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Thread: "Army Needs Rebuilding"

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    Default "Army Needs Rebuilding"

    From today's SWJ Roundup and Early Bird: "Army Needs Rebuilding" by Bill Maxwell, Washington Times, 26 OCT 08 http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/...ds-rebuilding/

    A different look at the Army's retention and recruitment, focusing on desertion as a key indicator.

    The result, some officials acknowledge, is that the Army is ailing, and the problem is reflected in the rate of desertions. More soldiers and enlistees are deserting in numbers that have not been seen since Vietnam, when the draft was in effect.
    Anecdotal from my unit, there have been more AWOL cases the past two years, and they tended to be recent recruits with drug or discipline issues. Only one was a NCO that had many many many issues. I would not have thought to look at desertions as a basis to judge the volunteer force's viability as the Army is having a much bigger problem keeping quality people with years of service. His argument for better recruiting standards is pretty good though. I guess we're losing on both ends.

    As desertions have increased, the Army has stepped up punishment, mostly as a warning to others. The overwhelming majority of deserters are handled administratively, given other than honorable discharges. This is especially true for those who desert during basic training. Soldiers who desert when their units are preparing to deploy, however, will more than likely go to prison. The standard sentence is two years, a far cry from the days when desertion during wartime was punishable by death.
    I have yet to see this. The AWOL guys that do show up, even after Dropped From Rolls, tend to get a couple days confinement, if that, then out. Definately don't foresee any firing squads any time soon. Also, there was news recently about the trial for the LT from Washington that refused to deploy. He refused years ago, and he's still not resolved.

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    I think there are three variables at play here.

    1) Marketing and recruiting. The Army sucks at the former, so the latter is suffering from low quality. As a result, we are attracting more of the wrong people. More of the wrong people = more AWOLs and desertions.

    2) Attitudes toward service. Our culture gets more narcissistic by the day. Serve others? Forego riches and power in law, politics, medicine, business, or elsewhere? These concepts are making less and less sense to more and more high school and college graduates.

    3) Incentivizing irresponsibility. Personal responsibility is almost extinct in this country because we create incentives for people to abandon it. Don't want to fulfill an obligation that you've incurred? No problem. Just abandon that obligation and we'll put you on a pedestal as a crusader, speaking truth to power, rather than regarding you as an overgrown child whose word means nothing. When you encourage a certain attitude or behavior, you tend to get more of it.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Ran across that article earlier and sniffed when I read it.

    Re-read it and sniffed again. Minor political polemic couched as concern for the Army.

    Desertion figures, as patmc says, prove little. As he implies, pursuing the few isn't perceived as worth the trouble and cost -- a minor contributor to schmedlaps astute observation that we have managed to incentivize irresponsibility. Some things are worth paying for even if big 'E' Economically unsound or inefficient.

    His comment on marketing and recruiting is also apropos -- I contend that both are badly flawed and have been for over 30 years. Both still are using the WWI - interwar years - WW II, industrial models of trying to entice the low performers into the service because the high performers are 'better used elsewhere.' That's a recipe for mediocrity which we have continued to pursue against all logic. It is, criminally to my mind, an attitude that is espoused by the political leadership in both parties, by academia and -- wrongly -- accepted by the senior leadership of the Army. Low expectations will be met...

    If the Army is to do what it needs to do then it must raise its sights and challenge people to prove they're good enough to hack it instead of luring loafers and convincing them they're adequate. That means higher standards, vastly improved entry training and less mickey mouse time wasting. It means not accepting mediocre performance. It means making the changes that a good many in the Army know need to be made.

    We have a professional Army mired by draftee minded leadership, civilian and military -- and not at all helped by an incompetent and venal Congress.

    That standard raising may be a bridge too far, sad to say -- it will certainly not sit well with those who insist on 'fairness' -- an absolutely ridiculous demand in view of the fact that life is not fair and combat surely is not...

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Ken,
    Well said. Best, Rob

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    What Rob said. Very well said Ken.

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    Default Question: Bringing Back the Draft

    Everyone and Anyone,

    I am asking this question as a non-Military type.

    I hear a great deal of discussion by "pundits" in the media about "National Service", which basically means bring back the draft. Let me state that I do not think this will happen, because it is politically impossible. When this issue is discussed I have notice a strange pattern - ex-Military types seem to oppose bring back the draft more then people who have only experience as civilians do.

    I have heard a number of different proposals -

    1. Bringing back a strictly military draft (seems to be the least favored by the chattering classes).

    2. Having a National Service program like the Depression era - Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). Either voluntary or mandatory.

    3. Having a combination of #1 and #2, where you would be required to do service but could choose between the two options.

    My questions are as follows -

    Would bringing back the draft help out the issues discussed in the article?

    Would it hurt?

    Would brininging back some form of "National Service" help with the issues of narcissism discuss by other posters or would it just be the Government running people's live's for them?

    What about my observation that former military seem to oppose the return of the draft more then civilians?

    Currently, I am in the best-of-all learning situations - lots of questions and no answers. I want to get some input from people with real world experience.

    Thank you for your input.

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Nothing good can come from bringing back the draft or any other mandatory service requirements. I generally hear the same arguments from those who are pro-draft. Something along the line of giving our youth an appreciation for service to the nation or some such as well as the obvious argument that it would help solve man-power issues. I always laugh at the idea that we can teach our youth appreciation for service by forcing them into it. I have to wonder if any of these people were ever youth? Our youth today do need to learn the value of service to something greater than themselves but a draft isn't gonna do it. It will help create a generation that is even more bitter and less likely to view service to the nation as a good thing. That's the philosophical argument against a draft. The practical ones are even harder to counter.
    First, how do we pay for a draft? Even if didn't pay them we would still have to feed, clothe, house, train, equip and transport them and we are talking about a few million per year if we draft the ones turning eighteen. Furthermore you would have to have people to train, lead and manage them which means gutting another organization to provide those personnel. And all for what? To create a giant organization of malcontents? Trained malcontents? I'm just not seeing the upside.

    SFC W

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Here's a link to a Thread where the draft is discussed in some detail:

    LINK

    Go there and check down the thread, there are various answers to most of your questions. My opinions on your questions are below.
    Quote Originally Posted by Icebreaker View Post
    Everyone and Anyone,

    I am asking this question as a non-Military type...I have heard a number of different proposals -

    1. Bringing back a strictly military draft (seems to be the least favored by the chattering classes).
    Least favored by almost everyone. Aside from the involuntary service issues, practically it would introduce more people than the Armed Forces Could absorb. The US has over 4M males and females reaching 19 each year; take just males and figure 75% could pass the physical exam; that would be 3M draftees alone in the Armed forces -- we do not need and could not equip and pay that many.
    2. Having a National Service program like the Depression era - Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). Either voluntary or mandatory.
    Favored by many who are too old to have to go...

    Same problem applies, too many people, you couldn't exclude females in such a scheme, thus you'd have about 3M persons for a year. There isn't enough work out there to productively employ them for multiple years.
    3. Having a combination of #1 and #2, where you would be required to do service but could choose between the two options.
    Aside from the equity problem, you still have more people than we are capable of productively employing.
    My questions are as follows -

    Would bringing back the draft help out the issues discussed in the article?

    Would it hurt?

    Would brininging back some form of "National Service" help with the issues of narcissism discuss by other posters or would it just be the Government running people's live's for them?

    What about my observation that former military seem to oppose the return of the draft more then civilians?
    Thus my answers would be:

    No, it would not help -- and most of those 'issues' are really non-issues; he smoke screened a political point, his last statement.

    Yes, it would hurt for the reasons above and the next two items.

    The latter, it would be major government intrusion for little to no benefit and would be very unlikely to cure narcissism -- might make it worse...

    Current and former military folks are generally opposed due to the reasons I cited plus the fact that it would almost certainly be unfairly implemented and executed based on all previous experience and mostly due to the far more critical fact that todays technology and techniques require longer service to master than a Draft would offer. Armies are not good places for social engineering. High tech Armies are particularly unsuited for it...

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    The greatest argument against the draft is that the American people do not want it nor are they likely to want it short of national crisis where some kind of existential security threat exists.

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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    I'm in favor of a "national service" institution combining military and civil service. I think a fundamental part of the oft-cited narcissisism problem in the United States is the complete lack of a nationally-oriented experience and/or identity other than the Armed Forces. As far as Ken's argument regarding the complexity of warfighting, I put forward the idea that the combat arms branches remain exclusively voluntary in such a system.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    I'm in favor of a "national service" institution combining military and civil service. I think a fundamental part of the oft-cited narcissisism problem in the United States is the complete lack of a nationally-oriented experience and/or identity other than the Armed Forces. As far as Ken's argument regarding the complexity of warfighting, I put forward the idea that the combat arms branches remain exclusively voluntary in such a system.
    Hi AP,

    How do you propose to over come the obstacles stated above such as the cost of such a requirement or the simple fact that forced service rarely breeds anything but contempt among those who are forced to serve? What about the requirements to provide a competent experienced cadre and staff for such a large organization, somewhere around three million members? Just putting one cadre member with every thirty man platoon you are looking at 100,000 cadre now add staffs and support personnel and you can see how huge this thing would be. Furthermore, either you would make them do a year which would mean that by the time they had finished what ever training the were getting they would not have enough time remaining to deploy with the military or they will will have little time to do anything meaningful for a civilian service corps. The other option would be to draft them for more than a year and now you have doubled the number you need to feed, house, clothe, train, equip and transport. Where is the money going to come from to pay for all that for 6,000,000 people? Maybe if the Air Force were to cancel one of their F22s but we know that that is not going to happen.

    SFC W

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Consider also that there's already a

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    I'm in favor of a "national service" institution combining military and civil service. I think a fundamental part of the oft-cited narcissisism problem in the United States is the complete lack of a nationally-oriented experience and/or identity other than the Armed Forces. As far as Ken's argument regarding the complexity of warfighting, I put forward the idea that the combat arms branches remain exclusively voluntary in such a system.
    morale and attitude problem in too many of the combat support and combat service support units for a variety of reasons, not least that they do a lot of hard and dirty work while getting little or no thanks -- and you want to add involuntary servitude to that? Sounds illogical to me.

    I think your idea of volunteers only in combat arms would only exacerbate that. Not to mention that all the combat arms guys are now volunteers so what really changes?

    I'd also suggest that narcissism is unlikely to countered by exposure to military service. I agree with you that in the US there is generally a lack of a nationally-oriented experience and/or identity but would suggest that isn't going to be changed by forcing teenagers to do something they'd rather not do. The teenage years are way past time for that problem to be addressed, that's a parent and elementary school thing; past ten years, you're pretty much wasting your time in that arena. The educational system in this country blew that in the late 50s in many but not all areas of the country due to a lot of silly social experimentation and it will not improve until that is rectified nationwide. Good luck with that...

    The NKVD / MVD / KGB plan to soften us from within by fiddling with the educational system in fifteen year increments worked beyond their wildest dreams...

    Added: Okay, so U Boat can type faster and is less wordy than I am; so what...
    Last edited by Ken White; 10-26-2008 at 11:57 PM. Reason: Addendum

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    I think a fundamental part of the oft-cited narcissisism problem in the United States is the complete lack of a nationally-oriented experience
    I think the latter is due to the former. Our society has incentivized mediocrity, irresponsibility, selfishness, and other immorality. That is what we sow and it amazes me that we manage to reap ANY smart, selfless, hard-working individuals cut out for military service.

    To solve the narcissism thing by inducing more national service is to address the symptom rather than the cause.

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    I'm not entirely convinced that a conscript force is inherently inferior to volunteer a force, or that conscription (used broadly) is politically impossible. In a rough, 30-second mental review of military history, the Vietnam picture of conscription's effectiveness seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Mobilization begins at the top. What is the policy? What is the required capability and manpower? Where can those resources be found? Importantly, what powers are necessary to bring those resources together? Money, people, equipment, etc can always be found, whether through requisition, creation, production, or outright seizure -- it's just a matter of finding that particular political arrangement that has sufficient viability to sustain it. There's some truth to Napoleon's words that "men will fight for a little piece of ribbon". Even "mediocre, irresponsible, selfish, and immoral" people can shoot rifles -- as long as they're shooting at the people we want dead, I'm not particularly concerned. So I don't think a national service program is unsustainable, only that it requires a great national exertion to change from the status quo. What may not be possible is finding a competent, unitary, and effective political authority capable of creating that policy for the right time and place.

    I think this is the most important question: is a "perpetual" war on terrorism a consequence of policy or is our policy a consequence of the enduring nature of the war?
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Try one and then make up your mind

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    I'm not entirely convinced that a conscript force is inherently inferior to volunteer a force...
    No one said that -- though having been in one many moons ago, I'm personally convinced that a force with conscripted troops will be less effective because in a democracy, politically it must be treated differently than a volunteer force. That different treatment means less adequate training (Mothers get upset when their kids get hurt -- they really get upset when their kid is someplace he or she doesn't want to be). There are other differences, including the time available constraint and equipment costs that were mentioned.
    ...or that conscription (used broadly) is politically impossible.
    Nothing is impossible, many things can be difficult. See below.
    ...In a rough, 30-second mental review of military history, the Vietnam picture of conscription's effectiveness seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
    What picture re: Viet Nam. Draftees did okay there, a large number did great. The problem with the Draft in Viet Nam was domestic, not combat related. The Draft was capable of producing far more people than were needed, thus a lottery and the unfairness of that and the deferment process. That and a generation of kids that were being told for the first time in their lives they had to do something they didn't want to do -- so they rebelled. Those were the Draft problems then, not performance.
    ...Mobilization begins at the top. What is the policy? What is the required capability and manpower? Where can those resources be found? Importantly, what powers are necessary to bring those resources together? Money, people, equipment, etc can always be found, whether through requisition, creation, production, or outright seizure -- it's just a matter of finding that particular political arrangement that has sufficient viability to sustain it. There's some truth to Napoleon's words that "men will fight for a little piece of ribbon". Even "mediocre, irresponsible, selfish, and immoral" people can shoot rifles -- as long as they're shooting at the people we want dead, I'm not particularly concerned.
    All true, sort of. But...
    So I don't think a national service program is unsustainable, only that it requires a great national exertion to change from the status quo. What may not be possible is finding a competent, unitary, and effective political authority capable of creating that policy for the right time and place.
    That's the problem, isn't it?

    As I said, nothing is impossible; many things are difficult -- and you just summed up the National Service difficulty. I also note you caveat with the right time and place. Do you have a recommended solution? Do you think it's needed at this 'time and place?'
    I think this is the most important question: is a "perpetual" war on terrorism a consequence of policy or is our policy a consequence of the enduring nature of the war?
    Aside from the fact that has little or nothing to do with National service, I suspect the answer to that question varies greatly between individuals. IMO, there is no perpetual war but the current lengthy effort, more than a war as it involves US Law Enforcement and financial clout operating worldwide and out of media sight, was certainly begun due to policy failures.

    Specifically, the failure of four administrations from both parties to realize that probing attacks from the Middle East over 22 years needed to be met far more forcefully lest they encourage escalation by the denizens of the ME who do not wish the west or the US well.

    So I say the war is a consequence of policy failure by four Presidents from both parties and the current policy is an attempt to rectify that abysmal failure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    Even "mediocre, irresponsible, selfish, and immoral" people can shoot rifles -- as long as they're shooting at the people we want dead, I'm not particularly concerned.
    That's the catch. You can't trust the immoral to shoot only the people whom we want dead. You need to micromanage and babysit them. Been there, done it, got the t-shirt, and gave the t-shirt to a displaced Iraqi. Units that I have deployed with sent home at least a dozen problem children whom we couldn't trust. We were better off without them than we were babysitting them in a combat zone.

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    I'm not entirely convinced that a conscript force is inherently inferior to volunteer a force, or that conscription (used broadly) is politically impossible. In a rough, 30-second mental review of military history, the Vietnam picture of conscription's effectiveness seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
    Whether or not Vietnam is an exception to the rule or not, and the jury is still out on that, it is our most recent experience with conscription. What makes you think that it would go better now? One very important difference between previous experiences with conscription and Vietnam was the enemy. In previous experiences we knew what we had to do to end the war and get our boys back home. We had to defeat Germany or defeat Germany (again) or defeat North Korea. It wasn't until we started going to war against an idea (Communism, Terrorism) rather than a country that things started to get murky.


    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    Mobilization begins at the top. What is the policy? What is the required capability and manpower? Where can those resources be found? Importantly, what powers are necessary to bring those resources together? Money, people, equipment, etc can always be found, whether through requisition, creation, production, or outright seizure -- it's just a matter of finding that particular political arrangement that has sufficient viability to sustain it.
    You're kidding right? In today's economy you want to try to come up with the resources to field a three million man Army/Civil Service Corps? Obviously the money is not in the current budget and John Q Public isn't going to stand for that kind of tax hike, so what gets cut to pay for it? Do we stop upgrading our equipment? Do we cut the pay of the professional soldiers? Do we stop taking care of their families?

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    There's some truth to Napoleon's words that "men will fight for a little piece of ribbon". Even "mediocre, irresponsible, selfish, and immoral" people can shoot rifles -- as long as they're shooting at the people we want dead, I'm not particularly concerned. So I don't think a national service program is unsustainable, only that it requires a great national exertion to change from the status quo. What may not be possible is finding a competent, unitary, and effective political authority capable of creating that policy for the right time and place.
    If we had that we could solve a lot of our problems. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Dave Barry, it is impossible to get any two randomly selected Americans to agree on pizza toppings, much less anything meaningful. Look at the polls (Lord knows the politicians do). The "War on Terror" is well down the list of most peoples priorities behind the economy and other domestic concerns.

    SFC W

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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    Do you think it's needed at this 'time and place?'
    I think it will be the right time and place in 4 - 8 more years, should the long war continue. Hence my question of: "is a "perpetual" war on terrorism a consequence of policy or is our policy a consequence of the enduring nature of the war?" IIt seems to me that as expensive as a perpetual war and national service may be, if it is a consequence of policy, then we have the option to change the policy in anticipation of the discussed problems. If, however, the perpetual war is imposed upon us, then what other choice do we have than to sustain the conflict?

    You can't trust the immoral to shoot only the people whom we want dead.
    True. That is why I suggested that in a national service institution, the combat arms be reserved for volunteers only.

    In today's economy you want to try to come up with the resources to field a three million man Army/Civil Service Corps?
    The resources are there. It's a problem of distribution and use. It would require the federal government to reassert its power over the monetary system.

    In previous experiences we knew what we had to do to end the war and get our boys back home. We had to defeat Germany or defeat Germany (again) or defeat North Korea. It wasn't until we started going to war against an idea (Communism, Terrorism) rather than a country that things started to get murky.
    That's a failure of leadership to define the enemy. That's a problem of context, and not of national service itself.

    The "War on Terror" is well down the list of most peoples priorities behind the economy and other domestic concerns.
    I agree. Necessity is the last and strongest weapon. Under what conditions become necessary?
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    I've always been a fan of a foreshortened period of mandatory training for all, from which volunteers for more active forms of service are recruited.

    No mandatory requirement post-training, and it serves as a point of indoctrination and recruitment for the various military services.

    But if I were king of the world, I'd wave my magic wand and make professional police/military/politicians illegal, and force individuals in society to take turns doing either job.

    I understand the impossibility of the last statement, but one can dream....

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Schmedlap said:

    Our society has incentivized mediocrity, irresponsibility, selfishness, and other immorality.
    Amen brother, and as the father of 5 the idea of social engineering scares the hell out of me. Ken's observation about a meritocracy vs. mediocracy is especially lucent. I think they are well thought of as oil and water. Institutional polices that try and serve both serve neither well, and are confusing. Confusion creates frustration and those that are looking for more clarity, for more opportunity, and who can, based on their potential will leave - sooner or later contingent upon their other interests and responsibilities. Unfortunately, the folks that often leave are the ones who would do well in a meritocracy, while those who wish to amble along find comfort, solace and well being in a mediocracy.

    If you think you can get by on a mediocracy, then by all means go for it. The problem is you create the conditions where you are less likely to know how bad it fails you until it already has because the conditions to raise the potential of failure are no longer present; you've engineered it out of existence. National security is probably the last place you want to try to do something like that because the consequences may be final.

    Best, Rob

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