The Kind of Questions No One Wants To Hear

September 21, 2000

Comment: #387

Discussion Threads:
- The 4% Solution -- #386 and related comments
- Officer Bloat -- #372 (Sayen Report) and related comments
- Power Point Dependency -- #353 and related comments

The blasters on the absurdities of the 4% budget solution, which is now acting like a drug on the cognitive capacities of the courtiers in the Versailles fun house, has generated some interesting responses from the field. The following is one of the best. It brings to mind the comments on the endemic problem of Officer Bloat [see Sayen Report, Comment #372 and related thread] and the enervating effects of Power Point Dependency in the Post-Information Era {#372].

It is an email from a DoD civilian now working in Germany. He uses a few specific examples to argue that inefficiencies of bloated organization are lucky to produce a 50% return on the dollar. This may overstate the ROI in the Pentagon, where my organization, for example, has expanded (when one adds in manpower effects of on-site contractors) while meaningful work output has decreased sharply in quantity as well as quality.

This author has over 35 years in the defense business . He is a graduate of West Point and retired a AF officer, but he also served for several years as an NCO.

----[Begin email from Civilian X]-------

From: Civilian X in Germany
Subject: Re: Real Cost of Adding 1% of GDP to Defense Budget
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2000 06:03:54 GMT

Chuck --

The real cost of the military has very little to do with money but rather with the wasteful habits. For one thing the military has far too many people to do ANY job (well almost). Take Baltimore District Corps of Engineers. There are 1200 people in District but only 94 which can be labeled PRODUCTIVE DIRECT. The DPW in Ansbach, Germany has 68 out of 258 people who are "productive direct". In a TACTICAL FIGHTER WING, we figured out that only about 1100 out of a TOA of 3600 were actually needed to conduct the mission. The outfit here where I now work has so many people that people actually become an IMPEDIMENT to doing the job.

I personally cannot bear increasing the budget of the military because I know we are lucky to get 50 cents return on the dollar.  John

-----[End Email]----

Bear in mind, the problem of bloated organizations exists side-by-side with the growing stress of over-committed troops at the pointy end of the spear (i.e., the relatively small number of troops the deployment pool for peacekeeping operations). In fact, the strain at the pointy end is now so great, it has become necessary to commit reserves to the Bosnia rotation pool.

It is too bad that the apparent contradiction of personnel surplus coexisting with personnel shortage raises a host of questions about the tail-to-tooth ratio that beg the kind of answers no one wants to hear during the Quadrennial Defense Auction.

Chuck Spinney

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