Category Archives: Us Economy

Army To Discard $6 Billion (WIN-T) Network Investment And Start Over Without A Plan


Army Network $6B


“House lawmakers roasted Army officials for abruptly scrapping its acquisition strategy months after submitting its 2018 budget without a well-defined alternative. 

Whether the U.S. Army may shift a half-billion dollars from its ailing network programs and chart a new course will be up for debate as lawmakers reconcile rival House and Senate defense policy bills this month.”

“But several key lawmakers said they are not ready to let the Army reboot from a $6 billion investment without explaining what’s next.

Army officials argue the service lacks the survivable, mobile and hardened tactical network it would need on a modern battlefield. They are asking Congress to end the Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio, the Command Post of the Future and the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 at the end of fiscal year 2018 to free up money budgeted for the three.

And although at least two key lawmakers said they were supportive — chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees — they want more information.

“I support them being willing to examine themselves and reverse course if that’s what’s appropriate,” HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said of the Army on Oct. 5. “It’s going to be up to them to prove to us that now we are on a better path, that we have learned the lessons.”

Thornberry said Army officials spoke with him in September about making the change.

“They’ll have to lay out their plans to us, but if we can have a path forward in ’18, there’s no reason to wait until ’19.”

The House-passed 2018 National Defense Authorization Act calls for WIN-T to be accelerated, and the Senate-passed version zeroes out the president’s request for WIN-T funding. The White House has defended WIN-T and some other programs the Senate NDAA would cut.

SASC Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., grilled Gen. Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff, at a May hearing and accused the Army of wasting $6 billion on WIN-T. That stance actually aids Milley’s aim to reboot Army network plans.

On Sept. 9, McCain met with Milley on Capitol Hill and asked him how he proposes the WIN-T funding be redistributed.

“We told them to send us what they want to do with it, and we will examine it, but we had to act to cut it off,” McCain said of the meeting.

McCain said his support for the Army’s next move “depends on what they want to use it for. WIN-T has been a total failure.”

Proposed changes could be handled as an Army request to reprogram the 2018 funding or as part of the NDAA depending on the timing, McCain said.

The Army envisions scenarios in which it fights a near-peer enemy in contested environments that require small units, operating independently and moving constantly to avoid defeat.

Yet the first increment of WIN-T, while fielded, can only function — transmitting voice, video and data — when a unit is stopped. The WIN-T’s second increment is meant to provide an on-the-move capability, but it has struggled.

The latest annual report from the Pentagon’s office of developmental test and evaluation faults WIN-T’s technical performance, usability and vulnerability to enemy jamming.

At a hearing of the HASC Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee on Sept. 28 to question Army officials over its new plans, Chairman Michael Turner, R-Ohio, expressed deep skepticism the Army would get it right this time.

In a subsequent interview with Defense News, Turner said the goal is to provide new troops technology at least as advanced as what they were had in high school, and not to be eclipsed by adversaries who “have modernized and put at risk our ability to operate.”

“The question is what are we going to do, not just what are we not going to do,” Turner said.

Turner pushed back at the idea WIN-T had been a failure, noting it had been delivered, tested and fielded.

“The issue is not that it’s not working; the issue is: What are our goals and objectives, what are our technology needs, and how do you achieve those?” Turner said, “And the Army’s going to need to have an answer at least in scoping and in implementation, while they explain the nearly $6 billion that’s already been spent.”


How the Vietnam War Broke the American Presidency

Vietnam Broke the Presidency

WG600; Photos: Associated Press; Bettman Archive; Corbis; Fred W. McDarrah; Getty; Horst Faas; Kevin Schafer; Michael Ochs; PhotoQuest


The war undermined the country’s faith in its most respected institutions, particularly the military and the presidency. The military eventually recovered. The presidency never has.

[It] opened the credibility gap. What we’ve learned since has only widened it.”

“On April 30, 1975, when the last helicopter lifted off the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, the Vietnam War, the most consequential event in American history since World War II, ended in failure. More than 58,000 Americans and as many as 3 million Vietnamese had died in the conflict. America’s illusions of invincibility had been shattered, its moral confidence shaken.

It did not happen all at once, this radical diminution of trust. Over more than a decade, the accumulated weight of critical reporting about the war, the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and the declassification of military and intelligence reports tarnished the office. Nor did the process stop when that last chopper took off. New evidence of hypocrisy has continued to appear, an acidic drip, drip, drip on the image of the presidency. The three men who are most responsible for the war, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon, each made the fateful decision to record their deliberations about it. The tapes they left behind—some of them still newly public, others long obscured by the sheer volume of the material—are extraordinary. They expose the presidents’ secret motives and fears, at once humanizing the men and deepening the disillusionment with the office they held.

For most of American history, that office conveyed authority, dignity, and some measure of majesty upon its occupant. The great presidents—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts—came to be viewed not merely as capable executives but as figures of myth: They were heroic, selfless, noble, godlike. Time has a way of burnishing reputations. But as late as the middle of the last century, Americans were inclined to view even incumbent presidents with reverence. Faith in the presidency may have reached its apogee soon after the Second World War. The public generally trusted Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower to be honest and well intentioned and to put the interests of the nation above their own.

It is no coincidence that the last president to inspire such trust was also the last president elected before the Vietnam War began in earnest. Kennedy’s charisma, and his military bona fides, encouraged Americans to believe in their young president as he confronted a complicated and dangerous world. His promise, in his inaugural address, that the United States would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty” reinforced Americans’ vision of their country as a muscular force for good around the globe.

As president, Kennedy immediately faced the challenge of how to use that power. He refused to send American troops to secure a pro-Western government in Laos. But after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and having been bullied by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at a summit in Vienna, he made a different calculation when it came to the continuing crisis in Vietnam, one influenced by domestic political concerns. Kennedy confided to an aide: “There are just so many concessions that one can make to the Communists in one year and survive politically.” With the Vietcong gathering strength in South Vietnam, he felt he had to act.
If not for his untimely death, Kennedy’s legacy might have been sullied while he was in office. Instead, not until the Pentagon Papers were published did Americans discover that he and his administration had harbored misgivings about the political and military progress in Vietnam but never shared their reservations with the public, even as they steadily increased America’s commitment of special forces and military “advisers.”In August 1963, disturbed by the authoritarian South Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diêm’s failure to win over the populace or thwart the Communist insurgency, Kennedy approved a plan to encourage a cabal of dissident generals to overthrow Diêm’s regime. In November, rebel troops seized key installations in Saigon and promised Diêm and his ruthless brother Ngô Đình Nhu safe passage out of the country. As soon as the brothers surrendered, they were murdered by rebel leaders. South Vietnam plunged into chaos, and a bad situation got worse.On November 4, 1963, shortly after the coup, Kennedy recorded his thoughts about what he had allowed to happen. The Kennedy who speaks on this rarely heard tape is not the bold young man of the inaugural address, but a president consumed by doubt, even remorse. He rues having made such a crucial decision without adequate consideration.

Over the weekend the coup in Saigon took place. It culminated three months of conversation … which divided the government here and in Saigon … I feel that we must bear a good deal of responsibility for it, beginning with our cable of … August in which we suggested the coup … I should not have given my consent to it without a roundtable conference … I was shocked by the death of Diêm and Nhu … The question now is whether the generals can stay together and build a stable government or whether … public opinion in Saigon … will turn on this government as repressive and undemocratic in the not-too-distant future.

Kennedy did not live to learn the answer to his question. He was murdered in Dallas 18 days later.

Lyndon Johnson inherited both the presidency and the rapidly deteriorating situation in Vietnam. As vice president, he had opposed the Diêm coup, and he now dreaded being drawn more deeply into the conflict. He hoped the South Vietnamese would “get off their butts and get out in those jungles and whip hell out of some Communists,” he told an aide. “And then I want ’em to leave me alone, because I’ve got some bigger things to do right here at home.” Yet, like Kennedy, he allowed political calculations to affect his approach to the war.

It was not until the 1990s that most of the Johnson recordings began to be processed, digitized, and made accessible to the public—they are still not fully transcribed, and some remain classified. But the 700 mesmerizing hours of tape that are available cast new light on the inner workings of his presidency. In public, Johnson confidently reassured the country that the war in Vietnam was going well. Privately, his frustrations and misgivings were on excruciating display. In May 1964, less than six months before the presidential election, Johnson confessed to National-Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy that he did not know what to do.

johnson: I just stayed awake last night thinking about this thing—the more I think of it, I don’t know what in the hell … It looks like to me we’re getting into another Korea. It just worries the hell out of me. I don’t see what we can ever hope to get out of there with once we’re committed … I don’t think it’s worth fighting for and I don’t think we can get out. And it’s just the biggest damn mess I ever saw.

bundy: It is, it’s an awful mess …

johnson: I just thought about ordering those kids in there, and what in the hell am I ordering [them] out there for?

bundy: One thing that has occurred to me—

johnson: What the hell is Vietnam worth to me? … What is it worth to this country? …

bundy: Yup. Yup.

johnson: Now, of course, if you start running the Communists, they may just chase you right into your own kitchen.

bundy: Yup. That’s the trouble. And that is what the rest of that half of the world is going to think if this thing comes apart on us …

johnson: It’s damned easy to get in a war, but it’s going to be awfully hard to ever extricate yourself if you get in.

Johnson’s doubts about whether the war was winnable or worth fighting persisted throughout his presidency. But he could not countenance being seen as the first commander in chief to lose a war. In 1965, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara told the president that even if he committed more men, the chances of victory were no better than one in three. Johnson still decided to escalate.

As American casualties mounted and news filtered back home that the war was not going nearly as well as the White House had been claiming, the public’s faith in Johnson began to wane. Politicians and journalists described a “credibility gap”—the space between the president’s assertions and the facts on the ground. Skepticism eventually gave way to disillusionment with the presidency itself.Richard Nixon’s presidency carried that process of disillusionment much further. Nixon’s fondness for audio recordings is notorious. We rightly remember that it was transcripts revealing the president’s crude, cutthroat willingness to conceal his crimes that shocked the nation and forced him from office. But we often forget that the war and the Watergate scandal were inextricably intertwined. Before the White House Plumbers botched the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, they attempted to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, who had leaked the Pentagon Papers, by stealing files from his psychiatrist’s office.

When audio of the Nixon tapes eventually became public in 1980—2,658 of the 3,400 hours are now accessible—Americans could hear for themselves just how cynically the president had approached the war. On tape, he is frequently ruthless, amoral, and self-interested. Nixon had promised peace with honor, but as he weighed the consequences of American withdrawal, chief among his concerns was the potential effect on his reelection in 1972 if Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. Nixon and his national-security adviser, Henry Kissinger, returned to this worry again and again, including on May 29, 1971, in a conversation not released to the public until 1999:

kissinger: The only problem is to prevent the collapse in ’72 … If it’s got to go to the Communists, it’d be better to have it happen in the first six months of the new term than have it go on and on and on.

nixon: Sure.

kissinger: I’m being very cold-blooded about it.

nixon: I know exactly what we’re up to …

kissinger: But on the other hand, if Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam go down the drain in September ’72, then they’ll say you went into these … You spoiled so many lives, just to wind up where you could’ve been in the first year.

nixon: Yeah.

The revelations of the Nixon tapes destroyed his presidency and further eroded American faith in the office itself. The presidents of the post-Vietnam era have never managed to fully restore that faith, and lately, it seems, confidence in the chief executive is at a new low, even if tape recorders are no longer running in the Oval Office.

But we needn’t succumb to the cynicism often on display in the Vietnam recordings. The war may have robbed America of its innocence, but it also reminded us that the duty of citizens in a democracy is to be skeptical—not to worship our leaders, who have always been fallible, but to question their decisions, challenge their policies, and hold them accountable for their failures.”

Slave Labor Widespread at Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention Centers


ICE Slave Labor

As Huge Corporations Benefit


“As POGO previously reported, the majority of America’s detention centers are run by a handful of companies that are largely secretive about what goes on in these taxpayer-funded facilities. What’s no secret is how much money these companies earn.

CoreCivic and GEO Group are two of the largest private detention contractors in the country. In 2016, CoreCivic reported over $1.8 billion in revenue, while GEO Group reported over $2.1 billion, according to the companies’ official filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

“There are nearly 200 federal detention centers across the country. Here, people suspected of violating U.S. immigration laws wait for court hearings to find out if they’ll stay in the United States or be deported. While they wait, many detainees work as part of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “voluntary work program.” They clean, they cook, they do laundry, and they garden—some advocates say they keep the facilities running.

For their labor, the detainees are supposed to be paid at least $1 per day, or just under $0.13 per hour for an 8-hour work day. This arrangement has the blessings of both ICE and Congress, the latter of which set the rate over a half a century ago and hasn’t changed it since.

However, a growing body of legal experts says paying detainees $1 per day not only violates state minimum wage laws, but also violates the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in all instances except as punishment for people convicted of crimes. Experts argue that, because the majority of detainees have not been convicted of crimes, they should be fairly compensated for their labor.

From California to Colorado to Massachusetts, detainees have recently taken legal action against the for-profit companies and local governments that operate the majority of ICE detention centers. The detainees argue they should be paid minimum wage—some allege that they weren’t even paid the minimum $1 per day. They also allege that the voluntary work program is sometimes not voluntary at all, and that they face violent retaliation from guards if they refuse to work.

Many of these lawsuits will play out as the Administration ramps up its enforcement of immigration laws, including the possible end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—which protects 800,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation—indicating that the number of people held in detention centers will likely increase in the coming years.

Meanwhile, the companies in question have crafted a lucrative business model in which the U.S. government pays them billions of dollars to operate federal detention centers. While the companies promise to bring jobs and other economic benefits to the communities where they set up shop, many experts say these promises are overblown because the companies rely on low-paid detainee labor instead.

Blurring the Line Between Detention Centers and Prisons

The detainee voluntary work program was created decades before ICE itself was created in 2003. In 1950, Congress passed a law to make money available for the U.S. government to pay non-citizens for work they performed while in detention. While the law did not specify the wage, Congress appropriated funds to pay detainees $1 per day, which had the same buying power that about $10 per day has today.

While Immigration and Naturalization Service, a now defunct federal agency that was a precursor to ICE, requested that Congress increase the rate to $4 per day in 1982—again, equivalent to about $10 today—Congress did not do so, and the rate has remained “at least $1 per day.” As recently as December 2016, ICE listed the rate in its voluntary work program manual.

Anita Sinha, director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the American University Washington College of Law, told the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) that participation in the voluntary work program is often not a voluntary matter for detainees, which, coupled with the low pay, raises questions as to the program’s constitutionality.

“Involuntarily labor is only permissible if it’s due to a punishment of a crime,” she said, referring to the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in most instances, but includes a carve-out for anyone convicted of a crime. “Immigration detention is not meant to be punishment for a crime. It’s a civil issue.”

However, all of the experts POGO spoke to said that the ICE detention centers look a lot like prisons, and detainees are often treated like prisoners. While a 2016 report by the Homeland Security Advisory Council notes that “ICE has been clearly on record as favoring a civil detention model, rather than a model designed for the criminal-justice process, because ICE detention is not based on a criminal charge or on punishment,” the report also states that “The full potential of the civil model has not been realized.”

Sinha explained that one reason for this is the companies that run the majority of ICE detention centers are also major players in the prison contracting world. A significant percentage of detainees are actually housed in local jails rather than detention centers. And, in some cases, former prisons are converted into detention centers.

“You have the same exact brick and mortar,” she said of the facilities.

Maru Mora Villalpando, co-founder of NWDC Resistance, an advocacy group for detainees at a detention center in Tacoma, Washington, told POGO, “The detention system is just an extension of the prison system.”

The major difference? The prison system, which is largely government-run as opposed to company-run, is far more transparent. And, as POGO previously reported, the federal Bureau of Prisons proactively provides much more information to the public about its facilities and the people it houses than either ICE or its detention center operators do.

According to Villalpando, who described the conditions at detention centers as “inhumane,” the companies who operate detention centers are only interested in making money.

“If there was real oversight, all of these places would be shut down already,” she said.

“You Want to Go to the Hole?”

In the first class-action lawsuit of its kind, nine former detainees from the Aurora Detention Facility outside of Denver are suing detention center operator GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Securities) on behalf of over 60,000 detainees who have gone through the doors of the detention center.

The lawsuit alleges that GEO Group coerced Aurora detainees into participating in the ICE voluntary work program under threat of being thrown into solitary confinement.

”GEO pays detainees $1 per day, or no wages at all, for their labor,” according to the complaint, which calls this practice a violation of Colorado minimum wage law.

In signed legal declarations, Aurora detainees described how they or other detainees were forced to work—under threat of solitary confinement—cooking, cleaning, and performing other tasks necessary to keep the contractor facility running.

“None of us got paid anything for the work we did on the cleaning crews,” Carlos Eliezer Ortiz Muñoz, who was detained in 2014 and 2015, wrote. “People who refused to clean were put in solitary.…Some of the guards would threaten us by saying: ‘¿Quieres ir al oyo?’ – ‘You want to go to the hole?’”

Another former Aurora detainee, Lourdes Argueta, wrote that she was assigned to clean the detention center’s medical unit. She wrote that her work involved “cleaning up blood, feces and urine” of other detainees.

Several of the detainees wrote that, when they asked GEO Group guards if they could be paid more, they were told the company was not allowed to increase their wage.

A spokesman for GEO Group said the company denies the lawsuit’s allegations and that the standards and pay for the voluntary work program are set by the federal government, not GEO Group.

“Our facilities, including the Aurora, Colo. Facility, are highly rated and provide high-quality services in safe, secure, and humane residential environments pursuant to the Federal Government’s national standards,” he said in a written statement to POGO.

This response echoes arguments the company made in 2014, when it filed a motion to dismiss the Aurora lawsuit. GEO Group noted then that the $1 per day rate was set by Congress decades ago, and that ICE includes it in the contracts it makes with companies like GEO Group.

ICE did not respond to POGO’s requests for comment on either the Aurora lawsuit or the agency’s detention center system in general.

A Systemic Issue

The Aurora lawsuit, while unprecedented in its scale, is only one of a growing number of lawsuits recently filed by detainees.

In 2006, a detainee in Tacoma, Washington, filed a lawsuit alleging that GEO Group failed to pay him all of the wages for work he did as part of the voluntary work program. The detainee alleged that the failure of payment was tantamount to slavery. A judge dismissed the case, saying that the detainee had submitted his complaint of non-payment too late, and that the detainee “was not compelled to work but participated in a voluntary work program.”

In 2015, a detainee in Boston filed a class action lawsuit against the local county sheriff’s department saying that he and other detainees should be paid Massachusetts minimum wage for participating in the voluntary work program. The detainee is one of thousands of ICE detainees who are held in local jails rather than in federal facilities.

And in June, detainees in San Diego filed a class action lawsuit against private detention center operator CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) alleging that they and thousands of other detainees were threatened with punishment—including solitary confinement and physical restraint—if they refused to participate in the voluntary work program. In addition to providing services for fellow detainees, the San Diego detainees say they also performed clerical work for CoreCivic, cleaned the medical staff’s offices, and helped cater meals for law enforcement events hosted by CoreCivic.

Detainees at other facilities have similar complaints about the voluntary work program, although they haven’t taken legal action.

In 2011, detainees at a CoreCivic-operated detention center in Georgia told the ACLU of Georgia that they were threatened with solitary confinement for not participating in the voluntary work program—an assertion that CoreCivic confirmed.

“Three weeks ago, some detainees who worked at the kitchen wanted to stop working. The guards told them that if they stopped working, they would be charged by the disciplinary board. The guards then tried to get them to sign a document,” Josue Cervantes told the ACLU. “The detainees refused to sign the document and shortly thereafter they were transferred from the blue to the orange unit for a couple days as punishment.”

The “orange unit” is another name for a segregation unit—essentially solitary confinement—where the sanitation was so bad some detainees referred to these units as “portable toilets.” CoreCivic told the ACLU that it investigated the incident and confirmed that it occurred. The company said it took action, such as counseling its guards.

And earlier this year, detainees in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, made news when as many as 750 detainees staged a hunger strike in protest of their $1 per day wages and poor living conditions, The Seattle Times reported in April.

Villalpando of NWDC Resistance told POGO that, despite detainees’ widespread frustration with their wages, detainees often chose to participate in the voluntary work program—in fact, she said there is a waiting list for the program at the 1,575-person Tacoma facility. The reason? Detainees have few activities to fill their days while they wait for their immigration hearings.

According to ICE’s Performance-Based National Detention Standards manual, which was last updated in December 2016, this is one of the reasons the voluntary work program exists.

“The negative impact of confinement shall be reduced through decreased idleness, improved morale and fewer disciplinary incidents,” the manual says of the work program.

Villalpando told POGO that, in the Tacoma facility, detainees are allowed only one hour per day to work on their legal cases in the detention center library. Some detainees passed the time playing dominos—that is, until the detention center outlawed the game, according to Villalpando. And other detainees use discarded food wrappers to create art to decorate their “pods,” or living areas—until detention center guards almost inevitably pull down the artwork to throw it away, she added.

“All of this means people try to find something to do,” she said of the work program. “They [GEO Group] make you feel like you are the one requesting the job.”

The Business of Detention

As POGO previously reported, the majority of America’s detention centers are run by a handful of companies that are largely secretive about what goes on in these taxpayer-funded facilities. What’s no secret is how much money these companies earn.

CoreCivic and GEO Group are two of the largest private detention contractors in the country. In 2016, CoreCivic reported over $1.8 billion in revenue, while GEO Group reported over $2.1 billion, according to the companies’ official filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A significant portion of the companies’ profits come from government contracts. CoreCivic was awarded nearly $1 billion in government contracts in 2015, while GEO Group was awarded $1.3 billion the same year.

And profits for these companies are up from 2015, which financial analysts attribute to President Trump’s campaign promise to be tough on people who violate immigration laws. 2017 may be an even better year for detention center companies, given that ICE agency awarded GEO Group a $110 million contract for a new detention facility outside of Houston in April.

Both GEO Group and CoreCivic told investors in early August that, despite the fact Customs and Border Protection apprehended fewer people than usual illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border at the beginning of 2017, the Administration’s proposed immigration policies will be good for business.

According to GEO Group CEO George C. Zoley, the company expects to win a contract by the end of the year to manage a 700-bed ICE facility in Florence, Arizona.

And CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger told investors on a call that the Administration’s plan to increase immigration enforcement in the interior of the country means more opportunities for the company.

“…it is clear to us based on kind of mostly some of the numbers we are seeing, but also the feedback we are getting from our Federal partners that they are making us big investors,” Hininger said.

However, despite the sizeable government contracts these companies win, sources who spoke to POGO said GEO Group and CoreCivic wouldn’t be nearly as profitable—if at all—if it weren’t for the $1 per day detainee work program. The Aurora lawsuit alleges that detainees perform “vital functions” for the GEO Group facility. In fact, the facility employs only one full-time janitor who is not a detainee, the Associated Press reported.

ICE does not proactively disclose how many detainees participate in its voluntary work program, but The New York Times reported in 2014 that at least 60,000 detainees were part of the program the previous year.

While detention center companies looking to construct new facilities try to woo locals with the promise of jobs, the companies’ reliance on detainee labor means that many of the centers actually provide few jobs for locals, according to the Detention Watch Network.

Villalpando told POGO that the Tacoma facility only employs a few overworked, undertrained guards—many of whom live out of town.

And Jacqueline Stevens, a professor of political science and legal studies at Northwestern University and director of the school’s Deportation Research Clinic, told POGO, “Facilities hire a small number of guards through private security firms; they often complain about their own poor treatment.”

“The vast bulk of the labor running the facilities, including dining services, repairs, cleaning, painting, and even hair cutting is by those locked up for slaving wages of $1 to $3 [per] day or on threat of solitary confinement, not workers hired from the community,” she said.

Stevens has extensively studied ICE’s voluntary work program and has successfully obtained documents that shed insights into it. Based on these documents, Stevens has calculated that, by paying detainees at the Aurora detention center in Colorado $1 per day—well below both the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and Colorado’s recently increased minimum wage of $9.30 per hour—GEO Group saves itself over $4 million each year.

So what would happen if detention companies started paying detainees minimum wage? According to Sinha of the International Human Rights Law Clinic, detention companies would make significantly less money—but it might not be enough to shut them down. As long as the federal government continues to award these companies billions of dollars in contracts, the companies will continue to operate detention centers and build new ones.

“Their contracts are sizeable,” she said of detention companies. “They’ll still profit, but they’ll think twice.”


Now more than ever, Congress must conduct more oversight of ICE and its detention center system. Based on this investigation, the Project On Government Oversight recommends the following actions for Congress:

  1. Appropriate funds to ICE to increase the minimum wage for detainees who participate in the voluntary work program while in detention.
  2. Implement greater oversight of contractor-run ICE detention centers to ensure that detainee participation in voluntary work programs is not coerced and that detainees have better channels to file complaints.
  3. Investigate detention center company claims that new detention centers benefit local communities’ economies and job growth.”



Big Data At Its Best – POGO Federal Contractor Misconduct Data Base




POGO Misconduct


“We encourage you to visit our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, which currently contains 412 resolved and 121 pending instances of workplace-related misconduct by the federal government’s largest contractors.

The government’s top vendors have paid a collective total of $2.7 billion in fines, judgments, and settlements since 1996 for a wide variety of labor violations, including discrimination, health and safety hazards, unpaid wages, and whistleblower retaliation.

The vast majority of the labor misconduct instances in our database did not involve the federal government. About 54 percent were lawsuits filed by private parties, while another 7 percent were enforcement actions by local, state, and foreign governments. One instance we recently added is KBR’s $3.75 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by construction workers who alleged the company stiffed them on wages and meal breaks at a California mining facility.

The Trump administration’s efforts to roll back worker protections and oversight of contractors’ business practices could further shrink the percentage of labor instances involving Uncle Sam in our database. Nonetheless, at least for now, federal enforcers are still on the job. A few weeks ago, the National Nuclear Security Administration hit National Security Technologies, the managing contractor of the Nevada Test Site, with a proposed $112,500 fine for violations of worker safety and health requirements. In May, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Exxon Mobil $164,775 for violations related to a November 2016 Baton Rouge refinery explosion that injured four workers.

A list of all resolved and pending labor misconduct instances in our database can be found at this link.”



DIU(X) Pentagon Outreach Program To Tech Startups Is Here to Stay


DIU(X) Web Site:


“DIU(X) has spent $100 million on projects from 45 companies. These are not traditional defense contractors but commercial tech companies, mostly small ones, backed by about $1.8 billion in venture capital.

The whole idea is to reach beyond the often stodgy military-industrial complex to the thriving, innovative tech sector, especially to start-ups that lack the time, connections, or specialized manpower to penetrate the defense procurement labyrinth.

How does Trump’s Defense Secretary feel about one of the Obama Pentagon’s more controversial aus, the outreach to tech start-ups known as DIU(X)?

“I don’t embrace it,” Jim Mattis told reporters en route to Silicon Valley yesterday. “I enthusiastically embrace it, and I’m grateful that Secretary Carter (Ash Carter, Obama’s last SecDef) had the foresight to put something in place to anchor the Department of Defense out there.”

“I want to see results. I want to see what they’re doing with their location and the ideas that they’re bringing, they’re harvesting — what are we getting out of it?” Mattis continued when pressed by a skeptical press. “Absolutely, I want to see them in their mission. I’m not coming out here questioning the mission.” (Emphasis ours).

Mattis’s embrace of this Obama-era idea is just the latest sign that there’s a lot more continuity at the Pentagon in some policy areas than President Trump’s Twitter barrages would suggest. Trump blasted the F-35 stealth fighterMattis committed to continued production. Trump called NATO “obsolete” and said South Korea should pay for US missile defenses; Mattis reached out to allies. Trump campaigned on pledges of a Reaganesque defense buildup; his actual budget proposal has been modest. Trump promised new Navy ships and Army units; Mattis has prioritized better training and maintenance for the forces we already have. Trump said he’d made US nuclear forces stronger but they’re actually still shrinking under Obama-era arms control treaties. All modernization to nuclear delivery systems was started under Obama.

In this context, Mattis keeping his predecessor’s Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) isn’t so surprising. Congressional Republicans have been ambivalent about DIU(X), which has offices in three strongholds of Democrat-leaning techies: Palo AltoAustin and Boston. (Note the persistent attacks by the far right on Google and other tech companies.) House Armed Services chairman Mac Thornberry has worried aloud that DIU(X) duplicates longstanding high-tech efforts such as DARPA.

One of Work’s last acts, on July 14, was to give DIU(X) new legal authorities. One of the most significant is rapid hiring authorities that let DIU(X) bypass cumbersome federal regulations and bring tech expert onboard in as little as a day. (Similar authorities have been proposed in Congress) Another expanded the unit’s ability to set up Cooperative Research & Development Agreements (CRADAs) with private companies. Still other authorities gave DIU(X) new abilities to advertise, run prize competitions, host conferences, all methods of getting geniuses’ attention for its projects.”

What has DIU(X) done to deserve more money and power? The unit’s signature achievement so far is new planning software for Air Force flight operations previously run with Microsoft Excel and markers on whiteboards. The new software cost $1.5 million, but by scheduling sorties more efficiently, it will save an estimated $131 million year in fuel and maintenance for tanker aircraft, DIU(X) says. The DIU(X) project also delivered in 120 days what a multi-year, $745 million dollar Air Force program could not.

Other DIU(X) contracts range from robotic sailboats (“saildrones”) to collect data on the ocean – vital for naval planning – to military simulations derived from commercial games.

All told, after a rough start which prompted Carter to reboot the unit, DIU(X) has spent $100 million on projects from 45 companies. These are not traditional defense contractors but commercial tech companies, mostly small ones, backed by about $1.8 billion in venture capital. The whole idea is to reach beyond the often stodgy military-industrial complex to the thriving, innovative tech sector, especially to start-ups that lack the time, connections, or specialized manpower to penetrate the defense procurement labyrinth. [UPDATE: Mattis also visited Google on Friday, but the tech giant has been leery of military contracts.] This strategy lets the military ride a train whose locomotive is massive private investment the Pentagon doesn’t have to pay for.

Now Mattis is publicly embracing this approach. In the words of a press release the Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) put out to celebrate the secretary’s visit, it looks like “DIU(X) is here to stay.”





Your Questions Answered About the New Veterans Online Shopping Benefit

“More than 95,000 people visited the military exchanges’ website in its first month, seeking to register for the new veterans online shopping benefit that starts Nov. 11, officials said.

All honorably discharged veterans will have access to the online exchanges as of that date. VetVerify is the first step in the eligibility process.

Some veterans will be chosen as “beta testers” and will have access to the online stores before Nov. 11; the earlier veterans complete the verification process, the better their chances of becoming beta testers, according to officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which administers the verification for all the military exchange services.
Veterans who register through will receive notification of their acceptance as eligible online shoppers or, if their records are incomplete, will receive guidance on the steps they can take to update those records.
Officials were not able to provide information about how many of the 95,000 verification attempts have been successful. About 13 percent of the site’s visitors have been chosen as beta testers, AAFES spokesman Chris Ward said, and others who registered for verification already were eligible to shop.
Officials started the verification process early in preparation for at least 13 million people who will be newly eligible to shop online at the exchange. Until now, online military exchange shopping was available only to active-duty, reserve and National Guard members; retirees; 100 percent disabled veterans; the dependent family members of those individuals; and certain others.

Online pricing can be seen only by those who are authorized to shop at the exchange websites:;;
Military Times and the exchanges continue to get questions about the VetVerify website and the new shopping benefit. Here are a few frequently asked questions, and some answers, supplied by AAFES.

Q. Is this site a phishingscam?
A. No. is a shared service for all the military exchanges with the sole purpose of supporting the newly approved veterans online shopping benefit. uses data from Defense Manpower Data Center, which holds the most comprehensive dataset on veterans, to verify eligibility.

Q. Do I qualify if I served for four years, or if I was in the reserves, or if I’m on disability?
A. All honorably discharged veterans and those with a general (under honorable) discharge can shop their military exchanges, through the veterans online shopping benefit, beginning on Veterans Day.
Q. Can my spouse (or other family member) shop? 

A. No. The new benefit is specific to veterans with honorable and general (under honorable conditions) discharges.
Q. Does the veterans online shopping benefit extend to shopping at the commissary? 
A. No.
Q. What if my service can’t be verified? 

A. There may be further information needed, so you will need to submit a digital copy of your discharge paperwork to be reviewed for eligibility. After you submit your verification form through, you will be prompted to upload the necessary paperwork.
Q. Who should I call if I have problems with the verification process? 

A. The customer call center, toll-free, at 844-868-8672.
Q. Why does VetVerify ask for my entire Social Security number? 

A. VetVerify is required to obtain the last four digits of your Social Security number, date of birth and last name in order to validate and authenticate shoppers. If a match is not found with the minimum information, then the Social Security number is requested for a more detailed search. Social Security number is the unique identifier by Defense Manpower Data Center data. When customers visit the website of their favorite online exchanges for the first time, however, they will create a new username to be used as the unique identifier with the exchange. VetVerify has taken appropriate measures to safeguard your personal information.”

U.S. Wasted $28 Million on Afghan Uniforms – Color Does Match Terrain


Afghanistan Uniforms


“The Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan selected the dark uniform  without determining whether it was right for Afghanistan.

DoD had purchased more than 1.3 million of these uniforms as of June.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis scolded top defense officials for a “complacent” mode of thinking that allowed $28 million to be wasted on Afghan army uniforms that were inappropriate for fighting in Afghanistan.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction exposed the waste in June when it found that the Pentagon’s decision to procure a dark forest-patterned uniform for the Afghan army was incongruous with the country’s largely desert environment. Moreso, the SIGAR found, DoD bypassed its own digital patterns it owned and contracted a firm whose proprietary rights over the forest pattern significantly increased the cost of the shirt and pants purchases.

Mattis used SIGAR’s findings to highlight what he said he saw as wasteful complacency.

“Buying uniforms for our Afghan partners, and doing so in a way that may have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over a ten-year period, must not be seen as inconsequential,” Mattis said in his memo, addressed to the under secretaries for acquisition, policy and finance. Those departments head the Afghanistan Resource Oversight Council, a group responsible for decisions on procurement to support the Afghan National Security Forces.

“I highlight this report because it reveals two truths about our line of work. [First] our every action contributes to our larger mission,” Mattis said. Second, “our procurement decisions have a lasting impact on the larger defense budget.”

“Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” Mattis said.”


The Business of National Cybersecurity


Business of Cyber Security



“With all the attention this subject is now receiving, one would think the business of national cyber security (commercial, government and defense) would be very robust.

Small and medium-sized businesses are not singing a happy, carefree tune. Delays in contracts, budget cuts and delayed payments seem to be the most common complaints.

It is hard to open a browser, look at a newspaper, or watch or listen to a news show without the topic of cybersecurity coming up. In mid-June, Microsoft received a lot of attention from headlines about the company’s warning of an elevated risk of cyberattacks. Another attention-grabbing headline came from Chris Childers, the CEO of the National Defense Group located in Germantown, Maryland, who shined light on the fact that many satellites in use today are dated and use old technology that was made before cyberthreats were a real issue and prior to when cyber defenses were readily available.

With all of the headlines about cyberattacks, viruses, ransomware attacks (WannaCry) and so on, you would think cybersecurity business is booming. Odds are it is not as robust as many people think. Let’s not forget when the Department of Homeland Security said 20-plus states faced major hacking attempts during the 2016 presidential election.

Today, basic cybersecurity understanding and skills need to reach into every profession and every level of the workforce. Updating the skills of the workforce must be continuous, and this takes time and money.

Another interesting point was brought up during a recent cyber strategy thinking session: Could our adversaries be leveraging inexpensive cyberattacks and threats as economic warfare, knowing full well that we will move to identify, analyze and address the emerging threats — something that would cost us money? After all, what choice do we have?”






U.S. Government Writing Over $33 Billion in Blank Checks to Pentagon and Lockheed


Blank Checks


“In a sign of how strange the budget process has become, the House Appropriations Committee has approved a defense spending bill that basically gives Secretary Jim Mattis a $28.6 billion blank check.

Scattered across seven different accounts in the base and Overseas Contingency Operationsbudgets, it’s called the National Defense Restoration Fund, and it makes up 4.3 percent of the bill’s $658.1 billion Pentagon budget.

That percentage may seem small, but it’s more than any previous SecDef has had at his discretion. The only requirement? To “notify” Congress 15 days before dedicating the funds to a specific purpose. In theory, that gives legislators time to stop a transfer they dislike, but it would require new legislation, and the Hill just isn’t set up to pass bills on a two-week turnaround. That is, of course, why, historically, almost everything has to go through the annual budget process.”


“The Defense Department has awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. a $4.49 billion undefinitized contract action to continue production on the latest batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters even as it continues to negotiate a firm price for the fifth-generation jets.

The UCA — a type of contract in which bottom-line terms or prices have not been agreed upon before performance is begun — stipulates a max price of $5.6 billion for Lockheed to continue working on the Low Rate Initial Production, or LRIP, lot 11 jets, according to the F-35 Joint Program Office.”





Fixing Military Readiness Does Not Require a Spending Boost

Military-Spending Boost SaultOnline dot com



“Military spending choices are mostly about what to be ready for, not how to be ready for everything.

The military does have readiness problems, but they could be addressed without raising total military budget. Those lamenting the state of military readiness ignore those solutions because they are using it to argue for a higher top line.

In principle, U.S. military readiness refers to the force’s ability to perform its key missions. That means having units that are well-equipped, manned and trained. Two internal Pentagon tracking systems rate readiness on that score. That sounds simpler, but readiness’ definition makes it tough to assess.

One reason is that its definition complicates assessment. The force’s ability to accomplish its missions depends partly on future enemy actions, which are inherently uncertain.

There’s also ambiguity as to what missions matter. Is a Marine unit that is prepared to strike at desert insurgents — but ill-equipped to land on contested Chinese beaches — unready?

Another complexity is that military readiness isn’t an absolute good. Given limited resources, one cannot be fully prepared for everything all the time. Readiness should rise and fall as U.S. forces prepare for and exit conflicts.

These ambiguities mean that debates that appear to concern readiness are actually about other issues, like what to buy and what wars to expect. A telling example came last summer when former CIA Director David Petraeus and foreign policy scholar Michael O’Hanlon published two articles calling the “readiness crisis” a myth. They argued that while readiness is hardly perfect, vehicles are generally well-maintained and combat units well-trained and equipped for current wars.

Their argument produced a bevy of criticism from hawkish analysts. But these responses oddly accepted the basic point of contention — that readiness for current missions is hardly in crisis — before complaining about some other matter, like the force’s size, funding or preparation for future rivals.

Likewise, the service chiefs frequently complain about readiness in asking for budget increases. But they don’t put today’s readiness challenges in historical context or define what deviation from ideal is acceptable. They avoid claiming that readiness is in crisis and resent contentions that U.S. forces are enfeebled.

The U.S. military’s readiness problems are largely the fault of those that most loudly bemoan them. That includes Pentagon bosses and especially congressional leaders. They routinely reject three fixes that require no budget boost.

The first and best option is to ask less of the military. A defense strategy that prioritized among dangers, rather than trying to stabilize most corners of the earth, would leave the force less strained and allow cuts to force structure. The savings could fund the operational accounts that pay for the readiness of the force.

Second, even without a strategic shift, Congress could cancel complex platforms, like the Littoral Combat Ship or F-35, which suck up operational funding, and replace them with simpler alternatives — or do with less in some areas.

A third solution is to eventually free up funds for operational accounts by cutting spending on excess bases and by slowing the growth in personnel costs.

Congressional defense committees dismiss the first solution because they see U.S. military efforts as indispensable to world order, perhaps because of the spending indispensability requires in their districts. They reject the second option for similar reasons. Indeed, they reject it so thoroughly that they often do the opposite — shifting funds from operational accounts to acquisition at the expense of readiness.

The third option falls prey to concerns about cuts to local jobs and potential calumny about not supporting the troops.

Congressional Republicans aren’t especially motivated to fix the readiness crisis because they use it to pressure Democrats to increase defense spending. In that sense, they care less about readiness for current wars than readiness for the array of imagined future wars.

In Washington, readiness now seems to mean whatever the speaker wants from the military. We should discard the term in recognition of the fact that military spending choices are mostly about what to be ready for, not how to be ready for everything.”

Benjamin H. Friedman is a research fellow in Defense and Homeland Security Studies at the Cato Institute.