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unhappycamper's Journal
unhappycamper's Journal
September 30, 2012

What's Wrong With This Picture?


Pentagon delays mortars sought by commanders
By Tom Vanden Brook - USA TODAY
Posted : Friday Sep 28, 2012 8:15:08 EDT

WASHINGTON -- Additional weapons that Navy SEALs and Green Berets desperately need to defend themselves in far-flung outposts in Afghanistan apparently are being delayed, according to documents and officials familiar with the equipment.

At issue is a mortar system that uses a computer to drop explosives quickly and accurately on enemy fighters who assault small forts. Insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades can outgun American special operations forces there. An urgent plea for 20 of the mortar systems was approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in January, yet no new weapons have been sent as of late September.


Documents show the military realizes the urgency. A budget description says that U.S. troops at remote locations "can be overwhelmed" and that bad weather or restrictive use on dropping bombs may prevent aircraft from providing them with protection. The enhanced mortar has filled that niche, according to the document, but the next step is not to send more to Afghanistan. Rather, it is to "integrate the system" with an Army software program.

Commanders want more of the fast, deadly mortars, and in January 2012 a Joint Urgent Operational Need Statement -- the process to speed badly needed gear to troops in combat -- was approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That request remains classified, but the Pentagon acknowledges that it seeks 20 additional EMTAS mortar systems. They cost about $300,000 apiece.

$300 grand for a mortar system. Twenty of those bad boys cost six million dollars. What's the problem? We're spending around $2 billion dollars a week in Afghanistan. Six million dollars is just a little more money down the shithole.


Kimberly Mitchell weeps at the grave of her husband, Chad Mitchell, at the Houston National Cemetery. Chad, an Iraq War veteran, was one of hundreds of former service members from Texas who have died not in a war zone but after returning home. He died of an accidental overdose in 2010.

Scores of recent Texas war veterans have died of overdoses, suicide and vehicle crashes, investigation finds
Posted: 11:00 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012
By American-Statesman Investigative Team

They survived the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. But they did not survive the homecoming.

A six-month American-Statesman investigation, which paints the most complete picture yet of what happened to Texas’ Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who died after leaving the military, reveals that an alarmingly high percentage died from prescription drug overdoses, toxic drug combinations, suicide and single-vehicle crashes — a largely unseen pattern of early deaths that federal authorities are failing to adequately track and have been slow to respond to.

The Statesman obtained autopsy results, toxicology reports, inquests and accident reports from more than 50 agencies throughout the state to analyze the causes of death for 266 Texas veterans who served in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and were receiving Department of Veterans Affairs disability benefits when they died.


The investigation highlights the problem of prescription drug overdose among veterans, which has received scant attention compared to suicides: Nearly as many Texas veterans died after taking prescription medicine as committed suicide. VA prescriptions for powerful narcotics have skyrocketed over the past decade even as evidence mounted that such painkillers and PTSD make a dangerous combination. In effect, experts say, the military and VA exposed an especially vulnerable population to a flood of powerful drugs.

Veterans have historically been short-changed by the government when the cost of providing care for injured veterans begins to affect the money flow. $2 billion dollars a week would care for these veterans. It's too bad that our politicians are so enamored of war.
September 23, 2012

Veterans and Chaos

It's been another glorious week in the Halls of Congress and the DoD.

Now that President Obama's Afghanistan surge troops have come home (a whole week ahead of schedule) everything is just fine there, no?


Troop ‘Surge’ in Afghanistan Ends With Mixed Results
Published: September 21, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — The American military says it has now fully withdrawn the last of the 33,000 “surge troops” sent to pacify Afghanistan two years ago, but they are leaving behind an uncertain landscape of rising violence and political instability that threatens to undo considerable gains in security, particularly in the former Taliban strongholds in the south and southwest.


“What did the surge give us?” a senior American official reflected on Friday, speaking anonymously as a matter of military policy. “We’re going to hit a point where, I won’t say that’s as good as it gets, but now it’s up to them to hold what we gave them. Now, really, it’s Karzai’s turn.”

No one claimed there was not a great deal yet to be done against an insurgency that its foes describe as tenacious and determined. “They’re not going to go away for years,” the senior official said. “Every fighting season the Taliban, or some number of them, come out of the corner and they’re ready to fight again.”

Both American and Afghan officials have acknowledged the seriousness of the so-called green-on-blue attacks, in which this year more than 50 American soldiers were killed at the hands of Afghan allies. The allies’ dispute over how and how long to hold suspected insurgents has led to personal negotiations between President Obama and Mr. Karzai in recent days, while the video parody of the Prophet Muhammad has cast a long shadow over relations between the two countries.

Perhaps President Obama should read about Vietnam sometime. Same shit, different day. I watched the disintegration of Army morale 40 years ago. Fraggings, dope and GI resistance were the order of the day. Fast forward 40 years and fraud, traumatic injuries and loss of morale are the new order of the day.

The Veterans Administration is still having the same problems today they they had 40 years ago, 20 years before that, and five years before that, and ....... Too many veterans and not enough money. I believe General Shinseki is doing his very best to make the VA work for veterans, but the Tea Party dumbos elected in 2010 have done everything they could to make sure President Obama can't do shit.

Taking care of veterans is as expensive as making veterans. And after every war and every adventure veterans continue to pay the price. Here are two tiny slivers of what veterans face:

Invisible War Wounds Can Leave Very Deep Scars

This is a story about a trauma surgeon and her PTSD, It is a heart-breaking story about a front line surgeon who did two tours in Iraq. It is a heart-breaking story because we can dimly see some of the things she encountered.


Program helps disfigured war veterans look and feel better
By David Tarrant
[email protected]
2:38 pm on September 20, 2012

Operation Mend, the nonprofit organization that helps soldiers in need of reconstructive and plastic surgery, was the focus of a fundraiser Wednesday, hosted by billionaire T. Boone Pickens, at the Dallas Country Club.

Operation Mend began in 2007 after founder Ron Katz visited San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center, the military’s primary burn center. Katz met with troops suffering from burns and other complex blast injuries. As a board member and benefactor of UCLA Medical Center, Katz was in a position to help, by making available the services of world-class plastic surgeons. Along with his late wife, Maddie, Katz forged a private-public partnership between the military and UCLA called Operation Mend, to provide cosmetic surgery at no cost to the injured veterans..

Since then, Operation Mend has reached out to dozens of service members in desperate need of plastic and reconstructive surgery. Many of these troops sustained facial trauma injuries that left them badly scarred, with missing or mutilated ears, noses and mouths. They also experienced post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, including depression.


Katz said that Operation Mend has provided free surgeries to more than 50 veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He estimated that each surgery costs about $500,000. Pickens, 84, said that while he is opposed to the war in Afghanistan, he’s committed to helping wounded veterans, like Paulk. “We want to do our best for these men and women when they come home.”

To sum up this story, 50 veterans had 50 surgeries costing $25 million dollars that were caused by our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States government sent these men and women into harms way and the United States government is not taking care of them when they come home. I'm of the Pottery Barn view when it comes to veterans: "If you break it, you fix it"

Suicides, military sexual trauma, PTSD and TBI are things you can slap a label on. They are not things that go away on their own. They are things that require immediate attention that costs money. Because we sent them over there.

Meanwhile the Air Force legal system is also experiencing difficulties.


Air Force slow to handle appeals for convicted airmen, officers
By Michael Doyle | McClatchy Newspapers
Posted on Friday, September 21, 2012

WASHINGTON - Timothy L. Merritt is waiting for final justice from the Air Force he once served.


Any delay longer than 18 months between when an appeal is put on the court’s docket and when it’s decided is “presumptively unreasonable,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has said. Long appellate delays can be seen as violating the constitutional guarantees of due process and speedy trials. The court set the 18-month standard in a 2006 case that involved a Marine, Javier Moreno, who’d waited four years and seven months for his appeal to be decided. The Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, which had let Moreno and others like him languish, has since sped up its work significantly.


But at the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, at least 83 pending and fully briefed cases have been waiting longer than 18 months for decisions.


In recent cases in which the court has acknowledged missing the 18-month deadline for action, the judges invariably have concluded that the delay was harmless.

Finally, let's talk about Camp Lejeune. There have been hundreds, if not thousands of stories about folks who were poisoned by Camp Lejeune's water over the past six decades. The DoD and the Marine Corps were in denial for a looooong time. This little gem popped up last Friday:


Mercury found in Camp Lejeune water plant pipe
By Martha Waggoner - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Sep 21, 2012 12:50:19 EDT

RALEIGH, N.C. — Camp Lejeune, the coastal Marine base with a history of problems with its drinking water, shut down one of its water treatment plants after about 8 pounds of the type of the mercury found in thermometers was discovered last week in a pipe in the facility.

Eight fucking pounds of mercury in a fucking Camp Lejeune water plant pipe. Jerry Ensminger, who lost his daughter to leukemia said "These people don't have a good track record with their drinking water..." Yup, that about sums it up.

And the costs of both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are funded by Supplementals, aka not on the budget and on the United States' credit card. At least three trillion dollars on our national debt is a direct result of putting these invasions and occupations on the credit card.

September 8, 2012

Security Firm G4S Has Lost Another Contract

It appears that G4S has taken incompetence to a new level.

During the 2012 London Olympics G4S screwed the security pooch and the UK military was 'drafted' to provide the security that G4S couldn't.


Gauging the Fallout for G4S
By Jessica Hodgson
August 28, 2012, 12:32 PM GMT

The job of G4S chief Nick Buckles is still very much on the line after the security firm’s Olympics fiasco.

“I hope I keep my job,” he said Tuesday, pointing to his track record of delivering returns for the company in the roughly 10 years he’s been at the helm.

G4S, the world’s largest private security firm, had questions raised about its competence to run big projects and saw about 16% wiped from its market capitalization in July after it said it couldn’t meet the contract’s staffing demands for the London Olympic Games, forcing the British government to draft in military and police personnel to fill the shortfall.

Ultimately, Mr. Buckles’s job may depend on whether G4S’s failure to adequately staff the Olympics — and the ensuing fallout — has made the U.K. government reluctant to award it new security contracts in the short to medium term, analysts say. This won’t become fully clear for a few weeks.

Even the Surrey Police backed out of an outsourcing agreement with them.


G4S and a number of other firms had been bidding to take over "middle and back office" police roles

Surrey Police scrap plans for partial privatisation
6 September 2012 Last updated at 16:38 ET

The county's police authority had already suspended its involvement in July, when members voiced reservations about one of the partner groups, G4S.

The security firm failed to provide the agreed number of staff at the Olympics.

But the authority says a key factor was also a lack of support from candidates seeking election to run the force as police commissioner later this year.

Surrey Police Authority had been considering joint plans with the West Midlands force to contract out some "middle and back-office functions" to private firms - including G4S - as it looked to cut its budget.

Google "g4s+london" for much more about G4s and the Olympics.

And then G4S lost the contract to provide security for US bases in Korea.


US to replace security contractor in South Korea
By Ashley Rowland
Stars and Stripes
Published: September 7, 2012

British-based G4S is being phased out immediately, with a new security firm scheduled to take over all security operations completely by the end of October, the U.S. Army Installation Management Command Pacific Region said in a statement Friday.

These guys have all the finesse of Blackwater\Xe\Academi.
September 8, 2012

Who Is Held to Account for Civilian Deaths by Drone in Yemen?


Who Is Held to Account for Civilian Deaths by Drone in Yemen?
by Chris Woods
Published on Friday, September 7, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

When news flashed of an air strike on a vehicle in the Yemeni city of Radaa on Sunday afternoon, early claims that al-Qaida militants had died soon gave way to a more grisly reality.

At least 10 civilians had been killed, among them women and children. It was the worst loss of civilian life in Yemen's brutal internal war since May 2012. Somebody had messed up badly. But was the United States or Yemen responsible?

Local officials and eyewitnesses were clear enough. The Radaa attack was the work of a US drone – a common enough event. Since May 2011, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has recorded up to 116 US drone strikes in Yemen, part of a broader covert war aimed at crushing Islamist militants. But of those attacks, only 39 have been confirmed by officials as the work of the US.


In the aftermath of Sunday's disastrous air strike, relatives of the dead threatened to lay the corpses of the victims in front of the country's new president. And local activist Nasr Abdullah told CNN: "I would not be surprised if 100 tribesmen joined the lines of al-Qaida as a result of the latest drone mistake. This part of Yemen takes revenge very seriously." Civilian deaths risk undoing all that the United States is trying to achieve in Yemen – and an absence of true accountability is making matters worse.
September 2, 2012

Think There May Finally Be Some Sanity At The DoD?

Think again.

Sequestration has been on the news with Panetta, McKeon, Republics and Democrats who do not want the see the Pentagon losing $500 billion dollars from the military budget. (Of course context is all: $500 billion dollars over 10 years.) "Disastrous", "fiscal cliff", "dangerous" are some of the terms used. After a month of MIC / MIC-congresscritters attempting to hammer this meme home, they have discretely acknowledged that this "fiscal cliff" is bullshiit and are now whining that another $50 billion dollar a year cut to the Pentagon budget will still have devastating effects.

The MIC was up in arms last month and wanted to send WARN notices ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WARN_Act ) to their employees about potential layoffs due to sequestration. That was quashed on July 31, 2012:

Rapid Fire July 31, 2012: No WARN Act
Jul 31, 2012 10:45 EDT

The US Labor Department issued guidance [PDF] on the application of the WARN Act in advance of sequestration. They are saying defense contractors with have contracts at stake should not send WARN Act notices, contrarily to the position held by Lockheed Martin and others. They argue that while “it is currently known that sequestration may occur, it is also known that efforts are being made to avoid sequestration.” It is a bizarre line of reasoning given that executing sequestration next January is currently signed law. Perhaps knowing this, the Dept of Labor also argues that because DoD hasn’t announced which contracts would be affected, potential layoffs are speculative.

On a side note: If you read the article at the link, you see that Lockheed Martin delivered the 8th C-5M Galaxy and that "It may come in handy for moving blast-resistant MRAP vehicles from Afghanistan to their projected staging & storage areas, in Italy and the Western Pacific. Given North Korea’s known intent to use massive commando infiltration, MRAPs seem like a smart tactical choice in Korea."

Flying those heavy bad boys from Afghanistan to Korea seems to be another expensive proposition in the making.

Apparently folks at the DoD never got the memo about cutting back.

Navistar Files JLTV Protest; Humvee Replacement Will Probably Top $15.5B
By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.
Published: August 31, 2012

Buy 54,599 armored trucks at $250,000 each and that works out to roughly $13.6 billion.

That's the military's current plan to build Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs), which will replace most of the Army and Marine Corps' vulnerable Humvees and unmaneuverable MRAPs (The program is now on hold, probably for months, while the GAO resolves a protest from rejected bidder Navistar). But the full cost to the taxpayer will be much higher, even if the program meets its ambitious target price per vehicle -- and the pressure to cut back quantities will be intense.

The Pentagon has not released an estimate for the total cost of the JLTV program, and -- after several days of discussions with AOL Defense -- the program office declined to issue one. With at least three companies still in competition (Lockheed, Oshkosh, and AM General), the final design undecided, and production not scheduled to start until 2015, there are simply too many unknowns in the acquisition costs alone. (Operating, maintaining, and supporting the vehicles over decades of service is often more expensive than buying them in the first place; the program expects to have some estimates by year's end). But sources in the Defense Department, industry, and Congress isolated the variables for AOL Defense.


The competing companies swear they can make the $250,000 cost target for the vehicle itself (not counting weapons, radios, b-kits, government overhead, etc. etc.), but it's an ambitious target. Plenty of programs go over budget. Conversely, as budgets tighten, the economy limps along and the strategic "rebalancing" to the Pacific shifts attention and funding from ground forces to the Air Force and Navy, there may well be considerable pressure to trim the JLTV program.

Doesn't this sound like the F-35 program all over again?

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