SMALL WARS COUNCIL
Go Back   Small Wars Council > Small Wars Participants & Stakeholders > PMCs and Entrepreneurs

PMCs and Entrepreneurs Applied capitalism. Making money in the war zone, and the issues that go with it.

Closed Thread
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 12-15-2005   #1
SWJED
Small Wars Journal
 
SWJED's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Largo, Florida
Posts: 3,988
Default Soldiers Versus Defense Contractors

15 Dec. New York Times editorial - Soldiers Versus Defense Contractors.

Quote:
It's what passes for crunch time at the Pentagon. Word has now gone out that $32 billion in savings must be found out of the $2.3 trillion the Defense Department is planning to spend in the next five years. After the Pentagon's spending orgy over the past five years, there is plenty of scope for cutting, without weakening America's defenses - but only if the cuts come out of the most costly and least needed Air Force and Navy weapons programs, not from the money required to replenish and re-equip the Army and Marine ground forces that have been worn down by Iraq.

Alleviating the dangerous strain on America's overstretched, underrested and increasingly taxed land-based forces must be the Pentagon's highest priority for the next five years...
SWJED is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #2
Sargent
Council Member
 
Sargent's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: London
Posts: 178
Default Contractors Doing Combat Service Support is a Bad, Bad Idea

From "Lost Army Job Tied to Doubts on Contractor," NYT, 17 Jun 08
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/wa...hp&oref=slogin

Quote:
Army officials denied that Mr. Smith had been removed because of the dispute, but confirmed that they had reversed his decision, arguing that blocking the payments to KBR would have eroded basic services to troops. They said that KBR had warned that if it was not paid, it would reduce payments to subcontractors, which in turn would cut back on services.

“You have to understand the circumstances at the time,” said Jeffrey P. Parsons, executive director of the Army Contracting Command. “We could not let operational support suffer because of some other things.”
Whether the rest of the content of the article is correct, what Parsons says in the sixth paragraph is truly scary. Essentially, he admits that even if the contractor is screwing the government it has to be overlooked because the contractor is holding the troops hostage. Nice business ethic on the part of the contractors there. But the important thing is that there's almost certainly a yellow flag magnet on the back of their cars and a flag pin on their lapels.

I find it strange that SecDef would have gotten involved in this personnel issue unless there was something much bigger at stake. I also don't much care for the bonuses -- seems like a backdoor way to pay the contractors more than was contracted.

In my humble estimation this problem is way bigger than anything going on with the AF, and Gates would do well to get a handle on it.

Bottom line, can we please relearn that Rev War lesson about contractors not being the right men for the job of handling logistics at war, especially at the front lines? The sooner the better.

An interesting tangent to this. My husband and I were discussing the article, and he said that one of his Marines noted, with pride, that he'd been on three deployments and had never served on a FOB with a DFAC. My husband either. This point of pride will make for an interesting point in the conclusion of my dissertation (on gastronomy and morale). If my thesis is that civilian socio-cultural influences affect the decisions regarding gastronomy for morale, then it is understandable that conspicuous consumption has become a part of logistics effort. It also makes sense that military personnel will potentially bristle at having conspicuous consumption forced upon them. You don't join the military if conspicuous consumption is your objective or your interest.

Regards,
Jill
Sargent is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #3
Old Eagle
Council Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Rocky Mtn Empire
Posts: 473
Default

Without commenting on the merits of the article, since I haven't read it (I know --doesn't stop some people), I ask Jill the same question I have asked on other similar threads -- what's the solution?

I have been on a C-C-C ration cycle and I can tell you that it leaves a lot to be desired.

I have also had my units gutted for "details" back in the day. I know others here have also lived through that era, so feel free to help me here.
Old Eagle is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #4
wm
Council Member
 
wm's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: On the Lunatic Fringe
Posts: 1,237
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
Without commenting on the merits of the article, since I haven't read it (I know --doesn't stop some people), I ask Jill the same question I have asked on other similar threads -- what's the solution?

I have been on a C-C-C ration cycle and I can tell you that it leaves a lot to be desired.

I have also had my units gutted for "details" back in the day. I know others here have also lived through that era, so feel free to help me here.
One answer might be the M85 or new MKT, T-Rats, and Unitized Group Ration (UGR).
__________________
Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. — Sydney J. Harris
wm is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #5
jkm_101_fso
Council Member
 
jkm_101_fso's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Kabul
Posts: 325
Default Cooks must fight

We used our cooks on convoys and patrols. I lived on a small Iraqi Army FOB in 05-06. Army cooks only cooked dinner chow and spent the rest of the day on missions or guard duty. I think they enjoyed that more than cooking.
jkm_101_fso is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #6
jkm_101_fso
Council Member
 
jkm_101_fso's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Kabul
Posts: 325
Default

The Marine is proud that can't be associated with FOBs or being a FOBBIT...the worst possible name that you could be called in Combat. The current culture in the Army and Marines is such, "if I'm not on a FOB (with KBR) then I am not a FOBBIT. That's why the Army is converting to sexy names like "Patrol Base Smith" or "Combat Outpost Jones". No one, particularly in the combat arms realm wants to be labeled FOBBIT; although it has nothing to do with you mission or performance, rather than being "spoiled" with KBR chow, movie theaters, basketball gyms and "salsa night" at the MWR facility.

Last edited by jkm_101_fso; 06-17-2008 at 05:39 PM.
jkm_101_fso is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #7
Sargent
Council Member
 
Sargent's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: London
Posts: 178
Default

Quote:
JKM wrote: We used our cooks on convoys and patrols. I lived on a small Iraqi Army FOB in 05-06. Army cooks only cooked dinner chow and spent the rest of the day on missions or guard duty. I think they enjoyed that more than cooking.
Last year, when they could not settle the food issue for my husband's unit in Fallujah -- they were stationed at the government center downtown, and given the security situation the contractors refused to go there -- they ultimately sent the only Marine messman at Camp Fallujah out there to cook for them. He did one meal a day, and spent the rest of the time cleaning and prepping -- being the only guy on the job, he was kept busy taking care of that. But yes, cooks, etc., assigned to combat units must be prepared to fight. Providing front line logistical support is dangerous.

I will admit that this issue is my bete noir -- see my recent comments on this issue.

http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...7399#post47399

However, beyond my peculiar interest in the subject, what caught my attention with this article, and what really gets my blood boiling, is the fact that the contractors basically threatened the troops and DoD caved -- and then gave them a bonus.

This last piece is why I think the practice must end. Management has demonstrated that their bottom line -- not the troop needs, not operational capabilities -- is the priority. And with that priority they have demonstrated that they are not at all suited to support the operational needs of deployed forces. Let them handle the cafeteria's stateside, but in war, you need a reliable system, not just a cheap one. Again, it's time to realize the wisdom of a 200+ year old lesson.

Regards,
Jill
Sargent is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #8
jkm_101_fso
Council Member
 
jkm_101_fso's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Kabul
Posts: 325
Default contracted maintenance

You'd probably find it interesting that during my last tour, there were KBR contractors that worked at the BSB, fixing vehicles. Oddly enough, the BSB soldiers that didn't do combat logistics patrols basically worked for the KBR guys...it was strange. I think one issue is that with the FOB concept (a terrible idea, btw) there aren't enough cooks in a BDE to feed everyone. I think that with the evolution of "irregular warfare", contracted services maybe inevidable. You are absolutely right that the government should put the needs of the Soldier first and not the contractor. I do find myself engaged in a lot of conversations in regards to why KBR gets all of the "no-bid" contracts in Iraq. One reason is probably because not many companies are capable of doing what they do, but another is because we don't have the support elements in the military to do it; short of deploying the entire Army to Iraq, which of course, will not happen.
jkm_101_fso is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #9
J Wolfsberger
Council Member
 
J Wolfsberger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Michigan
Posts: 806
Default Consider the source ...

The NY Times hasn't exactly been completely honest in its reporting on the war.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sargent View Post
Whether the rest of the content of the article is correct, what Parsons says in the sixth paragraph is truly scary. Essentially, he admits that even if the contractor is screwing the government it has to be overlooked because the contractor is holding the troops hostage.
I don't think that's what they were saying. It seemed more like they were saying "If you don't pay us, we can't pay them, and they'll stop working."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sargent View Post
I also don't much care for the bonuses -- seems like a backdoor way to pay the contractors more than was contracted.
One type of contract vehicle is Cost Plus Incentive Fee (CPIF), which bases a portion of the negotiated fee on performance criteria. That's pretty typical for ID/IQ (Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity) contracts. (And leave it to the NY Times to describe a standard method of government contracting so that it sounds nefarious.)

The part about the DCAA role was one I would have liked to have seen more information on. If there's any substance to the issues raised in the article, it will be established there.

However, I agree completely that combat units should have their own mess sections.

(Just to illustrate that there may be more than meets the eye: Years ago, a subcontractor had completed all terms of his contract. The managing civil servant demanded additional, uncompensated work out of the sub. He directed me to withhold payment until the additional work was complete. (He also raised hell with my boss when I ignored his direction, but that's a different story ...))
__________________
John Wolfsberger, Jr.

An unruffled person with some useful skills.
J Wolfsberger is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #10
Sargent
Council Member
 
Sargent's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: London
Posts: 178
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by jkm_101_fso View Post
The Marine is proud that can't be associated with FOBs or being a FOBBIT...the worst possible name that you could be called in Combat. The current culture in the Army and Marines is such, "if I'm not on a FOB (with KBR) then I am not a FOBBIT. That's why the Army is converting to sexy names like "Patrol Base Smith" or "Combat Outpost Jones". No one, particularly in the combat arms realm wants to be labeled FOBBIT; although it has nothing to do with you mission or performance, rather than being "spoiled" with KBR chow, movie theaters, basketball gyms and "salsa night" at the MWR facility.
Definitely the anti-Fobbit sentiment is part of it. However, given my diss subject this notion that there can be too much is very interesting to me. It's not what one would expect on a superficial level. It's certainly not what the "Support The Troops" mindset would expect.

Furthermore, I think the reaction against the FOBs reflects something of an innate or subconscious recognition that the conspicuous consumption is not serving our war effort. When the Iraqi civilians are pissed that they cannot get reliable electricity, it doesn't help anything that the American forces are eating ice cream. Hell, a military analyst I met told me he thought the food service at Camp Fallujah was over the top.

This all ties into an idea that has emerged in my mind that there must be parity in suffering between troops and civilians in a war zone. American troops mutinied in the Rev War because they were starving in a land of plenty. In WWII, the sharing that went on between the Allied troops and the liberated civilian populations probably went a long way to assisting the war effort. In Iraq, I doubt our effort is helped by the fact that the vast majority of American troops are living high off the hog while the Iraqis can't even get the basics.

However, I do think that there may also be some valid concerns that such indulgences conflict with operational readiness.

There are always a number of factors at work with any given opinion.

Regards,
Jill
Sargent is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #11
marct
Council Member
 
marct's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Posts: 3,682
Default

Hi Jill,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sargent View Post
This all ties into an idea that has emerged in my mind that there must be parity in suffering between troops and civilians in a war zone. American troops mutinied in the Rev War because they were starving in a land of plenty. In WWII, the sharing that went on between the Allied troops and the liberated civilian populations probably went a long way to assisting the war effort. In Iraq, I doubt our effort is helped by the fact that the vast majority of American troops are living high off the hog while the Iraqis can't even get the basics.
I think that is a really good point. It is probably even more important in the ME where there is a tradition that conquerors live well at the expense of the populace (happened in other places too, but the memory of it goes back a long way in the ME). This is one of those times when the logic of rhetoric is more important that that of reality .
__________________
Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
Senior Research Fellow,
The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
Carleton University
http://marctyrrell.com/
marct is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #12
Ken White
Council Member
 
Ken White's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,060
Default Thoughts one might consider

With all its flaws -- and it has plenty -- contracting basic services has merit. The troops hate that kind of stuff and the cessation of a lot of grass mowing, rock painting and, yes K.P or Mess Duty plus a lot of other minor annoyances has helped keep folks in all the services. The Navy can't do that on ships and thus, they have a very minor retention problem because of that scut work. Add it back into the Army, Marines and AF and it will cause retention problems. In an era of an aging population and a kinder gentler world where military service is eschewed by many that may not be a good idea.

It's easy for those who don't have to do that kind of make work (which is what some of it is) and necessary but unpleasant work to overlook the inhibiting effect on Joe. Joe doesn't do windows if he can avoid it -- and, if we're going to train him well enough to go risk his life (which we don't do well) then the least we can do id let him skip washing windows.

The the Army and Marines get plenty of enlistees for the combat arms and for both services, the re-up rates in the combat skills are great. Not so in the Combat service support arena. Enlistments are down and reenlistments are far lower than in the combat arms.

I'm not sure that a reversion to the WW II / Korea / Viet Nam era Army (all effectively the same; little changed) is a good idea. Having been a part of it, there was a lot of crookedness and corruption, petty and major theft by people in uniform. There was also a lot of mediocre performance. Even stupidity -- like the 1LT who futilely and rather foolishly told me and about 15 armed, dirty and smelly troops who needed shaves and haircuts we couldn't eat in his Chu Lai Mess Hall...

The Revolution was a long time ago, so was the Civil War which had the same 'contractor' problems. In fact, all wars seem to have contractor problems. The mostly Korean and Japaneses contractors in Korea were crooked and bore a lot of watching; the Consortium RMK-BRJ in Viet Nam got wealthy (the BR being then Brown and Root, now part of KBR. BR in the day were friends of Lyndon...). I suspect it's a human frailty problem and there's no fixing it, just a lot of watching.

My belief is that contracting is probably going to be with us absent a return to the draft (to which I am very strongly opposed) and that aside from the services getting a lot smarter about it -- and eliminating a lot of the Congressionally imposed bureaucracy involved in the contracting process as well as continuing Congressional influence in that process (NOTE: Which has a whole lot to do with the apparent DoD willingness to 'overlook' possible chicanery...) -- it seems to me that design of structure and equipment should be undertaken in the future with elimination of as much contract support as possible as an essential goal.

Consider also that the wants and needs of armed forces in peacetime and those in wartime differ considerably. The US has effectively been at peace since 1945 -- parts of the services have been to war many times since and are there now but Congress and the Pentagon have not been at war in a long time...

No easy solutions to this one...
Ken White is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #13
jkm_101_fso
Council Member
 
jkm_101_fso's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Kabul
Posts: 325
Default

Ken,
Great points; also consider a lot of jobs on military posts (mess hall, range control, MPs, maintenance, etc) used to be manned by the military. Come to any post now and you will see that it's all pretty much been contracted. Mainly because we don't have enough Soldiers to do it. In a 2 million man army, we would see military members guarding the gate, running range control and serving chow. This obviously carries over to theater.
Quote:
There was also a lot of mediocre performance. Even stupidity -- like the 1LT who futilely and rather foolishly told me and about 15 armed, dirty and smelly troops who needed shaves and haircuts we couldn't eat in his Chu Lai Mess Hall...
I've heard that now at LSA Anaconda you MUST have your reflective PT belt to get into the chow hall! You can't eat without it!

Last edited by Jedburgh; 06-17-2008 at 10:09 PM.
jkm_101_fso is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #14
Stevely
Council Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Newport News, VA
Posts: 150
Default

I'm not sure if it's such a good idea, this reliance on contracting for government services, and if there is a positive effective on retention, I don't think it ultimately makes up for the negative effects in so many other areas.

I remember when the contracting craze got underway in earnest, back in the early 90s. It was supposed to streamline and make more efficient many operations ("let industry do it - they have to make a profit ergo they are more efficient!"), and save the government a lot of money. I think neither goal has been achieved; unfortunately since that time, contracting and outsourcing have grown and grown, giving defense industry great influence and leverage over the formulation and execution of defense policy, and today, I think the department is in a bad shape due to that.

Like Jill, my blood boils hearing that a contractor held the troops hostage to their bottom line, but I am not suprised (just saddened) to see things come to such a pass, out at the front. It already happens here in echelons above reality. I have personally witnessed a dispute between my command and a service that shall remain nameless, where government interest was subverted and a corporate agenda was pushed in the place of legitimate military needs. Said service's training network was actually owned by a major contractor and only leased by the service, and refused to follow proscribed government networking standards and refused to connect their network to ours so that the Joint community could gain access to certain simulation resources there. When we held meetings between the sides to work it out, the service's representatives were actually contractors from the company that owned the network (well the first time; we threw them out and told the service next time to send only military or goverment civilians in the future). A short time later, this company sent its representatives to some installations belonging to another service, and tried to convince them not to use the already-installed Joint network to do Joint training, but to spend government money to buy nodes on their network, if they ever hoped to have access to their host service's training resources in the future. One example of defense contractor shenanigans among many I have witnessed.

I think things started going wrong when contractors shifted from being only providers of equipment to performing services. Performing services makes you a part of the chain of command, full stop; but unlike military/ government members of that chain, companies have a second set of loyalties, that their company's own bottom line. Thus it is impossible to have unity of command, or assurance that your private sector subordinates will do what the boss commands, unless the corporate folks abide by an ethic that the bottom line takes a back seat to the good of the government where those two collide. Example above and from Jill's post demonstrate that is not the case, nor have I ever heard of that happening anywhere else. Conflicts of interest are built in to this.

Over-reliance on contractors to do government business can also lead to a loss of control of government functions, again like the unnamed service no longer really being in control of their training network, and the Army's CSS support cited in the original article. Costs get out of hand - I think that almost goes without saying now, looking at endemic contract cost overruns, and

I haven't really talked about the massive consolidation of defense industry in the 90s but that plays a big role, too. There's really very little domestic competition out there to curb the worst excesses of the few contractors left in the field, often the government has nowhere to turn. This could be mitigated somewhat by using foreign contractors, but then the spectre is raised of the loss of domestic military production capability. The giant contractors are aware of this, and exploit that fact as a license to print money.

Unfortunately I don't see this changing much - too many in politics are beneficiaries of the status quo.

(Of course, I caveat all this with "I have nothing against contractor employees - I used to be one - just some of their corporate masters." Don't want anyone to take this as a slam against the worker bees)
__________________
He cloaked himself in a veil of impenetrable terminology.
Stevely is offline  
Old 06-17-2008   #15
Ken White
Council Member
 
Ken White's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,060
Default Do the people math...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevely View Post
I'm not sure if it's such a good idea, this reliance on contracting for government services, and if there is a positive effective on retention, I don't think it ultimately makes up for the negative effects in so many other areas.
Wouldn't that depend on the numbers?
Quote:
I remember when the contracting craze got underway in earnest, back in the early 90s.
Actually, it started in the mid 70s as a result of the cessation of the Draft.
Quote:
... giving defense industry great influence and leverage over the formulation and execution of defense policy, and today, I think the department is in a bad shape due to that.
Interesting. in what way do you see them influencing policy (other than in the retirees who work for contractors or the contractors who get appointed to defense positions, something that's been happening since WW II).
Quote:
I have personally witnessed a dispute between my command and a service that shall remain nameless, where government interest was subverted and a corporate agenda was pushed in the place of legitimate military needs. ... One example of defense contractor shenanigans among many I have witnessed.
Stuff like that happens. I have also seen turf battles between commands (and services..) that got worse than that -- and everyone involved was wearing a war suit.
Quote:
I think things started going wrong when contractors shifted from being only providers of equipment to performing services. Performing services makes you a part of the chain of command, full stop; but unlike military/ government members of that chain, companies have a second set of loyalties, that their company's own bottom line. Thus it is impossible to have unity of command, or assurance that your private sector subordinates will do what the boss commands, unless the corporate folks abide by an ethic that the bottom line takes a back seat to the good of the government where those two collide. Example above and from Jill's post demonstrate that is not the case, nor have I ever heard of that happening anywhere else. Conflicts of interest are built in to this.
The US government is one massive conflict of interest -- look at the FAA or the Department of Agriculture; any of them. Life is a conflict of interest. The Company has no loyalty to the government or to the chain of command; their only loyalty is to their bottom line, period. Any contract written without that thoughy firmly in mind will leave loopholes that corporate lawyers will find and wiggle through. Sorry, but to me, that's human nature at work, to be expected (not desired, not nice but expected) and part of the way things work. Better contracts and fewer changes can stop that.
Quote:
Over-reliance on contractors to do government business can also lead to a loss of control of government functions, again like the unnamed service no longer really being in control of their training network, and the Army's CSS support cited in the original article. Costs get out of hand - I think that almost goes without saying now, looking at endemic contract cost overruns, and
money.

Unfortunately I don't see this changing much - too many in politics are beneficiaries of the status quo.

(Of course, I caveat all this with "I have nothing against contractor employees - I used to be one - just some of their corporate masters." Don't want anyone to take this as a slam against the worker bees)
While I don't dispute that the system is far from perfect and that there's graft and corruption in it; I gotta ask Old Eagle's question; Bearing my subject line in mind, what's your solution?
Ken White is offline  
Old 06-18-2008   #16
Sargent
Council Member
 
Sargent's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: London
Posts: 178
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
With all its flaws -- and it has plenty -- contracting basic services has merit. The troops hate that kind of stuff and the cessation of a lot of grass mowing, rock painting and, yes K.P or Mess Duty plus a lot of other minor annoyances has helped keep folks in all the services. The Navy can't do that on ships and thus, they have a very minor retention problem because of that scut work. Add it back into the Army, Marines and AF and it will cause retention problems. In an era of an aging population and a kinder gentler world where military service is eschewed by many that may not be a good idea.
This is why I limited the critique to combat service support. Sure, use contractors to do the scut work on bases in the states -- maybe they could send a few over to my house to keep it clean while my husband is deployed, I wouldn't complain. But where the bullets are flying, the only people you are going to get to work amidst them are soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. The contractors won't do it.

On a side note, every time I see a Navy commercial with aviators or SEALS, I chuckle and imagine the commercial that highlights the scut work -- "Join the Navy, scrape barnacles!"


Quote:
The the Army and Marines get plenty of enlistees for the combat arms and for both services, the re-up rates in the combat skills are great. Not so in the Combat service support arena. Enlistments are down and reenlistments are far lower than in the combat arms.
It might be worth looking into whether the system they have for Marine officers might work with enlisted personnel. For the former, even if they are in a combat arms MOS, they alternate between A billets (fleet tours, usually, in their MOS) and B billets (office jobs doing some sort of support work -- at MARCORSYSCOM, MCCDC, recruiting, etc.). The B billets, while not jobs most enjoy, are usually good for down time from deployments, usually have a lighter workload, and are thus pretty good for family time. Sometimes they are a complete waste of time, but again, short days with little to do give a guy or gal a chance to catch up on all of the administrative scut work of their household that they've missed out on while on a strenuous deployment schedule.

Thus, you could increase the number of personnel who can join up in the combat arms MOS's, and get the rest of the work done by cycling them through A and B billets. You could make it nice and organized and efficient by assigning a primary MOS (their combat arms specialty) and a secondary MOS (the type of office work they will be assigned to), that way you'll know that the jobs will get done.

But again, they don't need to be cutting the grass or painting rocks. Unless, of course, they get themselves in trouble -- because that is great work for brig rats.


Quote:
I'm not sure that a reversion to the WW II / Korea / Viet Nam era Army (all effectively the same; little changed) is a good idea. Having been a part of it, there was a lot of crookedness and corruption, petty and major theft by people in uniform. There was also a lot of mediocre performance. Even stupidity -- like the 1LT who futilely and rather foolishly told me and about 15 armed, dirty and smelly troops who needed shaves and haircuts we couldn't eat in his Chu Lai Mess Hall...
This is why you make everyone be a combat arms person first. This is why Marines really want Marine aviators to be there for CAS -- [and why they hate that the Air Force wants all air assets under a single control, because this means they might not get their guys flying the really hairy missions] -- because those aviators have gone to TBS and know a bit about what the guy on the ground is going through. If you have an infantryman running a support service, he'll likely do it with gusto and integrity, because it's his buddies up at the front that he's supporting. It's why my husband was so aggressive at SYSCOM -- because the system he was deploying was for the artillery community, and the guys getting it were his colleagues, and one day he'd be using it as well.

Quote:
The Revolution was a long time ago, so was the Civil War which had the same 'contractor' problems.
The Rev War wasn't so long ago that the lesson doesn't bear remembering. And, if my recollection serves, the guys charged with actually delivering the food to the troops were soldiers, not contractors. (Contractors may have provided the food, and that's probably where the problems came in.) That's why there's a memorial to McKinley the soldier at Antietam for delivering a hot meal and coffee to the battle weary soldiers.

Quote:
No easy solutions to this one...
No, but if we don't even bother looking for one, then there are no solutions.

Cheers,
Jill
Sargent is offline  
Old 06-18-2008   #17
Ken White
Council Member
 
Ken White's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,060
Default Ab-so-lootly amazing...

Quote:
Originally Posted by jkm_101_fso View Post
...I've heard that now at LSA Anaconda you MUST have your reflective PT belt to get into the chow hall! You can't eat without it!
I'm sure there's some logic in that somewhere but I'm certainly having a hard time figuring out what it might be.
Ken White is offline  
Old 06-18-2008   #18
Ken White
Council Member
 
Ken White's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,060
Default Good points...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sargent View Post
This is why I limited the critique to combat service support. ... But where the bullets are flying, the only people you are going to get to work amidst them are soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. The contractors won't do it.
True, to an extent; you'll always find a few but they'll cost big bucks -- that's why I say the key is to design our systems, organizations and equipment to minimize the contractor requirement * .
Quote:
..."Join the Navy, scrape barnacles!"
It was paint that got scraped and the Navy got smart and bought a better quality of paint that needs replacement less often -- so the contractors in the Yards do it when the ship cycle through (as in * above)...
Quote:
It might be worth looking into whether the system they have for Marine officers might work with enlisted personnel.
That's done to an extent but it doesn't answer the CSS dirty work problem. My bet is that if you offer a lot of combat arms NCOs the unrefusable option of alternating between a CA and a CSS job; they'll leave the service. I would have.
Quote:
This is why you make everyone be a combat arms person first...
I agree -- unfortunately, the Air Force and Army personnel folks don't; "inefficient" they say. As if there were anything more inefficient than a war. Even bigger problem is my guess would be about half (+ or - 10% or so) the CA enlistees wouldn't go for the CSS rotation. NCOs as a body differ from Officers in a number of respects. Most do not want to be generalists or multi spectral.
Quote:
The Rev War wasn't so long ago that the lesson doesn't bear remembering.
True -- and WW II, Korea and Viet Nam with all their systemic ineffectiveness, logistic cock-ups, outright failures (which got covered up by the brass and didn't make the papers as contractors did and do -- but the Troops affected knew) crookedness and black marketing by folks in uniform were even less long ago. Balancing both lessons and applying them to tomorrow is the problem.
Quote:
No, but if we don't even bother looking for one, then there are no solutions.
Agree. See above *.
Ken White is offline  
Old 06-18-2008   #19
jcustis
Council Member
 
jcustis's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: SOCAL
Posts: 2,147
Default

There's a picture I have of a Marine, a tub of lard wearing a glo-belt, and a moral somewhere in between. I'll save it though, as most of you all have already seen it.
jcustis is offline  
Old 06-18-2008   #20
Schmedlap
Council Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 1,444
Default

Count me among those who can proudly proclaim that in three deployments to Iraq, I did not partake in the madness that was the FOB lifestyle. For me, being in Iraq did not include Pizza Hut, Subway, Green Bean, a PX, a gigantic DFAC full of overweight Soldiers, salsa night, or paying for sex. That said, I would also point out that I did occasionally travel to FOBs for logistical issues - thankfully I never had to stay more than 8 hours. But I had zero bad experiences with contractors. In fact, they were far better than their Army counterparts, from what I observed.

Here is one example (I could give many more): weapons repair. My supply sergeant brought weapons in need of repair to the nearest FOB during OIF III. For the first half of the deployment, it was run by Army personnel. They were great at making excuses for why they could not fix the weapons or why they would not fix them and they were great at showing up late, leaving early, taking extended lunch breaks, and making excuses for why the work order paperwork was incorrect and precluded any further action until the following week when my supply sergeant would make another futile attempt. As soon as those yahoos were replaced by big, fat contractors with bushy white beards, our weapons got immediately fixed on the spot, almost every time. The longest turn-around was a matter of hours. It was a day and night difference. Their "hours of operation" were longer, their work ethic was better, they were faster, more efficient, more effective, easier to work with - I could go on.

This was representative of my experiences with weapons repair, supply warehouses, 30 level mechanical repairs, and more, both in Iraq and in Kuwait. I loved it when Brown & Root took over more functions of our logistics, because I knew that instead of some slugabed E-4, supervised by a lazy E-6, and commanded by a lackluster O-2 or O-3 (or worse), either I or my supply sergeant was going to be dealing with someone who could be fired if too many Soldiers complained about his performance, someone who was earning $80K per year and thus did not want to lose his job. It made a world of difference.
Schmedlap is offline  
Closed Thread

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 05:54 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9. ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Registered Users are solely responsible for their messages.
Operated by, and site design © 2005-2009, Small Wars Foundation