What’s the Real Cost?
A Solider that went by the name of Bonaparte is quoted as saying:
“ An army marches on its stomach!”
He knew a bit about soldiering.
“The J4 section of CINCPAC staff which replaced the committee system was directed by Army Major General Leavey and was organized as follows:
J41 Transportation and Priorities
J47 Administration and Statistics
Two branches of the Operations Directorate, J3, Combat Readiness and Communications, were responsible to the J4 for planning ammunition and communications equipment requirements. All direction of logistics planning emanated from the CINCPAC headquarters. This organization, and by 1943, the extraordinarily capable Service Force Pacific Fleet, developed largely as a result of the necessities of the Central Pacific Campaign which began in the fall of 1943. Throughout 1942 the main focus had been on standing up and supporting SOPAC and the Guadalcanal Campaign. By early 1943 a reasonably effective system of logistics coordination existed at the local level in the South Pacific area.” (Note 1)
American Marine and Army units are organized into sections including:
S-1 Personnel and Administration (people and paper)
S-2 Intelligence (what’s the bad guy doing – what’s he capable of doing and what does he intend to do?)
S-3 Operations (how we gonna kill the bad guy)
S-4 Logistics (beans, bullets, Band-Aids)
S-5 Civil Government (installs services to citizens where civilian infrastructure ceases to exist.)
The S designation is used in a battalion, brigade or regimental unit organization. These three organizations keep the Grunt and 88Mike-truck driver supplied so they can perform their mission. Four shops the “S-4” (G-4 at Division Level and other designations of logistics at the Corp, Army and Theater Level, hence the J4 referenced above. Military Commanders bring all the sections together with battle plans (us military types like to call the plans operations orders or op orders).
Note the reference to “… extraordinarily capable Service Force Pacific Fleet…” reference above. Military campaigns conducted over tens of thousands of miles on multiple “fronts” were supplied, superbly from ships. The most important difference between then and now is logistics was controlled and operated by very competent and accountable Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Army Air Corp Personnel and Coasties. Not so today. The Troop at the end of the logistics line is dependent upon civilians. Unarmed, overpaid (if American or British) and to the detriment of our Military who depend upon the logistics system to live and fight on the nations battlefields.
The 88mike truck driver, 91delta cavalry scout, 31bravo cannoneer, 11bravo riflemen all represent symbols on military maps. News reports display military operations charts with arrows on them. Arrows on the chart representing military advances are people! Not just symbols on a map or chart or computer terminal. The troops that fill the military occupational specialties (and others) that I have written about in this paragraph are the living soldiers that are at the tip of the arrows on news media military charts. Real Americans. The support they receive from we the people and the United States of America is sadly lacking. Our country has allowed the military industrial complex to further enrich wealthy people at the expense of the line Marine or Soldier.
As a nation we have allowed political profiteering to extend to corporate welfare disguised as “defense contractors”. * Sure the contracted corporations provide services and products to the Defense Department. Defense contractors replace members of the military in performing key maintenance procedures and functions. They perform at a standard the line soldier finds very difficult to cope with and use. Often the line grunt, 88mike truck driver, scouts, cannon cockers, engineers and other military support personnel “make do” and avoid contractors to the extent they are able to.
A line solider shared the following review of contractors with me. He is “One of America’s Best” as members of the military are often referred to in the conservative media!
Report from the front
“This is what I can tell you about contractors in Iraq. An U.S. citizen runs every department. The departments are broke down from this point where the U.S. citizen is in charge of what us troops call TCN’s (third country nationals). These people are called TCN’s because they are recruited from third world countries, hence the use of TCN. They are paid lower wages and treated differently. KBR is famous for this. They charge the highest hourly wage [to the United States] for these workers but pay them very low wages. These TCN’s come from Eastern Europe, Indonesia, Burma, the Philippine Islands and other third world countries. I believe the TCN’s are used so companies can earn more money.
An example of how the system works can be explained with an incident where our base supplied power went out to our quarters. When the power went out it almost caused a fire in our barracks. We had to submit a work order to get the problem repaired. (In the mean time the power is still out.) A repairman came to our area (in a brand new vehicle) and worked on the problem. He could not fix it. The guy leaves and comes back with a man from Serbia to fix the power problem.
The supervisors are American or British. I believe the contracted supervisors earn six-figure incomes while the TCN’s make pennies on the dollar. It was always difficult to find people to fix things. We were on the road a lot (as 88mikes are supposed to be). When we did get back to the FOB a shower was something to look forward to. We would be gone for days. Pigeons liked our shower and roosted in it. The pigeons defecated into the water we were supposed to shower in. KBR never got rid of the pigeons. It was always difficult to get contractors to fix things. KBR may have been to busy with its fleet of new vehicles. (Not just one or two new vehicles but dozens of them. Those of us in military never did find out what happened to vehicles the new ones replaced.)
They got the vehicles after the first of the year. I was assigned to a transportation company. We had one vehicle per platoon for ancillary use. It was an old HUMVEE with bad breaks. KBR always had new vehicles. We never got any new ones.
Subway, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Burger King and others on the big FOB’s (forward operating bases). The restaurants are staffed by TCN’s too. ** The supervisors are American or British. We get back to the FOB and can’t get into the chow hall. We’re too dirty. The FOBITS descend on us as soon as we get into the FOB with forms, rules and all kinds of dumb stuff for us to do. *** I got a set of ¼ inch sockets sent to me from home so my buddy and me could fix our truck. Depend on contractors to do it and it won’t be done right. We can’t have the truck breaking down on the road outside of the FOB.
If we want something fixed most of the time we got the stuff and fixed it ourselves. The contractors don’t care.” (Note 2)
O.K. We have reviewed the micro level. Taken a look at how the military logistics system worked in one aspect during World War II. Wonder what the big picture looks like now?
KBR (Kellogg Brown and Root) controls operations on many U.S. Military bases, worldwide. Reference the young Soldier’s comments above. KBR operatives and TCN’s control the day to day feeding, housing, clothing and mundane tasks of caring for our military. The Military of course has contract monitors – the Grunt or 88Mike has nobody. KBR doesn’t want to fix their electrical issues, give them something to eat or provide a close by shower, “nothin commen Troop, hit the road”. From the hallowed halls of civilians in the Pentagon down the Grunt looking over the sights on a 240Bravo is a long, long way. He goes hungry, outside of his immediate chain-of-command, who cares? KBR is a corporation. It is motivated by profit and satisfying demands of a board of directors and share holders – not service to The United States of America.
Hays County Texas rescinded a road work contract with KBR after Iraq Vets complained about the Houston Company. Two Iraq Vets reported to Hays County Commissioners that the company (KBR) [was] accused of installing showers that fatally electrocuted soldiers and of exposing military personnel to carcinogens. KBR responded the company has a “solid track record of high-quality construction and infrastructure work…” (Andrea Lorenz. American-Statesman Staff. KBR unlikely to get road work After Iraq veterans’ complaints, commissioners expected to withdraw offer and take bid from another Houston company. April 03, 2009)
In a statement, KBR officials said they are disappointed by the decision and said the company has a “solid track record of high-quality construction and infrastructure work that could serve the county well on this project.”
O.K. if you like electricity and birds with your shower retain a government contractor. KBR of course does some good work. Cheaper than members of the Military? Not in my view. Over cost and with next to no control! Corporations operate outside of the chain-of-command. No civilian is compelled to obey military orders. Really very simple to understand.
DCYNCORP – ever hear of them? They like to train the police in Iraq and Afghanistan, perform a multitude of maintenance operations for our Military are involved in:
Training & Mentoring
DynCorp describes itself as “… a global government services provider in support of U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives, delivering support solutions for defense, diplomacy, and international development.” (dyn-intl.com)
There are dozens/hundreds of examples of corporations that perform poorly and get away with it. Last example: Our country has been at war over 10 years and the enemies most effective weapon is still the IED (improvised explosive device). One contractor based in England has been unable to deliver needed equipment instrumental in reducing NATO losses. The Pentagon can not divert to another company because of the original contract. (Source withheld.)
Solutions: Sure. Turn logistics back over to The United States Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard. Get civilians out of mess halls (new speak dinning facility) maintenance sheds, military warehouses, supply issue points, off of military bases (including fast food outlets) and all the rest of corporations stiffing our Troops. What worked in World War II will work today. Senior Generals, competent field and company grade officers’ workings with non-commissioned officer know logistics. My bet is they can control the mess without contractor help at a more effective and cheaper rate. I never met an incompetent Master Sergeant in my years of service. Those guys could move Mt. Everest in ordered to do so. (Might take them 48-72 hours – they are that good.)
Many supply issues sound minor, very simple in the comfort of The United States. The Troop, Sailor, Marine, Airmen, Coastie at the end of the logistics pipeline, looking out at a hill, mountain, over a valley over his or her rifle sights is not getting the best our country has to offer and they are dying for it. Next time you shower, think of what our Troops have to put up with – those that have showers. Hire Soldiers not shop keepers to fight wars and supply Troops.
Best wishes to our Military, their families and supporters
*Research and development, i.e. weapons systems, equipment, technology is a proper expenditure of appropriated defense funds. The direct payment for K.P. duty to civilians is a consistent example of the continuing waste of government money.
**O.K. I am all for comfort for the troops. I am outraged that troops must use commercial restaurants and do not have adequate access to military mess facilities. The counter argument would include the civilian restaurant outlets are there for the troops comfort. O.K. if you buy the preceding sentence you may believe Congress, the Executive Branch of government and corporations conduct business with each other solely for the benefit of the United States.
***FOBITS – military personnel who stay on the base (and do not leave) in relative safety and comfort. These types of military personnel are also known as REMF’s and Pouges. They are the bane of the combat Marine or Solider. You can easily spot them. They are super warriors. They have the best quarters, always clean, well fed, have every military gadget the gods of war can – have – or will invent and the FOBITS, REMF’s and Pouges universally despise the Line Grunt, MP, Engine, 88Mike and other Troops that go in harms way. The Combat Types have the discourtesy to get shot and blown up and break military equipment causing the FOBITS, REMF’s and Pouges a great deal of government forms to complete. FOBITS, REMF’s and Pouges manage to accumulate an amazing amount of medals, awards, advancement and all type, manner, indication and hint of military achievement. Lotta of them even have tailored “field” uniforms (Note: FOBTIS, REMF’s and Pouges have field uniforms but do not, perish the thought go to the field. They may encounter a substance Grunts refer to as mud, dirt, etc.) Combat Types do not like FOBITS, REMF’s or Pouges. How long have FOBITS, REMF’s and Pouges been around? Well a guy named Alexander had them too! FOBITS, RMEF’s and Pouges grow and multiply like rodents!
Note 1. From: “The Big L American Logistics in World War II, Edited by Allan Cropman. Chapter 6 Joint Logistics in the Pacific Theater. By Anthony W. Gary Jr.
Note 2. Source withheld.
Dale R. Suiter served in the United States Marine Corps June 1966 – February – 1970. He served with Ammo Company First FSR, 2nd CAG Q-6 and Q-3, H&S 81’s 3/9 and 1/3. His service “On the Rock” was with Ordanance Schools, Camp Hansen. Following the Marine Corp, he completed a career in public service – prison and jail operations. In addition, he completed a career as a reserve officer with the Michigan Army National Guard. His two sons and two sons-in-law are veterans of the war on terror. The family continues in service to the United States of America.