Muslims and, increasingly, American Muslims. Politically, this has been the key fact enabling this to endure. Put simply, if you’re not Muslim, it’s very easy to dismiss, minimize or mock these issues because you can easily tell yourself that they don’t affect you or your family and therefore there is no reason to care. And since the vast, vast majority of Democratic politicians and progressive media commentators are not Muslim, one continuously sees this mentality shaping reaction to these issues. [..]

For a political faction that loves to depict itself as the champions of “empathy”, and which reflexively accuses others of having their political beliefs shaped by self-interest, this is an ironic fact indeed. It’s also the central dynamic driving the politics of these issues: the US government and media collaborate to keep the victims of these abuses largely invisible, so we rarely have to confront them, and on those rare occasions when we do, we can easily tell ourselves (false though the assurance is) that these abuses do not affect us and our families and it’s therefore only “paranoia” that can explain why someone might care so much about them.

Second, what Sen. Paul’s critics missed, or just blithely ignored, was that this was about the president’s claim to have the authority to assassinate an American citizen on American soil, or for that matter, anywhere else.

(2) Whether domestic assassinations are imminent is irrelevant to the debate

To focus on that attack is an absurd strawman, a deliberate distraction from the real issues, a total irrelevancy. That’s true for two primary reasons.

First, the reason this question matters so much – can the President target US citizens for assassination without due process on US soil? – is because it demonstrates just how radical the Obama administration’s theories of executive power are. Once you embrace the premises of everything they do in this area – we are a Nation at War; the entire globe is the battlefield; the president is vested with the unchecked power to use force against anyone he accuses of involvement with Terrorism – then there is no cogent, coherent way to say that the president lacks the power to assassinate even US citizens on US soil. That conclusion is the necessary, logical outcome of the premises that have been embraced. That’s why it is so vital to ask that. [..]

Second, presidents change, and so do circumstances. The belief that Barack Obama – despite his record – is too kind, too good, too magnanimous, too responsible to target US citizens for assassination on US soil is entirely irrelevant. At some point, there will be another president, even a Republican one, who will inherit the theories he embraces. Moreover, circumstances can change rapidly, so that – just as happened with 9/11 – what seems unthinkable quickly becomes not only possible but normalized.

In his third and final point, debunks the argument that this was over Holder’s first letter to Sen Paul, not that his second was any more satisfactory.

(3) Holder did not disclaim the power to assassinate on US soil

Indeed, the whole point of the Paul filibuster was to ask whether the Obama administration believes that it has the power to target a US citizen for assassination on US soil the way it did to Anwar Awlaki in Yemen. The Awlaki assassination was justified on the ground that Awlaki was a “combatant”, that he was “engaged in combat”, even though he was killed not while making bombs or shooting at anyone but after he had left a cafe where he had breakfast. If the Obama administration believes that Awlaki was “engaged in combat” at the time he was killed – and it clearly does – then Holder’s letter is meaningless at best, and menacing at worst, because that standard is so broad as to vest the president with exactly the power his supporters now insist he disclaimed.

The phrase “engaged in combat” has come to mean little more than: anyone the President accuses, in secrecy and with no due process, of supporting a Terrorist group. Indeed, radically broad definitions of “enemy combatant” have been at the heart of every War on Terror policy, from Guantanamo to CIA black sites to torture. [..]

At best, Holder’s letter begs the question: what do you mean when you accuse someone of being “engaged in combat”? And what are the exact limits of your power to target US citizens for execution without due process? That these questions even need to be asked underscores how urgently needed Paul’s filibuster was, and how much more serious pushback is still merited. But the primary obstacle to this effort has been, and remains, that the Democrats who spent all that time parading around as champions of these political values are now at the head of the line leading the war against them.

This is not a country of secret laws and courts. It is incumbent on the Congress to do its Constitutional duty to question the Executive Branch and hold it in check when it over steps its Constitutional authority.

That this president has expressed the belief that he has the authority to assassinate Americans without due process, and in fact has, should be abhorrent to every American no matter which side of the aisle you favor.  

Mar 12

The case of the US vs Bradley Manning

Why have the US media shied away from covering the source of the WikiLeaks material yet gouged on his information?

US Private Bradley Manning is no longer the alleged source of all those documents to WikiLeaks. According to his own testimony, delivered before a military court on February 28, Manning was the source – nothing alleged about it.

In a pre-trial hearing for the first time, Manning admitted that he broke the law when he released around 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks but these lesser charges did not satisfy the United States government.

Calling more than 100 witnesses – some anonymously and in closed hearings – prosecutors will argue that Manning’s leak put national security and lives at risk by ‘aiding the enemy’.

If convicted, Manning – the traitor, could face life without parole but what of Manning – the whistleblower?

During his hour-long plea, Manning told the court that he first turned to the national press. Before approaching WikiLeaks, Manning says he contacted the New York Times, the Washington Post and Politico – neither of which returned his calls. His testimony raises the question of whether the mainstream press was prepared to host the debate on US interventions and foreign policy that Manning had in mind.