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The Sunday Paper

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The new commander-in-chief made some sweeping pronouncements earlier this week regarding procurement and acquisition reform. He specifically called out the defense industry and the services, two of the three legs of the “iron triangle” of the defense business. But what’s key is the leg he basically left out: lawmakers.

Without changing the way Congress protects jobs back home no real change will happen. The Washington Post framed the nature of the beast nicely today:

It was Democrats who stuffed an estimated $524 million in defense earmarks that the Pentagon did not request into the 2008 appropriations bill, about $220 million more than Republicans did, according to an independent estimate. Of the 44 senators who implored Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in January to build more F-22 Raptors — a fighter conceived during the Cold War that senior Pentagon officials say is not suited to probable 21st-century conflicts — most were Democrats.

And last July, when the Navy’s top brass decided to end production of their newest class of destroyers — in response to 15 classified intelligence reports highlighting their vulnerability to a range of foreign missiles — seven Democratic senators quickly joined four Republicans to demand a reversal. They threatened to cut all funding for surface combat ships in 2009.

Within a month, Gates and the Navy reversed course and endorsed production of a third DDG-1000 destroyer, at a cost of $2.7 billion.

So with this kind of chasm between word and deed is procurement reform a wave President Obama can surf?

I’m predicting a wipeout. And Kerry and Kennedy don’t surf.

Read the entire Post artice here. (Registration required.)

–Ward

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This time of year is always tough because — as we wait for next Sunday’s Super Bowl — we’ve had football summarily yanked away from us. What are we supposed to watch as we attempt to get a few more moments of mental peace before we hit the work week again? Antique car auctions? “The Real Housewives of Orange County” marathons?

Well, Defense Tech is here to help. Tonight at 8 PM eastern the National Geographic Channel is running “Air Force One,” which gives an in-depth look at how the President’s one-of-a-kind 747 does business. We got an advanced look at the show (that’s how we roll) and it gets two thumbs up from us.

Among the interesting scenes is one that documents Barack Obama’s first ride on Air Force One. Although he’s as cool as ever, you can also sense in his manner that the big jet and associated military crew are manifestations of the responsibilities of the office that hadn’t hit him to that point. (Can you say “moderating influence”?)

Oh, and don’t touch that dial because after “Air Force One” NGC is running “Marine One,” which goes behind the scenes at HMX-1. See how much goes into getting the VH-3s where they need to be and ride along with a Marine major as he attempts to land on the South Lawn for the first time.

And next week we’ll get back to football one last time this season. Go Cardinals. (I’m old school St. Louis Cardinals, too. I have my Larry Wilson trading card under glass.)

– Ward

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DT’s good friend and SpouseBUZZ founder Andi forwarded an “opportunity” currently posted at DoD Tech Match with the following objective:

“To develop a highly interactive PC or web-based application to allow family members to verbally interact with virtual renditions of deployed Service Members.”

The opportunity frames the challenge to killer app designers with the notion that “the stresses of deployment might be softened if spouses and especially children could conduct simple conversations with their loved ones in immediate times of stress or prolonged absence.” It goes on to suggest that traditionally “families have derived comfort and support from photographs or mementos, but current technology should allow for more personal interactive messages of support” and that “computer-based applications would resonate with children and capture their interest and imagination.”

Cool idea, no doubt. But … and maybe this is the novelist in me coming out … right away I start thinking about the unintended consequences of this technology. What happens, for instance, during the reintegration process (the period immediately following the servicemember’s return from deployment) when the child realizes that the vitual servicemember was a lot nicer that the real deal?

Paging Dr. Freud …

(Star Wars image courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

– Ward

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Military.com’s founder Chris Michel forwarded a New York Times op-ed titled “How to Pay for a 21st Century Military” that ran in today’s paper. The piece recommends the following steps to get defense spending under control:

End production of the Air Forces F-22. (Recommends the use of “upgraded” F-16s until the F-35 comes into production.)

Cancel the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyer. (Advises the production of the Littoral Combat Ship instead.)

Halt production of the Virginia class sub. (Recommends extending the life of existing Los Angeles class submarines instead.)

Pull the plug on the Marine Corpss V-22 Osprey. (Recommends buying more H-92s and CH-53s instead.)

Halt premature deployment of missile defense.

Negotiate deep cuts in nuclear weapons.

Trim the active-duty Navy and Air Force.

It cracks me up when those who know little to nothing about the military requirements process and defense procurement suddenly deign to give a damn about it. Talk about the Bush administration handing the Pentagon a “blank check” is ridiculously cliche and simplistic. Further it is ignorant. Tell the budgeteers who spend literally days doing drills that attempt to squeeze every dime out of a program that they’ve been handed a blank check.

And among the elements missing here are the other crucial missions the military does besides fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and what it takes in manpower and equipment to do those things) and how much it actually costs to extend the life of an outdated system. Further, the “we need more Army and Marines, less Navy and Air Force” logic smacks of folks who have done nothing but watch MSNBC to come up with their understanding of who does what and who’s needed in today’s military. Did you want the sea lanes open? Did you feel like supplying those Soldiers and Marines at war?

It would be nice if “The Grey Lady” took the time to actually flesh out what’s wrong. In accurately identifying problems they might have actually assisted the Obama White House as it attempts to get the five-sided beast under control. As it is, framing things poorly is worse than not framing them at all.

– Ward

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Okay, I’m going to use this edition of The Sunday Paper to make two predictions:

1. Robert Gates will not stay on as SecDef and will be replaced by Richard Danzig a few weeks into the Obama administration, if not immediately.
2. Once the new administration gets into office, F-22 will be the first major program to be cut significantly or cancelled altogether followed shortly by Presidential Helo (VH-71). (JSF is also a target, especially if any more foreign partners balk.)

So what do you think, dear erudite-in-DoD-matters-type DT readers? Who’s going to be SecDef? What programs are toast?

– Ward

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So I’m reading The Washington Post this morning and channel surfing between ESPN, MSNBC, and CNN and as a result (not because of ESPN, of course) I’m made to believe that the presidential election is already over and Barack Obama will be our president come January.

Now I’m not saying this mainstream media presaging is a good thing or a bad thing … I’m just saying it’s a thing. And I’m asking you, wise DT readers, as your Sunday Paper tasker, to tell us what you think about it. Is the MSM creating a self-fufilling prophecy? Or will the electorate rise up and show the experts they’re not as smart as they thought?

And remember, this is the Sunday Paper. We go outside the lines of things didactically defense tech-y with these (infrequent) posts. Plus we’re electing the next commander-in-chief. Hello? Talk about defense-related …

So what do you think?

– Ward

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No doubt, this flick rocks:

But there’s something as cool about this version too:

– Ward

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In the days before cable TV and on-demand everything, folks were at the mercy of the big three networks. And, what’s even more amazing, television wasn’t a 24-hour proposition. Networks used to actually “sign off” at the end of the day. And since these sign offs were like a companion going away for the night, they evoked a lot of emotion. Chris Michel, the man who founded Military​.com and brought DT to the masses, recently found some classic sign off footage very germane to our audience. Reading the comments you can see that some attribute military careers to these scenes of an F-104 soaring across the sky. And, of course, “High Flight” remains one of the greatest poems ever written about the art of flying.

Speaking of the Starfighter, I had the opportunity to do exercises against Turkish F-104s back in the day. As you might guess from the stubby wings, the F-104 isn’t much of a dogfighter. (It was designed as a straight-line “interceptor.”) An elegant machine, nonetheless.


High Flight
Uploaded by DwightFrye

(Gouge: CM)

– Ward

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Sure, the franchise has come a long way. Sure, “The Dark Knight” is awesome. But at the end of the day, it gets no better than this:

Gives you goosebumps, don’t it?

– Ward

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This from Gizmodo. Somebody needs to get his slide rule adjusted, it appears.

(Gouge: CM)

– Ward

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