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Sunday, March 01, 2015

THE VA - AN UPDATE BY A SERVICE VETERAN ON DEPARTMENT PROGRESS AND PROCLIVITIES


                                                                        Records Backlog at a VA Center

HISTORY

In September of 2012 this site published an article on the VA and its efforts to improve services to veterans as well as support small business. It was noted from personal experience that excellent care was being received by those in the system but that there was a growing backlog of cases and lack of an effective process to support getting a faster rate of entrance by those returning from the battlefield. 
 
Also noted were disturbing trends in outlandishly expensive conferences and ridiculous video productions, wasting funds earmarked for veteran care. Red flags were going up in the Inspector General office regarding mismanagement of small business set aside programs as well. 



UPDATE 
 
Much as occurred since September of 2012. 
 
Last month (January 2015) I visited the VA in Minneapolis for a blood analysis in connection with my annual physical. I marveled at the hundreds of personnel who were going through the blood draw process at 8AM that morning. Polite technicians handled everyone carefully and courteously. My test results were on my doctor's computer for my 11 AM appointment that day.
 
In 2012 I used the VA hospital courtesy center computers for veterans, finding them hopelessly out of date, security-bound and barely functioning. During my January 2015 visit I found beautifully functioning high speed computers and a courteous attendant serving many veterans at the the center
.
On my most recent visit I also went to the department that handles I.D. Cards and applied for a new one, having been informed my card was out of date. I was attended by a sharp technician who checked my credentials, transferred by data, took my picture and processed my application inside of 20 minutes and I was behind several others. 
 
We who are in the system are still receiving fine service. 
 
But the massive number of returning veterans has strained the VA Health Care System to the point where the Department Secretary has been fired. A corporate executive from outside the system has been placed in charge. The department has been massively reorganized into 5 regions across the country to deal with a scandalous scenario of wait times and neglect in services for incoming veterans. 

 

We forecast the above situation.  It is principally due to the fact that the 5 armed forces medical records systems are not connected to the VA Health Care System and the government contractors who have attempted to develop a system to connect them have failed miserably. 

"Next Gov"

" Defense and VA Scrap New Electronic Health Record after estimated costs ballooned to $28 billion. By Congress’ count, the doomed effort – a result of the 2008 Defense Authorization Act – already cost taxpayers more than $1 billion. "
 

THE FUTURE

Congress is focusing on firing personnel as a remedy. In our view that is symptom-like remedy, not a solution. 

 
We now have a corporate bureaucrat in charge of the department who is running it like a corporation, reorganizing and establishing a 5-headed bureau under him. There will no doubt be 5 separate fiefdoms to manage. Who knows what will happen to requirements for IT as existing IT system designs get split 5 ways? 

Government contracting services companies are continuing to have a field day, growing rich and failing in the classic fashion we saw with the Obama Care roll out.  Success is not a money-making proposition for these firms.  They get their monthly bills paid as they march hundreds of service workers into government buildings to catch the latest whim of the civil service program managers as they change specifications depending on which way the wind is blowing in the massive bureaucracy.

We believe those who are lucky enough to have entered the system will continue to received good care. 

We pity those younger or seasoned injured and ill who are knocking on the door and waiting to get in.








Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Citizen and the Citizen Military – What Lies Ahead?




Military pay raises are minimal, high profile overstuffed general officers and admirals are bad for morale (revolving door and pensions higher than career pay). What is the mix of technology and manpower required to fight today’s wars? How do we acquire, train and retain what we need? Reserves and National Guard involve long term multiple deployments with no assurance of a future for those who return.  We now have a chairman of the Armed Services Committee that wants to go to war with everyone:



The following are 3 perspectives from experts:

Can YOU answer the Citizen's Question at the end?


PERSPECTIVE 1 – From a Military Man

Mark Seip a senior Navy fellow at the Atlantic Council recently noted the cultural and conception gap that exists between America and it volunteer armed forces: 

“From the military side, many of us feel that we are unique to our generation in our calling; that we rose above the self-absorbed stereotype often associated with both Gen Xers and Millennials to protect our nation. We accept significant time away from our families, often subpar working conditions compared to our civilian counterparts, and average pay in relation to the skills we possess in order to wear the uniform. Moreover, as our nation’s warrior corps we assume a level of risk since time immemorial, that our occupation entails a distinct possibility of loss of life. Our service therefore requires a level of confidence and self-assurance to do our jobs and take the risks required.


Second, the widening gap is a function of exposure, both in numbers and in proximity. As Fallows points out, 2.5 million served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. To provide context, according to an NPR study 8.7 million served in some capacity in Vietnam. Furthermore, during Vietnam the majority of the generation at that time had fathers and mothers who served in some capacity either in WWII, Korea or both. Today, however, the actual number and/or the tangential family tie to the military is lower, reinforcing the distance between those in service and the rest of the nation.”


PERSPECTIVE 2 - From a Military Contractor

Eric Prince, the former CEO of Black Water continues to insist that private security employees working for the U.S. government in warzones should be tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, instead of the civilian criminal justice system.

"It’s quite different for a jury that is 7,000 miles away from the warzone, looking at a split-second decision made seven years earlier in a warzone, minutes after a large car bomb goes off." Prince said he hopes the guards' convictions can be successfully appealed. "The last chapter is not written yet."

Although he quit the business, Prince still sees a future for the private security business.

 "The world is a much more dangerous place, there is more radicalism, more countries that are melting down or approaching that state." At the same time, the Pentagon is under growing pressure to cut spending and the cost of the all-volunteer force keeps rising, Prince said.

 "The U.S. military has mastered the most expensive way to wage war, with a heavy expensive footprint." Over the long run, the military might have to rely more on contractors, as it will become tougher to recruit service members. Prince cited recent statistics that 70 percent of the eligible population of prospective troops is unsuitable to serve in the military for various reasons such as obesity, lack of a high school education, drug use, criminal records or even excessive tattoos. In some cases, Prince said, it might make more sense to hire contractors.”

 
PERSPECTIVE 3 – From a Military Analyst

“DEFENSE ONE” Notes:

“The film “American Sniper” about legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle broke box office records this holiday season when the picture earned a million dollars in five days on only a handful of screens. It is time we grappled with America’s actual wars and their real-time, life and death consequences, once again with as much dedication as we line up to watch them play out on the big screen.

The military may be fighting a war. Or wars. But we, as a country, are not. In USA Today’s list of its most read articles of 2014, neither the war in Afghanistan nor the simmering fight in Iraq – to which U.S. troops are headed back – cleared the top 10. The same is true for Yahoo’s list of its most searched stories. No Iraq or Afghanistan in sight.

It is nearly inconceivable but somehow true that in the 2013 government shutdown, death benefits for the families of those killed in action fighting for the United States also shut off.”

 The Movies Vs. Real War


Citizen's question: Could or should we reinstate the draft?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

FREE SMALL BUSINESS GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING BOOKS AND SUPPLEMENTS




The below table of contents reflects free small business federal government contracting materials available at Small To Feds.


You may download the book, Small Business Federal Government Contracting and its supplement from the "Box" in the right margin below at this site.  Blue topic titles are the basic book and red topics are contained in the supplement. 

Use the links beneath the table to access more recent articles at Smalltofeds since the publication of the book and the supplement.

(Please click on image to enlarge)


























RECENT MATERIAL LINKS (Not included in Above)

SMALL BUSINESS COMPANY TRAINING

MANAGING INDUSTRY TEAMING RELATIONSHIPS

UTILIZING THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) 

GOVERNMENT CONTRACT BID PROTESTS 

UNSOLICITED GOVERNMENT CONTRACT PROPOSALS


VITAL TIPS FOR PROJECT MANAGEMENT 

FIXED PRICE VS. COST PLUS IN CONTRACTING 

MAKING AN ASUTE BID/NO BID DECISION 

THE TRUTH IN NEGOTIATIONS ACT (TINA) 


You may also benefit from the free "Reference Materials" in the second, vertical "Box" in the left margin below.  Contract agreements, incorporation instructions for all the US states, guidance on marketing and business planning are all included. 

Other free books by Ken Larson, available as downloads from the "Box" include:

"A Veteran's Photo/Poetry Journal of Recovery
From Post Traumatic Stress Disorder " 


"Odyssey of Armaments" My Journey Through the Defense Industrial Complex"




Monday, December 01, 2014

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM ROSE COVERED GLASSES

                                                   PLEASE CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Saturday, November 01, 2014

THE MANAGEMENT OF OUR LEADERS MUST SPRING FROM WITHIN THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

Photo Credit: (Taken from a magnetized seal on the door of an F-150 Truck in Hastings, MN - driver would not disclose where he acquired it).

Geopolitical expert, George Friedman at STRATFOR and Columnist Aaron David Miller have recently maintained that the office of the American Presidency is designed to disappoint and that the time of great US Presidents is past. 

Friedman:

“Each candidate must promise things that are beyond his power to deliver. No candidate could expect to be elected by emphasizing how little power the office actually has and how voters should therefore expect little from him. So candidates promise great, transformative programs. What the winner actually can deliver depends upon what other institutions, nations and reality will allow him.”


Miller:

"Greatness in the presidency is too rare to be relevant in our modern times and - driven as it is in our political system by big crisis - too risky and dangerous to be desirable. Our continued search for idealized presidents raises our expectations and theirs, skews presidential performance, and leads to an impossible standard that can only frustrate and disappoint. To sum up: We can no longer have a truly great president, we seldom need one, and, as irrational as it sounds, we may not want one, either." 

 PUTTING THE CITIZEN BACK IN GOVERNMENT

As we approach the National Mid Term Elections and turn our focus to a new Presidency as well, we should examine the true strength that springs from our form of government. That strength is in each of us. It simply needs to be projected in managing our leaders.  We must manage our government by becoming involved, conveying to our officials what we individually value and making sure they understand our views continually, not just during an election season.



Technology has made the above objective easier more communicative and effective.

It is not only our vote that is golden but our opinion via surveys and direct input to our government as well. Collectively we must replace the lobbyist, the Super PAC and the stagnated political process by getting through to the pols with focused precision. Social networking, pressure via the collective use of email, public meetings, the press and the media is possible on an individual basis. It is a  matter of becoming motivated to use what is ours and what we pay for with our taxes.

BECOMING OUR OWN MEDIA SOUND BITE, LOBBY AND "IPAC" (INDIVIDUAL PERSON POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE)

It is generally accepted that money drives politics. We must change that outlook by putting ourselves as individuals in the driver seat, tuning out the ludicrous media ads, pulling out our bull horns and expressing how we feel. Where others speak with their money we must convey our values with technology, persistence and management.

Let's examine our daily life, our hopes for the future for ourselves and our families and succinctly provide guidance to those who represent us – locally, at the state level and particularly in Washington.




Letters to the editor, blogging, social networking, and physical visits to town hall meetings, representative's offices and similar individual activities exercise strength and grow robust participation. Collectively, the rest of the presently stagnated structure will follow our lead. 

If we believe we need training in communication we must get it, practice and nurture it. If we know someone who is good at oral and written conveyances we must team with he or she and "Bull Horn" the views we personally believe must be addressed. 

In an election year and throughout the year we cannot say we have not the time. We must take the time to exercise our rights or others will  sell them. 











Wednesday, October 01, 2014

US MILITARY INCURSIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST CAUSE AND EFFECT RELATIONSHIPS


An observer of our military actions over the last two decades in the Middle East could in no way have predicted the splintered, irrational, “Turn-Your-Back-And-You-Have-Two-New-Enemies”, scenario the US faces today. Perhaps a look back over our shoulder, examining cause and effect relationships along the road is in order.

CAUSE:  The US fights a just and honorable war assisting many Middle East allies and other countries free Kuwait.

EFFECT:  Saddam Hussein is driven from Kuwait and the country is returned to its rightful government.

CAUSE:  The US does not leave the Middle East after rescuing Kuwait, but rather, stays in peripheral countries militarily “To Protect Our Interests” with an imperialist attitude resented by cultures that have an ingrained,religious hatred for that type of presence by foreigners.

EFFECT:  The rise of Bin Laden and many more like him today and the deaths of 3,000 Americans on our soil, attacked in our homeland because we did not leave the Middle East. 

CAUSE:  The US reacts to 911 by setting up an elaborate Homeland Security apparatus and beefing up the National Security Agency by orders of magnitude, technologically, while putting in place a carefully concealed legal apparatus to counter terrorism.

EFFECT: The US has no outside terrorist incidents of a 911 magnitude since the Twin Towers fell in 2001 but Americans develop real concerns about our government and its role in controlling our lives as whistle blower disclosures regarding the apparatus of intelligence operation reveal potential constitutional issues.

CAUSE:  The US invades Iraq fed by false, intentionally staged intelligence, fronted by agencies and industries bent on economic gain. The US sets about war fighting and nation building programs that seek to displace a culture that had evolved through conflict and war lords for hundreds of years and is tied to the absolute requirement that religious practices be part and parcel of government, a principle the US has rejected as unworkable since our Constitution was written

EFFECT:  Failure to build anything substantial in the form of a nation over an 11 year period.  The deaths or crippling of our finest soldiers, dramatic increases in our national debt and a cynicism among our citizens with respect to the $Billions that have gone into the pockets of corporations supporting our huge Military Industrial Complex (MIC) and wasteful USAID Programs by companies that spend more lobbying Congress than they pay in taxes.

CAUSE:  The present Middle East unrest due to ISIS/ISIL and other splinter groups we thought had been scattered to the winds. 

EFFECT:  UN security council meets with many nations talking and less than a half dozen nations carefully and selectively participating in an air war against terrorism while the remainder watch the outcome.   Our military and corporate defense establishment (MIC) shout, “Sequestration to reduce military spending must end!” and estimates two years will be required with more American boots on the ground to train an Iraq force that we had already trained for a decade before the Iraq government disbanded it. 

CAUSE (PROJECTED):  A political battle like none seen in recent times during the coming US national  elections, driven by concerned American citizens and their view of the US role in the Middle East, our burgeoning national debt approaching $18Trillion and the fact that the culture in that part of the world has had a very difficult time figuring out how we can help them over the last two decades while we near energy independence from oil and require some nation building of our own in the homeland.

EFFECT (PROJECTED): A leader and a political climate that will permit prudence, tough decisions, carefully avoidance of bad intelligence and overreaction so that we do not continue to sink into the oil and blood soaked desert of Middle East cultural revolutions as global corporations consuming the MIC and USAID tax payer dollars prosper, parking their assets overseas while our young become indebted for generations.



Image: usf.edu/florida
For further information please see: 

Rose Covered Glasses 



Monday, September 01, 2014

HAVE AMERICANS LOST THE ART OF INDEPENDENT THINKING OR ARE WE MISINFORMED?

                                                     Image:  Mission to Learn dot com


Americans have grown acclimated to viewing the world through media sound bites, opinionated, biased news financed by money driven politicians and lobbying firms that spend enormous amounts to influence our opinions.

As a result, we have very little trust because the product of this buzz portends negative, stagnated government, growing like a money- eating beast and putting generations in hock with unwarranted wars through a focus on big corporations and big business.


 "WASHINGTON POST"

"Voter turnout in statewide primaries so far this year has been historically low, even among states with procedures designing to make voting more convenient.

Overall, voter turnout among the 25 states that have held primaries is down 18 percent from the 2010 election, according a study by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. There were almost 123 million age-eligible voters in these primary states, but only about 18 million of them voted."

 Voter Turnout thus far in 2014

Has independent thinking by researching a personal perspective become a lost art in our day in age?

Are we just too busy to develop a credible opinion of our own due to the fast pace our social values demand?

 Or are we misinformed?

THE VALUE OF TRUST

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. 

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.

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.

THE CHALLENGE

Mass marketing and communications has created expectations beyond reality in venues from romance web sites to building wealth and the role of nations.  We must come down to earth and become much more sophisticated in the manner with which we view all this input and sift it in a meaningful way to have true trust. If we do not we run a high risk of tyranny and that fact is inescapable.

To a very large degree this is a personal responsibility. We must become involved, make prudent judgments and think for ourselves. 

THE ENVIRONMENT

Charles Lewis’ New Book Looks at the “Lies Your President Told You and Other Mistruths” 

 INTERVIEW WITH "THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT"

 
Author Charles Lewis

"The most disturbing discovery in my nine years of research and writing is this: leaders don't need to distort information and the truth. All they have to do now, in our fast-paced, short attention-span world, is just delay the truth, by years, months, and weeks. We still don't have key documents from the Iran-Contra scandal, the second biggest political scandal in the U.S. involving a White House since Watergate. That was a quarter century ago! Is that coincidental?  No." 

 Here’s the question you have to ask yourself before reading Charles Lewis’ new book, 

"935 Lies The Future of Truth and the Decline of America's Moral Integrity" 

Are we as a country so jaded that we’ve come to accept untruths and    
misinformation from our government as just the cost of living in a democracy?

Lewis, who teaches journalism at American University and who founded  the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), does his best to remind us that we can and should expect more from our leaders. 935 Lies expands upon a CPI project that tracked the number of false statements that the President George W. Bush administration told in the two-year build up to the war in Iraq. The lies were aimed at persuading Americans that Iraq posed a threat to our national security.

Deceit, however, is bipartisan, as Lewis shows.

POGO: What is the big-picture effect of the public being repeatedly lied to by our leaders?

Lewis: Over time—many years which have become decades—persistent prevarications by those in power leads to cynicism, distrust and citizen disengagement. Which, you may have noticed, we substantially have had now for decades. Distrust and disapproval of Congress, for example, is at unprecedented, historic levels. Voter participation in elections has been woeful for years. Etc.

POGO: You describe the problem of misinformation as endemic to our society-- why did you choose to focus on lies told during the Bush administration? Of course they’ve continued since then.

Lewis: The "935 lies" mentioned in the Prologue of my book, regarding the false and erroneous statements by President  George W. Bush and either other top administration officials between 9/11/01 and 9/11/03, were compiled in a 380,000-word database and  published by the Center for Public Integrity in Iraq: The War Card in January 2008, near the five-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

That prompted me to examine the extent to which this had occurred before, over time, since approximately 1950 to today. And of course, the Johnson administration misrepresentations about the Gulf of Tonkin and the U.S. involvement in Vietnam more broadly, pre-dated the Bush/Iraq war by 40 years.

It also demonstrates the extent of what J. William Fulbright called "the arrogance of power" and the fact that lying by those in power is bipartisan. My book also examines untruths in the Obama administration and others, and "mortally consequential" lies by corporations dating back to the 1940s.

POGO: What should a leader’s punishment be for intentionally lying to the public? Should he lose his job—or worse?

Lewis: A leader's accountability should be directly related to the seriousness of what he/she has lied about. In real life, whether a leader should lose his job depends on the circumstances of the moment, and obviously, the political will of the people.

Unfortunately, we generally don't punish our politicians for lying, as we seem to have  a bifurcated, bipartisan perception of "truth" in the United States, to the extent that in one poll, four years after George W. Bush's second term had ended, more than 60 percent of Republicans still believed there were weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq.

We, as a society, have become increasingly confused, unable to discern the difference between truth and falsehood. And as Hannah Arendt  and others have noted, that is a dangerous state of affairs, when we no longer can ascertain what is factual and what is not, who to believe  and who NOT to believe.

We live in a society that doesn't have "real-time truth" about those in power. How can a democracy predicated upon an informed citizenry and  self-government exist successfully if the people don't know the facts about those in power?

As some point, I hope the public decides to get angry and demand more truth, but getting there from here is an enormous specter to imagine.  First of all, there is no longer a "general public" but instead numerous  carefully studied, dissected electorally and commercially micro-publics  throughout the United States.

Marketing, advertising and high-tech wizardry by those in politics have rendered the concept of "the public"  less meaningful and media political advertising has become a huge source    of revenue for that industry and fanned the fires of fractious, vituperative partisanship during and between election cycles.

We are the only advanced democracy in the world without free air time for politicians during election time.

The only way the McCain-Feingold  campaign finance law could be passed by Congress years ago was when McCain and Feingold agreed to take out the "free air time for    politicians" section of their bill—then the National Association of Broadcasters and others backed off their opposition to the legislation and it passed, among other concessions made. The broadcasters now make a billion dollars per election cycle from political ads...

It is a grim situation which has been deteriorating in many ways for decades. And it will take years, decades, to ameliorate."