Category Archives: Global economy

Forecasting Disease From Space

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Geospacial Disease Forecasting

Photo Credit: World Health Organization (WHO)

“TRAJECTORY”

“Disease forecasting remains an imperfect science, but as it is refined to a point of repeated, reliable accuracy, it will play a more significant role in containing and responding to dangerous disease outbreaks.”


“In May 2017, hydrologist Antarpreet Jutla and a team of civil scientists used predictive algorithms to forecast an outbreak of cholera in Yemen. Cholera, a waterborne bacterial disease, primarily blooms during hot and dry seasons in coastal, developing countries lacking sophisticated sanitation and water infrastructure. To identify areas where these conditions are prevalent, Jutla’s team used satellite imagery to monitor temperature patterns, water storage, population migration, regional topography, and precipitation throughout Yemen. That data was fed into a processing algorithm that predicted areas most likely to experience an outbreak in the near future—particularly cities in West Yemen along the Red Sea.

Less than a month later, the model’s predictions rang true. Because the algorithms were built and tested using data from other regions, such as the Bengal Delta in South Asia, the team did not anticipate such accurate results in Yemen and chose not to preemptively warn local officials of the model’s predictions. In June, highly populated cities along the country’s West coast (including Al Hudaydah, Hajjah, and Taiz) saw tens of thousands of inhabitants suffer moderate to severe cholera symptoms.

The epidemic confirmed the model’s effectiveness beyond the team’s expectations. The refinement of such a system to a near-certain level of accuracy would offer huge advantages to hospitals and medical professionals, such as the ability to prepare treatment facilities and appropriately allocate supplies and vaccinations.

A similar disease forecasting effort in fall 2017 predicted malaria outbreaks in the Peruvian Amazon. NASA has partnered with university researchers who leverage NASA’s satellite fleet to identify areas where popular breeding grounds for the anopheles darlingi mosquito (the species most responsible for spreading malaria) overlap with concentrated human populations, leading to high infection rates. Using the Land Data Assimilation System (LDAS), NASA can pinpoint warm temperatures and calm waters like ponds or groundwater flooding—ideal conditions for darlingi to lay eggs. Regional models analyze this data and jump forward 12 weeks to predict where malaria is most likely to erupt. Health ministries are then encouraged to administer preventative treatment, bed nets, and other resources to specific health posts throughout Peru.”

http://trajectorymagazine.com/forecasting-disease-space/

 

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Government Audit Finds Pentagon Squandered Millions On Economic Development Projects in Afghanistan

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Afghanistan Task Force Failures

Cashmere Goat Farm in Afghanistan Abandoned as of April 2017. (Photo: SIGAR)

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“Mixed results, waste, and unsustained projects” that cost U.S. taxpayers more than $675 million.

The Task Force awarded more than $200 million in sole-source contracts, which pose a higher risk of poor performance and corruption. Even worse, $35 million of these contracts went to companies employing former Task Force officials.”


“The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) rendered what could be the final verdict on the Pentagon’s controversial Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (Task Force). On Tuesday, the watchdog released the results of a comprehensive performance audit of Task Force programs and activities in Afghanistan. It found “mixed results, waste, and unsustained projects” that cost U.S. taxpayers more than $675 million.

Readers of our blog are probably familiar with the Task Force, a Department of Defense (DoD) office that carried out economic development projects in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2014. The office achieved notoriety in 2015 for allegedly spending $43 million to build a gas station that should have cost less than $500,000. (The actual cost of the gas station remains a matter of dispute between SIGAR and DoD. The dispute took a bizarre turntwo years ago when a DoD official testifying at a Senate hearing quoted a cost figure, the source of which remains a mystery.) For the last two years, Special Inspector General John Sopko has been publicly bashing the Task Force for “ill-conceived,” “poorly planned,” and “unfinished” projects.

The audit, conducted at the request of Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and former Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), found several systemic flaws that doomed the Task Force: poor record-keeping, absence of a clear statement of objectives and strategy, inconsistent coordination with other U.S. agencies, and poor contract planning and oversight.

Because the Task Force did a particularly bad job collecting data and retaining records, SIGAR was “unable to determine whether it achieved its goal of reducing violence, enhancing stability, and supporting economic normalcy in Afghanistan through strategic business and economic activities.” As a result, taxpayers may never know exactly what the Task Force did or did not accomplish. The records SIGAR could get its hands on tell a story of massive waste and unfulfilled promises.

The Task Force obligated more than $675 million in contracts, $316 million of which funded contracts directly supporting economic recovery projects. The remaining $360 million went toward various indirect and overhead costs, including the infamous luxury private villas the Task Force used to house staff, guests, and contractors, instead of using less expensive U.S. government accommodations.

SIGAR determined that only 22 percent of the $316 million in contracts fully met their objectives. But even this rather modest metric must be taken with a grain of salt, since completed projects often were abandoned or fell into disuse or disrepair because the Afghans were unable to independently sustain them.

The report quotes an unnamed Task Force employee who recounted some troubling initial impressions:

The first thing I noticed was that the organization was involved in far too many activities. The list of projects was extremely long and unfocused and seemed to be a hodge-podge of projects without a strategy. The organization was trying to do too many things, including work that overlapped with that of other organizations working in Afghanistan.

Task Force contracting personnel, according to the report, were “generally inexperienced and unfamiliar with government contracting regulations and timelines, and their plans tended not to account for routine delays in the U.S. contracting process.” Furthermore, ill-defined contract requirements often left contracting officials unable to hold poor performers accountable.

The Task Force awarded more than $200 million in sole-source contracts, which pose a higher risk of poor performance and corruption. Even worse, $35 million of these contracts went to companies employing former Task Force officials. In the two examples described in the report, the results were disastrous. Hickory Ground Solutions, a consulting firm whose chief executive was a former Task Force employee, won a $3.9 million sole-source consulting contract. Hickory allegedly ran afoul of small business contracting rules and misled the contracting officer about its capability to fulfill the contract’s requirements. Transformation Advisors Group, another small consulting firm that employed a former Task Force official “in a senior capacity,” received full payment on a mining training program contract despite allegedly unsatisfactory performance.

Despite recounting numerous examples of waste, cronyism, and outright fraud, the report makes no mention of any criminal or other enforcement actions arising out of the Task Force’s operations. This is somewhat surprising, given Special Inspector General John Sopko’s assertion in January 2016 that “several criminal investigations” connected with the Task Force were underway.

To its credit, DoD took a conciliatory tone toward the audit. “We appreciate SIGAR’s efforts,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Colin Jackson wrote in a response letter reprinted in the report’s appendix. He conceded that SIGAR’s findings are “consistent with other independent assessments that concluded that [the Task Force] had mixed results” and that the report “documents unacceptable weaknesses and shortcomings.”

“We can—and must—do better,” Jackson stated.

Credit must also go to John Sopko and his dogged team of auditors and investigators for keeping the heat on DoD. We hope the government has learned its lesson and takes to heart the several “observations” SIGAR makes in the report to guide the White House and Congress if they ever decide to authorize another entity like the Task Force.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2018/01/audit-finds-dod-task-force-squandered-millions-had-few-successes.html

 

 

 

Continuing Resolutions – The Short Term Budget Fix That Is Bad For Government

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CR and the Can

Dark clouds pass over the Capitol in Washington.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

“FEDERAL TIMES” By Chris Cummiskey

“The latest continuing resolution was passed just before Christmas and is set to expire Jan. 19. What does it say about our country that the Congress can’t execute the most basic responsibility of providing funds for a full fiscal year?

Threatening a federal government shutdown is considered the nuclear option by both parties in Congress. However, the reality is that government by continuing resolution is bad for just about everyone.”


“Once again, the airwaves and media outlets are filled with the threat of another federal government shutdown in just 10 days.

Congress and the president have been at odds over the annual spending bill to fund the government for months, with agencies function under a series of short-term spending measures to keep the lights on. The latest continuing resolution was passed just before Christmas and is set to expire Jan. 19.

Unfortunately, this has been a common approach to government funding in recent years that I know all too well. In 2013, as the deputy under secretary for management at the Department of Homeland Security, I was tasked with overseeing DHS’s shutdown efforts.

Now, it is no secret there are legitimate policy issues to resolve this year including a host of immigration related items. The problem is that government by continuing resolution is bad for our citizens, bad for the government and bad for Federal workers that are trying to deliver much needed services.

Bad for citizens

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, it is likely that you or someone close to you relies on some sort of government service. This can take many forms – ranging from receiving a monthly social security check to taking your family to a national park. What does it say about our country that the Congress can’t execute the most basic responsibility of providing funds for a full fiscal year? Confidence is already low in the federal government’s ability to perform. This doesn’t help. Say what you will about state governments, but as a state senator, we had no choice but to get the budget done at the start of each fiscal year. Most states have a balanced budget requirement that forces lawmakers to get in a room and not come out until a funding bill is sent to the governor. Congress should try that approach.

Bad for government operations

Under the rules of a CR period, the funding level is an apportioned amount based on prior year funding. Think of it as a mini fiscal year. Under a CR, no new starts of programs are permitted and changes to existing programs are severely limited. It essentially freezes all the current activity for departments and agencies so that most strategic planning is placed on hold. This means that even needed changes to improve service delivery and performance are shelved until a full year spending bill is approved by Congress.

Bad for federal workers

The constant threat of a shutdown is also bad for government workers who are left to do the best they can with a cloud of constant uncertainty. CRs also make it very difficult to fill mission essential positions. Federal managers and supervisors who are often shorthanded due to attrition, retirement and lack of retention incentives, struggle to meet critical staffing needs. When coupled with the slow rate of political appointments in many agencies, it makes it almost impossible to get the job done. These artificial mini fiscal years are particularly hard on the CFO and budget offices in agencies. At any given time, they are already working issues in several fiscal years. As an example, amid the current meltdown, CFOs and their staff must continue planning for the public release of the president’s fiscal 2019 budget set for next month. This kicks off congressional attention for the next round of budgeting even though they have not finished the 2018 spending bill.

As a recovering politician, I get it. You must play the cards you are dealt to leverage your best position in a budget negotiation. There are always a lot of moving parts and competing spending interests. Threatening a federal government shutdown is considered the nuclear option by both parties in Congress. However, the reality is that government by continuing resolution is bad for just about everyone.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chris Cummiskey is a former acting under secretary/deputy under secretary for management and chief acquisition officer at the U.S. Department Homeland Security. He also serves as a senior fellow with the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University.

https://www.federaltimes.com/opinions/2018/01/09/short-term-budget-fixes-are-bad-government/

 

 

The Pentagon Is Not a Sacred Cow

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Pentagon Sacred Cow

“THE NEW YORK TIMES”

“The Pentagon already wastes about one in five of the taxpayer dollars it receives, according to a Pentagon-commissioned study.

And the United States, which has plenty of other urgent needs, already spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined.”


“Health care, Social Security, Medicare and other social programs are all on the chopping block as the Republican-led Congress scrambles to make up for the revenue lost to its planned tax cuts. The Pentagon, however, remains a sacred cow, destined to receive yet more money.

The military budget is now $643 billion. The actual and potential threats from Russia, China, North Korea and Islamic extremists are all serious, but giving the Pentagon another huge increase defies common sense.

The opening bid for the 2018 defense budget came from President Trump, who in May proposed $677 billion. That was $54 billion above a budget cap set by Congress in 2011, after the 2008 financial crisis led to demands for fiscal restraint. Then last month, Congress upped his ante by passing a 2018 military authorization bill that would increase spending to around $700 billion, some $85 billion above the legal cap. Mr. Trump signed that bill into law on Tuesday.

For the moment, that increase is a fiction. Before it can occur, Congress must remove the 2011 caps and appropriate the money. That is the focus of the present budget battle on Capitol Hill. Republican leaders reportedly want to increase military spending by at least Mr. Trump’s original figure of $54 billion and nonmilitary spending by $37 billion. Democratic leaders are insisting on equal increases for both categories.

What’s not clear is that the Pentagon needs any increase until it can get a handle on waste, which a 2015 study estimated at $125 billion, about one-fifth of its budget.

The Pentagon had a virtual blank check after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it went after Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and then turned its attention to overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Military spending in 2017 is already as high as during the armed forces buildup of the 1980s. The proposed increase, coming after the United States has withdrawn thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, would take it even higher. Mr. Trump, bedazzled by men in uniform and enthralled by displays of weaponry, says more money is needed to build bigger and better forces. And senior commanders have lobbied hard for a big increase to upgrade a military they say lacks readiness, meaning the training and equipment needed to fight.

It’s certainly true that the military, cut back after the Cold War, was strained during the 16 years of near constant war after Sept. 11. Yet the ground troopswho are doing the actual fighting say there is no crisis, according to the analyst Mark Thompson of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight. Other experts say claims of a deteriorating military are exaggerated.

Some increases are understandable, even inevitable. For instance, from 2001 to 2012, the average cost per active service member grew by 61 percent, when adjusted for inflation, because of new and expanded benefits, increasing health care costs and pay raises. Those costs prompted the Pentagon to reduce personnel, says Todd Harrison, an expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But other increases arise from a dysfunctional congressional budget process complicated by lobbyists who woo lawmakers to back unneeded or extravagant weapons. That’s how lawmakers wind up investing in programs that don’t deliver, like the overbudget F-35 jet fighter, and modernizing the nuclear arsenal at an estimated cost of $1 trillion over the next 30 years, when smarter choices would cost less and still keep the country safe.

One encouraging sign is that the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, Ellen Lord, is talking to Congress about moving away from high-tech toys that may no longer be relevant or affordable. Another is that the Pentagon has decided to launch its first (believe it or not) audit.

Like other federal agencies, the Pentagon can’t have it all. The military is critical to national security. That does not give it license to be a poor steward of resources and gobble up tax dollars at the expense of other programs.”

Government Shutdown Continues to Loom

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Government shutdown

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“Clearly the potential impacts of shutting down the federal government go far beyond federal workers being out of work for a while.

During the 2013 shutdown the government issued more than 10,000 stop-work orders for work and projects being done by contractors, and there were reports of numerous temporary layoffs by contractors.”  [What is a Government Contract Stop Work Order? ]


“We narrowly avoided a government shutdown last week, and may well still face one at the end of this month. Some folks might think that a federal government shutdown won’t affect them. But such thinking fails to consider the full scope of would result if the government did shut down.

Our last government shutdown, in 2013, serves as real guide for what to expect if we face another one. Four years ago the House of Representatives (controlled by the Republicans) tried to use the budget process to eliminate funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). The Senate (controlled by the Democrats) and the President were unwilling to agree to that. Without new budget funds being passed by both chambers of Congress, most of the federal government had to shut down once the old funding legislation expired. The shutdown lasted 16 days and had a tremendous impact.

No pay

One of the obvious and most direct impacts of any shutdown is the fact that hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed, which means held out of work and not payed. The latest workforce analysis estimates the federal government employed over 2 million people in 2015. Exactly how many go out of work during a shutdown depends on how many are considered essential and how many agencies get separate funding approved by Congress before the shutdown occurs. During the 2013 shutdown an estimated 850,000 federal workers were furloughed and missed a combined 6.6 million work days. Consider how big an impact it would have if close to one million people suddenly stop getting paid with no idea on when work will start again. This will interfere with many families’ ability to pay for their mortgage, groceries, utility bills, tuition, and more.

And it isn’t just agency personnel who are affected. The federal government employs a vast number of contractors and grantees to assist with government offices and programs across almost every agency. That same workforce analysis estimated that the government had more than 5.2 million contract and grant employees more than a decade ago. During the 2013 shutdown the government issued more than 10,000 stop-work orders for work and projects being done by contractors, and there were reports of numerous temporary layoffs by contractors. So there will likely be a significant number of private sector jobs also on hold.

Economic impacts

Beyond the hardship of families with federal employees and federal contractors, that missing pay has ripple effects out into the economy. When people aren’t getting paychecks and don’t know when the next one is coming, they understandably reduce their spending as much as possible—fewer holiday gifts, no movie tickets, cancelled travel, no dinners, and more. And that reduced spending impacts those businesses and their employees.

This impact on spending decisions can start even before the shutdown itself. Just the threat of an impending shutdown could influence spending patterns for federal employees and contractors. We are in the heavy retail period of the holiday season, a period of time that can decide if some retail companies are profitable or not for the whole year. Reduced spending by close to a million households could have a major impact on the bottom line for retail companies.

The Office of Management and Budget estimated that the 2013 shutdown, which occurred in the fall, cost the U.S. economy between $2 billion and $6 billion. An analysis by Standard & Poor’s projected the long-term impact to be a $24 billion loss to the U.S. economy.

National Parks, monuments, museums closed

The federal government oversees hundreds of national parks, monuments, memorials, museums, and historic sites across the country that on average handle more than 700,000 visitors each day. These include the Grand Canyon, the recently reduced Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the Smithsonian, the National Zoo, and many other locations in almost every state. Closing these locations means disrupting many tourists’ plans but also means lost revenue from their spending.

In 2013 the National Park Service estimated that the 16-day closure meant almost $500 million in lost revenue. And that doesn’t include the potential loss to local businesses of an estimated $76 million—the amount spent in communities near these locations—because of fewer travelers or changed plans.

Veterans’ benefits

The government provides lots of benefits to veterans which would be disrupted in the event of a shutdown—processing disability claims, training, support services, and more. Many of these services are important to veterans and their families and time-sensitive. Asking veterans to wait after they have provided their service to the country seems a betrayal. And a government shutdown not only stops these services but can create large backlogs that will delay delivery of the benefits even when government offices reopen.

The 2013 shutdown slowed processing on veteran disability claims and closed services that helped veterans understand and access their benefits including call centers and hotlines. Veterans also lost access to vocational training, education counseling services, and workshops designed to help transition to civilian life and employment.

Helping vulnerable families

There are real concerns that a shutdown, especially a longer one, could threaten federal programs that support mothers, children, and families in need. Programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often called food stamps, could be in danger of disruption from a shutdown. The program helps millions of poor families get enough food for their children. In 2013 SNAP was not affected because there were funds already allocated through the Recovery Act to sustain the program. But those funds are no longer available today, so a shutdown could threaten the program.

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program helps approximately 9 million mothers and families get nutritional food and health care. In 2013, states had enough money to operate the WIC program during the 16 days, but if the shutdown had lasted longer the states would have run out of money and been forced to halt the program. It is unclear how long states could operate during a new shutdown.

Head Start is a well-known federally funded preschool program that provides support, nutrition, and care to millions of under-privileged kids. During the 2013 shutdown, Head Start programs in various states had to close, until private philanthropists stepped in to provide the needed funds. How much a new shutdown would affect Head Start kids will depend on how much money states have on hand for the program when the shutdown starts and how long it lasts.

Food safety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would almost certainly have to suspend most of the food safety inspections and enforcement programs during a shutdown. Of course that doesn’t mean the food stops getting produced, shipped, bought, and consumed—just that consumers can’t be as confident that the food is safe. During the 2013 shutdown the FDA reportedly halted many inspections and cut back on examination, sampling, and analysis of imported foods.

Medical Research

A federal shutdown will likely require that the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suspend many of their operations. During the 2013 shutdown nearly three-quarters of NIH staff and two-thirds of CDC staff were furloughed. Patients wouldn’t be able to enroll in clinical trials run by the NIH, and the CDC would have to discontinue tracking illness patterns such as flu, hepatitis, and Tuberculosis to direct prevention efforts and avoid larger outbreaks. Research grants into medical treatments and other scientific issues would be delayed. Applications to approve new drugs, generic drugs, and medical devices would also get put on hold. It is impossible to predict the exact impact on patients but even short delays could have serious health consequences for some.

Conclusion

It [a government shutdown] would affect people across the country—veterans, small business owners, families, tourists, patients, consumers. And the above list only covers some of the services that would be impacted; such services as passport processing, federal loans, small business supports, issuing new social security cards, and so much more would grind to a halt during a shutdown. Congress and the administration should make every effort to avoid a future shutdown or even the threat of a shutdown.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/12/government-shutdown-continues-to-loom.html

 

Hard Lessons from America’s Longest Wars

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lessons longest wars“BREAKING DEFENSE”  By James Kitfield

“American troops have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long that the public doesn’t even celebrate their victories or mourn their defeats any more.

When U.S.-backed forces this year recaptured the twin capitals of the self-proclaimed caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria hardly anyone in America noticed.

When reports noted earlier this year that a resurgent Taliban had regained control of roughly 40 percent of Afghanistan that warranted only passing mention in the American media.”

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“There’s an old axiom that democracies, with their fickle political winds and short attention spans, are just not well suited for long wars. With the post-9/11 fight against violent Islamist extremists already well into its second decade, with no end in sight, it’s little wonder that many Americans believe the longest wars in U.S. history have been costly mistakes.

James Kitfield, who’s won more Gerald Ford Defense Reporting awards than anyone else (3)

Despite their unpopularity in a war-weary America, the post-9/11 wars looks very different to the men and women who have been in the middle of the fight. Not necessarily better, but more complex and nuanced than the narrative of an endless and futile slog against an unfathomable foe. U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have learned and adapted constantly during a decade-and-a-half of fighting this “global war on terrorists,” as have our determined and adaptive enemies. After covering those wars, I spent recent years interviewing many of the top U.S. leaders in this long conflict in an effort to capture those lessons for my book, “Twilight Warriors: The Soldiers, Spies and Special Agents Who Are Revolutionizing the American Way of War” (Basic Books, 2016). Among their many insights the following lessons stand out.

Know Thine Enemy

China’s legendary military strategist Sun Tzu cautioned: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” Yet from the beginning of these long wars U.S. officials have been slow to grasp the ideology, motivations and strategies of our enemies. The resulting miscalculations have cost the nation dearly.

President George W. Bush infamously saw a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq which just didn’t exist. We invaded in 2003 and created a self-fulfilling prophecy. President Barack Obama wrongly believed the killing of Osama bin Laden and many of his top lieutenants spelled the end of Al Qaeda, leading him to prematurely withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and to underestimate ISIS as the Junior Varsity team of terror. For his part President Donald Trump routinely reacts to new terror attacks with calls to build a border wall and ban immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of jihadi attacks are conducted by Americans or legal immigrants.

Congress also seems dangerously disengaged from the nature of the war it authorized so long ago. Many lawmakers reacted with incredulous questions when four U.S. Special Forces soldiers died in Niger. What were U.S. troops even doing in that African nation, some of them wondered publicly? Of course, U.S. forces have been killing terrorists and helping to combat Islamist extremist groups and Al Qaeda affiliates in Africa for many years. It’s a familiar list: Al Shabab in Somalia; Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen; Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the Sahel region; and Boca Haram in Nigeria. Perhaps too few lawmakers read newspapers or watch TV news.

Then there have been the seemingly inexplicable decisions by senior American policymakers. A cursory understanding of Iraq’s sectarian dynamic should have stopped Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer from his disastrous early decisions to disband the regular Iraqi Army and launch an aggressive “de-Baathification” campaign. That single act is believed by many to have driven Sunni officers and troops into the hands of Al Qaeda in Iraq, where they swam in a swamp of Sunni grievance. The resulting terrorist insurgency took the better part of a decade to subdue.

“The single biggest lesson we should have learned is that before you invade a country, you need to really understand in a very granular and nuanced way what is going on inside that country,” retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former leader of the Iraqi and Afghan counterinsurgency campaigns and former director of the CIA, told me in an interview. As the former commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the Iraq invasion, Petraeus remembers being given “Iraqi experts” who couldn’t tell him if the towns he was entering were majority Sunni or Shiite, or where the ethnic border lines were on a map: “Which means they didn’t know anything.”

Then we did it again. We withdrew in 2011 and ISIS simply repeated the cycle, forming its own alliance with former Baathist military officers and stoking Sunni grievances against Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“By 2009-2010 we had essentially crushed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and we had a competing narrative to what the extremists were offering ideologically, which was a more inclusive government in Baghdad and a region moving in a positive direction,” said retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who led Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in defeating AQI and killing its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and later commanded all U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. “Then the ‘Arab Spring’ started and you had all this instability spread throughout the region, and [leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi and ISIS adapted to those conditions and filled that vacuum. As a consequence ISIS became something like Al Qaeda 3.0.”

Al Qaeda Is An Ideology First, Not A Group

Knowing your enemy means understanding his core motivations and goals. After U.S. counterterrorism forces killed Bin Laden and nearly all of his chief lieutenants in the 2010 – 2011 timeframe, President Obama plausibly argued that “core Al Qaeda” as it existed at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks had been decimated. But the bond that truly unites core Al Qaeda with its far-flung affiliates and other Sunni extremist groups is not like a regular army’s bonds of patriotism, discipline and training. They are bound by a transnational ideology, Salafi jihadism. Salafis are fundamentalists who interpret the Quran literally and believe the only true Islam is a mythic version they say was practiced in the days of the Prophet Mohammed and his acolytes in the 7th century. They believe it is their duty to impose this medieval version of Islam on “apostates” and “non-believers,” by extreme violence if necessary.

ISIS = Al Qaeda 3.0

In the Darwinian selection process of the terror strikes survivors get stronger as they learn and adapt. So it was with al-Baghdadi, the former chief of foreign fighter operations for Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the most lethal of the many affiliates that constitute “Al Qaeda 2.O.” After the 2011 Arab Spring protests and the Syrian regime’s iron-fisted response to a sectarian civil war, al-Baghdadi realized that the same ratlines that AQI had used to funnel foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq to fight the U.S. military could be reversed, sending AQI’s Sunni jihadists the other way to carve a sanctuary out of the rotting corpse of Syria.

Baghdadi had served prison time in a U.S. detention center, where he formed bonds and alliances with a network of former senior Baathist military officers in Saddam Hussein’s army. In 2013-2014, Baghdadi and his jihadists launched a series of daring prison breaks in Iraq to free them. Working together, they launched ISIS’ lightning offensive in the summer of 2014, stunning the world when they overran numerous Iraqi Army divisions and captured roughly a third of both Syria and Iraq, bringing ISIS’ terrorist army to the outskirts of Baghdad. What looked like a military offensive by a ragtag army of ISIS irregulars was actually the result of an unprecedented alliance between Salafi jihadists and former Sunni Baathist military officers whose networks reached deep into corrupted Iraqi Security Forces.

Under al-Baghdadi’s leadership ISIS is certainly an innovative organization. Understanding that it would resonate powerfully in Salafi ideology, Baghdadi proclaimed an Islamic caliphate, and declared himself its caliph, or ruler, attracting an unprecedented 40,000 foreign fighters from across the globe to ISIS’ black banner. Adopting Bin Laden’s strategy of attacking the West as a path towards greater legitimacy in the terror pantheon, he formed an “external affairs unit” that was behind terrorist “spectaculars” in Paris and Brussels. Many former Al Qaeda affiliates switched their allegiance to ISIS.

“The Paris attack was a nightmare, and of particular concern because of the direct connectivity between ISIS and the perpetrators. It had all the hallmarks of a centrally planned, organized and directed attack involving top ISIS leadership,” Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), told me in a recent interview. The Paris and Belgium attacks were proof that as long as ISIS enjoyed sanctuary from which to recruit and plan attacks on the West, it would remain a mortal threat.

“Safe haven is always high on the list of a terrorist organization’s sources of strength, and ISIS exercising state-like dominion over much of the territory of Iraq and Syria, with all its economic and energy resources, was in many ways the ultimate safe haven. That was incredibly dangerous from a counterterrorism perspective,” he said. “Combine that with ISIS’ unique ability to attract fighters from outside Iraq and Syria, which was far beyond anything Al Qaeda ever aspired to, and suddenly we were dealing with a mass terrorist movement.”

It Takes a Network to Defeat a Network

At their pinnacles, Al Qaeda and ISIS acted not as discrete terrorist organizations but as central command for a globe-spanning terrorist insurgency, with both groups funneling fighters, resources and “lessons learned” among a far-flung network of affiliates that stretched across an arc of instability from Southwest Asia all the way to North Africa.

Under the pioneering leadership of Gen. McChrystal, JSOC (the secretive war-fighting subcomponent of U.S. Special Operations Command), adapted by incubating its own network-centric model of military operations. That model relied on an unprecedented synergy that developed in the war zones between Special Operations Forces, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and conventional military forces. The model of operations that McChrystal helped pioneer was most closely associated in the public mind with drone strikes and the relentless counterterrorism raids such as Operation Neptune Spear, which brought Osama bin Laden to justice. At its hot core, this new, network-centric style of warfare is predicated on hunting individual terrorists and other extremists who hid in the dark corners of the world, and in plain sight as well.

The intense battle rhythm behind that new style of warfare was unlike anything that had come before it. JSOC’s multiagency joint task forces and intelligence fusion centers combined the skills of disparate national and international players into a unified, mission-focused whole. The streamlined operations enabled by the network greatly condensed the traditional military-targeting cycle of “find, fix and finish” by constantly incorporating intelligence “exploitation and analysis,” creating what the counterterrorism community called an “F3EA” style of operations. Within that operational model the once bright lines between intelligence gathering and operational targeting disappeared.

The synergies required of that new style of operations explained major reorganizations of the Central Intelligence and Defense Intelligence agencies, the emergence of the National Counterterrorism Center as a major, multiagency coordinating node in the network, and the National Security Agency’s (NSA) storage of vast amounts of electronic metadata in search of “patterns of life” among terrorists and their networks. JSOC’s mantra “it takes a network to defeat a network” became the rallying cry of a man-hunting juggernaut that McChrystal described to me as “the Amazon.com of counterterrorism.”

“The epiphany for me came as we were studying Al Qaeda operations and realized that it didn’t act like a typical hierarchal terrorist organization, with ponderous, top-down execution. It moved so fast that we were constantly asking ourselves, ‘How did they do that?’” McChrystal recalled. After that it became all about building a globe-spanning U.S. counterterrorism network along with allies, he said, and connecting far-flung military, intelligence and law enforcement entities together focused on a common contextual understanding of the threat, and on winning this one fight.

“The biggest epiphany of all was that once we connected all these nodes and the network was working, I didn’t have to make a lot of big decisions,” he said. “The network learns and it knows what to do! Through the wisdom of the crowd, the network adapted organically and figured out the right strategy.”

Counterterrorism vs. Counterinsurgency

Four times in this long war U.S. military commanders have confronted a dangerous tipping point where a campaign of terrorism transforms into a much larger and more widely-supported insurgency powerful enough to compete with government forces for control of territory: Iraq in 2006-7; Afghanistan in 2009-10; and Iraq and Afghanistan again in 2014-2017. At that point a strictly counterterrorism campaign of targeted strikes on terrorist leaders becomes ineffective in countering a determined and dug-in insurgency. A more  manpower intensive counterinsurgency campaign is required to clear enemy-held ground, hold it to protect the local population, and build governance as a means to win the populace to the government’s side.

Disagreements about the efficacy of counterterrorism versus counterinsurgency strategies, both between military and civilian leaders and among the military fraternity itself, led to some of the costliest mistakes of the post-9/11 wars. U.S. commanders and their civilian masters in Iraq 2003-2005 were slow to even recognize the insurgency there until it was almost too late. Disagreements over a counterterrorism versus a counterinsurgency strategy between the White House and McChrystal’s team in Afghanistan in 2009 eroded critical trust between them, ultimately leading to McChrystal’s dismissal. If the Iraqi government does not rebuild and project governance into the recaptured Sunni majority city of Mosul, then its recent victory there against ISIS is also likely to prove temporary.

Petraeus, who replaced McChrystal in Afghanistan after leading the successful counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq, understood the mission as keeping the country from once again becoming an Al Qaeda sanctuary, which required halting the momentum of the Taliban insurgency, and accelerating the training of Afghan security forces so they could defend their own country.

“And you can’t do that with a counterterrorism strategy of man-hunting alone! You can hunt men all day long, but if you don’t clear territory and hold it, then the enemy is just going to keep regenerating,” Petraeus told me in our interview for Twilight Warriors. “So anyone who believed we could win in Afghanistan with counterterrorism operations alone was mistaken. There is no foundation for that idea whatsoever.”

https://breakingdefense.com/2017/12/hard-lessons-from-americas-longest-wars/0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pentagon Assigns 1,200 Auditors for Unprecedented Financial Review

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Pentagon Audit U.S. News dot com

“DEFENSE ONE”

“After decades of false starts, the Defense Department aims to issue its first audit report in November 2018.

The Defense Department is finally beginning an audit of its finances, following years of calls for greater transparency and failed attempts to make its accounts fully reviewable.”

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“Defense Comptroller David Norquist made the announcement Thursday, saying the department’s inspector general would begin the audit in December. Starting in 2018, Norquist said, the IG will issue reports on the Pentagon’s finances annually. The first audit will be released in November of next year.

Congress has pushed for Defense to make itself audit-ready for decades, but the Pentagon has repeatedly missed deadlines for investigators to fully dive into the minutiae of its $600 billion in annual spending. For the last several years, department officials and lawmakers of all ideological backgrounds have targeted 2017 as the year to finally get Defense ready for its financial review. The Pentagon was statutorily required to be audit-ready by September, and Norquist pledged in his May confirmation hearing to release a full financial review in 2018 whether the department was ready or not.

The department will deploy 1,200 auditors to examine every corner of its finances. The IG has hired independent public accounting firms to help it analyze each military service and to produce an overarching, department-wide report.

It is important that the Congress and the American people have confidence in DOD’s management of every taxpayer dollar,” Norquist said. “With consistent feedback from auditors, we can focus on improving the processes of our day-to-day work.”

He added the annual audits also would ensure the military receives adequate supplies and equipment.

“It demonstrates our commitment to fiscal responsibility and maximizing the value of every taxpayer dollar that is entrusted to us,” said Dana White, a Pentagon spokeswoman, on Thursday.

The Government Accountability Office first put the Pentagon’s lack of audit-readiness on its “high-risk list” in 1995. Disparate systems among the department’s various branches and components, coupled with a dramatic increase in the use of contracts in recent years, have inhibited the efforts to boost oversight. Obama administration officials acknowledged their failure to make Defense audit-ready hindered officials’ ability to track the smallest of expenses and created a public confidence issue.

“The taxpayer will never be convinced if we can’t do what every public company does” and achieve full auditability, then-Defense Comptroller Robert Hale toldGovernment Executive in 2014.

Rep. Mike Conway, R-Texas, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on oversight and investigations, commended department leadership.

“Today’s announcement is a major turning point for Department of Defense auditability,” Conway said. “The commitment to perform a full, annual audit of the DoD will provide the taxpayers the accountability they deserve, as well as present opportunities for increased efficiency within the department.”

http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2017/12/pentagon-defense-auditors-first-financial-review/144447/?oref=d-river&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EBB%2012.12.2017&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

 

 

America’s Military-Industrial Addiction

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Addition to MIC

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“ZERO HEDGE”

“If Americans generally don’t support wars or engagement in the world, why do they seem to reflexively support massive military budgets?

The military and the vast economic network it feeds presents a “complex” issue that involves millions of self-interested Americans in much the way Eisenhower predicted, but few are willing to truly forsake.”

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“Polls show that Americans are tired of endless wars in faraway lands, but many cheer President Trump’s showering money on the Pentagon and its contractors, a paradox that President Eisenhower foresaw…

The Military-Industrial Complex has loomed over America ever since President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of its growing influence during his prescient farewell address on Jan. 17, 1961. The Vietnam War followed shortly thereafter, and its bloody consequences cemented the image of the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) as a faceless cadre of profit-seeking warmongers who’ve wrested control of the foreign policy. That was certainly borne out by the war’s utter senselessness … and by tales of profiteering by well-connected contractors like Brown & Root.

Over five decades, four major wars and a dozen-odd interventions later, we often talk about the Military-Industrial Complex as if we’re referring to a nefarious, flag-draped Death Star floating just beyond the reach of helpless Americans who’d generally prefer that war was not, as the great Gen. Smedley Darlington Butler aptly put it, little more than a money-making “racket.”

The feeling of powerlessness that the MIC engenders in “average Americans” makes a lot of sense if you just follow the money coming out of Capitol Hill. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) tabulated all “defense-related spending” for both 2017 and 2018, and it hit nearly $1.1 trillion for each of the two years. The “defense-related” part is important because the annual National Defense Authorization Act, a.k.a. the defense budget, doesn’t fully account for all the various forms of national security spending that gets peppered around a half-dozen agencies.

It’s a phenomenon that noted Pentagon watchdog William Hartung has tracked for years. He recently dissected it into “no less than 10 categories of national security spending.” Amazingly only one of those is the actual Pentagon budget. The others include spending on wars, on homeland security, on military aid, on intelligence, on nukes, on recruitment, on veterans, on interest payments and on “other defense” — which includes “a number of flows of defense-related funding that go to agencies other than the Pentagon.”

Perhaps most amazingly, Hartung noted in TomDisptach that the inflation-adjusted “base” defense budgets of the last couple years is “higher than at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s massive buildup of the 1980s and is now nearing the post-World War II funding peak.” And that’s just the “base” budget, meaning the roughly $600 billion “defense-only” portion of the overall package. Like POGO, Hartung puts an annual price tag of nearly $1.1 trillion on the whole enchilada of military-related spending.

The MIC’s ‘Swamp Creatures’

To secure their share of this grandiloquent banquet, the defense industry’s lobbyists stampede Capitol Hill like well-heeled wildebeest, each jockeying for a plum position at the trough. This year, a robust collection of 208 defense companies spent $93,937,493 to deploy 728 “reported” lobbyists (apparently some go unreported) to feed this year’s trumped-up, $700 billion defense-only budget, according to OpenSecrets.org. Last year they spent $128,845,198 to secure their profitable pieces of the government pie.

And this reliable yearly harvest, along with the revolving doors connecting defense contractors with Capitol Hill, K Street and the Pentagon, is why so many critics blame the masters of war behind the MIC for turning war into a cash machine.

But the cash machine is not confined to the Beltway. There are ATM branches around the country. Much in the way it lavishes Congress with lobbying largesse, the defense industry works hand-in-glove with the Pentagon to spread the appropriations around the nation. This “spread the wealth” strategy may be equally as important as the “inside the Beltway” lobbying that garners so much of our attention and disdain.

Just go to U.S. Department of Defense’s contract announcement webpage on any weekday to get a good sense of the “contracts valued at $7 million or more” that are “announced each business day at 5 p.m.” A recent survey of these “awards” found the usual suspects like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. The MIC was well-represented. But many millions of dollars were also “won” by companies most Americans have never heard of … like this sampling from one day at the end of October:

  • Longbow LLC, Orlando Florida, got $183,474,414 for radar electronic units with the stipulation that work will be performed in Orlando, Florida.
  • Gradkell Systems Inc., Huntsville, Alabama, got $75,000,000 for systems operations and maintenance at Fort Belvoir, Virginia
  • Dawson Federal Inc., San Antonio, Texas; and A&H-Ambica JV LLC, Livonia, Michigan; and Frontier Services Inc., Kansas City, Missouri, will share a $45,000,000 for repair and alternations for land ports of entry in North Dakota and Minnesota.
  • TRAX International Corp., Las Vegas, Nevada, got a $9,203,652 contract modification for non-personal test support services that will be performed in Yuma, Arizona, and Fort Greely, Alaska,
  • Railroad Construction Co. Inc., Paterson, New Jersey, got a $9,344,963 contract modification for base operations support services to be performed in Colts Neck, New Jersey.
  • Belleville Shoe Co., Belleville, Illinois, got $63,973,889 for hot-weather combat boots that will be made in Illinois.
  • American Apparel Inc., Selma, Alabama, got $48,411,186 for combat utility uniforms that will be made in Alabama.
  • National Industries for the Blind, Alexandria, Virginia, got a $12,884,595 contract modification to make and advanced combat helmet pad suspension system. The “locations of performance” are Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Sharing the Largesse

Clearly, the DoD is large enough, and smart enough, to award contracts to companies throughout the 50 states. Yes, it is a function of the sheer size or, more forebodingly, the utter “pervasiveness” of the military in American life. But it is also a strategy. And it’s a tactic readily apparent in a contract recently awarded to Raytheon.

On Oct. 31, 2017, they got a $29,455,672 contract modification for missions systems equipment; computing environment hardware; and software research, test and development. The modification stipulates that the work will spread around the country to “Portsmouth, Rhode Island (46 percent); Tewksbury, Massachusetts (36 percent); Marlboro, Massachusetts (6 percent); Port Hueneme, California (5 percent); San Diego, California (4 percent); and Bath, Maine (3 percent).”

Frankly, it’s a brilliant move that began in the Cold War. The more Congressional districts that got defense dollars, the more votes the defense budget was likely to receive on Capitol Hill. Over time, it evolved into its own underlying rationale for the budget.

As veteran journalist William Greider wrote in the Aug. 16, 1984 issue of Rolling Stone, “The entire political system, including liberals as well as conservatives, is held hostage by the politics of defense spending. Even the most well intentioned are captive to it. And this is a fundamental reason why the Pentagon budget is irrationally bloated and why America is mobilizing for war in a time of peace.”

The peace-time mobilization Greider referred to was the Reagan build-up that, as William Hartung noted, is currently being surpassed by America’s “War on Terror” binge. Then, as now … the US was at peace at home, meddling around the world and running up a huge bill in the process. And then, as now … the spending seems unstoppable.

And as an unnamed “arms-control lobbyist” told Grieder, “It’s a fact of life. I don’t see how you can ask members of Congress to vote against their own districts. If I were a member of Congress, I might vote that way, too.”

Essentially, members of Congress act as secondary lobbyists for the defense industry by making sure their constituents have a vested interest in seeing the defense budget is both robust and untouchable. But they are not alone. Because the states also reap what the Pentagon sows … and, in the wake of the massive post-9/11 splurge, they’ve begun quantifying the impact of defense spending on their economies. It helps them make their specific case for keeping the spigot open.

Enter the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which notes, or touts, that the Department of Defense (DoD) “operates more than 420 military installations in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.” Additionally, the NCSL is understandably impressed by a DoD analysis that found the department’s “$408 billion on payroll and contracts in Fiscal Year 2015” translated into “approximately 2.3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).”

And they’ve become a clearinghouse for state governments’ economic impact studies of defense spending. Here’s a sampling of recent data compiled on the NSCL website:

  • In 2015, for example, military installations in North Carolinasupported 578,000 jobs, $34 billion in personal income and $66 billion in gross state product. This amounts to roughly 10 percent of the state’s overall economy.
  • In 2014, Coloradolawmakers appropriated $300,000 in state funds to examine the comprehensive value of military activities across the state’s seven major installations. The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs released its study in May 2015, reporting a total economic impact of $27 billion.
  • Kentuckyhas also taken steps to measure military activity, releasing its fifth study in June 2016. The military spent approximately $12 billion in Kentucky during 2014-15. With 38,700 active duty and civilian employees, military employment exceeds the next largest state employer by more than 21,000 jobs.
  • In Michigan, for example, defense spending in Fiscal Year 2014 supported 105,000 jobs, added more than $9 billion in gross state product and created nearly $10 billion in personal income. A 2016 study sponsored by the Michigan Defense Center presents a statewide strategy to preserve Army and Air National Guard facilities following a future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round as well as to attract new missions. 

Electoral Impact

But that’s not all. According to the DoD study cited above, the biggest recipients of DoD dollars are (in order): Virginia, California, Texas, Maryland and Florida. And among the top 18 host states for military bases, electorally important states like California, Florida and Texas lead the nation.

And that’s the real rub … this has an electoral impact. Because the constituency for defense spending isn’t just the 1 percent percent of Americans who actively serve in the military or 7 percent of Americans who’ve served sometime in their lives, but it is also the millions of Americans who directly or indirectly make a living off of the “defense-related” largesse that passes through the Pentagon like grass through a goose.

It’s a dirty little secret that Donald Trump exploited throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. Somehow, he was able to criticize wasting money on foreign wars and the neoconservative interventionism of the Bushes, the neoliberal interventionism of Hillary Clinton, and, at the same time, moan endlessly about the “depleted” military despite “years of record-high spending.” He went on to promise a massive increase in the defense budget, a massive increase in naval construction and a huge nuclear arsenal.

And, much to the approval of many Americans, he’s delivered. A Morning Consult/Politico poll showed increased defense spending was the most popular among a variety of spending priorities presented to voters … even as voters express trepidation about the coming of another war. A pair of NBC News/Survey Monkey polls found that 76 percent of Americans are “worried” the United States “will become engaged in a major war in the next four years” and only 25 percent want America to become “more active” in world affairs.

More to the point, only 20 percent of Americans wanted to increase the troop level in Afghanistan after Trump’s stay-the-course speech in August, but Gallup’s three decade-long tracking poll found that the belief the U.S. spends “too little” on defense is at its highest point (37 percent) since it spiked after 9/11 (41 percent). The previous highpoint was 51 percent in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was elected in no small part on the promise of a major build-up.

He says it when he lords over the sale of weapon systems to foreign powers or he visits a naval shipyard or goes to one of his post-election rallies to proclaim to “We’re building up our military like never before.” Frankly, he’s giving the people what they want. Although they may be war-weary, they’ve not tired of the dispersal system that Greider wrote about during Reagan’s big spree.”

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-12-03/americas-military-industrial-addiction

 

 

 

How Ellen Lord Plans to Reduce Pentagon Acquisition Time By 50 Percent

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Cut Pentagon Aquisition time 50%

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“The Pentagon’s top acquisition official plans to cut the time for early lead procurement by 50 percent.

A future goal of compressing the timeline of request for proposals to contract on major defense acquisition programs from two and a half years down to about 12 months.”

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

“Much of the strategy revolves around things the department can do, right now, to try and speed up the front-end of the acquisition timeline, Ellen Lord told a Thursday hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

For instance, Lord’s plan starts with two moves that she believes the department can do with existing authorities: “Incentivizing contractors to submit responsive proposals in 60 days or less,” and “implementing an electronic departmentwide acquisition streamlining tool.”

https://www.defensenews.com/7be21fac-5643-4cfc-912e-130e9dacec1f

Similarly, she pointed to two examples of pilot programs where she believes AT&L has the authority to draw down the lead time for programs. Those examples – the C-130J retrofit kits, and the Japanese Global Hawk foreign military sale requirement – could prove a way forward for the department as a whole.

The goal of those two programs is to prove the Pentagon can get those on contract in 280 days or less of the request for proposals, with the eventual goal of getting it down to 180 days from RFP to contract award.

“If we were granted the statutory authority, on sole source procurements, it would allow us to use our judgment to reduce the amount of cost and pricing data we would require when we have cost transparency with the companies with which we do business,” Lord told the SASC.

Lord is also looking at ways to specifically speed up the FMS process, which she raised as an issue during her time in industry. As a result, she said DoD is looking at “prepositioning production contracts” for yet-to-be-determined FMS requirements.

Those would essentially be prepared contracts with language where the department can almost “fill in the blanks” with the details, Lord said, which would reduce the timeline – yet another step to speed up the start of the acquisition process.

Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appeared pleased to hear Lord’s ideas, interjecting several times during Lord’s opening statement to ask for clarification on specific points and offering broad support to the idea that DoD needs to take chances to speed up the process.

“You need to take more risk [and] we recognize Congress can make that more difficult,” McCain said, before emphasizing that Lord and the rest of the Pentagon acquisition network needs to keep in touch with Congress to explain the work they are doing.

“We would rather have a small failure that teaches us something [in the] acquisition process than deal with a multibillion dollar program that becomes ‘too big to fail,’” the chairman said, to which Lord responded: “We’re going to work with you and your teams to demonstrate how we do it and we’re going to come back to you [if we need] new authorities.”

https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2017/12/08/heres-how-ellen-lord-will-reduce-acquisition-time-by-50-percent/

 

 

 

 

 

Q&A Reference Library On Small Business Government Contracting And The Military Industrial Complex

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Quora Questions with Answers by Ken that have undergone 677,000 Views on Small Business Government Contracting and the U.S. Military Industrial Complex Ken Larson Reference Library on Quora