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They Agree! Readers React to “Romney should run the Pentagon like Bain Capital”

(To read all of our election coverage, click here.)

Anytime we write a guest post that gets people fired up, we like to round up the responses and rebut them. When Eric C told enlisted soldiers they could go to hell and the interwebs caught fire, we responded here. When Michael C advocated making soldiers work for free, we responded to the criticism here and here. (When Richard Dawkins called Michael C “sanctimonious” (not kidding with that one), we held our tongues.)
Last week, our guest post at Tom Rick’s “Best Defense” blog, “An Afghanistan/Iraq vet says Romney should run the Pentagon like Bain Capital”, did quite well, with over 50 comments.
We expected some blow back, but we didn’t expect so many commenters to agree with us so vehemently. We decided to share some of their personal experiences with waste, fraud and abuse today.

(For readability, we’ve fixed typos/spelling and punctuation errors, or reformatted some paragraphs, but did nothing to change the meaning of the response.)

Our Favorite Stories of Waste:

“The waste in the Army is simply astounding. Anyone advocating an INCREASE in defense spending simply has no experience in the military. The biggest fraud and waste issues exist in the US military.  I say that as an active soldier who has been through Bagram like the author stated he has as well.”

            - Ghost Soldier

“I worked as a contractor in Iraq/Afghanistan for nearly four years. During that time, the amount of fraud, waste, abuse and criminal negligence that I observed was staggering. Civilian and military personnel alike were responsible for it and their attitudes about it were deplorable. When I would ask them "Why?" their responses ranged from depraved apathy to outright entitled thievery.”

            - panther_modern

“Last March, I spent $750k just to meet obligation goals for 3d MAW.  I spent it on bayonets that sat in the armory unused, tents that sat in my warehouses unused, gerbers that I'm sure were promptly stolen, televisions that were totally unnecessary, etc. There were legitimate things that we could have purchased, but they would have had to go through contracting, which meant that we couldn't buy them in time to meet our obligation goals, and all the while the Comptroller/CO/XO were shitting bricks because they didn't want to lose money for the next fiscal year's budget, even though we had a superfluous extra million dollars in the FY11 budget, and a superfluous extra $850k in the FY12 budget when I left during the third quarter of the fiscal year (which means that it doesn't include the end-of-the-year spending spree)."

            - Lester_Galula

“Amen. I have witnessed on several occasions exactly what Mr. Cummings describes as far as units "wasting" ammunition and conducting end-of-fiscal-year spending sprees, just to make sure nothing is left on the table.

Regarding contractors: I hate to cast stones at them since I don't have any firsthand experience as a contractor, nor have I seen a good analysis on this, but I have observed some peculiarities. For example, my division regularly tasks subordinate units to provide troops for menial tasks like cutting grass and collecting garbage around the base, which takes troops away from their normal jobs like fixing helicopters. Meanwhile, we go out and hire contractors to fix the helicopters in order pick up the slack. Not surprisingly, the troops aspire to take their training and exit the military to become contractors (who never have to cut grass or pick up garbage) as soon as possible. Seems to me that it would be more efficient to do it the other way around: let the troops spend their time fixing the helicopters (utilizing their expensive training, further developing their skills, and keeping them happy) and hire contractors to do the landscaping. I would suspect that civilian landscapers command a lower wage than civilian helicopter mechanics, and that landscaping will be a less critical skill-set for our troops to have in the next conflict.

I also like to point out my closet full of gear received through CIF and RFI. I estimate the total value to be around $20,000. Last deployment I left most of it sitting in the closet (I don't need seven different jackets). At a million troops, that is $20 billion of unnecessary "stuff." In theory this stuff is turned back in and reissued, but I've only ever received new stuff (the camouflage pattern has changed several times), so a good portion of this $20 billion must be recurring.

            - timwalsh300

“Pretty good points here, particularly on weapons acquisition. I don't know how to fix the current system (thank God I'm not an acquisitions guy), but it's clearly broken. I know the author drilled into the JSF and F22, but as he points out, the Army sucks pretty bad at this as well (Comanche, Crusader, etc.). I'm also with you on contractors. There's too many of them, little to no accountability on quality of personnel or performance (at least where I've been), and a faulty underlying assumption that contracting saves money in the long run. Bottom line we absolutely need to get some fiscal discipline in the Pentagon. At a bare minimum OCO funding needs to end so that there is a real budget with a cap on it which forces leaders to make choices and hold people accountable.”

            - Army FAO