Wednesday, October 05, 2005

If You Ain't Cheating, You Ain't Trying

I had decided to avoid the subject of military readiness reporting until I saw this piece by Ann Scott Tyson in today's WaPo :
Critical U.S. military war stocks in South Korea -- including M1A1 tanks, howitzers and Bradley Fighting Vehicles -- fell into such significant disrepair in the past year that it could have slowed a U.S. ground response to North Korean hostilities or another Pacific conflict, unreleased classified and unclassified U.S. government reports show…

…Even after government inspectors found, starting in October 2004, that at least half and as much as 80 percent of the heavy weapons and other fighting gear were not "fully mission capable," inaccurate military reports led the Pentagon and Congress to believe that readiness was high.

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Cooking reports to reflect higher levels of military readiness than actually exist is not a new phenomenon, nor is it an isolated one.

You may recall the 2001 scandal surrounding the readiness reporting of a Marine Corps Under pressure from above to bring the much maligned tilt-rotor platform to "operational" status, the squadron commanding officer, a lieutenant colonel, ordered his troops to "lie on records documenting the aircraft’s flight readiness."

The squadron commander was relieved of his duties. One "informed source" described him as…
"…a good officer caught up in a bad situation. Everyone knows he was under intense pressure from above. A huge amount of money is wrapped up in the success of the V-22. If it fails, there's going to be some very unhappy Marine brass and defense contractors."

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I could tell you one horror story after the next about the "number fudging" I witnessed over the course of my career, but it would just be anecdotal evidence, and I'm not looking to get anyone punished or to ruin any reputations. Let me just say that many of the maintenance reporting practices of that Marine V-22 squadron weren't a whole lot different from maintenance reporting practices throughout Marine Corps and Navy aviation.

And I have no direct or indirect knowledge of readiness reporting monkey business going on today.

But my eyebrows go up whenever I read something like today's story on the gear in South Korea, or when I hear the ubiquitous tales of units deploying to Iraq with inadequate armor, or spare parts, or too few of this, that, or the other thing.

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What would cause a unit commander to lie about the readiness of his troops and equipment? It's usually a combination of a number of things: pressure from above, careerism, competitiveness, an endemic embrace of the "can do" attitude…

And it might have something to do with moral and ethical training young cadets get in our service academies. They're given an artificial set of meaningless rules to follow and spend four years learning how to break them without getting caught. They're sworn to an honor code that does not tolerate cheating, and at the same time they learn the unofficial motto that says "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying."

4 comments:

  1. Two things:
    First, Fu*k the Osprey. It's a boondoggle that never worked yet it still keeps going back to the drawing board. The Osprey belongs in the scrap heap along with the B-2, the AWAC and the Sgt. York.

    Second, Fu*k Korea altogether -North and South. It's Checkpoint Charlie part 2. Niether North or South K look at each other as enemies yet we always keep the pot boiling with the nuclear rhetoric. Now that's a country we should cut and run from and nobody would care one bit.

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  2. DA,

    I think I'm with you on all points.


    Jeff

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  3. There's been more than a few news stories on equipment issues and I haven't seen a single news article that shows any progress in solving the problem. IIRC, a major newspaper reported that U.S.-based National Guardsmen are using 40-year-old rifles from the Vietnam Era.

    Dubya is destroying the military with poor/non-existent planning and inadequate equipment. I wouldn't be surprised to see Rummy sending out soldiers/marines with small arms weapons, in unarmored civilian vehicles and with no air support.

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  4. Yes, he's destroying it, all right. All that power and treasure, squandered on a hidden agenda.

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