Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Military’s 5 Biggest Procurement Fails Since 9/11
President Donald Trump has been very clear about his intention to increase our nation’s investment into defense spending. Many other departments have not fared as well with him, some having up to one-third of their budget slashed in proposed cuts citing rampant waste. The dirty little secret that anyone who has served knows is that the military is actually one of the worst offenders when it comes to wasting American tax dollars.
Of course, the F-35 joint strike fighter is one of the first items that come to mind when we think about bloated, over-budget expenditures. But it’s not the only big-money item that has contributed to our nation’s $20 trillion debt. Unfortunately, some of these programs were not just wasted money, but have also put service members’ lives at risk. If the big defense contractors are strippers, then these five items are the goods they showed to get the generals and civilian military leadership to make it rain.
A U.S. Army paratrooper from the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment descents onto the Donnelly Drop Zone near Delta Junction, Alaska, Oct. 12, 2016.U.S. Air Force photo
With a $400 million price tag, the fielding of the T-11 parachute in 2014 was not a cheap endeavor. A replacement for the T-10 parachute system, which dutifully served paratroopers for 60 years, was requested due to the increased weight of today’s combat-equipped paratrooper. Certainly a replacement was needed, but the well-intentioned T-11 wasn’t the right answer. The parachute itself is nine pounds heavier than its predecessor.
Although it has a lower rate of injury thus far, the T-11 has resulted in more mid-air entanglements. The significantly lower drop rate has resulted in greater lateral drift, which has increased the likelihood of tree and water landings. The amount of time the ‘chute takes to deploy after the jumper has exited from the aircraft has increased from four to six seconds, which allows less time for a reserve parachute activation in the case of main canopy failure.
The T-11, despite a short history, already has blood on its hands. In 2014, high winds inadvertently activated the reserve chute of a Navy SEAL, which led to his death — just one of the nine that have been reported since the parachutes initial issue in 2009. These are just some of the significant shortcomings that have been identified in the field by 18th Airborne Corps commanders that would require a complete redesign of the brand new, fully fielded T-11 parachute system.
The Army is the biggest offender here with its annoying habit of changing uniforms and camouflage patterns like a fashion model changes outfits. Sure, soldiers needed an updated uniform for the War on Terror and the old-school BDUs just weren’t hacking it anymore. In 2004, the Army decided it was a good idea to spend $5 billion on the gravel-colored Universal Camouflage Pattern. Unfortunately, the only thing universal about the new uniform was how big of a failure it was.
The Army is now in the process of spending another $4 billion on a replacement uniform that actually makes sense. The Army isn’t the only branch to waste money on a uniform boondoggle though. The Air Force and Navy, for as much as they claim to be the more intelligent branches, changed their uniform to arguably even worse patterns soon after the Army made the switch in 2004. It seems that the only branch to get a uniform right in the mid-aughts was the Marine Corps.
Lt. Douglas Santillo administers an anthrax vaccination in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).U.S. Navy photo
The multi-billion dollar vaccination for Anthrax that the DoD has required many of its personnel to receive may be one of the largest scams in recent history. Despite numerous congressional inquiries, the program being shut down on multiple occasions, and scientific peer reviews questioning its ability to protect in an actual anthrax attack, the vaccine — called BioThrax — received another round of funding worth $1.25 billion in 2013.
The company had a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman among its founders in 1998, and has spent more than $20 million on lobbying efforts — often being accused of strong-arming any emerging competition. Despite the DoD dropping them dolla-dolla bills on the vaccine, and serious side effects suffered by some military personnel who have taken it, there has never been any notable anthrax attacks on any entity in the Department of Defense.
WIN-T Increment 2
The military’s $9.1 billion investment into a mobile intranet — called WIN-T Increment 2 — is an attempt to untether service members on the modern battlefield. It’s been approved for full production and is currently issued to 11 of the Army’s 32 combat brigades, but unfortunately it has some massive cyber vulnerability issues. The security shortcomings, which could leave classified information unprotected or reveal troop locations, have delayed production and caused budget overruns.
In addition to a lack of cyber security, the program has significant issues integrating with combat vehicle platforms, such as the Stryker. The problems range from antennas that prevent 360-degree movement of the machine gun to draining the vehicle's battery to the point it needs to be replaced. Anyone who has been deployed knows that jumping a Stryker’s battery in the middle of a combat mission would be about as fun as taking a swig out of your buddies spitter.
Contract Obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan Theaters in FY2017 Dollars
Contract Obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan Theaters
in FY2017 Dollars.
Painting in broad strokes here, the military has become overly reliant on civilian contractors. It would be nearly impossible to calculate how much has been spent by the DoD on civilian contractors in the past 16 years, but you could comfortably say that it has been hundreds of billions of dollars. From hiring KBR to run a chow hall while sending military cooks out on combat missions to hiring folks that fix computers while the service members who are trained to do that job are out police calling for the First Sergeant, the military has it’s priorities all turned around.
Not all contractors are unnecessary; some perform functions that the military does not have personnel trained to do like landscaping services (sorry, infantryman, that’s actually not supposed to be your primary duty) and fixing the A/C in the barracks when it goes out. Sometimes the military is short on manpower for specific duties, and needs contractors to cover the gap. You could even argue that contractors are a cheaper option for the short term because you don’t have to train them, and you don’t pay them benefits or disability after the military breaks them. Unfortunately, in many cases, lucrative contracts kill retention by luring service members away from the military, which in essence means the military did pay to train them. Also, at 16 years of non-stop war… “short term” became inapplicable a long time ago.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As many as 380 Americans on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan – which has nearly 300 passengers who have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus, now known as COVID-19 – will be extracted Sunday from Yokohama and flown to Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield and a Texas base for further quarantine.
The Army wants more soldiers, and it's using esports to put a 'finger on the pulse' of potential recruits
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
After whiffing on its recruiting goal in 2018, the Army has been trying new approaches to bring in the soldiers it needs to reach its goal of 500,000 in active-duty service by the end of the 2020s.
The 6,500-soldier shortfall the service reported in September 2018 was its first recruiting miss since 2005 and came despite it putting $200 million into bonuses and issuing extra waivers for health issues or bad conduct.
Within a few months of that disappointment, the Army announced it was seeking soldiers for an esports team that would, it said, "build awareness of skills that can be used as professional soldiers and use [its] gaming knowledge to be more relatable to youth."
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico Army National Guard soldier from Mountainair, who served as a police officer and volunteer firefighter in the town, died Thursday from a non-combat related incident while deployed in Africa, according to the Department of Defense.
A news release states Pfc. Walter Lewark, 26, died at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti where he was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in the Horn of Africa.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is requesting about as much money for overseas operations in the coming fiscal year as in this one, but there is at least one noteworthy new twist: the first-ever Space Force request for war funds.
Officials say the $77 million request is needed by Oct. 1 not for space warfare but to enable military personnel to keep operating and protecting key satellites.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors on Thursday accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and helping Iran track protesters in its latest indictment against the Chinese company, escalating the U.S. battle with the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker.
In the indictment, which supersedes one unsealed last year in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Huawei Technologies Co was charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from six U.S. technology companies and to violate a racketeering law typically used to combat organized crime.