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Of Burger Kings and Green Beans Link Drop

The last time I brought up contractors, I asked hyperbolically, "Are military contractors (nee mercenaries), immoral?" My answer was yes, because of the fraud, waste and abuse endemic to the system.

A "spirited" debate followed with poster Mark over the amenities offered on super FOBs (Forward Operating Bases). I loathe the existence of Green Beans, Burger King, and Salsa Night on bases like Bagram Airfield. He and Gunslinger pointed out that the funds that support these places are not the same that, for example, procure Hescos or build infrastructure. They're right, but I will never like the fact that we support 30,000 troops who conduct zero patrols, and mostly work five days a week.

But as Mark pointed out in the comments--and was reported by a variety of news sources--General McChrystal has decided to drastically limit the accoutrement on these bases. The reason, as the guys at Ink Spots point out, is that logistically Afghanistan can only support so many programs. And unfortunately the patties of Burger King and the espresso of Green Beans have to go.

I think the best quotes come from this BBC piece. "This is a war-zone, not an amusement park," the blog written by Command Sergeant Major Michael T. Hall says. "In order to accommodate the troop increase and get refocused on the mission in hand, we need to cut back on some of the non-essentials." As McChrystal says, "[the extra amenities] served as a distraction to the military mission." The word "distract" perfectly describes the situation.

To help shed some light on the subject, Starbuck over at Wings Over Iraq pointed us towards these two, somewhat older articles. The first by Max Boot--who I don't always agree with--wonders whether the US Army has actually mastered the logistics issue of warfare, but has gone too far. He quotes the old aphorism, "amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics," then lampoons it with modern day examples.

Mountain Runner--a good regular read--agreed and makes a very good point: the worst part of Burger Kings and Salsa Night is that they create a "little America" mindset. This echoes the ideas of The Ugly American, who harped on the lack of American cultural understanding, with our modern issues.

And since military contractors/military acquisitions continue to provide delightful stories of ineptitude, we'll finish today's post with some of the more ridiculous recent news about our favorite people:

- It looks like Secretary Gates finally overhauled the senior mentor's program. This program allowed retired Generals to triple dip in both retirement pay, contracting work, and government consulting.

- And in a follow up to our post from our last contractor link dump, the draw down in Iraq is being mismanaged by contractors. If you want to know why we oppose contracting, it is because they over-charge the government when they can.

- And finally, our favorite villain, KBR. The federal government recently sued KBR over contract fraud for the Iraq war. And since everyone wants a piece of them, some soldiers are suing KBR saying they knowingly allowed US Soldiers to be exposed to carcinogens.

eight comments

Rumor has it the fast food places are still open, through a clever loophole. Any Afghani-owned business can, of course, remain open. Therefore, the Afghanis are buying the local fast food joints, thus keeping them open. Army bureaucracy at work?

@ Starbuck – (forehead slap) Well, I guess that should have been expected.

One thing I thought about today, and was sort of mentioned, is how dangerous convoys have been in Iraq. To get all the play stations and burger patties to troops requires long, dangerous convoys. We need to think of the costs.

Is anyone seeing a trend in KBR’s corner cutting leading to harming soldiers?

I think everyone’s seeing a trend.

I thought that Green Bean’s was staying open. The explanation on the local restaurant exemption that I read is that they source local getting away from the logistics issue and the money stays in Afghanistan as opposed to going to Burger King, Starbucks, etc. MWRs and Salsa nights are there to stay as well.

I thought a lot of the money raised at the fast food places went to MWR (which is one reason some had been fighting the decision)

I hadn’t heard about them staying open. What disappoints me is that many of those organizations are distractions, whether or not they help local businesses. Salsa night, basketball tournaments, even in a lot of cases visits by celebrities or VIPs distract from the mission. And they aren’t essential to morale because plenty of troops get by without those things every day.

Really good post! Have had the same thoughts – on so many of these points! Nice, you guys think the same way. Yeah the convoys… but I guess when you’re a chairman on the board of KBR you don’t give a fuck if some third-world-country-driver gets blown into bits and pieces. The main thing is: you make enough cash! What amazes me is that they do all that in broad daylight, for everybody to see who’s earning on it and how!

Also the financial side of it. I heard the US army spends four times what the German army spends on catering for a soldier. Now you guess who eats healthier!

Distractions: I very much agree with your point Michael. But it depends on why the individual soldier has signed up in the first place, doesn’t it? Anybody who needs to be entertained or needs that kind of a moral boost has probably not got his intention a 100% behind the mission anyway…