Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost? - We Are The Mighty
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Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Editor’s note: With news of the Air Force potentially awarding the contract for the next-generation bomber and Congressional Republicans reaching an agreement with the White House on the defense budget, WATM presents a short primer by our friend Winslow Wheeler on how the Pentagon tends to complicate how much things actually cost.


Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

On Wednesday March 25, 2009, an F-22 crashed near Edwards Air Force Base in California. Sadly, the pilot was killed. The news articles surrounding this event contained some strange assertions about the cost of the crashed airplane. Based on the price asserted in the Air Force’s “fact” sheet on the F-22 that was linked to a Pentagon news release on the crash, the press articles on the crash cited the cost per aircraft at $143 million.

It was incomplete, to put it charitably, but the media passed it on nevertheless. The extant “Selected Acquisition Report” (SAR) from the Defense Department is the definitive DOD data available to the public on the costs for the F-22. The SAR showed a “Current Estimate” for the F-22 program in “Then-Year” dollars of $64.540 billion. That $64.5 billion was for 184 aircraft.

Do the arithmetic: $64.540/184 = $350.1. Total program unit price for one F-22 calculates to $350 million per copy. So, where does the $143 million unit cost come from? Many will recognize that as the “flyaway” cost: the amount we pay today, just for the ongoing production costs of an F-22. (Note, however, the “flyaway” cost does not include the pilot, fuel and other consumables needed to fly the aircraft away.)

The SAR cost includes not just procurement costs, but research and development (RD) and some military construction, as well. At about the same time as the crash, a massive lobbying effort had started to buy more F-22s, to reverse Secretary of Defense Robert Gates impending announcement (in April 2009) that he wanted no more. F-22 advocates were asserting the aircraft could be had for this bargain $143 million unit price. That was, they argued, the “cost to go” for buying new models, which would not include the RD and other initially high production costs already sunk into the program.

Congressional appropriations bills and their accompanying reports are not user-friendly documents, but having plowed through them for decades, I know many of the places and methods that Appropriations Committee staff like to use to hide and obscure what Congress and the Pentagon are actually spending. Let’s check through the 2009 congressional appropriations for the F-22. Most – but not all – of the required information is contained in HR 2638, which contained the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2009.

In the “Joint Explanatory Statement” accompanying the bill, the House and Senate appropriators specified that $2.907 billion was to be appropriated for 20 F-22s in 2009. The math comes to just about what the Air Force said, $145 million per copy. So, what’s the problem?

Flipping down to the section on “modification of aircraft” we find another $327 million for the F-22 program. Switching over to the Research and Development section, we find another $607 million for the F-22 under the title “Operational System Development.” Some will know it is typical for DOD to provide “advance procurement” money in previous appropriations bills to support the subsequent year’s purchase.

In the case of the 2009 buy of 20 F-22’s, the previous 2008 appropriations act provided “advance procurement” for “long lead” F-22 items to enable the 2009 buy. The amount was $427 million.  Here’s the math: $2.907 + $.327 + $.607 + $.427 = $4.268 billion for 20 aircraft. That’s $213 million each.

Do not think these data represent an exceptional year. If you check any of the annual buys of F-22s, you will find the same pattern: in addition to the annual “procurement” amount, there is additional “modification,” RD” and advance procurement.

A few weeks later, F-22 advocate Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R–Ga., attempted to amend the 2010 DOD “authorization” bill coming out of the Senate Armed Services Committee to buy seven more F-22s for $1.75 billion, or $250 million each. The Chambliss effort, almost certainly worked out in close association with Lockheed Martin – a major F-22 plant is in Marietta, Ga. – surely sought to pay Lockheed the full amount to procure more aircraft: not $143 million each, but $250 million.

Clearly, Chambliss and Lockheed knew about some additional F-22 costs not included in my estimate of $213 million. The pathology of low-balling a weapon’s costs goes far beyond the F-22 example cited here; it is a basic tenet of bureaucratic behavior; it helps a program acquire support by top DOD management and Congress.

Understatement of cost does not occur in isolation in the Pentagon; it is accompanied by an overstatement of the performance the program will bring, and the schedule articulated will be unrealistically optimistic. Once the hook is set in the form of an approved program in the Pentagon (based on optimistic numbers) and an annual funding stream for it from Congress (based on local jobs and campaign contributions), the reality of actual cost, schedule and performance will come too late to generate anything but a few pesky newspaper articles.

(This post was excerpted from The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It.)

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
About the author: Winslow T. Wheeler focuses on the defense budget, why some weapons work and others don’t, congressional oversight, and the politics of Pentagon spending. Before joining the Center for Defense Information in 2002, he worked on Capitol Hill for four U.S. Senators from both political parties and for the Government Accountability Office. At GAO and the Senate, Wheeler focused on Pentagon budget issues, weapons testing, the performance of U.S. systems in actual combat, and the U.S. strategic “triad” of nuclear weapons.

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Recounting the death of Osama bin Laden, five years later

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza


Five years ago, I watched in the Situation Room along with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and members of the President’s national security team to see if U.S. Special Operations Forces could deliver the justice that every American had been waiting for for a decade.

In the three-plus months leading up to the operation, the White House’s National Security Council staff organized over two dozen inter-agency meetings to oversee preparations and consider all of the attendant issues: the evaluation of the emerging intelligence, possible operational courses of action, the consequences and implications of both success and failure.

What struck me most about that process was the absolute attention to operational security, discretion, and secrecy. Very few individuals beyond the most senior officials were involved in the policy piece of this operation. Extraordinary measures were taken to limit information flow, and those involved maintained an incredibly high degree of discipline.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
President Barack Obama talks with members of the national security team at the conclusion of one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

All possible options and potential courses of action were considered, analyzed and debated at the very highest levels. All of the potential issues were reviewed: impact of an operation on our relationship with Pakistan and with our other allies, possible reaction by al Qaeda and the potential for retaliatory action against U.S. interests, steps needed to prepare for possible retaliatory attacks, and next steps in the wake of an operation whether it was successful or unsuccessful.

Reflecting on the lead up to the raid, Director on National Intelligence Clapper said:

“As is always the case in intelligence, it wasn’t complete. Right up until the last minute, we couldn’t confirm he was there. Some argued we needed more time.” Nonetheless, he never doubted the advantages of a raid compared to alternatives, “At least with a raid, you’d have people on the ground who could make judgments.”

It was apparent that the President’s paramount concern was the safety and security of the operators. On a number of occasions, the President provided very pointed guidance to the Department of Defense and to Admiral Bill McRaven to make that very clear.

On the day before the operation took place, Saturday, April 30, President Obama placed a secure call to Admiral McRaven. The President was in the midst of his preparation for his scheduled appearance that evening at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I had the privilege of staffing the President for that phone call, which the President conducted from the Oval Office. When I came in, the President’s speechwriters were asked to step out.

In that call, the President inquired if McRaven believed the force was ready to proceed and if they had everything they needed to carry out a successful operation. McRaven affirmed that they did, and the President wished McRaven and the forces under his command Godspeed.

A very brief call, but one that would prove historic.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
President Barack Obama makes a point during one in a series of meetings in the Situation Room of the White House discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon is pictured at right. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

During the raid itself, I clearly recall the role that Admiral McRaven played from Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In addition to carrying out his command and control function with his team, he was piped in via secure video conference (SVTC) to provide updates to the CIA and the assembled officials at the White House Situation Room, including the President. As the Department of Defense operators would move down their checklist, we heard McRaven’s voice as each operational or geographical mark or milestone was hit.

As Director Clapper said:

“There was a lot of tension, and then as it became clear that we were reasonably sure that yes, it was Osama bin Laden, there was, if I can use the phrase, not only emotional closure, but functional closure, in that the operation illustrated the effectiveness of what an integrated intelligence and operational community could accomplish.”

The amazing part to me was that McRaven’s voice — at least to my memory — never changed inflection, never conveyed concern or excitement or any sense that there was something dramatic happening, and never intimated anything other than calm professionalism. That included those incredibly tense moments when things did not go according to plan with the helicopter assault. You would never have known that anything was amiss if all you were going by was his voice doing the play-by-play.

Even when U.S. Special Operations Forces successfully took out Osama bin Laden.

President Obama delivered the news to the nation on May 1, 2011.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Watch:

 

After the operators safely returned to base, McRaven noted that one way in which they had potentially confirmed bin Laden’s identity was by determining that he was in fact as tall in stature as we in the Intelligence Community knew him to be. He told the President they had had one of their taller SEAL operators, about 6’3″, lie down on the ground in the hangar at Jalalabad next to the remains and they assessed he was roughly the same height as the recovered body.

The President then noted over the SVTC with McRaven that they had all those millions and millions of dollars of Defense equipment but they didn’t have a tape measure, which obviously got a good laugh from all around the table and on SVTC. And when McRaven ultimately did visit the President in the Oval Office some days after the raid, President Obama did in fact “gift” McRaven with a tape measure from Home Depot mounted on a ceremonial plaque in case it was ever needed again.

I was recently down at Fort Bragg and saw that the gift remains prominently displayed in the Commander’s Conference Room at the Joint Special Operations Command.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Green Room of the White House following his statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. | Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

When it was all over, I still remember my shock and surprise when I walked outside of the West Wing basement across the street to return to my office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, shortly after the President had concluded his address to the nation.

I was amazed to see (and hear) the streets surrounding the White House complex were filled with what seemed like thousands of people celebrating the fact that justice had finally been done, even though it was after midnight on a Sunday night — normally about as quiet and peaceful a time on the streets of Washington as you would ever see.

Director Clapper noted the enormity of the situation:

“It is hard for me to recall a single vignette that carried with it so much importance, and so much symbolism for this country. As an intelligence professional that has spent 50 years in the business, I cannot remember an event that would approach that raid and its success in my memory.”

The most meaningful moment came days later, when President Obama visited Fort Campbell to meet with some of the operators involved in the mission. A number of senior staff members, including myself, were privileged to attend a meeting and briefing with members of the assault force. The President heard firsthand many of the details of the operation and offered his admiration and gratitude for the work that had been done.

The enormous degree of respect that the President had for the Special Operations Forces was apparent to anybody who attended.

The bravery of these men, the justice they delivered, and the legacy they leave behind — that will be remembered by all of us.

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7 upcoming movies we want to see at the base theater

By the time I got to Fort Meade for tech school (that’s AIT or A-School for those not in the Air Force), it was 2002 and I was ready to go back to the movies. I quickly learned that the AAFES base theater attracts a much different crowd than your average hometown picture show.


The first movie I saw at the base theater was “Black Hawk Down.” I wasn’t entirely surprised by the national anthem that opened up the screening. What surprised me was when half of the crowd jumped up and down cheering as the Hoot’s team took over a Somali technical and started using it against the bad guys.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Much America. Many F*ck Yea. (Sony Pictures)

So after that, I learned that all war movies are best watched on base, because even the worst war movies have some great fight scenes, and the military crowd cheers for troops onscreen like it’s opening night on the KISS Love Gun Tour in 1977.

Thankfully, there is no shortage of war movies coming down the line.

1. Horse Soldiers

This film doesn’t come out until 2018 but stars Michael Shannon (aka General Zod) and Chris Hemsworth as the CIA agents and Special Forces operators who invaded Afghanistan on horseback to avenge the 9/11 attacks.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

It comes from the non-fiction book of the same name.

2. War Machine

Ok, this one is only going out on Netflix, but wouldn’t it be great to see this in a base theater? Just judging by an extended trailer, it looks like there’s definitely some Marine combat in Afghanistan. You know something explosive is going to happen and I want to be in a room full of screaming people when it does.

3. Dunkirk

This isn’t about America, no. And if you know your history, you know it doesn’t end well for the good guys. But this is about Christopher Nolan directing a gritty war film – a gritty World War II film… with Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy.

I would watch this movie on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields, in the hills, and in the streets.

4. Flags Over Berlin

Releasing in 2018, “Flags Over Berlin” is the story of a Western intelligence operative posing as a journalist during World War II. He follows the Red Army, linking up with the Soviet forces as they prepare to storm Berlin.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

The name of the film comes from the iconic image of Red Army soldiers raising the Soviet flag over the Reichstag.

5. Whatever Joss Whedon is Currently Writing

In 2016, Slashfilm reported that the sci-fi/fantasy writer-director extraordinaire’s next project is a World War II-set horror movie, a movie he says is “as dark as anything I’ve ever written.”

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

“I got to tell you, I was in Germany and Poland doing research for this movie and I was seeing so many parallels [to the U.S.]. And I know it’s a shopworn thing to compare the orange guy to the little guy with the mustache, but you see things, indelible things in terms of propaganda, the state of the country, and the parallels are eerie as f*ck.”

6. Tough As They Come

“Tough As They Come” is adapted from the book of the same name, written by Army veteran and quadruple amputee Travis Mills. Sylvester Stallone is attached to star and direct alongside actor and Marine Corps veteran Adam Driver.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
(TravisMills.org)

Mills is only one of five soldiers to survive a quadruple amputation from battlefield wounds. Stallone recently turned down an offer to join the Trump Administration as chair of the National Endowment of the Arts.

7. Heartbreak Ridge

So what if the movie is 30 years old. Let’s put it back in the base theater and cheer when Gunny Highway takes that hill in Grenada and then tells off his CO.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
All the recent sequels are beginning to bore the hell outta me.

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Pentagon looks to laser-armed drones for enemy missile shootdowns

The U.S. Department of Defense is exploring options that would see drones fitted with lasers that could shoot down incoming enemy missiles.


The U.S. Missile Defense Agency tested a “directed-energy airborne laser” that can be fired from a drone, according to a report by the Last Vegas Review-Journal. Theoretically, the new weapon would allow the U.S. to fly drones over suspected enemy ballistic missile launch sites, allowing them to shoot down any missiles shortly after launch.

“Our vision is to shift the calculus of our potential adversaries by introducing directed energy into the ballistic missile defense architecture,” agency spokesman Christopher Johnson told the Review-Journal. “This could revolutionize missile defense, dramatically reducing the role of kinetic interceptors.”

The laser-mounted drones would add another layer of missile defense to U.S. capabilities. The drones offer an advantage over current missile defense systems, which rely on an intricate system of radars and satellites that guide a missile interceptor to a target. The laser drones would be much simpler and possibly just as effective, as they could loiter in a potential launch area and take out an enemy missile before it gets too far in its course. Current systems require an enemy missile to be in mid-course or descent phases before a traditional interceptor can be deployed.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Image via General Atomics

North Korea would be a likely potential deployment for such a system. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has engaged in more than 20 missile tests, the most recent of which occurred Feb. 12. The missile tested was propelled by solid fuel, as opposed to combustible liquid, marking a major advance in missile technology. Solid fuel missiles are more dangerous, as they can be concealed on mobile launchers.

The idea for drones armed with lasers originated with former President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” missile defense shield, part of which envisioned using space-based lasers to shoot down incoming Soviet missiles. While Reagan’s contemporary critics scoffed at the project, it helped spawn missile defense systems used today.

Laser-armed drones as an effective missile deterrent is still in the planning stages. The top major defense contractors — including Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon — are all currently involved in a $230 million, five year-long demonstration program at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The Pentagon will engage in the first official demonstrations of laser-armed drones in 2020 and 2021, according to Johnson.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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The Army ROTC program is using Hollywood to train future officers

“The Princess Bride” is a cult classic – one of Robin Wright’s early roles, combined with a young Cary Elwes along with Mandy Patankin and Andre the Giant.


While it’s a satirical look at medieval fairy tales, could it play a role in training future combat leaders in the U.S. Army? Believe it or not, the answer may be “Yes.”

The proof is on Youtube, where the Army ROTC has a channel with dozens of videos of classic movies that hold a lesson for this generation of leaders.

As part of a course labeled MSL 101, Lesson 10, the “Battle of Wits” scene is used to discuss critical thinking. At the end of that video, a card comes up for about four seconds, asking, “What did you think of the clip?” The card goes on to ask, “What processes do you use when you are considering a situation/dilemma when you alone must make the decision?”

Here is that video:

 

Other videos used in that lesson plan include two clips from the Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons in the “Looney Tunes” collection.

 

“The Big Bang Theory” also is mined for clips:

 

“Top Gun” adds one as well.

 

Stick around – there are two major productions that really get mined to illustrate lessons.

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12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Stolen valor, Hollywood-style!


Blame the stylist, blame the director, but don’t hate the player, hate the game. Here are 12 cringeworthy photos that will make you want to knifehand these celebrities:

1. 50 Cent

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Attention on deck for General Admiral Gunnery Sergeant Cent.

2. Adrianne Curry

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

As much as we love the self-proclaimed “Mistress of the Dorks,” maybe she should stick to cosplaying as an Imperial Officer instead. She was much more squared away.

3. Jake Lacy

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

This is a Hollywood military fail. Jake Lacy and the costume designer from 2015’s “Love the Coopers” should put out a YouTube video where a drill instructor smokes both of them for the popped collar he wears the whole time.

4. The cast of Enlisted (minus Keith David)

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Look at this. Look at this. Keith David is military movie royalty (“Platoon,” hello?), so it’s little surprise that he knows how to wear an Army uniform. But if he were really the sergeant major he was supposed to be, this photo would feature him tearing new a**holes into the other four for the thousands of problems here.

5. Amber Rose

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Shitty job rolling those BDU sleeves, but at least she tried to crease them. Nails probably not reg, but the only person who would really care is Kanye West.

6. Jeremy Renner

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Jeremy Renner has ruined everything from “The Avengers” to Jason Bourne, and here he is ruining the Army Combat Uniform. Forget for a moment that the ACU didn’t exist when “The Hurt Locker” was supposed to be taking place (realism!), ACU sleeves are rolled approximately never and if they were, they sure as hell wouldn’t have the sea service roll. Also, unless he runs into a fight backwards, pretty sure that U.S. flag is as ass backward as that movie.

7. Samuel L. Jackson

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

It’s easy to make fun of “Basic.” The most prominent reason is because of Samuel L. Jackson’s standard-issue cape. A goddam cape. There is no better example of what a civilian thinks the military would wear than giving someone a cape. The worst (best?) part of “Basic” is that it implies basic training, the one place where we all learned this.

8. Shia LeBeouf

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Ah yes, America’s most famous Valor Thief. The backpack is actually common among civilians, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone wearing it with ACU pants. And even harder pressed to find someone wearing that combo bloused with Desert Combat Boots.

9. Steven Seagal

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Watching this salute is almost as awkward as watching Seagal run.

10. Jessica Simpson

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

WATM’s Logan Nye says the collar is only authorized to be worn this way when a soldier is wearing body armor, but even then it makes you look like an a**hole. The fact that everyone in the unit is wearing it up makes the commander look like an a**hole.

Also, that hair is not authorized in uniform.

11. Channing Tatum

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

To the untrained (or Air Force) eye, Army uniforms always look like a random mishmash of metal and ribbon. Tatum is mostly okay but needs to decide if he’s infantry or special forces.

12. Bill Cosby

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

The only thing really wrong with this uniform is the guy wearing it. (And he’s not an honorary chief anymore.)

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Iranian drone buzzes US carrier for the second time in a week

An Iranian drone has flown close enough to a US aircraft carrier to put the lives of American pilots of F-18 fighter jets at risk, the US Navy said on August 14.


In the second such close encounter in a week, an Iranian QOM-1 drone late on August 13 flew within 300 meters of the USS Nimitz in an “unsafe and unprofessional” manner without its lights on, said US Naval Forces Central Command spokesman Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey.

Controllers for the drone did not respond to radio requests for communications, he said, adding that the drone was unarmed but that it was a model that can carry missiles.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
An Iranian drone in flight. (Image: IRNA)

McConnaughey said flying the drone without lights “created a dangerous situation with the potential for collision” and was not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws.

US officials have complained of 14 such unsafe close encounters this year, almost always involving Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which Washington recently targeted with sanctions.

Last week, officials said an Iranian drone nearly collided with a US fighter jet that was landing on the aircraft carrier.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps issued a statement on August 15 saying their drones are guided “accurately and professionally,” dismissing the US Navy’s concerns as “unfounded.”

MIGHTY MONEY

How this US soldier is the new Nigerian Prince

“Oh, beautiful friend,” begins an email from Nigeria, “I am in need of your help to move the sum of 30,987,544.36 out of my country but, alas, I cannot.” This email scam is old as email itself but is a spin on an even older scam, one that involves a man claiming to be a political prisoner during the Spanish-American War. Apparently, he’s hidden money away and is desperate to get it before the Spanish find it. Thankfully, through friends, he’s found you, a person of considerable trust. Now if you could just send him some money…

Well, the Spanish-prisoner-turned-Nigerian-prince has transformed yet again. This time, he’s turned into an American soldier… In Nigeria.


This letter con is actually even older than the Spanish-American War. The resurgence of the scam in 1898 was just a play on American anti-Spanish sentiment. In the 1700s, it was a different kind of Spanish prisoner who needed money to smuggle a wealthy family member into or out of a country. Then there’s the 1800s’ “Frenchman in Jerusalem,” or the 1920s’ “German Winemaker Investment.”

These are all different flavors of the same scam. You pay a comparatively small amount up front for the promise of a great windfall down the road, but nothing ever comes. Like all of these schemes, the fraudster is taking advantage of a political situation, economic frustrations, or the recipient’s general lack of knowledge about the subject or region.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

This is the new Nigerian Prince.

He’s back. 

Now, schemers are looking to take advantage of all three of those weaknesses. Americans love their military, but don’t always know where the U.S. military is operating — sometimes because it’s undisclosed and sometimes because Americans don’t really care where U.S. combat troops are deployed (before anyone gets indignant about this statement, ask yourself if you really know).

In reality, U.S. troops are deployed to anywhere between 177 and 195 countries in the world. And those are just the missions with 50 or more troops deployed. Meanwhile, as the U.S. economy has been more or less booming for the last 9 years, it really hasn’t translated into an increase in wages or quality of life for most middle-class and blue-collar Americans. And Americans, even American students, tend to be bad at geography.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

This is not a trick. That’s really where Nigeria is.

But the latest scam isn’t coming from Nigeria. It’s coming from Syria. Well… it claims it’s coming from Syria.

“How are you doing my friend, great I guess! Now I know this mail will definitely come to you as a huge surprise, but please kindly take your time to go through it carefully as the decision you make will probably go a long way to determine my future and continued existence. First, let me introduce myself. I am Capt. Christopher Townsend, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in Syria.”

For civilians who may be susceptible to this scam, I hope you tried to show this to a military friend because there are many glaring irregularities between this first paragraph and the photo of the ID sent along with it.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

Blurring the edges of an ID photo is something no one does ever.

Aside from a clearly photoshopped ID photo, the CAC card above was taken from a U.S. Army Sergeant Major, not a captain of Marines. Secondly, unless that captain was also a journalist, it’s unlikely that he would abbreviate his rank using the Associated Press style. Military personnel have many different ways of abbreviating ranks, but the Marines don’t use a period. Finally, no sergeant major or captain I have ever met talks or writes like that.

And a Marine isn’t likely to make that kind of mistake, even in an informal email. Are the Marines in Syria really with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment? That doesn’t matter.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

It matters, but not for the purposes of deciding to send them money.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

“Some money in various currencies was discovered and concealed in barrels with piles of weapons and ammunition at a location near one of President Assad’s old Presidential Palaces during a rescue operation and it was agreed by all party present that the money be shared amongst us.”

Do dictators just leave money around, hiding in barrels with arms caches? My guess is that President Assad probably keeps his money in a bank, like most of the world. Keeping illicit cash in barrels laying around one of your many houses is a surefire way to lose it. Besides, rich dictators don’t have to horde cash — they don’t care if people know they’re stealing.

The Syrian Presidential Palaces are located in Damascus and if U.S. Marines are/were in Damascus, even on a rescue mission, we probably would have heard about it by now. Most importantly, Assad never lived there.

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?

It would not be this clean after a visit from United States Marines.

(Flickr/Jacobdugo)

Finally, this is something more akin to the plot of Three Kings than something U.S. Marines would really do. The Marine Corps is renowned for its discipline and adherence to its core values on the battlefield. If they came across a cache of million dollars in a Presidential palace, you’d see Marines posing with it and their small arms on Instagram right before you read about it in the New York Times. Then, they’d turn it in.

If you ever have a question about something fishy sent from someone claiming to be a U.S. troop, just ask a veteran. We all need a good laugh.

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These 11 weapons have been in the US military’s inventory a very long time

The western world is always in a rush for the latest and greatest iPhone or other tech gadgets, but troops know that some weapons systems stand the test of time without too many, if any, mods. Here are 11 of them:


1. M2 (1933)

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

This baby predates World War II, entering service in 1933. The M2 fires a .50-caliber round at 2,910 feet per second. It was originally adopted as an anti-aircraft weapon, but has served for decades in anti-personnel, anti-light vehicle, and anti-ship roles as well.

2. B52 (1954)

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Lance Cheung

The B-52 Stratofortress bomber carries enough up to 70,000 pounds of ordnance on flights up to 9,000 nautical miles. Don’t worry if it needs to go further; it can refuel in the air. There are plans to upgrade the B-52’s carrying capacity to 105,000 pounds as well as computer upgrades to let this plane originally built in 1954 serve until 2040.

3. C-130 (1954)

Defense budget spotlight: What do weapons really cost?
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Plew

The C-130 Hercules was a radical, and ugly, design departure from Lockheed’s previous transport aircraft. But the ridiculed “Herk” of 1954 has proven itself over hundreds of thousands of sorties and still serves with distinction today.

It has delivered tanks at high speed, dropped paratroopers, and transported supplies to every corner of the globe. An armed version, the AC-130, has supported troops in combat since Vietnam.

4. KC-135 (1956)

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Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jerry Fleshman

The first KC-135 took to the air in Aug 1956, and the flying gas station has been serving America’s best jets, helicopters, and prop aircraft ever since. Carrying up to 200,000 pounds of fuel, it has served in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, and the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

5. U-2 (1956)

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Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris

The high-flying U-2, famous for its reconnaissance role during the Cold War, took flight in 1956 and has received repeated upgrades ever since. Today, the U-2S can fly at 70,000 feet and is being eyed for service beyond 2050.

6. M14 (1957)

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Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras

The M14 entered service in 1957 and was the standard rifle for U.S. Marines and Soldiers from 1959-1970. While it was replaced by the better known M16 for most missions from Vietnam on, improved versions have continued to see action in American hands, mostly as a weapon for squad marksmen and special operators.

7. UH-1 (1958)

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Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Artur Shvartsberg

The UH-1 first flew with the U.S. Army as the HU-1 in Vietnam in 1958 as an air MEDEVAC platform. It was quickly adapted for troop transport and attack missions. Today, upgraded versions of the UH-1 with a second engine serves in both the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force as well as in foreign militaries.

8. M72 LAW (1963)

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Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Parkinson

Capable of piercing nearly 8 inches of enemy armor from over 200 yards away with a 66mm rocket, the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon was designed to give U.S. infantry a fighting chance against Russian armor in 1963. Though no longer in production, the U.S. uses stockpiled weapons to knock out light enemy armor and buildings.

9. AH-1 Cobra (1967)

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Photo: US Marine Corp Sgt. Tyler C. Gregory

Originally introduced to the military in 1967 as a stopgap solution in the Vietnam War while the AH-56 was developed. The AH-56 never materialized and the AH-1 reigned supreme until the adoption of the AH-64 Apache. While the U.S. phased out the AH-1, the Marine Corps still fields an upgraded version, the AH-1Z Super Cobra/Viper.

10. CH-47 (1962)

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft

The CH-47A Chinook entered Army service in 1962 and were deployed to Vietnam from 1965 to 1975. Today, conventional Army units fly the CH-47F with engine, computer, and avionics upgrades from the CH-47A while the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment flies the MH-47G with increased fuel storage and inflight refueling capabilities.

11. A-10 (1975)

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Photo: DARPA

The beloved Warthog. The A-10 Thunderbolt II is famous for its seven-barrel, 30mm gatling gun but has also been firing rockets, missiles, and bombs since 1975. It’s recent retirement plans have been indefinitely canceled.

Because Brrrrrt!

MIGHTY MONEY

Everything you need for a secure financial future and when to start

The world would be a perfect place if everyone grew up with a financial advisor, someone who told them exactly what to do with their money and when. While the best rule of thumb is to start investing early and often, the benefits of compound interest just aren’t as interesting as spending your allowance on candy and Wiffle ball gear.

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It’s also not nearly as satisfying.

The rule that you should get started early still stands but it’s not necessary to get started quite that young. However, if being bullish on Wall Street is more appealing to you than playing ball in the street, go for it — your future, financial self will thank you.

Military members have experienced a lot of changes in the tried-and-true retirement and benefits packages we used to know. For new troops, guaranteed pensions by themselves are gone. This is true for some older members who decided to opt-in to the new system, too. And now, the military will match your contributions to your Thrift Savings Plan (a kind of military 401(k)). There are other variations in the blended retirement system that troops need to know, too.

Some will still wonder if they’re doing enough to save for retirement. This is a completely understandable feeling as a trade war with China grows and the stock market becomes more and more present in daily news cycles. After all, infantry troops and aircraft mechanics are not traditionally well-versed in financial products.

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If you don’t know if you’re doing all you can to promote a healthy financial future, you should turn to the financial advisors available on base or seek help elsewhere. But for starters, here are few general guidelines to let you know if you’re on the right track.


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Paying off your credit card feels like being awarded an achievement medal.

(U.S. Air Force)

Around age 22 — Get rid of credit cards and save some cash.

I know, every single financial advisor or personnel officer starts out with this advice, but it’s for a good reason: they’re right. Paying off your debt means you can use that cash and put it to work for you. When you have a lot of credit debt, you’re the creditor’s investment and they’re earning interest on your money instead of the other way around.

At about this age, you should also be saving a significant portion of your income, roughly 15 percent. While this sounds like a lot (and it very well might be, especially for military families), remember that every little bit helps. Setting aside an allotment of fifteen, ten, or even five percent of your pay is worth the time and effort.

How you do this is the (potentially) exciting part. Explore a 401(k) like the TSP, IRAs, and savings accounts — in that order. Just keep an eye on the management fees companies charge. Most charge a percentage of your overall portfolio and the difference between one percent and one and a half percent can be hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. Look into fiduciary firms to open these accounts. Most can even be managed on your smartphone, via tools like Wealthfront or Wealthsimple.

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Paying off your student loan feels like a handshake from Chuck Norris.

(U.S. Air Force)

Your 20s — Don’t miss a chance to pay extra on your student loans.

They’re the goddamn worst.

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Crazy things happen.

Your 30s — Prepare for your home and family.

You are never going to be fully financially prepared to have kids — nobody is really. But if you’re finally up to saving that 15 percent of your income, you can open a 529 pre-tax college savings account for the little ones. You can also be open to other kinds of investments, like a real estate investment trust, which is a kind of managed fund that buys and manages income-generating real estate.

Another thing that needs to go at this point are excessive fees that take away your money without giving you much in return. The market is flooded with organizations that want your money and they want to take it without you noticing. You shouldn’t be paying a lot of bank fees, ATM fees, or any fee that seems excessive. Keep watch.

By this point, you should be building up a savings account of three to six month’s worth of expenses as a cash reserve and, in the case of any unexpected windfall of cash that comes to you in the form of bonuses or gross profits or lottery win (no judgement), you should always put half away before enjoying the other half.

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If you’d thought of this 30 years ago, DiCaprio would be your neighbor.

Your 40s — Expand your reach.

For the life of your mortgage, you should be trying to make an extra mortgage payment on your home at least once a year. If you have the means, you might even seek to buy a vacation home or investment property that you can make money from while working to pay off. Renting a house in New Mexico (or wherever) or putting it out on AirBnB for 15 years could turn into a fine place to retire later.

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No matter what Tom Selleck, Fred Thompson, or Henry Winkler tell you.

Your 50s — Slow your roll.

Move investments away from stocks and think about commodities through exchange-traded funds (ETFs). They aren’t as prone to market changes as stocks are but still allow for growth over the years. As you approach your 60s, consider getting half of your investments into securities, like corporate or municipal bonds.

If those kids have flown the coop, this also might be a good time to downsize your home to take advantage of any equity from making those extra payments all your life. A reverse mortgage is not a good way to take advantage of your home’s equity because, like credit cards, you’re spending money you haven’t made yet.

Your 60s — Live it up.

Find a new career that you love for the love of the job. By this time, any money you make will just be the money you throw around for fun, instead of using your savings. Try to stay active, get out, and maybe see some of the world.

Articles

The first US troops to fight for America did it on this day in 1775

There has long been a dispute between the towns of Lexington and Concord over which fight sparked the Revolution, but the first shots were fired at Lexington, which was less of a battle and more of a massacre. The debate was so fierce that President Ulysses Grant almost avoided the centennial celebrations there to avoid the issue. Taken together, however, there is little doubt that the spark of the Revolution started on this day in April, 1775.


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The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolution, pitting members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia against British regular army forces. The militia was not under the royal governor, but controlled by the rebel Massachusetts Provincial Congress.

Seven hundred British troops were dispatched from Tory-held Boston to capture and destroy rebel arsenals at Concord, Mass. The rebels knew the British would come and had already moved the weapons and supplies. The British force moved through Lexington on the way to Concord.

At first light on April 19, 1775, the Redcoats met some 70 colonial militiamen moving into ranks on the local common. They were vastly outnumbered. Their commander, John Parker, was not willing to risk his men at such odds, and so placed them in formation, but not blocking the road to Concord. He ordered his men not to fire unless fired upon.

Rather than just march on to Concord, a British Marine lieutenant led his men onto Lexington Common to disarm the militia. Instead of disarming, the colonists moved to disperse. That’s when a shot rang out from an unknown source. Before this encounter, there was no war declared in the colonies. The British had come and gone to seize arms and supplies many times, retreating back to the major cities each time. This time was different.

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The idea of Americans in open rebellion against the British Crown was likely a shock to the subject of the British Empire. At the time of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the British controlled territory on every inhabitable continent across the globe. Down on Lexington Common, however, those opening salvos left eight Americans dead and an equal number injured, along with one injured British regular. The engagement soured the chances of reconciliation between the colonies and the Crown.

The British would continue to Concord, where the Battle of North Bridge in Concord would kill two colonists and three Redcoats. The British retreated all the way back to Boston and were harassed by colonial militias the entire way home.

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Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson composed the “Concord Hymn” in 1837, immortalizing the two events for the unveiling of a battle monument at Concord’s North Bridge.

“By the rude bridge that arched the flood/Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/Here once the embattled farmers stood/And fired the shot heard round the world.”

This story would one day lead to the defeat of the British at the hands of a Franco-American force, the birth of America, and eventually, School House Rock.

Articles

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and called it a piece of garbage

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and dubbed it the “Mattel 16” because it felt more like a toy than a battle rifle.


“We called it the Mattel 16 because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki in the video below. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

It weighed about half as much as the AK-47 Kalashnikov and fired a smaller bullet – the 5.56 mm round. In short, the troops didn’t have faith in the rifle’s stopping power.

Related: This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.

“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”

The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.

“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.

Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the Small Arms Review.

Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.

This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:

LightningWar1941/YouTube
Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of July 7

Shake off that hangover from the four-day weekend, everyone. There’s a normal weekend coming up and we can’t just neglect these parties because last week’s were too epic.


Slam a case of Rip-Its, get some giggles from these military memes, and treat your safety brief like a To-Do list.

1. Play that funky music, white boy (via Funker530).

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But also, find a surgeon for your buddy’s traumatic brain injury.

2. Might keep the other branches from knowing what you’re eating …

(via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

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… but actually increases the chance that your crayons are stolen.

ALSO SEE: This is what happens when the Army puts a laser on an Apache attack helicopter

3. Everyone wants to be an operator until it’s time to do trauma surgery (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

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This duo’s one-liners are drier than any martini.

4. Bet she gets selected for all the good details. And the bad ones.

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5. Oooh, if they get really mad, they’ll start comparing commissioning dates (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

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6. One is a surgeon, the other a butcher (via Valhalla Wear).

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This is why machine gunners are more popular at parties. They bring more party favors.

7. Doesn’t matter which branch you join (via Decelerate Your Life).

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It’s not the budget. It’s the personnel.

8. Upon further reflection, maybe too few recruits isn’t the worst problem (via ASMDSS).

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Better to not have enough armorers than to have these armorers.

9. For that much money, I’ll become a pilot (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

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I’ll even pay for my own flight lessons.

10. No one will know (via Shit my LPO says).

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Probably a submariner. They’re experts in staying secret.

11. Oh, you thought you might see your family before you leave for a year or more?

(via Decelerate Your Life)

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It’s all essential training. Now get in there and learn not to sexually assault one another.

12. The difference between “sick call” and “calling in sick” is wider than most civilians think (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

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Like, only one of those things works at all.

13. Powerpoint Ranger, Powerpoint Ranger, where have you been?

(via Military World)

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Around the shared drive, and back again.

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