Military Justice

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Joseph Heller is alive and well in Iraq.

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  1. They should be commended, not court-martialed.

  2. Unfuckingbelieveable. Maybe when some insurgents cannibalize a humvee and pack it with explosives…

    Don’t want “your” vehicle stripped for parts? Then secure the SOB.

    Thank God I’m out.

  3. At any rate, if supply ever worked the way it was supposed to (ha!), they wouldn’t have had to scrounge for parts.

  4. This practice is very common in the Army even stateside. The reason is that the substantial amount of paperwork, “going through proper channels”, and getting some officer who is worried about every little thing that could hurt his career to sign off on it is nearly impossible.

  5. Back when I was a squid on active duty in the 80’s, any of my shipmates having read that story, would undoubtedly said simply “C Y A”. Taking what you need isn’t a problem, so long as you order a new one. Of course you can’t stand around and wait for the system to crank through all the paperwork to it’s final state. The important thing is that you ‘feed the beast’.

    Trying to push a chit through the system was like trying to push a rope. Guy’s were always having problems with their pay and leave. Getting it straightened out was a nightmare. And then, two years later some clerk somewhere would inevitably repeat the same error it took the guy six months to sort out the first time, and they’d have to go through the whole rigmarole again. If you could afford to wait it out, they’d always find the problem in some audit and fix it on their own. Everything was always accounted for? eventually.

    At any rate, while we would have sympathized with these guys for getting the ‘big high hard one’, we also would have thought they should have known better. Always – Cover Your Ass!

  6. Questions for the military people here: Warren, Dave et al

    1) The military procurement system appears to be systemically flawed, since Rumsfeld’s Q&A I have read accounts stretching back to WWII of scavenging to up-armor against better German tanks.

    2) Dave you touched on the problem of officers unwilling to sign a requisition. Is that the bottleneck? Where is (are) the bottleneck(s) and how should the process be changed?

  7. I’m also curious re: Cms’ questions. It may be that these soldiers should contact their congressmen to see if they could be of help. Don’t laugh until that avenue is explored — I know of a case where it made a huge difference.

  8. The current logistics systems are DOS based, difficult to use, and sometimes unreliable. The clerks are generally not the best human material.

    There are plenty of knuckleheads worried about budgets but the good officers and NCOs know both how the system works and when to spend money. They keep an eye on when and why they spend the taxpayers’ money and are ready with answers when bean counters try to “needle dick” them.

    As for history, the design philosophy of our tanks in the big one emphasized reliability and speed which meant smaller guns and less armor. Then it turned out that maybe that wasn’t such a great idea. So add on armor became a good idea. (That’s why the M1 is such a good tank – fast, heavily armored and powerfully armed.)

    As for trucks, every pound of armor is one less pound of supplies and those vehicles were never designed for the environment they’re in. What Rumsfeld said was not wrong he just said it to the wrong audience, in the wrong way at the wrong time. (He’s also trying to weasel out of any reponsibility and blame the Army but that’s another story.)

    The guys who got done in the cited story should definitely contact their Congressman. Many commanders (bad ones and good ones who have the fault of being worried about their careers) are terrified by congressional inquiries. What happened to them should never happen unless they did it for personal gain. In supply terminology it’s the difference between simple and gross negligence.

  9. Trooper –

    I completely agree on the congressman deal. I’ve seen congressmen get contacted for far less than this and seemingly move mountains fairly quickly.

    CMS –

    The bottleneck is everywhere. As Trooper stated the first problem starts with the supply clerks themselves but doesnt’ stop there. The system setup is worthless, commaders are sometimes in charge of units that are purchasing supplies the commander doesn’t understand at all, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the “priority” system, and on and on and on.

    I will say though, most large corporations share this problem. Once you gain so much size, the amount of controls put into place in order to stop idiocy, usually helps defeat even the smartest of policy decisions at a low level.

    PS: Priority system – means you can order parts at differing priorities depending upon a whole host of factors like deployability as well as visibility. Anyway, order a part at highest priority, and one at medium priority, usually had absolutely no bearing on which part arrived first.

    Also, due to my unit’s job, we had a budget of 250K a quarter, which was sometimes necessary and sometimes not. Due to cost controls and such, if we spent 150K one quarter, our budget would be automatically lowered to that amount. So, at the end of a quarter, if we have 100K to spend, we would buy units nearby computer equipment and desks so we wouldn’t lose the budget we needed.

  10. SixSigma,

    Yeah, the budgeting process is screwed up.

    I knew a tank battalion HHC commander who got pissed about the system, put in a lot of hours to make it work fairly well. He was ordering and recieving all kinds of gear and even the mess trucks started to look pretty good. He spent a lot of money but it was all legitimate.

    The spending got him chewed out for exceeding his budget by 160%. He was ready for that and asked what his budget was. That really set off the people who were trying to beat him down because there was no budget in the entire division. Then he stuck the knife in and asked how, if there was no budget, he could be 160% over it. He was a good commander who always did what he thought was right no matter who he pised off.

  11. In regards to pliskin’s (SP?) (Escape from NY reference), I would say that the most immediate bottleneck is the paperwork. Of course if it is taken care of then something else would become the constraint of the system pretty quickly.

    Anyway the supply system in the military (and government in general) is a joke. Nobody knows what they have or how much unless a physical inventory is done. I once suggested to a LTC that a 7/11 could keep better track of what they had because they use barcodes to scan things in and out. He had no idea what I was talking about.

    Another problem is that when they do about the good system of today by the time it is implemented it will be 15 years out of date.

    I hate to be so negative but supply is really a joke…

  12. I hate to be so negative but supply is really a joke…

    Interesting that you say that Dave because I sat in a lecture given by a Col. Waldron (SP) about supply chain in the army. He’s supposedly the world’s foremost expert on irregular supply chain, and he bragged for over an hour about how incredible the army was from front to back in the supply chain, especially in more recent conflicts.

    Thanks. I could have gone to eat and not wasted an hour of my life on that! 😉

  13. Dave and Six Sigma,

    I take it that there are several problems with supply/procurement, too many to list. What could be done short term? Who in the chain of command, if they were empowered, could do the most good?

    Right on about Escape from NY. Great movie.

    Vanya: I’m sure your definition of “efficient and productive” is different from mine. 40 Roman Legions dominated the known world (against tough opposition) for 500 years. To me the question is, does a given army put its soldiers in a position to win decisively?

  14. TP Goiter:

    I will give the US Army credit because they can get a Brigade of men (roughly 4000-5000 people) anywhere in the world in 96 hours. Thats pretty immpressive since no other Army can do it. But in doing it I can guarantee that they won’t have “Six Sigma” quality when they do it. The military makes a lot of little mistakes, carries the incorrect amount of inventory for items, has an out of date tracking and computer system, and is a painfully slow with paperwork.

    If you compare US Army logistics to any other Army in the world they blow them away, and they should since we spend more than the rest of the world combined (www.globalsecurity.org). But compared to UPS, FEDEX, or Wal-Mart the Army can’t hold a candle logistically…

  15. CMS –

    I don’t have the slightest idea how one would tackle this problem as the constraints and demands placed on the military are far different from other facets of life.

    Dave – Vanya

    Same thought here. You can’t realistically compare other “real world” examples to the military. As Dave pointed out, the military is in fact a fairly well run organization, just not as well run as most people think it can or should be, but again, the US Army operates under radically different conditions than does FedEx.

    If it snows 18 inches in Colorado, FedEx just simply doesn’t deliver and their “act of God” clause removes them of all responsibility. If it snows 18 inches in the mountains of some remote land where a war is taking place, food will still have to be delivered regardless.

    As for skewed incentive structure, how would it change? Monetary rewards for saving perhaps? But again, it’s completely different, people get ticked when MCI lays off 10K people to prop up stock price, what if by saving the military millions it creates situations that puts 10K more people at risk or serious death or injury? The normal way of doing business will never equate to the way a military must run.

  16. If you compare US Army logistics to any other Army in the world they blow them away, and they should since we spend more than the rest of the world combined (www.globalsecurity.org). But compared to UPS, FEDEX, or Wal-Mart the Army can’t hold a candle logistically…

    So you’re saying the Army should be outsourcing?

  17. So you’re saying the Army should be outsourcing?

    Nope. (Well, maybe Dave is saying that; I don’t presume to say.) The buzzwords in military supply today are “just in time,” at least last I looked (though I doubt the situation has changed much in such a short time). They see how much more efficient a private company is, with their policy of not keeping large stocks but rather keeping a steady flow going, and they think it’s a great idea. And it is, if you’re not a military. As SixSigma said, the military faces unique challenges. You can’t rely on a steady flow, because the enemy can readily disrupt that flow.

  18. I am not saying the military should outsource. I dare say the costs might be higher than what we pay for the military now…

    Interesting question though. Are costs high because it would be a government contract or because the market would make them high? I know haliburton pays pretty well to truck drivers, private workers, and security in Iraq. A friend of mine was offered $150,000 to work eight months at a prison and civilian workers can make easily twice their salaries in a war theater versus the 18K a year an E4 makes or the 40K a year an 01 makes…

  19. I hope the Army doesn’t go after my grandfather for the rear end they took out of a French civilians car to fix a truck. Of course this was World War One, and Grandpa passed away in 1977.

    This whole story sounds a lot like those that can’t (or wouldn’t) are complaining about those that did.

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