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Open Discussion Discuss The Army’s $5 billion waste at the General Forum; Remember back when we would spend $5B without even noticing it. In 2004, the Army decided to scrap the two ...

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Old 10-14-2013, 10:06 PM
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Default The Army’s $5 billion waste

Remember back when we would spend $5B without even noticing it.

In 2004, the Army decided to scrap the two traditional camouflage uniforms that had long been used by the military—one meant for woodland environments, another for the desert—and claimed to have come up with a universal pattern that could be worn anywhere and blend in with any environment. The $5 billion dollar experiment with the universal pattern is over as the Army is phasing out the uniform after less than a decade of use. But many soldiers and observers are wondering why it took this long and cost this much to replace an item that performed poorly from the start during a period when the money could have been spent on other critical needs, like potentially life saving improvements to military vehicles and body armor.

Less than a decade after the so-called Universal Camouflage Pattern, or UCP, was introduced the Army is back to the drawing board, set to announce a new camouflage pattern and standard uniform to be worn by the more than million members of the active duty and reserve forces.

Evidence of the UCPs inadequacy as a combat uniform is easy to find—just look at pictures of soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan, they’re not wearing the UCP, which was deemed unsuitable for operations there, but a different uniform known as the MultiCam. In 2009, Congress responded to soldiers’ “concerns about the current combat uniform which they indicated provides ineffective camouflage given the environment in Afghanistan,” by passing a bill in the appropriations act requiring that the DOD “take immediate action to provide combat uniforms to personnel deployed to Afghanistan with a camouflage pattern that is suited to the environment of Afghanistan.” The result was the MultiCam. But that uniform, while it is currently worn in Afghanistan, was not a replacement but an interim substitution for the UCP, which is still the Army’s official uniform and the one worn by all soldiers not overseas.

Only 5 years after it was introduced the UCP’s failures had already become glaring enough to compel congressional intervention but despite the moratorium on its use in Afghanistan, it will have taken another 5 years for the Army to field its replacement.

Eventually, after mounting criticism and reports of the uniforms problems, the Army started looking for something better. This time, instead of hoping for a universal, one-size-fits-all design, an Army source who wished to remain unnamed explained that the Army solicited designs from companies for patterns with three variations, one for the desert, another for woodlands and jungles and a third, traditional semi-wooded pattern similar to the one currently used by soldiers in Afghanistan. After several rounds of testing, four patterns with three variations for each, from companies in New York, Virginia and Alaska were submitted to the Army to choose a winner.

Critics say this has been a huge waste of money.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog agency, issued a report taking the Army to task for spending $5 billion on UCP-covered uniforms and field equipment, only to spend an estimated $4 billion replacing them with whatever design it picks next. The Natick Army Soldier Systems Center, which does research and development on things like food, clothing, shelter for the military, conducted two studies on the Universal Camouflage Pattern, once in 2006 and again in 2009, both times finding that the UCP’s performance came up short when compared to other, more popular camouflages, like the Marine Corps desert pattern or the MultiCam. Natick scientists also went on record alleging that the Army had already selected the UCP before testing on it was completed and a full evaluation could be made of its performance compared to other designs.

Representatives from Natick did not return requests for comment on this story and the Government Accountability Office is currently closed due to the government shutdown.

But these reports only reinforce the views expressed by, arguably the most important critics of the Army’s near-decade long quest for the perfect uniform: the soldiers who have to wear them.

During former Army Officer Matt Gallagher’s 15-month deployment to Iraq from 2007-2009, he became well acquainted with the shortfalls of the universal camouflage pattern. In an attempt to blend in with all kinds of environments, the pattern instead wound up sticking out everywhere, its grey, gravel design that only a help to soldiers hoping to blend in with a parking lot. Gallagher said his soldiers would call the uniform pajamas, “both a testament to its comfort and its inability to look right on anyone, no matter their build.” But Gallagher found that the biggest concern with the UCP in Iraq was shoddy velcro.

“On a night raid, if it gets caught on a wire or something, it would make a crunchy sound that might alert insurgents to a soldier’s location,” he said. “That wouldn’t happen with just cloth.”

Army Sergeant Matt Pelak laughs at the mention of the universal camouflage pattern.

“It is one of the things that drives me craziest about the army I have to admit,” he told The Daily Beast. We started rolling it out in ‘05 and everyone was baffled by it.”

While Pelak admits there were some upsides to the design, such as easy-to-access pockets, his complaints outweighed the positives.

“Even currently, in my unit that I’m in now, we wear the normal uniform, the UCP when we’re back on base, but when we go in the field we wear MultiCam,” he said. “We have to carry two uniforms around, one that functions properly and one that’s merely administrative.”

Pelak points out this is hardly the first time the Army has spent billions of dollars on insufficient equipment just to spend more money to replace it, recalling the $20 billion Future Combat Systems program that launched in 2003 to develop a fleet of universally used lightweight armored vehicles and was canceled in 2009, ultimately considered a failure.

“It’s as ridiculous as buying 20 million humvees to go to war in that weren’t armored and then when the war started they had to build all new humvees that were bullet proof,” he said. “It’s that absurd.”

Pelak is not hesitant to admit that, within the ranks, the seemingly unnecessary and wasteful uniform program smells like “a giant conspiracy.”

“People in the military associate certain projects with nepotism, a Good Old Boy network,” Pelak said. “Maybe someone’s brother owns the company that designs the uniforms, or he’s on the Defense Appropriations Committee. No one knows exactly, but there are a lot of theories that all involve some sort of cronyism or backhand deal.”

If it were up to Gallagher, the billions that have been spent on two rounds of designing, testing, issuing new uniforms would instead go to finishing a water treatment plant that was started when he was in Iraq. “The local citizens need that treatment plant far more than we need a new batch of uniforms,” he said.

Neither Gallagher nor Pelak are sure that the ambitious goal of designing a universally functional pattern is realistic, but they both agree that the MultiCam design or the Desert Camouflage Uniform, are the best options they’ve been given so far.

For his part, Pelak would like to see less money spent designing uniforms and more money spent on better quality field equipment, such as more durable boots and lighter backpacks.

“It took 12 years to develop body armor for women,” he said. ‘I thought that was a joke when they announced body armor for women at the end of both wars and that’s absolutely needed. Not a lower budget version of a backpack you can’t even jump out of an airplane with.”

Unfortunately, Gallagher said, “What’s best for soldiers in the field is usually not a primary decision-maker. This is all about defense industry contracts, and just one example of the labyrinth that is that messy, nepotistic world.”

The Army, however, downplays the conspiracy theory. “It’s not like someone pulled the UCP out of their posterior and said let’s use it,” said the unnamed Army source. “They actually did a test and it performed pretty well, but as you can imagine, anything that’s universal doesn’t work that well in all situations.”

The Army source’s claim that the UCP tested well is contradicted by two different studies conducted by Natick showing that the MultiCam outperformed the UCP in various environments and the statements made by Natick scientists accusing the military of selecting the UCP before the full testing on it was complete.

The same source also insists the fuss over wasted money is overblown. “It’s like if you spent $5 billion on Hanes t-shirts and then 5 years later decided you should have bought Under Armor,” he said. “It’s not like you wasted money on those shirts because you got use out of them. We used those uniforms for their lifespan.”

The criticism made by many soldiers and Army watchdogs is that clothing that costs $5 billion dollars and is made for Soldiers going into combat ought to be of higher quality and last longer than a Hanes t-shirt. Despite the Army’s initial claims about fielding a universal uniform of the future, the UCPs nine-year lifespan is less than half the length of its considerably less expensive predecessor, the BDU uniform, which lasted for two decades. What’s more, the UCP wasn’t even worn by soldiers in Afghanistan during the last four years of its duration.

Over the past decade the Army has utilized four different uniforms, with each representing a considerable expenditure and investment of time and resources that could have been applied to other commonly cited needs, like upgrades to field equipment and improvements to tactical vehicles.

Whether the current quest for the consummate camouflage will prove time and money well spent or yet another waste remains to be seen. In the meantime, Pelak said, “We’re stuck with a uniform we can’t wear in the field.”

The Army?s $5 billion waste
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:13 PM
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Default Re: The Army’s $5 billion waste

Defense spending waste ............shocking

Hopefully they were at least made in the USA
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:14 PM
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Default Re: The Army’s $5 billion waste

Well.....Why did america spend billions of dollars on a pen that can write in space when Russia just used a pencil?
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:15 PM
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Default Re: The Army’s $5 billion waste

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Defense spending waste ............shocking

Hopefully they were at least made in the USA
88 posts about the ACA website that didn't cost a fraction of this. Of course Obama didn't do it so there is that.
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:19 PM
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Default Re: The Army’s $5 billion waste

Army to Congress: Thanks, but no tanks

HERLONG, California (CNN) - If you need an example of why it is hard to cut the budget in Washington look no further than this Army depot in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada range.

CNN was allowed rare access to what amounts to a parking lot for more than 2,000 M-1 Abrams tanks. Here, about an hour's drive north of Reno, Nevada, the tanks have been collecting dust in the hot California desert because of a tiff between the Army and Congress.

The U.S. has more than enough combat tanks in the field to meet the nation's defense needs - so there's no sense in making repairs to these now, the Army's chief of staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told Congress earlier this year.

If the Pentagon holds off repairing, refurbishing or making new tanks for three years until new technologies are developed, the Army says it can save taxpayers as much as $3 billion.

That may seem like a lot of money, but it's a tiny sacrifice for a Defense Department that will cut $500 billion from its budget over the next decade and may be forced to cut a further $500 billion if a deficit cutting deal is not reached by Congress.

Why is this a big deal? For one, the U.S. hasn't stopped producing tanks since before World War II, according to lawmakers.

Plus, from its point of view the Army would prefer to decide what it needs and doesn't need to keep America strong while making tough economic cuts elsewhere.

"When a relatively conservative institution like the U.S. military, which doesn't like to take risks because risks get people killed, says it has enough tanks, I think generally civilians should be inclined to believe them," said Travis Sharp a fellow at the defense think tank, New American Security.

But guess which group of civilians isn't inclined to agree with the generals on this point?

Congress.

To be exact, 173 House members - Democrats and Republicans - sent a letter April 20 to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, urging him to continue supporting their decision to produce more tanks.

That's right. Lawmakers who frequently and loudly proclaim that presidents should listen to generals when it comes to battlefield decisions are refusing to take its own advice.

If the U.S. pauses tank production and refurbishment it will hurt the nation's industrial economy, lawmakers say.

"The combat vehicle industrial base is a unique asset that consists of hundreds of public and private facilities across the United States," the letter said. The outlook for selling Abrams tanks to other nations appears "stronger than prior years," the letter said. But those sales would be "inadequate to sustain the industrial base and in some cases uncertain. In light of this, modest and continued Abrams production for the Army is necessary to protect the industrial base."

Lima, Ohio, is a long way from this dusty tank parking lot. The tiny town in the northwestern part of the Buckeye State is where defense manufacturing heavyweight General Dynamics makes these 60-plus-ton behemoths.

The tanks create 16,000 jobs and involve 882 suppliers, says Kendell Pease, the company's vice-president of government relations and communications. That job figure includes ancillary positions like gas station workers who fill up employees' cars coming and going to the plant.

Many of the suppliers for tank manufacturing are scattered around the country so the issue of stopping production or refurbishment becomes a parochial one: congressional representatives don't want to kill any jobs in their districts, especially as the economy struggles during an election year.

"General Dynamics is not the industrial base," Pease said. "It is small vendors."

But General Dynamics certainly has a stake in the battle of the tanks and is making sure its investment is protected, according to research done by The Center for Public Integrity, a journalism watchdog group.

What its reporters found was General Dynamics campaign contributions given to lawmakers at key times, such as around congressional hearings, on whether or not to build more tanks.

"We aren't saying there's vote buying" said Aaron Metha, one of the report's authors. "We are saying it's true in pretty much all aspects of politics - but especially the defense industry. It's almost impossible to separate out the money that is going into elections and the special interests. And what we found was the direct spike in the giving around certain important dates that were tied to votes."

Pease said General Dynamics is bipartisan in its giving and there is nothing suspicious in the timing of its donations to members of the House and Senate. The giving is tied to when fundraisers are held in Washington - which is also when Congress is in session, he said.

Lawmakers that CNN interviewed denied that donations influenced their decisions to keep the tanks rolling.

Rep. Buck McKeon, a Republican from California and chairman of the House armed services committee, said he didn't know General Dynamics had given him $56,000 in campaign contributions since 2009 until CNN asked him about it.

"You know, the Army has a job to do and we have a job to do," McKeon said. "And they have tough choices because they've been having their budget cut."

McKeon said he's thinking about the long range view. "... If someone could guarantee us that we'll never need tanks in the future, that would be good. I don't see that guarantee."

Similarly, his Democratic counterpart on the committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who has received $64,000 from General Dynamics since 2001, said he is worried about the workforce if the Lima plant is closed for three years.

"Listen, we don't want to play Russian Roulette with the national security of this country," Reyes said.

Odierno explained to the committee that it would be cheaper to shut down the tank plant and then restart it in 2017. But his plea was ignored.

"Lima would cost us $2.8 billion just to keep that open and our tank fleet is in good shape and we don't need to because of the great support that we have gotten over the last two years," he told the committee.

But General Dynamics said it will cost a lot less to keep the plant open. Pease said the Army hasn't factored in the huge costs of closing the plant and the potential loss of skilled workers who will be needed come 2017 when the Army plans to remodel the Abrams tank.

"It's not whether they need those tanks, it's how much it costs to restart it," said Pease. General Dynamics, he said, will survive with or without refurbishing tanks over the next three years.

So how did Congress respond to Gen. Odeirno's request to shut down production until 2017?

The answer came in the proposed congressional budget for next year. It includes $181 million for tanks the Army doesn't want or need now. That begs another question: who will likely get the money for the 70 or so tanks covered by that contract when it goes out for bid?

"General Dynamics would probably get the contract for it anyway because they are kind of the ones that are out there leading the way on this," said McKeon.

The Army tank battle sends an unsettling message to the Defense Department, says Sharp, with the defense think tank. But it's a message that may not surprise a public weary from decades of battles and horse-trading that have defined Capitol Hill.

"The fact that the military is having such a hard time getting this relatively small amount of money to be saved, I think is an indication of the huge uphill fight that the military faces when it comes to Congress," Sharp said. "Congress is going to fight tooth and nail to protect defense investments that benefit their constituents and the people that live in their states."

Maybe the next time the generals go up to the Hill, they should take a cue from the well-protected tanks parked in California. Perhaps they might consider wearing body armor.

CNN's Sara Anwar contributed to this report.
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:20 PM
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Default Re: The Army’s $5 billion waste

Half a trillion in waste and you can't stop them.
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:20 PM
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Default Re: The Army’s $5 billion waste

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88 posts about the ACA website that didn't cost a fraction of this. Of course Obama didn't do it so there is that.
a singular website vs all the uniforms they have that are still perfectly fine for use in training. Nice comparison. The idea of a universal camouflage is silly anyway.

BTW the government paid grants for the states that did their own web sites. The tally is way on up there for the ACA websites seeing as how they gave 1 billion to your state alone.
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:22 PM
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Our site works well. Think of all the states who didn't want to play.
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a singular website vs all the uniforms they have that are still perfectly fine for use in training. Nice comparison. The idea of a universal camouflage is silly anyway.

BTW the government paid grants for the states that did their own web sites. The tally is way on up there for the ACA websites seeing as how they gave 1 billion to your state alone.
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:23 PM
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Default Re: The Army’s $5 billion waste

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Half a trillion in waste and you can't stop them.
gotta buy them votes somehow
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Old 10-14-2013, 10:28 PM
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Default Re: The Army’s $5 billion waste

Who votes will that buy? Who even follows this stuff?


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gotta buy them votes somehow
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