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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Portrait of a Crooked Government Contractor

Image:  The Economist

COMPUTER SCIENCES CORPORATION (CSC)  –  Waste, Fraud and Abuse BY THE NUMBERS

Financial Manipulation

“SEC Press Release”

” The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Computer Sciences Corporation and former executives with manipulating financial results and concealing significant problems about the company’s largest and most high-profile contract.CSC agreed to pay a $190 million penalty to settle the charges, and five of the eight charged executives agreed to settlements. ”

Securities and Exchange Commission Press Release

Resume Padding, Time Card Fraud and Kickbacks

“Project on Government Oversight”

“This wasn’t CSC’s first run-in with its federal customers. In 2000, CSC’s credit services unit paid $6.4 million to settle allegations that it made false claims for payment on federal student loan programs. 

A few months earlier, CSC paid $8,730 to settle fraudulent billing allegations on a contract with the Defense Commissary Agency. In that instance, CSC employees were accused of charging the government for the time they were attending college classes. 

In 2005, CSC reimbursed the government $1.3 million after discovering a former employee, over a nine-year period, billed NASA for payments made to fictitious companies. 

In 2008, CSC agreed to fork over almost $1.4 million to resolve a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging it took part in a massive kickback and bribery scheme among federal IT contractors dating back to the 1990s.”

False Claims, Securities Litigation, Software Litigation

“Project on Government Oversight”

“Founded in 1959, Computer Sciences Corporation is a global information technology (IT) services company. With approximately 80,000 employees, CSC provides systems design and integration, IT and business process outsourcing, applications software development, Web and application hosting, and management consulting.

Total Number of Instances: 8″

Contractor Misconduct Data Base - CSC

A History of  Government Cronyism and Poor Performance for Over a Decade

“Washington Post” 2005

“Groundbreaker, a $2 billion effort to modernize and outsource the agency’s [NSA] electronics infrastructure, including computers, software and networks. 

A CSC-led team in 2001 won the Groundbreaker contract. As part of the contract, about 1,000 NSA employees became employees of CSC or one of its teammates. 

Groundbreaker and Trailblazer were supposed to work together, but both are believed to be behind schedule and over budget, Aid said. “You cannot do one without the other,” he said. 

Hayden, in his testimony in April, acknowledged that NSA initially had mishandled the Trailblazer contract. “We learned within Trailblazer that when we asked industry for something they had or something close to what they already had, they were remarkable in providing us a response, an outcome,” 

Hayden told the committee. “When we asked them for something that no one had yet invented, they weren’t any better at inventing it than we were in doing it ourselves.”

Trail Blazer Loses Its Way

Why is the contractor still doing business spending your taxes under billions in active contracts? We suggest you inquire with your Senator and your Congressman.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Remembering Gordy Schmidt - Vietnam Veteran, Gardener & Artist


Gordon Charles Schmidt, 69, of Hastings, MN, passed away unexpectedly Saturday June 6th 2015 while gardening at the Minnesota Veterans Home of Hastings. Gordon Charles Schmidt Obituary

I often met Gordy Schmidt at Lake Rebecca in Hastings on one of his many long walks.  
I would fish and he would take in some sun along the trails and at the park. 


I learned of his tremendous craftsmanship with wood A Veteran's New Found Passion and also observed his love of gardening.  

Together with Doug, his gardening buddy at the Vets home, the two had beautiful showcases every year. Gordy specialized in flowers and Doug was the vegetable expert.  I worked with them to get soil samples sent to the U of M and watched their artistry through my window in Building 25 just above the Vermillion River.

Another fond memory is Gordy's keen eye for dangerous tree limbs along the trails and holes in the ground in the parks that could break an ankle.  Together we would take photos of the dangerous areas and send an email to my contacts at the city parks department and they would come out to cut the limbs and fill the holes.  With 25 miles of trails to maintain, they appreciated Gordy's keen eye.

We will miss Gordy and his artistry in several venues. 

Rest in Peace Gordy,
Ken
 


Monday, June 01, 2015

The Dire Necessity for U.S. Long Term Strategic Vision




Although by far the most powerful country in the world, the U.S. is suffering from a lack of long term vision. The individual citizen is as much at fault for this condition as the politician or the military industrial complex.  

From our political parties to our relationships with each other and with other countries, from corporate board rooms to Wall Street stock run ups, we have lost our long term vision in favor of short term gains. 

The results are polarization between the "Haves" and the "Have Nots", ignoring geopolitical realities, engaging in costly war intrusions, neglecting education/infrastructure and accumulating an $18 Trillion National Debt, heavily mortgaging future generations.
 
Geopolitical Realities and the US Role

George Friedman accurately sums the present geopolitical state in a recent article atSTRATFOR”:

“To put it simply, a vast swath of the Eurasian landmass (understood to be Europe and Asia together) is in political, military and economic disarray. 

Drawing on the recollection of Desert Storm  it was assumed that American power could reshape the Islamic world at will after the US was attacked September 11th, 2001.

All power has limits, but the limits of American power were not visible until later in the 2000s. 

At that point two other events intervened. The first was the re-emergence of Russia as at least a regional power when it invaded Georgia in 2008. 

The other was, of course, the financial crisis. Both combined to define the current situation. 

The United States is, by far, the world’s most powerful nation. That does not mean that the United States can — or has an interest to — solve the problems of the world, contain the forces that are at work or stand in front of those forces and compel them to stop. Even the toughest guy in the bar can’t take on the entire bar and win.”A Net Assessment of the World 

China the Peace Maker 


David Grammig enlightens us in a recent article in “Geopolitical Monitor to an alternative to war and debt laden international finance being practiced by the Chinese:

Geopolitical calculations are as much a reason for this 2-trillion-dollar project as economic ones.

The OBOR project represents one of China’s new overarching foreign policy goals, and it demonstrates a willingness and ability to challenge old power structures, especially in Central Asia and the Middle East. 

The Silk Road, or OBOR project, aims at creating an enormous economic bloc and fostering trade, cultural exchange, political collaboration, and military cooperation among its members – under Chinese domination.

An obvious competitor against Russia’s Eurasian Union and India’s Act East and Connect Central Asia initiatives, the OBOR project has many Central Asian and Middle Eastern states justifiably worried of being caught up in a race for dominance in the region, producing somewhat cautious reactions to China’s big plans. Yet, some countries in the region – even those torn by sectarian conflict – may still be inclined to step into a new age due to China’s vast investments and its associated desire to protect its economic engagements.

The United States and its military interventions on the other hand, which aimed at securing political influence and protecting economic interests, bore no sustainable fruits and have led to growing instability in the region. Furthermore, US policy in the Middle East yielded anti-American resentment in the public and political spheres. 

China’s approach, however, will most likely not lead to demonstrations, burning flags, and attacks against its embassies, because it will not be seen as a war-mongering imperialistic force, giving itself a chance to establish itself as a partner whose outstretched hand is worth taking.” China - The New Peace Maker in the Middle East 

The US Market Mirage 


“One of the hardest-dying ideas in economics is that stock price accurately reflects the fundamental value of a given firm. It’s easy to understand why this misunderstanding persists: price equals value is a simple idea in a complex world. But the truth is that the value of firms in the market and their value within the real economy are, as often as not, disconnected. In fact, the Street regularly punishes firms hardest when they are making the decisions that most enhance their real economic value, causing their stock price to sink.

There are thousands of examples I could cite, but here’s a particularly striking one: the price of Apple stock fell roughly 25% the year it introduced the iPod. The technology that would kick-start the greatest corporate turnaround in the history of capitalism initially disappointed, selling only 400,000 units in its debut year, and the company’s stock reflected that. Thankfully, Steve Jobs didn’t give a fig. He stuck with the idea, and today nine Apple iDevices are sold somewhere in the world every second.

CEOs, who are paid mostly in stock and live in fear of being punished by the markets, race to hit the numbers rather than simply making the best decisions for their businesses long term. One National Bureau of Economic Research study found that 80% of executives would forgo innovation-generating spending if it meant missing their quarterly earnings figures.

Nobody–not Economists, not CEOs and not policymakers–thinks that’s good for real economic growth. Yet the markets stay up because of the dysfunctional feedback loops. Eventually, of course, interest rates will rise, money won’t be cheap anymore, and markets will go back down. None of it will reflect the reality on the ground, for companies or consumers, any more than it did during the boom times.”
The Market Mirage 

Achieving Strategic Vision

From the above analysis by experts, it is apparent that the US is in dire need of strategic vision.  To achieve it we must:

Face geopolitical and economic realities, stop war interventions and invest in relationships within and without our country by offering mutual collaboration.

Cease dwelling on threat and build long term infrastructure, education and international development.  The threats will melt away. 

Invest for the long term at the stock holder, company and  national levels based on a strategy dealing with present day and long term challenges in education, communication and society value transitions.

Elect a Congress and an Administration that know how to strike a balance between long and short term actions. We must then let them know what we think regularly by communicating with them. 

Know that most cultures and societies in upheaval today are watching our national model and choosing whether or not to support it, ignore it or attack it. 




Friday, May 01, 2015

Retirement – Personal Invention and Re-Invention


If one aspires to simply maintain one’s material life style, retain responsibility for those close to us and relax as objectives, that is one form of retirement – call it maintenance.

Many cannot undertake a maintenance retirement due to challenges such as the economic events of recent years, family responsibilities involving their children, or aging parents. They must continue to generate an income but must adjust to advancing age and find new ways to generate revenue.

I hear from many individuals at “Small to Feds” http://www.smalltofeds.com who seek to go into business for themselves on-line or in the home as a way to supplement their retirement.

Given reasonably good health and a responsibility-free environment, most find retirement rather boring after a time and seek continued professional growth. In fact it has been espoused that such a lethargic existence can be hazardous to our health.

Balance is the key – Balancing age with wisdom, lifestyle with responsibility and available means; a new professional endeavor, volunteer work, recreation, the arts, – that which gives meaning to continued existence.

If the need to generate revenue is a prominent factor, care must be taken in assessing risk to health and fortune by investing too much in effort or treasure. That is where the balance comes in.

We have heard 40 is the new 30, but yet I think “old” seems to always stay the same distance for me. At 25 I thought 50 was old, at 35 I thought 60 was old, now that I am approaching 70 years of age, 95 is old.

I know true age is more a matter of mind. I took a fall on the ice in front of the Middle School and 2 dozen 5th graders. The fall didn’t hurt nearly as much as the laughter and the subsequent whispers this year, “There goes that old guy again, do you think he might fall?”

I took a nap out in the wildlife refuge in a beautiful stand of aromatic pines. When I awoke I found two huge turkey buzzards staring at me intently from their perch nearby. I had known I was getting older but had not realized I had reached the carrion stage.

I reported a pollution spill in the Vermilion River and the Minneapolis paper picked up the story. A reader commented on the web site that the Minnesota pollution control program had now been relegated to an “Old Guy” in the vets home.

I feel fine about getting old. It’s how I am perceived by others that bothers me.

We will all retire in some form. We have no choice. What we invent or re-invent along the way to make the most of it is our personal challenge.

Ken Larson



Wednesday, April 01, 2015

WAR WEARY - DISINTERESTED AMERICA & ITS SOLDIERS

Image Oocities.com

As the U.S. continues into a second decade of the war on terror, our citizens and our volunteer military are growing disinterested and weary respectively. 

The Military Industrial Complex (MIC) continues to make grand strides in technology, spending billions on new air craft and naval vessels, cyber warfare tools and sensors, while we downsize the combat soldiers to stand in the job line or wait for admission to veterans’ hospitals. 

CRITERIA FOR WINNING

“THE ATLANTIC”

“Although no one can agree on an exact figure, our dozen years of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and neighboring countries have cost at least $1.5 trillion.

Yet from a strategic perspective, to say nothing of the human cost, most of these dollars might as well have been burned. “At this point, it is incontrovertibly evident that the U.S. military failed to achieve any of its strategic goals in Iraq,” a former military intelligence officer named Jim Gourley wrote recently for Thomas E. Ricks’s blog, Best Defense. “Evaluated according to the goals set forth by our military leadership, the war ended in utter defeat for our forces.”

In 13 years of continuous combat under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the longest stretch of warfare in American history, U.S. forces have achieved one clear strategic success: the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Their many other tactical victories, from overthrowing Saddam Hussein to allying with Sunni tribal leaders to mounting a “surge” in Iraq, demonstrated great bravery and skill. But they brought no lasting stability to, nor advance of U.S. interests in, that part of the world.

When ISIS troops overran much of Iraq last year, the forces that laid down their weapons and fled before them were members of the same Iraqi national army that U.S. advisers had so expensively yet ineffectively trained for more than five years.”

The Tragedy of the American Military 


RISK ASSESSMENT

Our government has not considered the risks, the indigenous cultural impact, the expense and the sacrifices required to sustain the nation building that must occur after we invade countries in pursuit of perceived enemies and place the burden of governance on military personnel who are not equipped to deal with it or manage USAID contractors who have profit motives in mind and corruption as a regular practice.

“POGO”

"Cost-plus contracts have long been criticized by government watchdogs like the Project On Government Oversight and waste-conscious lawmakers. Most recently, incoming Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) bluntly stated that these contracts are “disgraceful” and should be banned."
  
Your Tax Dollars Defrauded

 THOSE WHO HAVE FOUGHT ASK GOOD QUESTIONS

‘NEW YORK TIMES”

“There are 26 veterans from the United States’ two most recent wars serving in the House and Senate.

Many say their experience in Iraq and Afghanistan taught them that the American military cannot fix what is fundamentally a cultural and political issue: the inability of governments to thwart extremism within their own borders.

Ted Lieu of California, said he would not support giving Mr. Obama the formal authority he had requested because, like many veterans, he finds it difficult to see how the conflict will ever end.

“The American military is an amazing force. We are very good at defeating the enemy, taking over territory, blowing things up,” said Mr. Lieu, who served in the Air Force and remains in the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel. “But America has traditionally been very bad at answering the next question, which is what do you do after that.”

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now serving in Congress have emerged as some of the most important voices in the debate over whether to give President Obama a broad authorization for a military campaign against the Islamic State or something much more limiting.”

Veterans in Congress Bring Rare Perspective

NO SKIN IN THE GAME

"THE ATLANTIC"

“A people untouched (or seemingly untouched) by war are far less likely to care about it,” Andrew Bacevich wrote in 2012. Bacevich himself fought in Vietnam; his son was killed in Iraq. “Persuaded that they have no skin in the game, they will permit the state to do whatever it wishes to do.”
 The Tragedy of the American Military

BUYING OUR WAY OUT?


Foreign aid in the billions continues to the Middle East.  US weapons export sales have reached a crescendo, increasing by 31% to 94 countries. with the Middle East receiving the line share.

US Arms Exports Increase 31% 

A single Weapon, the 1.4 Trillion dollar F-35 will soon account for 12% of our total national debt.

The 1.4 $Trillion F-35 Aircraft 

QUOTE BY ERIC PRINCE, EX- CEO BLACKWATER:

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

"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.”

What's Eric Prince Been Up To?

QUESTIONS FOR THE READER:

Did not the Roman Empire run into these issues when they outsourced their wars and went to the baths?

Image: Photolibra
What makes us believe this worldwide war of attrition can continue indefinitely and that our younger generations are going to be willing to enlist and/or pay the bills?

 
Can we insist our government representatives consider these factors and plan ahead?


Future generations, their wealth, health and treasure will depend on our answers.