Category Archives: miltary

Afghanistan And The Pentagon Decades Long War With the Truth

Image: “Military Times

WASHINGTON POST “THE AFGHANISTAN PAPERS A secret history of the war ” By Craig Whitlock

U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it.

The U.S. government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The Post won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle.


“In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.

With a bluntness rarely expressed in public, the interviews lay bare pent-up complaints, frustrations and confessions, along with second-guessing and backbiting.

Click any underlined text in the story to see the statement in the original document

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”

Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action, according to Defense Department figures.

The interviews, through an extensive array of voices, bring into sharp relief the core failings of the war that persist to this day. They underscore how three presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and their military commanders have been unable to deliver on their promises to prevail in Afghanistan.”


Relationships Remain The Key To Government Contracting Success



” It is impossible to overstate the role of relationships in GovCon. They are needed with customers and prospects, primes and subs, OEMs to channel, media, internal relationships within your company, and more. “


“This is my Washington Technology year-end wrap up column and I write this not so much to inform others but to remind myself.

I’ve had discussions lately with several of my government contracting friends, collaborators and advisors on what drives this market. The consensus from Larry Allen, David Powell, Guy Timberlake, Judy Bradt, Bob Lohfeld and others is the Big R: relationships.

I’ve taken several steps this year to re-engage with my rather large GovCon network.

As some of you know, I’ve recently joined AFCEA and am now engaged on their Small Business Committee. In 34 years I have joined only a few organizations in our market, primarily because I believe if you join you need to actively engage. I am a busy guy, so finding or making time to engage wasn’t always a priority (a mistake on my part). I have met several interesting people on the AFCEA SBC as a result, as well as renewing acquaintances with many I’ve known for a while.

I spoke at the Professional Services Council’s new Marketing and Communications Network (a working group within PSC) back in September and they’ve invited me to attend some subsequent meetings.

Picking the right association venue(s) for you and your company is critical to your survival and growth.

Once again I had an active speaking calendar this year with Government Marketing University’s GAIN conference, the Government IT Sales Summit, Government Blockchain Association, the Tower Club GovCon group, 930Gov, APMP and several others. I get to network at each, seeing old friends and meeting new people.

Events, including seminars, conferences, briefing, etc, are a cornerstone of relationship building.

I attend briefings hosted by Washington Technology, Bloomberg Government, Gov Exec and others for both information and networking.

I started using the Calendly app ( so people can reserve time for a short call. The app shows up in my email signature line.

And I also started working LinkedIn harder to stay on the radar among my first degree connections – and it is working.

You know the annoying email that reminds you of birthdays, new positions and more? I am now responding to each one of those that comes through, and the results are palpable.

These are the low-hanging fruit of social selling and they help you nurture the relationships you’ve built into a network.

Most people respond to say thanks for acknowledging my birthday, new job, etc. But with some it sets off a whole new conversation, something along the lines of “I’ve been meaning to call/get in touch about…” I look at their profiles before sending a congratulations note and am often reminded that they are involved in something one of my clients should know about, so I do an intro with a note to explain why they need to connect.

Just over the past week I’ve had interesting exchanges with Bruce Tucker (Planet Technologies), my favorite Admin Assistant Sheila Deane (GDIT), Lynn Welch (Education Management Solutions), Sheryle Thompson (Allied Telesis), my new friend Amber Hart (The Pulse of Government Contracting), Brian Green (Learning Tree International) and others.

Will all of these generate new business? Of course not. But each will keep me closer to top of mind, and some will come to fruition.


Because we have a relationship.

Should this matter to you?

Only if you want fruitful relationships in our market.”


Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at

For Your BTG And Industry Teaming “Rolodex” -The 2018 “FedScoop 50”


digital rolodex.gif

Image Source:  Source: Giphy


“The top 50 leaders from the thousands of nominees in eight categories: Golden Gov, Federal Leadership, Cybersecurity Leader of the Year, Disruptor of the Year, Industry Leadership, Most Inspiring Up & Comer, Tech Champion of the Year, and Innovation of the Year.”

“The past year has been a whirlwind of digital transformation in the federal technology community. And at the heart of the positive change are the brilliant leaders, innovative decision-makers and tireless workers dedicated to improving how the nation harnesses technology to better serve the American people.

Thursday night at the Hay-Adams Hotel, FedScoop and Scoop News Group honored the FedScoop 50: the top 50 leaders in the federal technology space who’ve made a lasting impact on the community, and the nation, in the past year.

FedScoop received more than 500,000 votes in September and October 2018, ultimately narrowing down more than 200 nominees to the top 50 leaders from the thousands of nominees in eight categories: Golden Gov, Federal Leadership, Cybersecurity Leader of the Year, Disruptor of the Year, Industry Leadership, Most Inspiring Up & Comer, Tech Champion of the Year, and Innovation of the Year.

Congratulations to the FedScoop 50 awardees and all of the more than 200 finalists who have made significant impacts in the past year.

This year’s recipients, alphabetically by each category, are:

Golden Gov: Executive of the Year

  • Sue Gordon, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, ODNI
  • Margie Graves, Deputy Federal CIO, Executive Office of the President
  • Kamala Harris, Senator (D-Calif.)
  • Suzette Kent, Federal CIO, Executive Office of the President
  • Chris Krebs, Undersecretary, National Protection & Programs Directorate, DHS
  • Chris Liddell, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination, Executive Office of the President
  • Bill Marion, Acting CIO/A6 & Chief, Information Dominance, Air Force
  • Gen. Paul Nakasone, Director, NSA & Commander, U.S. Cyber Command
  • Vice Adm. Nancy Norton, Director, DISA
  • John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations, CBP
  • Margaret Weichert, Deputy Director, OMB & Acting Director, OPM
  • Dr. John Zangardi, CIO, DHS

Federal Leadership

  • Rafaa Abdalla, Deputy Chief, Transformation Delivery Division, USCIS, DHS
  • Gundeep Ahluwalia, CIO, Dept. of Labor
  • Guy Cavallo, Deputy CIO, SBA
  • Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, CIO/G-6, U.S. Army
  • Dana Deasy, CIO, DOD
  • Gregory Garcia, Deputy CIO/G-6, U.S. Army 
  • Vicki Hildebrand, CIO, DOT
  • Carlene Ileto, Executive Director, Enterprise Business Management Office, DHS
  • Joe Klimavicz, CIO, DOJ
  • Frank Konieczny, CTO, U.S. Air Force
  • Matt Lira, Special Assistant to the President for Innovation Policy & Initiatives, Executive Office of the President
  • Gen. (Sel) Lorna Mahlock, CIO, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Nitin Naik, CTO, U.S. Census Bureau
  • Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Kevin Nally, CIO, U.S. Secret Service
  • Kelly Olson, Acting Director, TTS & Deputy Commissioner, FAS, GSA
  • Bobby Saxon, CTO, CCIIO, CMS
  • Grant Schneider, U.S. CISO, Executive Office of the President, OMB
  • Nancy Sieger, Acting Deputy CIO & Associate CIO, Applications Development, IRS
  • Lauren Thompson, Director, DOD/VA Interagency Program Office
  • Sean Torpey, Deputy Assistant Administrator for IT Services & Acting CIO, FAA
  • Gary Washington, CIO, USDA

Industry Leadership

  • Chris Balcik, VP of Federal, Samsung
  • Sean Berg, VP & GM, Global Governments and Critical Infrastructure, Forcepoint
  • Alexander Chapin, Executive Director, DOD/IC, McAfee
  • Ranil Dassanayaka, Director, Pre-Sales Architecture & Engineering, VMware
  • David Egts, Chief Technologist & Director North America Public Sector, Red Hat
  • Steve Harris, SVP & GM, Federal, Dell EMC
  • Don Maclean, Chief Cyber Security Technologist, DLT Solutions
  • Anthony Robbins, VP North America Public Sector, NVIDIA
  • Karen Terrell, VP of Public Sector, Adobe
  • Toni Townes-Whitley, President U.S. Regulated Industries, Microsoft
  • Chris Townsend, VP, Federal, Symantec

Cybersecurity Leader of the Year

  • Dan Commons, CISO & Director, Information Technology Risk Management, Federal Student Aid, Dept. of Education
  • John Felker, Director, National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center, DHS
  • Roger Greenwell, Chief, Cybersecurity, DISA

Disruptor of the Year

  • Gen. Garrett Yee, Acting Deputy CIO/G-6, U.S. Army

Tech Champion of the Year

  • Ashley Mahan, Acting Director, FedRAMP, GSA

Most Inspiring Up & Comer to Watch

  • Jordan Burris, Cybersecurity Adviser, OMB

Innovation of the Year

  • CXO Dashbboards, USDA – Ted Kaouk(Chief Data Officer, USDA”

2018 Rand Report: A Staggering Number Of U.S. Military Personnel Are Fat And Tired


Troops Fat and Tired

Image: (Mike Morones/Staff)


“66 percent of 18,000  service members randomly selected from all branches are considered to be either overweight or obese, based on the military’s use of body mass index as a measuring standard.

Nearly 9 percent of military personnel reported taking sleeping medications either “daily” or “almost daily.”

“A 2018 RAND report on health promotion and disease prevention has painted a grim picture of the military’s physical fitness and sleep standards.

While the number of overweight service members is a cause for concern, it correlates with the obesity epidemic plaguing the United States, where, as of 2015, one in three young adults are considered too fat to enlist, creating a difficult environment for recruiters to find suitable candidates for military service.

Broken down by service, the 2018 report lists the Army as the branch accounting for the highest percentage of overweight troops, with 69.4 percent of soldiers falling under this category.

The Army was followed by the Coast Guard (67.8 percent), Navy (64.6 percent), Air Force (63.1 percent) and Marine Corps (60.9 percent).

Another glaring area of concern highlighted in the study was the inability of service members to get adequate sleep.

Nearly 9 percent of military personnel reported taking sleeping medications either “daily” or “almost daily.”

A 2018 Rand study highlighted the prevalence of sleep deprivation and the use of sleeping medication among service members. (Senior Airman Cliffton Dolezal/Air Force)
                    Image: (Senior Airman Cliffton Dolezal/Air Force)

The Army reported the highest rate of sleep concerns, with 10.6 percent of soldiers routinely consuming sleeping aides. Marines (9.9 percent), airmen (7.5 percent) and sailors (6 percent) rounded out the troubling category.

In terms of problematic sleeping patterns, 59.4 percent of soldiers reported getting less sleep than needed, and 33.2 percent answered that the lack of sleep contributed to being regularly bothered by an energy deficiency.

Personnel from the other services, especially the Navy and Marine Corps, reported experiencing the aforementioned sleep issues at a similar rate.

An extensive 2017 review of inpatient and outpatient records, dating from 2005 to 2014, for active-duty military personnel found that both insomnia and sleep apnea are on the rise, according the Journal of Sleep Research.

“Sleep disorders are a serious problem that interferes with the ability of soldiers to do their jobs effectively,” Harris Lieberman, study author and military nutrition specialist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts, told Reuters.

Similar sleep concerns in the Navy’s surface fleet were heavily scrutinized this year in the wake of the service’s fatal collisions involving the destroyers Fitzgerald and John S. McCain.

In response to sailor reports of sleep deprivation due to the Navy’s furious operational tempo, top brass implemented a policy featuring overhauled watch schedules that better align with sailors’ circadian rhythms, a move designed to allow for improved rest periods.

The RAND report’s Health Related Behaviors Survey has been issued periodically for 30 years by the Department of Defense in an effort to best gauge the condition of the country’s fighting force.

Survey items traditionally examined include health promotion and disease prevention, substance use, mental and physical health, sexual behaviors and deployment experiences.”


What Is In the $717 Billion Military Spending Bill Signed Into Law on August 14, 2018?



What is in Defense Authorization


“What military contractors benefit from this legislation that only 10 senators and 66 representatives voted against?

There never seems to be many who are concerned about how military spending continues to balloon.”

“The bill authorizes $921 million for military construction in “overseas contingency operations,” which is the Pentagon’s euphemism for empire-building or war-making in countries and regions around the world.

That figure is a 23 percent increase from the $748 million in the military spending bill for fiscal year 2018.

As Ryan Alexander of Taxpayers for Common Sense wrote in 2017, this continues a practice President Barack Obama’s administration employed, where projects are moved “off budget” and do not count toward Budget Control Act caps. However, the military projects this slush fund pays for still add considerably to the country’s trillions of dollars in debt.

Sixty-nine million dollars is appropriated for a high value detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, which is a part of Trump’s agenda to not close the prison camps and continue to use facilities to hold detainees.

It extends the Pentagon’s authority to train and equip Syrian opposition groups with arms, which has fueled war in Syria.

Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who voted against the bill, opposed a section of the bill that gives Defense Secretary James Mattis the authority to draft a strategy to “counter the destabilizing activities of Iran.” She contended it authorized the U.S. military to go to war.

“The provision does not define what destabilizing activities they want our troops and taxpayer dollars to counter. It does not define a clear objective or end-state for our troops to achieve,” Gabbard stated. “In addition, this provision shuts the American people out from this decision entirely by circumventing Congress’s constitutional responsibility to declare war and giving unilateral power and unending authorization to ‘counter Iran’ to this and future administrationswithout defining in any way, shape, or form what the objective really is.”

Both Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Republican Senator Mike Lee voted against the bill. They’ve demanded Mattis disclose the scope of U.S. military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen.

Remarkably, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein voted against the military spending bill because of provisions that remove “congressional oversight for building future nuclear weapons.”

“I don’t believe any president needs more nuclear weapons, but I’m particularly troubled by this administration’s statements that it would consider using low-yield weapons to fight so-called ‘limited’ nuclear wars,” Feinstein declared. “Building nuclear weapons for a role beyond deterrence is incredibly reckless. There is no such thing as a ‘limited’ nuclear war. Once a nuclear weapon is used, it’s game over.”

Trump will have funds available in fiscal year 2019 for a military parade. It also accelerates the Pentagon’s militarization of space by establishing a structure under Strategic Command for a force for “space warfighting,” creating a boondoggle for military contractors.

According to the Republican Policy Committee’s summary, the bill appropriates $360 million for Stryker A1 combat vehicles—an increase of $338.1 million. General Dynamics, which was recently awarded a $258 million “contract modification” by the Pentagon to upgrade 116 Stryker flat-bottom vehicles to the Stryker A1 configuration,” will benefit.

It grants “multiyear procurement authorities” for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft (Boeing), Lockheed Martin C130 Super Hercules aircraft, and Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye aircraft.

Congress appropriated $1.8 billion for the Boeing Super Hornet and $903 million for the Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye.

It earmarks $1.13 billion for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

As the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reported, “The F-35 has now entered an unprecedented seventeenth year of continuing redesign, test deficiencies, fixes, schedule slippages, and cost overruns. And it’s still not at the finish line.”

“Numerous missteps along the way—from the fact that the two competing contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, submitted ‘flyoff’ planes that were crude and undeveloped ‘technology demonstrators’ rather than following the better practice of submitting fully functional prototypes, to concurrent acquisition malpractice that has prevented design flaws from being discovered until after production models were built—have led to where we are now,” POGO added.

Another billion will further enable the Pentagon to hide cost overruns and conceal developmental issues.

Bloomberg reported in February that Trump would seek 24 Boeing Super Hornets, which reversed a decision by President Barack Obama’s administration to no longer purchase the fighter from Boeing. The Navy is trying to make up for the fact that the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are not yet ready for deployment.

The Navy plans to procure a total of 75 E-2 Hawkeye aircraft from Northrop Grumman, and 45 were already manufactured. The remaining aircraft will feature “aerial refueling capability.”

The bill appropriates $452 million for Boeing’s Apache Block III helicopters, and more than a billion for Lockheed Martin’s UH-60 Blackhawk M Model helicopters. It also earmarks over a billion for the Pentagon’s M1 Abrams Tanks upgrade program, which will benefit General Dynamics.

General Dynamics already was granted a contract from the Army to upgrade 100 Abrams “main battle tanks.” In January 2018, it was reported that the military contractor was not only upgrading the tanks for the U.S. but also Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

When it comes to drones, the military spending bill appropriates $60 million for the Army’s Gray Eagle system, which benefits General Atomics and Raytheon.

Remarkably, the bill increases the funds for General Atomics’ MQ1 Predator drones from $87 million to more than $100 million. The initial request was for $43 million, but during conference, that number was raised over 100 percent to $103,326,000.

According to, as of August 13, Boeing donated $2.9 million in 2018 to candidates, party committees, other political action committees, or outside spending groups. They ranked 62 out of 16,585 companies or organizations whose PACs or employees and their families that made contributions. The corporation spent $7.5 million on lobbying in 2018 and $16.7 million on lobbying in 2017, ranking tenth out of 3,846 companies or organizations. It donated over $2 million to incumbent senators and representatives.

General Atomics donated $941,000 in 2018. They ranked 273. The corporation spent $2.7 million on lobbying in 2018 and $4.7 million on lobbying in 2017, ranking 94th in 2018. The corporation gave over a half million to incumbents.

General Dynamics donated $2.4 million in 2018. They ranked 84. The corporation spent $5.9 million on lobbying in 2018 and $11.46 million in 2017, ranking twenty-sixth. The corporation gave over $1.4 million to incumbents.

Lockheed Martin donated $3.4 million in 2018. They ranked 44. The corporation spent $6.8 million on lobbying in 2018, and $14.4 million in 2017, ranking sixteenth. The corporation gave over $2.3 million to incumbents.

Raytheon donated $2.2 million in 2018. They ranked 97. The corporation spent $2 million on lobbying in 2018 and $5 million in 2017, ranking eighty-fourth out of 3,645. The corporation donated over $1.2 million to incumbents.

Donations to incumbents are significant because defense corporations have a significant interest in maintaining the status quo. They want representatives and senators who have proven themselves to be dependable in delivering massive appropriations bills for what they manufacture, and they depend on the U.S. government to help them meet their shareholders’ expectations for growth.

Very few senators made statements critical of the military spending bill in its entirety, but Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who voted against the bill, called attention to how it will benefit the military industrial-complex.

“After Republicans in Congress spent almost $2 trillion in tax breaks that are overwhelmingly skewed to multinational corporations, they’re now pushing through legislation that green-lights billions more for open-ended military commitments,” Wyden stated.

Wyden was also concerned about the provisions for nuclear weapons. He also indicated he could not support a $700 billion bill without having an opportunity to vote for amendments “related to nuclear weapons, sexual assault in the military, presidential war powers, cybersecurity, and Buy America for important national security industries, among others.”

Much is made about how many trillions a program like Medicare For All would cost taxpayers. Everyone is always concerned about social welfare programs, including increasingly popular plans for free college tuition, and how much that would impact the country’s budget.

The best way to build support for these policy changes that would be important to millions of Americans is to emphasize how the country always has trillions for wars (as well as trillions for tax cuts and bailouts for corporations). But there never seems to be many who are concerned about how military spending continues to balloon.”

Pentagon Investing In Microelectronics Technology


Circuit Board - Space

Photo:  “Istock”


“With the security of Chinese-manufactured chips being called into question, the Defense Department is considering beefing up its investment in microelectronics, officials have said.

If you’re right out at the pointy end of the spear, you might not want chips made in China being the foundation of your communications gear.”


“Richard W. Linderman, deputy director for research and engineering in the office of the assistant secretary of defense[–] “Investment in microelectronics is expected to “increase dramatically,” he said at a recent conference in Arlington, Virginia.

The Pentagon is not only looking for high performance chips but trusted ones that have been manufactured in the United States, he said.

Mary Miller, who is performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering, said China’s investment in microelectronics technology is worrying.

The issue “is of great concern to DoD because every weapon system we have has microelectronics,” she said during remarks at the inaugural Defense Department Human Capital Symposium in Southbridge, Massachusetts, according to a Pentagon news release.

China is investing $150 billion to match the United States’ capability by the early 2020s, she added. It wants to be the global leader in the technology by 2030.

Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, said chips manufactured by China present a risk to the United States because the country could hardwire them with malicious programs and apps that run silently in the background.

“What is it that is going into our offices, carried in our purses on our bodies? What is going into our computers, … into DoD systems?” he said. Potentially vulnerable U.S. military equipment includes everything from aircraft avionics to weapons guidance systems, he noted.

Commercial-off-the-shelf items present a particular risk because many of them are manufactured in China, he added.

The Defense Microelectronics Activity runs the Defense Department’s Trusted Foundry program that uses certain foundries to manufacture chips for highly sensitive systems, he said. But with a military of over 1 million service members and countless pieces of equipment, those facilities cannot support all the chips that are needed, Cheng said.

“The Trusted Foundry is simply not large enough to do that kind of thing,” he said.

The U.S. government could better test Chinese chips for malicious programs, but there are challenges, he noted.

“Computer programs have zero-day exploits. Those are just gaps, flaws, failures, etc., that weren’t even necessarily programmed in,” he said. “What you would [also] be looking for here is potentially stuff that somebody was deliberately creating and hiding.”

The United States could also invest more money to develop its own chips, but that would be costly, Cheng added.”



Move To The Cloud Is No Brainer – So Why Does Public Sector Resist?


Cloud is No Brainer

“While the reluctance of our government to modernize imposes huge costs that are ultimately borne by taxpayers, the security threat posed by this late-to-the-game approach to cloud technology is real.

To this end, we must take strong action to modernize and better protect our military systems and personnel, and our civilian systems and data.”

“Every day, American consumers enjoy the benefits of cloud computing. From streaming music to online shopping to social media, our daily lives are shaped by cloud-driven technologies that enable virtually unlimited information and content to be more securely stored and accessed from any location.

These advances came from innovative companies that were unafraid to take risks and pushed forward new initiatives that have redefined how we interact with our friends, families, business associates and others.

Unfortunately, such innovation has not been replicated in the public sector. While pockets of success have emerged, such as the CIA’s private cloud for the intelligence community, dubbed Commercial Cloud Services (C2S), too many agencies have failed to fully utilize these more secure, cloud-based technologies.

Entrenched resistance to change

Many federal officials, to their credit, are now recognizing this situation and making strides to rectify it. In a report to Congress explaining its need for cloud computing, the Department of Defense summed up its current legacy information technology environment as, in a nutshell, “not optimized for the 21st century” – and the same can be said of much of civilian agency IT as well.

This lag by government agencies to modernize can be attributed to a host of factors, including rigid and often prohibitive technology acquisition rules, a “how-we’ve-always-done-it” culture within the federal bureaucracy, and the desperate pressure applied by the “Old Guard” providers of legacy IT to convince government customers to hold on to outdated systems.

In addition, a lack of understanding of the benefits of cloud computing also plays a part in emboldening some decision-makers to resist cloud migration and other innovative changes.

Infrastructure modernization researchers determined in 2016 that federal spending on IT per employee is almost $40,000, nearly four times the average per employee spend rate in other industries.

Other experts have quantified the “old technology” deficit – that is the share of technology that will need to be replaced because it is approaching its end of life. They have found that an estimated $60 billion is spent each year by the federal government simply to maintain legacy IT systems – and this problem is compounded by a younger federal workforce that increasingly is not trained to maintain half-century-old systems using COBOL or other dated programming languages.

We should not be sending our warfighters into harm’s way without the absolute best possible threat information sharing and communications systems, nor should we leave our non-military assets vulnerable to attack.

To illustrate the point, look no further than the 2015 Chinese espionage operation that compromised the background investigation files of 22 million federal employees and contractors. Government officials later admitted that these OPM files were not encrypted because the systems were simply too old. This is an unacceptable security risk.

Modernization Mandated

President Trump and Congress agree that government IT systems must be modernized. The President issued an executive order in May 2017 that said, “The executive branch has for too long accepted antiquated and difficult-to-defend IT,” and that, “effective immediately, it is the policy of the executive branch to build and maintain a modern, secure, and more resilient executive branch IT architecture.”

To achieve this, the President directed that each agency head use the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) to better manage cybersecurity risk, and to “show preference in their procurement for shared IT services, to the extent permitted by law, including email, cloud, and cybersecurity services.” The President’s actions represent an aggressive move to revolutionize the federal government and provide better and more efficient services to the American taxpayer.

Congress has also signaled its strong support for this effort through passage last November of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act. This new law authorized federal agencies to reprogram unused IT budget allocations to fund future modernization efforts and established a separate, government-wide fund to further support modernization.

The American consumer is already enjoying the benefits of commercial cloud computing and shared services. If the president and Congress agree, then moving the government in the same direction is a no brainer. Taxpayers should demand that their government stop wasting money on ineffective, inefficient, and unsecure systems.

A move toward shared IT infrastructure is not only the obvious path forward, it’s essential, and should be pursued expeditiously before billions more tax dollars are wasted and additional security breaches occur. Government officials should no longer heed the entrenched forces of resistance to innovation and instead deliver the best possible and most secure services to the American taxpayer.”

Pentagon Shows Bumpy Progress Toward Curbing Improper Payments


Pentagon Pumpy Road


As the agency with the largest budget, the Defense Department continues to make shaky progress in the governmentwide push to reduce improper payments, the Pentagon’s inspector general reported on Friday.

The watchdog’s required annual review of fiscal 2017 estimates of significant improper payments showed that the department had complied with only two of six requirements under the 2010 Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act and related Office of Management and Budget guidance.”


“The programs in nine areas reviewed include travel pay departmentwide (an estimated $263 million in bad payments), followed by misrouted military pay estimated at $182.5 million. Other categories included health care, retirement and commercial payments.

Defense last year succeeded in complying with provisions in the 2002 improper payments law (as amended in 2010) by conducting “program-specific risk assessments and reporting an overall improper payments rate of less than 10 percent,” the IG found. But the chief financial officer staff lapsed in not publishing all required information in the program integrity section of its November 2017 agency financial report; did not publish statistically valid improper payment methods for four programs; did not publish all required elements for corrective actions; and did not confirm that all components submitted required information.

For example, the report said, the Office of the Comptroller and the CFO “discussed the IPERA program at only a summary level and misinterpreted the payment recapture program reporting requirements.”

The travel pay program estimate “was not reliable because it did not include estimates from all reporting components, and some components did not use statistically valid sampling plans to test and estimate,” it continued. “Specifically, Navy and Marine Corps personnel were not able to complete their tests of travel payments, as required by OMB Circular No. A-123.”

The IG also determined that the comptroller and CFO “did not implement strong internal controls at the DoD level to improve reporting and instead relied on controls at the component level,” the result being that “DoD leadership and Congress may not be able to determine if DoD has the resources it needs to reduce its improper payments.”

The IG made five recommendations, among them developing a data call template based on the law’s requirements, improving coordination among components on testing, and developing milestones for expanding oversight of senior officials on travel costs.

The deputy chief financial officer and the deputy to the commanding general of the Army Financial Management Command agreed with most recommendations and planned to take corrective action.

But Mark Easton, deputy chief financial officer, wrote that this year’s report “differed from previous reviews in that it identified specific reporting deficiencies never previously focused on by your office,” such as presenting properly paid payments, and addressing internal controls and human capital requirements. And the office of Comptroller David Norquist disagreed with the recommendation on travel expense monitoring, saying, “Milestones are not necessary for implementing a charter for expanding the oversight responsibilities of senior accountable officials,” given that a corrective plan is in the works.

Defense’s mixed progress was noted by Peter Tyler, a senior policy analyst who tracks improper payment issues for the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.  “Along with the Pentagon needing to work harder to reduce improper payments, we see the IG report as being too polite,” he told Government Executive. ”The reported DoD improper payments numbers are highly suspect,” as the Government Accountability Office has pointed out. “That is why DoD cannot pass or even complete a financial audit.”

POGO would like the Pentagon and other agencies to better scrutinize payments to contractors and elevate the importance of curbing the bad payments. “OMB could really help DoD and all the federal agencies by not just clarifying their guidance, but also further implementing some of the lesser-known aspects of the law, such as the Do Not Pay program and federal-wide data analytics initiative,” Tyler said.”


Forthcoming Changes to Federal Government Contract Bid Protest Regulations


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“The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018 includes some significant changes affecting contractors with regard to challenges to requests for proposals and contract awards, otherwise known as “bid protests.”

The introduction of a new pilot program under which large defense contractors will be required to pay the Defense Department’s costs where a protest is denied; and the enhancement of post-award debriefing rights.”


“While Congress passed the former with the intent of reducing frivolous protests, it is likely the latter — which will give contractors greater insight into the rationale behind procurement decisions — that will have a greater impact on the number of protests filed.

Section 827 of the act requires that the department establish and implement a three-year pilot program under which “large” defense contractors will be required to reimburse the department for “costs incurred in processing covered protests” for protests “denied in an opinion” by the Government Accountability Office.

A large contractor is defined as one with revenues in excess of $250 million, and the pilot program will apply to protests filed at the GAO between Oct. 1, 2019, and Sept. 30, 2022.

By limiting the scope of this loser-pays provision to those protests that are “denied in an opinion” by the GAO, this reimbursement provision will potentially only apply to a small number of protests. A recent study by the RAND Corp. examined defense protests at the GAO from fiscal years 2008 through 2016. This study found that less than 0.3 percent of such procurements are protested at the GAO, and that small business protests make up more than half of those.

While a protest sustain rate of 2.6 percent for fiscal years 2008 through 2016, or approximately 300 out of 11,459 protests, appears to suggest there is a great number of frivolous protests, deeper analysis of GAO’s statistics shows that is simply not the case. Approximately 21 percent of the bid protests filed were resolved by a decision on the merits. Of those 2,429 defense protests that reached the merits, nearly 300 were sustained. In other words, only 2,133, or approximately 20 percent of all the protests filed over eight years, were denied in an opinion.

With regard to the 79 percent of protests resolved without an opinion, a significant number — approximately 40 percent — were dismissed as a result of the government voluntarily correcting procurement errors noted in a bid protest. In addition, a number of protests were voluntarily withdrawn after protestor’s counsel had the opportunity to review the confidential record underlying the agency’s procurement decision.

In other words, this legislation will impact a relatively small number of protests. The 2,133 Defense Department bid protests denied in an opinion over an eight-year period equates to approximately 267 per year. Of those protests, the reimbursement provision will only affect protests filed by large contractors. If the percentage of protests filed by small businesses — over half — holds, even if adjusted to account for the lower effective rate of protests filed by small businesses reported by RAND, that number is likely under 200.

While this provision will impact a relatively small number of protests, the financial impact for those few may be significant. Congress did not define or elaborate on what costs are considered “incurred in processing covered protests” or how those costs will be quantified. Considering the amount of time legal and contract administration staff spend working on bid protests, these costs could easily exceed six figures.

But until the department issues guidance on how this provision will be implemented, it will be difficult for large defense contractors subject to this provision to evaluate the risks involved in filing a bid protest at GAO.

Finally, it is unclear how contractors will be determined to meet the large contractor threshold outlined in the new NDAA. The statutory definition: a contractor with revenues in excess of $250 million “during the previous year,” does not clarify whether this means the contractor’s fiscal year, government’s fiscal year or calendar year.

This also raises the question of whether contractors are expected to opt-in to be considered as a contractor to which this provision applies. Contractors will have to await department guidance as to whether they will be required to implement additional accounting measures to determine applicability or whether it will consider existing financial information, such as the revenues reported in the System for Award Management. Thankfully, the pilot program does not apply to protests filed before Oct. 1, 2019, so the department has time to issue regulations filling in these gaps.

Once the Defense Department has issued guidance on what costs will be included, large contractors may consider filing bid protests at the Court of Federal Claims instead of GAO, as this loser-pays provision does not apply to protests filed there. Once GAO implements its online filing system, a $350 filing fee will be required for bid protests. The court’s filing fee is currently $400; thus, the cost of filing is unlikely to influence a contractor’s decision where to file, particularly those large contractors affected by the provision. Although a bid protest filed at the court does not result in an automatic stay of performance of the protested contract pursuant to the Competition in Contracting Act, it does have the authority to issue an injunction, and the government often voluntarily stays performance pending the resolution of the protest.

One of Congress’ goals in implementing the loser-pays provision is to discourage the filing of frivolous GAO protests. However, most government contractors, particularly the large contractors affected by this provision, understand the protest process and engage experienced protest counsel. As a result, these government contractors are cognizant of the potential harm to their reputation by filing a frivolous protest and are reluctant to do so.

Further, GAO’s bid protest regulations provide for mechanisms to dismiss frivolous protests. Those that are deemed untimely or meritless are often resolved early in the protest process, prior to an agency incurring significant costs in processing these protests. It is likely that measures for the deterrence of frivolous protests will have a greater impact if implemented at this stage of the protest process, rather than this fee-shifting provision for protests denied in an opinion.

In addition, GAO already has authority to discipline contractors that file frivolous protests, recently holding that a contractor that “routinely and repeatedly” filed protests “that are not legally sound” had abused the GAO process, wasted tax-payer dollars and, as a result, would be suspended from filing protests at the GAO for two years. See Latvian Connection LLC – Reconsideration, B-415043.3, Nov. 29, 2017, where GAO also dismissed all pending protests filed by the contractor.

While Congress’ goal is admirable, the loser-pays provision is unlikely to have the desired effect. As noted above, this provision applies to the small percentage of bid protests that survive the GAO’s preliminary dismissal measures for frivolous protests or other resolution procedures. Even without the introduction of this loser-pays provision, approximately 21 percent of GAO bid protests of DoD procurements reach the merits.

When it is effective, protestors subject to the provision may well decide to voluntarily dismiss a higher percentage of protests after review of the record, further decreasing the percentage of GAO protests that are resolved by decision.

Finally, it should be noted that a bid protest that reaches the merits and is then denied by the GAO does not equate to a frivolous protest. Some issues are simply close calls. And for those cases, after the effective date of the pilot program contractors will have the ability to avoid the loser-pays provision by filing protests at the Court of Federal Claims.

Meanwhile, for the past five years, the Air Force has provided unsuccessful offerors an opportunity to request an “extended debriefing,” which permits the unsuccessful offeror’s outside counsel to review the agency’s redacted source selection documents and ask questions. This information is typically only provided to the protestor’s counsel under a protective order following the filing of a bid protest at the GAO. By allowing the protestor’s counsel to obtain as part of the debriefing more complete information about whether the Air Force made the correct procurement decision, the hope was to avoid protests filed in part to obtain the more complete record.

Wisely, in the new NDAA Congress chose to expand the Air Force’s innovative program. Section 818 enhances that existing pilot program for “extended debriefings” by requiring a revision of the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement to apply certain debriefing requirements across the department.

First, contractors are entitled to a debriefing for all contracts and task orders valued at $10 million or higher. Second, the agency is required to disclose its redacted source selection determination for contracts in excess of $100 million. Third, contractors are provided an opportunity to ask follow-up questions after a debriefing.

The deputy director of defense procurement and acquisition policy tasked the DFARS Contract Administration Committee to draft the proposed rule implementing Section 818. The report is due in March. Congress has provided a deadline of six months from the date of enactment to implement these changes.

Under the new rules, a debriefing — oral or written — is required for all awards in excess of $10 million, regardless of whether it was a negotiated procurement conducted under FAR Part 15. Not only does this affect contractors’ rights with respect to debriefing, but it also affects the deadline for filing a timely bid protest where debriefings were not previously required. Even if the information was known prior to the debriefing, a bid protest may only be filed after the debriefing, and no later than 10 days after the debriefing if filed at the GAO. But note that a protest must be filed within five days of the debriefing to trigger the Competition in Contracting Act’s automatic stay of performance.

The most significant change is the requirement to disclose a redacted source selection determination for awards in excess of $100 million.

In addition, small business contractors and nontraditional contractors are provided an option to request the same redacted disclosure for awards in excess of $10 million. The successful awardee is also entitled to the same debriefing and disclosure rights as the unsuccessful offerors.

Unsuccessful offerors are provided an opportunity to submit follow-up questions related to the debriefing within two business days following a post-award debriefing. The agency is then required to answer in writing within five business days after receipt of the follow-up questions. The debriefing is then considered complete when the agency responds to the unsuccessful offeror’s questions.

While these deadlines may appear short, it is in line with the deadline for filing a timely bid protest at GAO, which is 10 days after a required debriefing. Offerors will still have an opportunity to file a timely bid protest even after the post-debriefing Q&A process.

The ultimate impact of these changes will depend on the regulations issued to implement the NDAA provisions, so contractors should carefully monitor developments over the coming year.”


How the Pentagon Devours The Budget And Normalizes Budgetary Bloat


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“THE UNZ REVIEW – Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media” By William D. Hartung,

All too often, astonishingly lavish military budgets are treated as if they were part of the natural order, like death or taxes.

There is a danger that the Pentagon will just get “fatter not stronger” as its worst spending habits are reinforced by a new gusher of dollars that relieves its planners of making any reasonably hard choices at all.”

“Imagine for a moment a scheme in which American taxpayers were taken to the cleaners to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars and there was barely a hint of criticism or outrage. Imagine as well that the White House and a majority of the politicians in Washington, no matter the party, acquiesced in the arrangement. In fact, the annual quest to boost Pentagon spending into the stratosphere regularly follows that very scenario, assisted by predictions of imminent doom from industry-funded hawks with a vested interest in increased military outlays.

The figures contained in the recent budget deal that kept Congress open, as well as in President Trump’s budget proposal for 2019, are a case in point: $700 billion for the Pentagon and related programs in 2018 and $716 billion the following year. Remarkably, such numbers far exceeded even the Pentagon’s own expansive expectations. According to Donald Trump, admittedly not the most reliable source in all cases, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reportedly said, “Wow, I can’t believe we got everything we wanted” — a rare admission from the head of an organization whose only response to virtually any budget proposal is to ask for more.

The public reaction to such staggering Pentagon budget hikes was muted, to put it mildly. Unlike last year’s tax giveaway to the rich, throwing near-record amounts of tax dollars at the Department of Defense generated no visible public outrage. Yet those tax cuts and Pentagon increases are closely related. The Trump administration’s pairing of the two mimics the failed approach of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s — only more so. It’s a phenomenon I’ve termed “Reaganomics on steroids.” Reagan’s approach yielded oceans of red ink and a severe weakening of the social safety net. It also provoked such a strong pushback that he later backtracked by raising taxes and set the stage for sharp reductions in nuclear weapons.

Donald Trump’s retrograde policies on immigration, women’s rights, racial justice, LGBT rights, and economic inequality have spawned an impressive and growing resistance. It remains to be seen whether his generous treatment of the Pentagon at the expense of basic human needs will spur a similar backlash.

Of course, it’s hard to even get a bead on what’s being lavished on the Pentagon when much of the media coverage failed to drive home just how enormous these sums actually are. A rare exception was an Associated Press story headlined “Congress, Trump Give the Pentagon a Budget the Likes of Which It Has Never Seen.” This was certainly far closer to the truth than claims like that of Mackenzie Eaglen of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which over the years has housed such uber-hawks as Dick Cheney and John Bolton. She described the new budget as a “modest year-on-year increase.” If that’s the case, one shudders to think what an immodest increase might look like.

The Pentagon Wins Big

So let’s look at the money.

Though the Pentagon’s budget was already through the roof, it will get an extra $165 billion over the next two years, thanks to the congressional budget deal reached earlier this month. To put that figure in context, it was tens of billions of dollars more than Donald Trump had asked for last spring to “rebuild” the U.S. military (as he put it). It even exceeded the figures, already higher than Trump’s, Congress had agreed to last December. It brings total spending on the Pentagon and related programs for nuclear weapons to levels higher than those reached during the Korean and Vietnam wars in the 1950s and 1960s, or even at the height of Ronald Reagan’s vaunted military buildup of the 1980s. Only in two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when there were roughly 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, or about seven times current levels of personnel deployed there, was spending higher.

Ben Freeman of the Center for International Policy put the new Pentagon budget numbers in perspective when he pointed out that just the approximately $80 billion annual increase in the department’s top line between 2017 and 2019 will be double the current budget of the State Department; higher than the gross domestic products of more than 100 countries; and larger than the entire military budget of any country in the world, except China’s.

Democrats signed on to that congressional budget as part of a deal to blunt some of the most egregious Trump administration cuts proposed last spring. The administration, for example, kept the State Department’s budget from being radically slashed and it reauthorized the imperiled Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another 10 years. In the process, however, the Democrats also threw millions of young immigrants under the bus by dropping an insistence that any new budget protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or “Dreamers,” program. Meanwhile, the majority of Republican fiscal conservatives were thrilled to sign off on a Pentagon increase that, combined with the Trump tax cut for the rich, funds ballooning deficits as far as the eye can see — a total of $7.7 trillion worth of them over the next decade.

While domestic spending fared better in the recent congressional budget deal than it would have if Trump’s draconian plan for 2018 had been enacted, it still lags far behind what Congress is investing in the Pentagon. And calculations by the National Priorities Project indicate that the Department of Defense is slated to be an even bigger winner in Trump’s 2019 budget blueprint. Its share of the discretionary budget, which includes virtually everything the government does other than programs like Medicare and Social Security, will mushroom to a once-unimaginable 61 cents on the dollar, a hefty boost from the already startling 54 cents on the dollar in the final year of the Obama administration.

The skewed priorities in Trump’s latest budget proposal are fueled in part by the administration’s decision to embrace the Pentagon increases Congress agreed to last month, while tossing that body’s latest decisions on non-military spending out the window. Although Congress is likely to rein in the administration’s most extreme proposals, the figures are stark indeed — a proposed cutof $120 billion in the domestic spending levels both parties agreed to. The biggest reductions include a 41% cut in funding for diplomacy and foreign aid; a 36% cut in funding for energy and the environment; and a 35% cut in housing and community development. And that’s just the beginning. The Trump administration is also preparing to launch full-scale assaults on food stampsMedicaid, and Medicare. It’s war on everything except the U.S. military.

Corporate Welfare

The recent budget plans have brought joy to the hearts of one group of needy Americans: the top executives of major weapons contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics. They expect a bonanza from the skyrocketing Pentagon expenditures. Don’t be surprised if the CEOs of these five firms give themselves nice salary boosts, something to truly justify their work, rather than the paltry $96 million they drew as a group in 2016 (the most recent year for which full statistics are available).

And keep in mind that, like all other U.S.-based corporations, those military-industrial behemoths will benefit richly from the Trump administration’s slashing of the corporate tax rate. According to one respected industry analyst, a good portion of this windfall will go towards bonuses and increased dividends for company shareholders rather than investments in new and better ways to defend the United States. In short, in the Trump era, Lockheed Martin and its cohorts are guaranteed to make money coming and going.

Items that snagged billions in new funding in Trump’s proposed 2019 budget included Lockheed Martin’s overpriced, underperforming F-35 aircraft, at $10.6 billion; Boeing’s F-18 “Super Hornet,” which was in the process of being phased out by the Obama administration but is now written in for $2.4 billion; Northrop Grumman’s B-21 nuclear bomber at $2.3 billion; General Dynamics’ Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine at $3.9 billion; and $12 billion for an array of missile-defense programs that will redound to the benefit of… you guessed it: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing, among other companies. These are just a few of the dozens of weapons programs that will be feeding the bottom lines of such companies in the next two years and beyond. For programs still in their early stages, like that new bomber and the new ballistic missile submarine, their banner budgetary years are yet to come.

In explaining the flood of funding that enables a company like Lockheed Martin to reap $35 billion per year in government dollars, defense analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group noted that “diplomacy is out; air strikes are in… In this sort of environment, it’s tough to keep a lid on costs. If demand goes up, prices don’t generally come down. And, of course, it’s virtually impossible to kill stuff. You don’t have to make any kind of tough choices when there’s such a rising tide.”

Pentagon Pork Versus Human Security

Loren Thompson is a consultant to many of those weapons contractors. His think tank, the Lexington Institute, also gets contributions from the arms industry. He caught the spirit of the moment when he praised the administration’s puffed-up Pentagon proposal for using the Defense Department budget as a jobs creator in key states, including the crucial swing state of Ohio, which helped propel Donald Trump to victory in 2016. Thompson was particularly pleased with a plan to ramp up General Dynamics’s production of M-1 tanks in Lima, Ohio, in a factory whose production line the Army had tried to put on hold just a few years ago because it was already drowning in tanks and had no conceivable use for more of them.

Thompson argues that the new tanks are needed to keep up with Russia’s production of armored vehicles, a dubious assertion with a decidedly Cold War flavor to it. His claim is backed up, of course, by the administration’s new National Security Strategy, which targets Russia and China as the most formidable threats to the United States. Never mind that the likely challenges posed by these two powers — cyberattacks in the Russian case and economic expansion in the Chinese one — have nothing to do with how many tanks the U.S. Army possesses.

Trump wants to create jobs, jobs, jobs he can point to, and pumping up the military-industrial complex must seem like the path of least resistance to that end in present-day Washington. Under the circumstances, what does it matter that virtually any other form of spending would create more jobs and not saddle Americans with weaponry we don’t need?

If past performance offers any indication, none of the new money slated to pour into the Pentagon will make anyone safer. 

The list of wasteful expenditures is already staggeringly long and early projections are that bureaucratic waste at the Pentagon will amount to $125 billion over the next five years. Among other things, the Defense Department already employs a shadow work force of more than 600,000 private contractors whose responsibilities overlap significantly with work already being done by government employees. Meanwhile, sloppy buying practices regularly result in stories like the recent ones on the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency losing track of how it spent $800 million and how two American commands were unable to account for $500 million meant for the war on drugs in the Greater Middle East and Africa.

Add to this the $1.5 trillion slated to be spent on F-35s that the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight has noted may never be ready for combat and the unnecessary “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, including a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, submarines, and missiles at a minimum cost of $1.2 trillion over the next three decades. In other words, a large part of the Pentagon’s new funding will do much to fuel good times in the military-industrial complex but little to help the troops or defend the country.

Most important of all, this flood of new funding, which could crush a generation of Americans under a mountain of debt, will make it easier to sustain the seemingly endless seven wars that the United States is fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. So call this one of the worst investments in history, ensuring as it does failed wars to the horizon.

It would be a welcome change in twenty-first-century America if the reckless decision to throw yet more unbelievable sums of money at a Pentagon already vastly overfunded sparked a serious discussion about America’s hyper-militarized foreign policy. A national debate about such matters in the run-up to the 2018 and 2020 elections could determine whether it continues to be business-as-usual at the Pentagon or whether the largest agency in the federal government is finally reined in and relegated to an appropriately defensive posture.”

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.