Where is Sam Damon?

A blog dedicated to debate and commentary on national security, foreign affairs, veterans' issues, and a whole host of other topics. If you are not familiar with who Sam Damon is, click here. Feel free to post comments or contact Onager via e-mail at whereissamdamon@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

'How to Succeed with Brunettes': The Mad Men-style dating video shown to Naval Officers during the Vietnam War

The stereotyping of NCOs in this video is pretty clear: the first video shows a petty officer lacking manners and then the second video shows a young Naval Officer making Emily Post proud. The petty officer and young Naval Officer is played by the same actor - the only thing that changes is the uniform and rank displayed.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Army Fitness

Rising number of soldiers being dismissed for failing fitness tests

This isn't surprising, but I wonder how many of these Soldiers are the victims of the outdated mode of body fat computation the Army uses.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Partly motivated"

Navy Special Forces units: How many are needed?

It is great to see that the Navy is adapting to the 21st Century and increasing its focus on special operations. One thing I was shocked to read in the Pincus article linked to above is:
The Navy has other groups prepared to take part in irregular warfare. One is the Coastal Riverine Force, whose roots go back to the Vietnam War. In June, it merged with the Maritime Expeditionary Force to create units that perform “core maritime expeditionary security missions in green and brown waters . . ."
The great blue water U.S. Navy is actually improving its ability to operate in the littorals! Pretty amazing given the service culture.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lockheed Martin: Price of F-35 going up

U.S. seeks to ease concerns over F-35 delays, costs

The U.S. Defense Department is restructuring for a third time its $382 billion F-35 program with Lockheed Martin Corp to allow more time for development and testing.

And we need a new fighter jet that costs this much because  ???

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

More DoD waste... but fraud being investigated!

Fraud investigation targets recruiting program for Army National Guard, Reserve

On its face, I thought this program was wasteful when my Nattie G brigade mandated that everyone sign-up to become Recruiting Assistants. Now, my instincts have been proven correct.

Basically, Soldiers were "hired" (hired = signed himself up for the program) as 1099 employees of DOCUPAK and given the title Recruiting Assistant (RA). Soldiers (aka newly hired RAs) in the ARNG could bring in recruits, ask them a few questions, submit a form online, and then hand them off to a local recruiter. If the recruiter signed a recruit up, then the Soldier/RA who brought the recruit into the recruiting pipeline got paid. It seems that despite all of the warnings given to the Soldiers/RAs when they signed up for the program about how they could not split any of the money they received for recruiting someone, it occurred. The cases cited in the article probably represent only a small portion of the fraud that was actually committed. One case mentioned outlines a blatant fraud. First, a local recruiter would recruit someone and not enter any of the recruit's information into their recruiting database. Instead, they would tell an RA to input the recruit's information into the DOCUPAK recruiting website. Next, the recruiter would receive a referral from the DOCUPAK website and then sign the recruit up... this made the RA qualify to receive a payment for recruiting a Soldier. In this particular scheme, the local recruiter and the RA opened up a joint bank account to which the RA's commission was paid, clearly violating the policy that you cannot split the proceeds paid by DOCUPAK. These idiots didn't even try to hide what they were doing - they opened up a joint bank account allowing the authorities to track the payments electronically!

Waste undoubtedly occurred elsewhere within the program. For example, RAs received points to order recruiting items that could be used to help market the ARNG and entice potential recruits to a recruiting table... this too must have cost the Army millions. I wonder how much of the marketing budget allocated to each RA was actually used to recruit Soldiers and not just used by the RAs to get free tchotchkes to give to their friends and relatives, who were anxious to say they knew and supported someone involved in the war effort being waged by less than one percent of the American population? Now, keep in mind, this program was started when the Army could not recruit enough Soldiers and junior officers were leaving the Army in droves, but still, how could someone not have figured out from the beginning how wasteful this program would be? It operated outside of the military chain of command and the RAs never even met with or saw anyone from their new employer, DOCUPAK. How sad.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Optimism of GEN Westmoreland persists...

Another Vietnam? Maybe a bad analogy.

It seems that, once again, senior leaders of the military are painting a rosy picture of progress in a war zone. What do you expect from career officers who lead the most can-do organization in the world?  The can-do attitude of the America military is both its greatest strength and weakness. Here is an excerpt from the article describing the reaction of DNI Clapper, who is himself a retired 3-star USAF general that has fully embraced the goatee and a less rosy picture of progress as DNI, to testimony regarding the sentiments expressed by the operational commander in Afghanistan, the CENTCOM Commander, and the EUCOM Commander (as well as Ambassador Crocker):

Well, yes [there are differences in opinion], Clapper said, those officials “took issue with the NIE on three counts having to do with the force structure, didn’t feel that we gave sufficient weight to Pakistan and its impact as a safe haven and generally felt that the NIE was pessimistic” about the situation in Afghanistan and “the prospects for post-2014,” when troops are to withdraw. Clapper tried to ease Levin’s concerns. “If you’ll forgive a little history, sir,” he began. “I served as an analyst briefer for General Westmoreland in Vietnam in 1966.” Clapper said he learned there that it’s typical that the “operational commanders sometimes don’t agree” with the intelligence team’s assessment of their efforts.

Here is an example of how foreign armies view the American can-do attitude:

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Revolving Door

Retired general had no conflict of interest, Panetta says

Robertson had been the top officer at U.S. Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command before retiring in 2001. He went to work for Boeing, retiring as a vice president in 2010. He did not respond to a request for comment.
A USA TODAY investigation in 2009 found that 80% of 158 mentors, retired officers hired as advisers, had ties to the defense industry, including Roberson. Panetta assured McCain the Pentagon has taken "many steps" since then to "impose controls on senior mentors." Among them: They must disclose business ties and have had their pay capped, and they are subject to confict-of-interest rules. Those restrictions were not in place in 2008, when Robertson participated in the war game.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Next Generation of Warfare

A cyber risk to the U.S.

If this doesn't scare you, I don't know what will.
Though the Pentagon has a cybercommand, it does not cover the domestic civilian economy, including vital infrastructure systems such as the electric power grid, water supplies and the financial system. Many of the computers controlling those utilities lack adequate security measures and could be devastated by viruses launched by hostile states or even hackers. As it is, U.S. companies, from defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin to e-mail carriers such as Google, are under continual assault from China and Russia, which seek to steal industrial or national security secrets and probe for infrastructure weaknesses.

Unfortunately, instead of more adequately funding programs that can protect the U.S. from cyber attack, our elected leaders continue to choose to fund wasteful programs like the Joint Strike Fighter, dubbed The Wild Blue Squander by The New York Times.  Here is a GAO chart illustrating the cost history of the Joint Strike Fighter:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

"I used to like driving..."

Back From War, Fear and Danger Fill Driver’s Seat

I don't know one veteran that doesn't experience some kind of hyper-vigilance when certain things are observed while driving. Even if you don't notice it as a civilian, most veterans take notice of boxes and trash, potholes, dead animals, and anything hanging on a bridge that crosses the road they are driving under... because that is where IEDs were hidden (among other places).

Saturday, December 31, 2011

All In: The Education of General David Petraeus

Petraeus urged to quit over Afghan drawdown

What I found most interesting in this advance copy book review is the following:
She describes how Petraeus' first act was to lift McChrystal's restrictions on the use of force - especially on airstrikes - if civilians were nearby. "There is no question about our commitment to reducing civilian loss of life," Petraeus told his staff. There was, however, "a clear moral imperative to make sure we are fully supporting our troops in combat." Broadwell adds that the problem, according to Petraeus, was less McChrystal's order than how it was even more strictly re-interpreted by lower commanders.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eight U.S. Soldiers Charged In Death of Fellow Soldier

This is absolutely disgusting. As Attackerman points out, "five of those charged are sergeants in the company. One of them is a lieutenant — Chen’s own platoon leader." What kind of officers and NCOs are we producing? It sounds like more than a little ribbing was going on here. The worst part about this is his company leadership allowed it. I would love to know more about the background of 1LT Schwartz and SSG Van Bockel...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Infographic: U.S. ends Iraq war chapter

General Dynamics completes acquisition of Force Protection

General Dynamics doubles down on blast-resistant military vehicles

MRAPs are the type of technology that is needed in Afghanistan to save lives; hopefully this merger will allow General Dynamics to produce them quickly and cheaply. Well at least produce them cheaper than the F-35, which shouldn't be too hard...  compared to the Joint Strike Fighter program, MRAP is cheap.
"The FY 2012 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget requests $3.2 billion for sustainment, upgrade, and overhaul of MRAP vehicles."

Here is a graph showing funding for the top 30 acquisition programs in DoD:

Japan orders Joint Strike Fighters and Lockheed Martin applauds

Pentagon hails Japan's F-35 order

Sure, now that we have spent all of our money on R&D for this unneeded new stealth jet fighter, let's just share it with the entire world!  During FY2011, we spent
$11.4 Billion on the Joint Strike Fighter
and it still is not complete and has many problems with it.

Again, when is the next war, in which we will need such advanced technology and participate in dog fights ala World War I, going to occur?  With our current technology, I am positive Snoopy will still defeat the Red Baron.

Why are we funding this program, but are considering cutting counter-IED research while troops die in Afghanistan?

Kim Jong-un, the "Young General" becomes the "Great Successor"

This piece is a must watch episode of "Inside Story" from Al Jazeera:

Little is known about the man slated to succeed Kim Jong-il but few think the transition of power will be smooth.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More Costly Technological and Performance Problems with the Joint Strike Fighter

More problems with F-35 joint strike fighter are revealed

With all of the problems this expensive project has had, the only reason this project is still being allowed to go forward is:  1.  R&D money, and 2. "Lockheed has 6,100 people working directly on the F-35 program in Fort Worth. About 3,000 are production workers, and the rest are in development and support. Without increased production, employment at the plant won't grow and may decrease as development and engineering work winds down."

Again, when do we plan on fighting a fighter jet on fighter jet war?  Is there one on the horizon that I don't see?  Why do we need such an advanced fighter jet?  Oh, but funding for counter-IED research needs to be cut while troops die in Afghanistan.  Right.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Counter-IED Research and Development to be cut?

Pentagon Program to Limit the Threat of Roadside Bombs Faces Budget Cut

This is one R&D project that should not be cut from the DoD budget.  The threats from IEDs are not going away... It is quite sad that R&D needed in today's operations is cut, but unproven and expensive R&D designed for warfare generations down the road is kept.

Lawmakers claim that "lack of coordination” with some activities undertaken by the individual services led to their discussion of program cuts.  In fact, the committee report said, “The Army and the Marine Corps have pursued their own separate efforts to develop counter-IED mine rollers.”  This is one more example of inter-service rivalry vying for military industrial complex dollars.  The first change that needs to be made is getting rid of bottom-up budget making.  The Secretary of Defense needs to be given a dollar amount by the President, like every other cabinet secretary, and then divy the money out to the services, rather than the services coming up with a budget on their own and submitting it to the Secretary.  In this instance, if the SECDEF had said "Counter-IED programs" get $X and the Marine Corps and Army will split the money and conduct research jointly, the current problem described would not be happening.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Defense, Silver Linings, Golden Opportunities

RMA is back? This discussion should have never been backburnered... here is a quote from the article (commentary after):
Missing, so far, from the conversation that most of the American public has been exposed to is this question: What should the United States military be asked to accomplish in the first half of the 21st century, and is the awesome force slogging away in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, in more routine missions, across the planet properly organized, equipped, and trained to accomplish it? . . .

But the transformation that began during the late 1990s, aimed at pushing the military to evolve the Cold War-era divisions and air wings that dominated it at the time into a force more in tune with 21st century missions and (it was presumed at the time) lower appropriation levels, had real intellectual value. With cuts in the wind and ground wars like Iraq and Afghanistan unlikely to recur any time soon, that debate deserves to restart.

For good reason, this debate got backburnered as counterinsurgency, urban combat, and other tasks the military thought it had left behind in Vietnam demanded fresh attention. But some on the intellectual side of the armed forces kept the idea, known as the "Revolution in Military Affairs," alive, and while it remains on life support, the basic outlines exist of a “win-win” plan to maximize capabilities while reducing the bloated Pentagon budget.
It takes years to develop personnel and, therefore, I don't agree with the idea of cutting personnel as I have said repeatedly. Here are some ideas I found odd in the article:

1. The idea that the U.S. Army should "retain[]at most a single heavy armored brigade for contingencies . . ." is ludicrous. This is the equivalent of telling the USMC that operating in the littorals isn't their job anymore.

2. In addition, the USMC force structure review is wrong in calling for "a 13%reduction in ground combat forces, to include an 11% reduction in infantry, a 20% reduction in cannon artillery, and a 20% reduction in armor." If the U.S. Navy is having trouble cutting the budget already, these personnel reductions are going to do nothing - they will merely allow a few expensive U.S. Navy R&D and weapons program to survive.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cool on Honor: Sadism, Cruelty, and Character Development at West Point

I'm so lucky to have been brought up in Georgetown Army ROTC. This certainly didn't happen there and, in my opinion, our program molded some of the best officers of my generation. This article deals with how "cadetland" actually works in some places. Even coming from my ROTC program, I was shocked that "cadetland" was really a fantasy land different from the real Army... I could only imagine how West Pointers feel when they graduate. Don't get me wrong, for the most part USMA produces great officers, but the type of behavior described in this paper is unacceptable.

Commissioning programs need to harness the idealism of the cadets that, in part, made them sign a blank check endorsed with their life to the military and this country. I know I became frustrated with the bureaucracy of the Army and left because I felt I could do more for my country in other areas of life than staying in for 30 years with the faint hope that I never slipped up, didn't piss anyone off to make general officer, and then try and make the changes to improve the organization from within.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Budget cuts will mean troop cuts, chiefs say

Boy do I miss Secretary Gates (pbuh)...

I've said this a million times, but we need to focus on the current conflicts (and end them and not get into any more of them unless our national survival is imminently at risk) and keep personnel, while cutting R&D spending. We don't need "a leap ahead" defense policy. "Steady as you go" is all we need right now. We don't need to support an entire industry dedicated to war. The reason end-strength and personnel are cut and not R&D is this:
In large numbers, and with few rules, retiring generals are taking lucrative defense-firm jobs

See previous posts:

Republican hawks use sharp rhetoric to fight deeper Pentagon cuts

President Obama's Defense Cuts

Gates: The Pentagon's Accountability Cop

A Single-Minded Focus on Dual Wars

"It's been like pulling teeth."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Panetta Exhorts European NATO Members to Share Defense Spending

I think that the alliance is already hollow...
By some measures, he said, European defense spending had dropped 2 percent a year for the last decade while Europeans were engaged in Kosovo, Libya and Afghanistan, meaning that the savings had come from budgets for modernization. At the least, he said, NATO members must coordinate spending cuts so that their allies are not surprised.

“We are at a critical moment for our defense partnership,” he warned. “While these warnings have been acknowledged, growing fiscal pressures on both sides of the Atlantic, I fear, have eroded the political will to do something about them.”

Rep. Frank: Keeping troops in Iraq past withdrawal date ‘totally unacceptable’

I can't do much more than to quote from what Rep. Frank said. I think he hit the nail on the head:

“The biggest single chunk of deficit reduction must come from scaling back our enormous military expenditures from where they now are to where our legitimate needs are,” Frank said.

“There is no way at all to do a socially responsible deficit-reduction plan — no way to do a long-term deficit reduction [plan] which preserves our ability to protect the quality of life here in this country, and elsewhere in the world — without very substantial reductions in military spending.”

Frank was quick to note the importance of maintaining a powerful military to protect U.S. interests, weaker allies and the homeland — but with limitations.

“I do want the U.S. Air Force to be the largest air force in the world,” he said. “But I don’t think the U.S. Navy has to be the second largest air force in the world for us to be safe. I’d be happy if … the Navy was tied for fourth.”

The threat of terrorism, he argued, is nothing like that posed by Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“It is not an existential threat to the United States,” he said. “You don’t defeat terrorism with nuclear submarines. I wish you did, because we have them and they don’t. It would be over.”

The outspoken Massachusetts liberal also urged the elimination of substantial U.S. forces in Europe, arguing that the political climate requiring those troops is long gone.

“Harry Truman, I think, did a great thing in 1949 when he went to the aid of a beleaguered, poor, war-broken Western and Central Europe threatened by Stalin,” Frank said. “Europe’s no longer weak and poor; Stalin is fortunately long dead and his successors crumbled; the only thing that hasn’t changed is America continues to subsidize heavily the defense of the wealthy nations of Western Europe against non-existent threats.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Republican hawks use sharp rhetoric to fight deeper Pentagon budget cuts

They should cut weapons programs first, not end-strength. This is utter idiocy. Instead, politicians will keep the weapons programs because they are beholden to the defense industrial complex and their donations. It takes years for us to build effective combat leaders... the military should be about people, not weapons systems. Given the 10-year strain on our already combat weary force if we cut end-strength we will never be able to give the troops a break at home. Mental health disorders will get worse, even more divorces will happen, and our military will be hurt further.

Here is a quote from the article:
The GOP staff goes so far as to warn that more Defense Department budget cuts “could force America to return to the draft” because the Army and Marine Corps would collectively shed 200,000 troops to cut costs.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Navy spearheads clean-energy drive

But the Navy secretary said he is more focused on the fact that a Marine is either wounded or killed for every 50 convoys of fuel brought into Afghanistan than on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Defense cuts could lead to military draft, House Armed Services chairman says

I seriously doubt this will happen, but it would end the wars pretty quickly if you ask me. Suddenly people would care a little more because they could have some skin in the game... e.g. their children.