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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Are Americans Truly Independent?


















THE BRANCH UPON WHICH WE SIT

Technology has permitted marvelous advances and opportunities in communication and convenience. 

It has also impacted independent thought and created concerns with respect to privacy and transparency in government. Our focus has shifted recently to sophisticated forms of government technological control that may be both legal and illegal, and are being challenged in our court systems.

Mass marketing and communications have created expectations beyond reality in venues from romance web sites to building wealth.  They have also confused us about our government functions, our elected representatives and where they are taking us.

We have grown used to the convenience of viewing the world through media sound bites, opinionated, biased, news and insincere, short sighted, money driven politicians, who are financed by loosely controlled contributors and influenced by lobbying firms that spend enormous amounts of money made available by the wealthy to impact our opinions.

We have become less competitive in the global economy, as a concentration of wealth has shifted to a very few and our corporations evolve operations outside the country, taking the resulting tax relief, profits, investments and resources with them. 

http://business.time.com/2012/01/27/are-companies-more-powerful-than-countries/


THE CONUNDRUM

Consider simpler times a few years past (say 50). Trust was necessary in many venues as a means of survival on a day-to-day basis. We relied on others extensively for our well-being from our local store to our banker, from the policeman to the politician. And we knew them all better, we could reach out and touch them and we were not viewing them in sound bites and web sites, nor were we being bombarded with multiple forms of input to digest about them.

Americans have very little trust in the current era.  We see a negative, idealistically bound, bloated government, growing like a money- eating beast and putting generations in hock with unwarranted incursions into foreign countries and a focus on big corporations and big business. 

THE CHALLENGE

The key to our true independence is in becoming involved as individuals, taking flight on wings that grow strong by exercising our intellect, our shared opinions and our participation in government.  We must research a personal perspective based on our personal values and take time in the fast pace our culture demands to communicate with those we elect to government before and after the election.

Trust is hard to establish in the modern era.  We see very little true statesmanship in the good people we send to Washington, who promptly become ground up in the huge machine there in order to survive.  That machine must change and the people we send to change it must share that objective with us. 

HOW STRONG ARE OUR WINGS?

Communications and expectations are two vital elements in measuring trust.
To an extraordinary extent, the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectations contribute to it. 
To become truly independent, we must become much more sophisticated ourselves in the manner with which we view all this input and sift it in a meaningful way to have true trust.

To a very large degree this is a personal responsibility. We must become involved, make prudent judgments and think for ourselves, then communicate our expectations to those who represent us.

If we do not, we run a high risk of tyranny and that fact is inescapable.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Goodbye to a Great Friend

One of the finest Labs in town, a great friend and a Nabisco Graham Cracker aficionado.  Please accept our memorial (above left)  off "Sadie Point" and rest in peace.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

A VETERAN CONNECTS THE DOTS IN THE MILITARY AND VETERANS HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS MAZE


The Massive backlog recently highlighted in the press and in Congress  reveals a dire necessity for simplification, communication and  efficiency in processes, systems and government service contracting in DOD and the Veterans Administration as well as better management of federal government contractors. 

The news media, the auditors and the average American are pointing the finger at the President and the Head of the VA.  One cannot ignore the accountability aspects of these individuals.  

However, the real root causes lie in the massive volume of war veterans returning from our pointless incursions in the Middle East over the last decade, coupled with the historically poor process and systems work conducted between the Department of Defense and the VA and poorly managed military contractors taking home millions on systems specifications that change like the wind blows.  

It is not unlike the Obama Care fiasco.

After returning from two combat tours in Vietnam, I worked in the government contracting environment for 36 years then went through the VA system as a Veteran getting treatment at retirement in 2006

In 2006 I found the VA had a magnificent system capable of handling medical records and treatment anywhere in the world once a veteran was in the system; a key point.  Please contrast the below Time Magazine Story with current events and ask yourself : Why have we had such deterioration?  

http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1376238,00.html

ANSWER:   We have not experienced deterioration - within the VA itself, except  from pressures due to millions returning from war and from human beings who look for excuses when systems fail.

We have had 10 years of Middle East incursions, a sudden discharge of veterans and poor systems management from the DOD to the VA, from the systems contractors to the state veterans homes.  

Veterans fall through the cracks as a result.

 This is an F-35 aircraft, cost plus scenario, revisited in the form of veterans care systems mismanagement and it will cost billions to fix.  THAT IS THE COST OF WAR.

Unlike the F-35 we must have veterans health care or our volunteer army will disappear.

THE TOTAL SPECTRUM MUST BE VIEWED TO MANAGE THE ISSUES. 


BACKGROUND

A recent 3 part special in Time Magazine addresses the serious gaps between treatment,  benefits and services processes and systems between the military  services and the Veterans Administration:
"While awaiting  processing, "the veteran’s claim sits stagnant for up to 175 days as VA  awaits transfer of complete (service treatment records) from DoD,":

After years of work to move toward integrated electronic records that would eliminate this sort of delay, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently  conceded that the Defense Department is not holding up its end of the bargain to improve the disability process.

"I didn’t think, we knew what the hell we were doing.":
 

http://www.federalnewsradio.com/394/3288748/Hagel-orders-DoD-to-restructure-path-toward-integrated-health-record 
 

HISTORICAL SIMILARITIES

The above scenario is not unlike the Walter Reed Army Hospital care  fiasco a few years ago, before the facility was shut down and consolidated with the Bethesda Naval facility.

OTHER SYMPTOMS

The VA decided to have those who would  actually use the system (claims processors) work with software  developers. This process took longer but will create a system more  likely to meet the needs of those who actually use it. VA also worked  closely with major Congressional-chartered veterans’ service  organizations.

2013 was the year in which regional offices were to be being transitioned to the new electronic system.  It obviously has not occurred as planned.


ROOT CAUSE

Both DOD and the Veterans  Administration use service contractors to perform this type of systems development.  Government Computer News (GCN)  carried a story on the  difficulties experienced with, "Performance-Based Contracting", which  has been made part of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) in an  attempt to pre-establish at contract award those discrete outcomes that determine if and when a contractor will be paid.


http://gcn.com/articles/2006/12/01/performancebased-contracting-still-baffles-agencies.aspx 

Interestingly enough, the article splits the blame for the difficulties  right down the middle, stating the government typically has problems  defining what it wants as an end product or outcome and looks to  contractors to define it for them. More than willing to do so, the contractors detail specific end products or outcomes, set schedule  milestones and submit competitive proposals.

The winner is selected based on what the government thinks it needs at  the time to fulfill its requirement and a contract is negotiated. Once underway, the government decides it wants something else (usually a  management-by-government committee phenomena with a contractor growing  his product or service by offering lots of options). The resulting  change of contract scope invalidates the original price and schedule, so  a whole new round of proposals and negotiations must occur with the  winner while the losers watch something totally different evolve than  that for which they competed. The clock keeps ticking and the winner  keeps getting his monthly bill paid based on incurred cost or progress  payments.


CONCLUSION

The present state of the economy and the needs of our servicemen will not allow the aforementioned to  continue. Government agencies are now hard pressed to insure the most  "Bang for the Buck". It is in the long term interests of the politician, the DOD, the VA and astute contractors to assist in that endeavor. 


(1)The only way to achieve such an objective is through sound technical, cost and schedule contract definition via an iterative process of baseline management and control.

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2009/08/contract-baseline-management-in-small.html

(2)  Government civil servants must be trained to report systemic poor service up the line in lieu of hiding bad news from superiors or developing workarounds.  This must be an expectation built into their job description and they must be rewarded and promoted for meeting that requirement just as they are for the other requirements of their jobs. 

The first whistle to be blown must be to the boss when the service issue occurs, not to the press a year from the occurrence. 

Our returning soldiers and those who have served before deserve better"





Thursday, May 01, 2014

"ACP Advisor" - A Free Veteran Focused “Quick Question" Community



ACP AdvisorNet is a nonprofit  venture from American Corporate Partners.
I have enjoyed my participation there, joining volunteers from industry that assist veterans with free advice in making the transition from military service to civilian jobs, small business and career development. 

This is a free online business Q&A  community that connects veterans and their immediate family members with business leaders across the country. 
Through an interactive and easy-to-use interface, veterans can ask questions about career development, employment and small business, follow Q&A threads and message users to network and initiate further dialogue.
Veterans also have the ability to search a directory of Advisor+ participants who have elected to make themselves available for private, in-depth conversation.

The site is open to all current and former service members and their immediate family. Business leaders nationwide looking to share their expertise and advice can sign up as an Advisor or Advisor+ participant.  
 All users are able to see the professional and/or military backgrounds of other users, promoting an environment of accountability and trust.

American Corporate Partners (ACP) AdvisorNet for Veterans

https://acp-advisornet.org/about/ 


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A GOVERNMENT TYRANNY GAUGE

PLEASE CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Photo by Zazzle dot com

 

Saturday, March 01, 2014

What Could the USA have done to win the Vietnam Conflict and What Does this Tell Us About Current and Future Wars?

Vietnam was not a declared war. It was a setup by the Military Industrial Complex (MIC).

I was there as a combatant and a US Army Intelligence Base Development Planner, working with Philco Ford CAGV, Pacific Architects and Engineers, Leo Daley and other huge corporations resident in the country supplying American occupation and making billions.

The Vietnam Conflict was an incursion; one of the first setup by the Military Industrial Complex and the "Best and the Brightest" in the Pentagon. 


"WIKIPEDIA"




"David Halberstam's book offers a great deal of detail on how the decisions were made in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations that led to the war, focusing on a period from 1960 to   1965 but also covering earlier and later years up to the publication   year of the book.

Many influential factors are examined in the book:


•    The Democratic party was still haunted by claims that it had 'lost   China' to Communists, and it did not want to be said to have lost Vietnam also
•    The McCarthy era had rid the government of experts in Vietnam and surrounding Far-East countries
•    Early studies called for close to a million U.S. troops to   completely defeat the Viet Cong, but it would be impossible to convince   Congress or the U.S. public to deploy that many soldiers
•    Declarations of war and excessive shows of force, including bombing   too close to China or too many U.S. troops, might have triggered the   entry of Chinese ground forces into the war, as well as greater Soviet   involvement, which might repair the growing Sino-Soviet rift.
•    The American military and generals were not prepared for protracted guerilla warfare.
•    Some war games showed that a gradual escalation by the United States   could be evenly matched by North Vietnam: Every year, 200,000 North   Vietnamese came of draft age and potentially could be sent down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to replace any losses against the U.S.: the U.S. would be 'fighting the birthrate'
•    Any show of force by the U.S. in the form of bombing or ground   forces would signal the U.S. interest in defending South Vietnam and   therefore cause the U.S. greater shame if they were to withdraw
•    President Johnson's belief that too much attention given to the war effort would jeopardize his Great Society domestic programs
•    The effects of strategic bombing:   Most people wrongly believed that North Vietnam prized its industrial   base so much it would not risk its destruction by U.S. air power and   would negotiate peace after experiencing some limited bombing. Others   saw that, even in World War II, strategic bombing united the victim population against the aggressor and did little to hinder industrial output.
•    The Domino Theory rationales are mentioned as simplistic.
•    After placing a few thousand Americans in harm's way, it became   politically easier to send hundreds of thousands over with the promise   that, with enough numbers, they could protect themselves and that to   abandon Vietnam now would mean the earlier investment in money and blood   would be thrown away.
The book shows that the gradual escalation initially allowed the Johnson Administration to avoid negative publicity and criticism from   Congress and avoid a direct war against the Chinese, but it also lessened the likelihood of either victory or withdrawal"


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Best_and_the_Brightest

The Vietnam incursion was not the last of it type. Its intent was not to be won, but to make money for the Military Industrial Complex.  

Others incursions, such as those in the Middle East,  have followed the same pattern as the tax payer goes into hock for generations.


War is a racket.

Wars cost money, treasure and make millions for corporations. 

THE PAST

A quote many years ago from Major-General Smedley D. Butler: Common Sense (November 1935)

" I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service as a member of our country's most agile military force---the Marine Corps. I have served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to major-general. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers, In short I was a racketeer for capitalism

Thus, I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place to live for the National City Bank boys to collect   revenues in…. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking   house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican   Republic for American Sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras   "right" for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in1927 I helped   see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years  I  had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded honors, medals, promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents. War Is A Racket"

THE VIETNAM WAR - THE COSTLIEST TO DATE

It's been 40 years since the U.S. ended its involvement in the Vietnam War, and yet payments for the conflict are still rising.

Now   above $22 billion annually, Vietnam compensation costs are roughly   twice the size of the FBI's annual budget. And while many disabled  Vietnam vets have been compensated for post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss or general wounds, other ailments are positioning the war to have large costs even after veterans die.

Based on an  uncertain  link to the defoliant Agent Orange that was used in Vietnam,  federal  officials approved diabetes a decade ago as an ailment that  qualifies  for cash compensation — and it is now the most compensated  ailment for  Vietnam vets.

The VA also recently included heart disease among  the Vietnam medical problems that qualify, and the agency  is seeing  thousands of new claims for that condition.

THE PRESENT

If  history is any judge, the U.S. government will be paying for the  Iraq  and Afghanistan wars for the next century as service members and  their  families grapple with the sacrifices of combat.

An  Associated  Press analysis of federal payment records found that the  government is  still making monthly payments to relatives of Civil War  veterans — 148  years after the conflict ended.

At the 10-year anniversary of  the start of the Iraq War, more than $40 billion a  year is going to  compensate veterans and survivors from the  Spanish-American War from 1898, World War I and II, the Korean War, the  Vietnam War, the two Iraq  campaigns and the Afghanistan conflict. And  those costs are rising  rapidly.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said such expenses should remind the nation about war's long-lasting financial toll.

"When  we decide to go to war, we have to consciously be also thinking about   the cost," said Murray, D-Wash., adding that her WWII veteran father's   disability benefits helped feed their family.

With  greater numbers of troops surviving combat injuries because of   improvements in battlefield medicine and technology, the costs of   disability payments are set to rise much higher.

THE IRAQ WARS AND AFGHANISTAN

So  far, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the first Persian Gulf conflict in the early 1990s are costing about $12 billion a year to compensate   those who have left military service or family members of those who  have  died.

Those post-service compensation costs have totaled  more than $50 billion since 2003, not including expenses of medical  care and  other benefits provided to veterans, and are poised to grow  for many  years to come.

The new veterans are filing for  disabilities at  historic rates, with about 45 percent of those from  Iraq and Afghanistan  seeking compensation for injuries. Many are  seeking compensation for a  variety of ailments at once.

Experts see a variety of factors  driving that surge, including a bad economy that's led more jobless  veterans to seek the financial benefits they've  earned, troops who  survive wounds of war, and more awareness about  head trauma and mental  health.

THE FUTURE

Recent events involving US war "Interventions" and the incredibly out of  control nature of the Military Industrial Complex have demonstrated  their danger, their folly and their contribution to the largest national  debt ever to grace the face of the earth.

Alternatives to war in terms of scientific advancement not only are required, but are in progress. The war makers are broke and operating on world credit subject to world approval.