Tuesday 17th of July 2018

supporting the local battling industry of cronyism...

cronyism

The Pentagon’s crony capitalism, aka military procurement, never sleeps.

According to reports, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the clear frontrunner to win a sole source, 10-year, $10 billion contract from the Department of Defense (DoD) to handle all of its cloud computing. 

The case for a sole provider, however, is underwhelming, with critics saying the idea of putting all of the DoD’s computing on “one cloud” is unheard of. Congress should direct the Pentagon to do the right thing, not collude with a new member of the multi-trillion-dollar military-industrial-counterterrorism complex.


Amazon’s current market capitalization exceeds $750 billion, making it the second most valuable publicly listed company in the world after Apple. Post-retirement employment or consulting opportunities for DoD personnel involved in procurement concentrate the mind wonderfully. 

The lamp of experience teaches that military procurement is to procurement as military music is to music. The Pentagon would be bankrupt if it held no government monopoly on the armed forces. The day before 9/11, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reported that $2.3 trillion in spending by the DoD could not be documented. Although required by law, the DoD has never been audited (though it’s supposedly in the midst of its first one now). In the meantime, a recent internal audit of the Defense Logistics Agency found that the agency could not provide proper documentation for more than $800 million worth of construction projects, among other abnormalities. No private investor would invest a penny in such a financially feckless enterprise. Even Saudi Arabia’s fabulously wealthy ARAMCO underwent an outside audit in contemplation of stock sales.

The DoD’s byzantine but also lackadaisical procurement standards give birth to chronic financial disasters. These include Lockheed Martin’s huge Air Force C5-A transport plane’s cost overruns and performance deficiencies; General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division’s production of the Navy’s SSN-68 Attack Submarine at a hugely inflated sum despite major construction flaws, and, more recently, Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapon system in the nation’s history (and still in testing stages after nearly 20 years).

Lax procurement safeguards also invite corruption. Thus, Darleen Druyun,principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force, was convicted of bribery in 2004 for awarding a $23 billion sole source leasing arrangement with Boeing for 100 KC-767 mid-air refueling tankers in exchange for a lucrative post-retirement position with the mainstay of the military-industrial complex.

More recently, two U.S. Navy captains and a commander faced court martial in the so-called “Fat Leonard” scandal in which a charismatic Malaysian businessman was able to bilk the Navy for $35 billion in fuel charges, mostly by bribing officers with lavish gifts and prostitutes. Some 200 people have been connected to the scandal with at least 18 Navy personnel pleading guilty to federal crimes or charges under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. Leonard Glenn Francis, also known as “Fat Leonard,” continued to get lucrative DoD contracts for years despite repeated calls for investigation.

The DoD’s contemplated 10-year exclusive cloud computing contract with AWS predictably carries earmarks of procurement amateurism, bias, and even influence peddling. Other suppliers are no slouches, including Microsoft, IBM Corp., and industry groups representing rivals such as Oracle Corp. They know that, according to this Bloomberg report, that Amazon has increased its lobbying presence in Washington by 400 percent over five years and has lobbied Congress on no fewer than 24 issues (each would include dozens of laws and regulations, including relaxing rules for flying commercial drones, for their deliveries, specifically). 

According to recent reporting from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Amazon spent $37 million on lobbying last year and gave $1 million to candidates of both parties.

Those efforts appear to have paid off last year with the passage of the so-called “Amazon amendment,” a provision tucked into the defense authorization bill that will establish a program facilitating government purchasing through e-commerce portals like Amazon.com.

A full-court press on specific agencies is no different. According to Bloomberg, Amazon’s lobbying netted the cloud contract for the CIA, and an earlier contract with Pentagon for $950 million.  In 2016, Bezos was appointed to the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, to ostensibly help the Pentagon with new technologies. He also hosted Defense Secretary James Mattis at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters in August 2017.

It doesn’t hurt that the revolving door of top Pentagon officials who retire and then work for industry players, or serve on their boards, only to push and lobby for contracts and weapon systems the military doesn’t even necessarily want, is notorious. In 2010, then-Boston Globe correspondent Bryan Bender analyzed the career paths of 750 “of the highest ranking generals and admirals who retired during the last two decades.” He found that, “for most, moving into what many in Washington call the ‘rent-a-general’’ business is all but irresistible.”

From 2004 through 2008, 80 percent of retiring three- and four-star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives, according to the Globe analysis. That compares with less than 50 percent who followed that path a decade earlier, from 1994 to 1998.

According to POGO, citing statistics from the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics, 59 of Amazon’s 90 lobbyists are “revolvers” who had previously worked somewhere in the federal government.

But why can’t the Pentagon see its way clear past all of the heavy sell for these sole-source contracts? Diversity of risk is business gospel, i.e., don’t put all your eggs in one basket, and the DoD’s nuclear triad is anchored in that truth. Multiple suppliers diminish the risk of non-performance. They also diminish the risk of technological obsolescence, which is exceptionally high in our digital age of warp-speed advances. They lessen the risk of hacking from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and other enemies of the United States. Indeed, AWS has sold computing equipment used in its cloud services in China to its local partner there, Sinnet Technology Co. That collaboration heightens the risk of China hacking into AWS’s cloud services to DoD. 

Multiple suppliers lessen the risk of procurement corruption like the Darleen Druyun-Boeing scandal by making concealment problematic. Druyun’s email correspondence revealed a consistent pattern of favoring Boeing in price negotiations; she had previously tilted two other contracts towards Boeing worth $500 million while arranging Boeing jobs for her daughter and her daughter’s fiancé. The more players involved in a procurement award, the less likely it is that corruption will escape detection and exposure by a whistleblower or otherwise.

 

Read more:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-pentagons-crony-capi...

the most profligate public agency...

Everyone hates government waste. President Trump believes it is “our moral duty to the taxpayer” to “make our government leaner and more accountable,” and his political opponents seem to agree.

And yet, when called to vote on an extra $80 billion a year for the most profligate public agency in the country, the overwhelming majority of U.S. senators asked no questions. The Pentagon not only escaped serious budget cuts while everything from national parks to Meals on Wheels has been squeezed, but it actually almost got more than it asked for in the spending bill the Senate approved on September 18.

The Pentagon’s latest increase alone — never mind its base budget, which runs hundreds of billions higher — is a sum large enough to make public colleges free across the country, and by itself is worth well over 80 percent of Russia’s entire military budget.

It’s worth asking: Where does the money go?

“We’re the largest bureaucracy in the world”

Consider the reaction if the Environmental Protection Agency buried evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste. At the very least, we would see congressional inquiries with Republicans foaming at the mouth and Democrats solemnly stating their commitment to safeguarding your tax dollars. At most, we would hear calls for some kind of criminal investigation.

Read more:

https://fpif.org/the-scale-of-pentagon-waste-boggles-the-mind-but-congre...

the fear budget...

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee advanced a lavish $674.6 billion Pentagon spending bill for fiscal year 2019. That means Congress is preparing to spend even more on defense, which isn’t at all shocking. To even marginally decrease defense spending, according to its champions, would be disastrous. After Senator Rand Paul proposed a “penny plan” to balance the budget with minor cuts, Senator Lindsey Graham warned his peers that the initiative “creates the one thing we can’t afford, which is unpredictability.” This attitude shapes Congress’s treatment of the defense budget, even though “unpredictability” is intrinsically inescapable and feverishly spending in an effort to evade it costs us the very liberty that our military ostensibly protects.

Over two millennia ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Everything changes and nothing stands still.” He was right, and not only in the cosmic sense, but regarding the tumult of modern geopolitics. Unexpected alliances, the development of new weaponry, and erratic fluctuations in financial markets can all alter a military’s defensive capabilities in an instant. So, like most prudent nations, we invest heavily in an array of measures that allow our military to be effective in inauspicious circumstances—except, unlike all other nations, that amounts to an inexplicably colossal sum.

America’s military has over 800 bases worldwide, more than any other nation or empire in history. In order to staff, equip, and maintain this body, the U.S. spends more on defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, and France combined—to great effect. According to the Credit Suisse Research Institute, the strength of the American military exceeds that of all other countries, based on factors that include its quantities of soldiers, tanks, and aircraft. If any nation is prepared to brave the whirlwind of geopolitics, it is the United States. Yet legislators still claim that the military is experiencing a “readiness crisis,” which necessitates further fattening of the defense budget.

This “crisis” is often exaggerated or confused by its proponents because “readiness” is an ambiguous term that hints at urgency without ever specifying a threat. In that vein, arguments often focus on the health of particular programs while failing to contextualize them within clearly defined geopolitical aims. Whether a certain squadron of pilots is getting enough flight hours is a very different question than whether the U.S. is ready to maintain its current commitments abroad or hold its ground in a world war. Emotion, not genuine geopolitical insight, drives popular support for inflated defense spending, and, in the words of horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.”

Read more:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-military-industrial-complexs-assault-on-liberty/

reinventing the square wheel...

If you are a regular reader of this show, er I mean this site, you would remember that every so often we invent the square wheel again as a philosophical means to transcend the useless impractical pragmatic hypocrisy of politics. We also investigate what the next invention of Darpa, the creative department of the US defence painful systems, is going to be — like the old gun that shoots around curves, using the soccer ball technology of "curveball". But what we should worry about in this fair dinkum country is that the southern skies are going to fill up with big drones: 

 

The Turnbull government will spend nearly $7 billion on massive, long-range surveillance drones that will dramatically expand Australia’s ability to spot military ships on the seas of Asia and tighten joint operations with the United States in the region.


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will on Tuesday announce the purchase of the country's first Triton drone, which has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 and will easily be able to complete a lap of the South China Sea after taking off from the Northern Territory.

 

Read more:

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/australia-to-spend-nearly-7-bill...

 

Imagine. You are flying your little Cessna with confidence over Lake Amadeus, listening to some Mozart in the earphones, when you meet with one of these giant grey birds. You'd be shitting yourself, would you not?

 

Ah, and for the square wheel see:

 

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has created a new transforming wheel it says is suitable for rough terrain as part of its Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program. However, sharp-eyed and skeptical social media users said that the project looks like an incredible waste of taxpayer money.

DARPA showed off its Reconfigurable Wheel-Track (RWT) in a video, with the custom wheels shown to be able to transition from a standard round wheel into a triangular track, depending on terrain. DARPA boasts that the wheel will improve the "mobility, survivability, safety and effectiveness of future combat vehicles without piling on armor."

Read more:

https://sputniknews.com/viral/201806251065768898-darpa-converting-wheel-...

 

We now have to work harder to find "a new philosophical image to transcend the useless impractical pragmatic hypocrisy of politics"... The bastards are catching up with us.