I find it interesting that although my politics are somewhat to the left of yours, I keep coming back to your blog. I often disagree with some of the things you write but I do always read them.
I can’t ask for more than that, ExPat.
Could it just be that with standards descending into mere suggestions, we have softened SO badly that everything has turned to mush?
I’m just trying to beat my brains remembering where your song quote comes from…is it perhaps John Lennon’s posthumous “Nobody Told Me?”
If so, I so rock the house down.
I know you didn’t really do so, but I’ve never understood the “Cliton impoverished our military” line of argument. Military budgets under Clinton were comparable or even larger than those under GHW Bush, unless everything I’ve read was wrong.
So if the military was unready and short of spare parts, the lion’s share of the blame has to go the military itself. It was getting enough money to do the job, but it squandered it and ended up short of cash in necessary areas.
Blaming Clinton for this is like someone in bankruptcy court blaming their employer for not paying them 90,000 a year instead of only 80,000. “I couldn’t even afford new winter clothes because my employer only gave me cost of living raises! It was horrible, horrible, I tell you! He was the worst boss ever!”
If they didn’t have enough spare parts, maybe they should have bought one less B-2, or decided not to spend that billion dollars on yet another attack sub with nothing to attack.
It’s not quite that simple, since it’s a lot easier to get money from congress for sexy new projects rather than boring stuff like gas and spare parts. Plus there was the increased operational tempo under Clinton with regular peacekeeping and other odd adventures. But at the end of the day, it’s the military’s responsibility to spend the money they’re given to produce the best possible armed forces. If they didn’t do this, it’s their own damn fault.
Sometimes the victories in this war are harder to find. Consider this quote from the June 23 edition of the LA Times:
You go in there, bring them coffee, trying to make them think you’re their friend. They’re not my friend. Most of the people we talk to are really the enemy. To convince them that the best possible thing they can do is tell us the truth–it’s a little piece of revenge.
- Marie, a 21 year old Army interegator, on questioning Al Qaeda prisoners (sorry, no link available)
“Unemployment is looking better” may be true if you are not the person out of work and looking for a job. Gee, there’s nothing cheerier than interviewing for jobs paying less than you got 7 years ago when you started in the field. What could be better than having to start yet another career at age 51?
Out in the PNW, it’s taking about TWO months after they ask for resumes before they start interviewing. I heard from one interviewer that they got 400 resumes for the position.
I hope like hell you are right, because I’m looking at about five more months worth of house payments out of my retirement money and then it gets grim. Makes you long for the good old days when going to war meant that they hired workers.
Doug, often “the military” doesn’t have the authority to reprogram money from weapons programs that Congress ( of whatever partisan persuasion ) has told them that they must buy.
I agre that a chunk of their money gets specifically earmarked (and a lot of the budget in any given year is either ongoing programs or personnel costs, so it’s not fully discretionary), but they do have some leeway, and even more leeway in what they lobby for. I don’t know for sure, but I think the special congressional earmarks are not that large of a percentage of the military budget, although I could be wrong.
Now, the military budgeting system has some problems and is biased in its own way towards new purchases and major programs rather than upkeep and logistics, but I still think the bottom line is the military either failed to recognize the problem or didn’t work hard enough to solve it within the budgetary constraints they had.
I remember seeing them do some lobbying, but it seemed like to the extent they addressed the issue at all it was to use it as a club to try and get more money, instead of reallocating what they were given.
The problem w/ the Clinton era budgets (at least for the Army, which I worked w/ for quite a few years during Clinton-II) was as follows:
1. The overall budget shrank a little (not necessarily a problem in and of itself);
2. The demands for deployment went up SIGNIFICANTLY. Why? Because of the various deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, etc. None of those were planned deployments, so the money had to come from the CURRENT budget, while awaiting supplementals that would probably come next fiscal year.
3. So, how do you pay for the stuff you need to pay for NOW (e.g., combat pay, hazard pay, increased expenditures of stuff)? You strip it from non-committed parts of the budget, e.g., O&M, base maintenance, R&D, study money, etc.
4. Did Congress and DoD make up all the lost money? Not always. Did Congress and DoD make up the lost training time, expended munitions, etc. (i.e., non-monetary goods)? Nope.
A very imperfect analogy would be: You have a fire department that was planning for one or two BIG “Towering Inferno” class fires. But you keep sending them off to answer EVERY car fire, leaf fire, grease fire, backyard BBQ fire, etc. (We’ll leave aside whether we SHOULD answer those or not.) You cut their budget by a few percentage points every year. And you don’t add to their gas budget, tire budget, hose budget, and make’ em pay for overtime, etc., out of their slightly declining overall budget.
What happens after nearly ten years of this?
Great article in the Atlantic Monthly last year describing the logistics of supplying the force in Bosnia. Taking a tank from Georgia to the Balkans ain’t cheap or easy. And the info that the Army needs a 10-to-1 ratio of support personnel for every combat troop on the ground makes a 5,000 man force very costly.
Hmmmm, well, I”m an under-employed computer consultant,
and things aren’t looking much better from where I’m sitting than a year ago. When I ran around in the 80′s proclaiming that some day everyone would have email and all that, I had no idea that when the internet boom actually came, almost all the money would get pissed away on silly parties by MBA’s who knew or cared nothing for what the tech could actually do for people.
Guess I won’t be surprised next time around, but in the mean time, I’m staring at an empty fridge and recalling something said by a big silicon valley honcho once: “Downturns are good for the industry, software engineers have plenty of time to come up with new things”. Which I and my cohorts are doing, it’s just damned hard when wondering where the rent and food money are going to come from.
Anyway, have fun shopping, some of us are still suffering for the sins of the “Internet Tourists”, I’m just glad they’ve all gone home to Colgate and GE, and we diehards can scoop up some coin in the next cyclical tech boom.
Ack, if politics doesn’t suck up all of my time!
An excellent column- reflects my own inchoate thoughts perfectly.
Sorry about all the folks out of work. That sucks. This is the second bubble collapse I’ve lived through and I think I will be able to recognize them coming in the future.
The time is gone, this song is over, thought I’d something more to say…