Monday, June 30, 2008

KC-X - The Next Chaper?

As written here:
This ruling is serious-as-a-heart-attack stuff. In particular, consider the fourth point:

The Air Force conducted misleading and unequal discussions with Boeing, by informing Boeing that it had fully satisfied a key performance parameter objective relating to operational utility, but later determined that Boeing had only partially met this objective, without advising Boeing of this change in the agency's assessment and while continuing to conduct discussions with Northrop Grumman relating to its satisfaction of the same key performance parameter objective.

As that band member from Spinal Tap would say, “That’s just nitpicking, isn’t it?” It isn’t. That overlong sentence doesn’t highlight a procedural error or a minor oversight. It indicates deliberate favoritism for the Northrop/EADS bid. There are three possible explanations:

1. The GAO decision was politically compromised. Conceivable, but the GAO has an unblemished history of independent (at times hypercritical) thinking. They don’t often uphold defense contract protests—just 20-25% of them. The last time they upheld a major protest (CSAR-X) it was against Boeing’s contract win.

2. The Air Force procurement department has turned monstrously incompetent. Their recent track record isn’t great, and any large bureaucracy can lose its way. But again, that fourth point goes well beyond incompetence. It indicates bias.

3. Senator John McCain successfully politicized this contract, determining its outcome.

The likeliest is a combination of the second and third explanations. The Air Force officials making this decision watched McCain wreck several Air Force officials’ careers. They watched McCain make life miserable for the service and attack its priorities, especially the F-22. They watched him consistently work against the Boeing tanker, or at least in favor of the Northrop/EADS tanker (under the guise of a level playing field). As a result, some Air Force procurement officials might well have worked to favor the Northrop/EADS bid. Perhaps it was pushed on them from the OSD level. From the Air Force standpoint, choosing the KC-30 might have been an easy way to avoid pain. The GAO ruling made them look incompetent, but they had solid fear-based reasons to take this path, despite the risk of being caught. Who knows? Perhaps the Air Force wanted to be caught.

That, of course, leaves us with the matter of McCain. We know that McCain influenced the tanker selection process against Boeing with multiple letters to Deputy SecDef Gordon England and SecDef Robert Gates. We also know that McCain, for good and/or bad reasons, stopped the original Boeing tanker lease deal from going ahead. We know that people in McCain’s office have also worked as EADS lobbyists. At least one lobbied for EADS while working for McCain. Finally, we have the GAO document, which accuses the Air Force of favoritism and bias, yet doesn’t cite any rationale or motive for this bias. There’s really just one.

So far, no one has been able to connect these four data points and prove that McCain and his lobbyist associates pushed the Air Force into actively favoring the Northrop/EADS plane. McCain’s office has very skillfully maintained plausible deniability.
Well, I think we've established that the USAF acquisitions folks have lost their way pretty badly. However, stating that McCain overtly or tacitly influenced the decision kicks things up to a whole 'nother level. As Stephen Trimble puts it:

That's a very remarkable -- and politically explosive -- analysis. Aboulafia appears to be asking: 1) Did McCain steer the KC-X contract requirements to favor Northrop Grumman's bid, and 2) Were McCain's actions improperly influenced by EADS lobbyists?

"Politically explosive" is an understatement. This would be big news at any time, but can you think of a better cudgel for Obama to smack McCain with? Political meddling in military affairs, putting the warfighter at risk, AND sending jobs overseas, not to mention the general corruption and lobbyist angle. Of course, as the first link states, no one has been able to connect the data points...yet. If I was Obama, I would be working hard to do just that.

Homosexual and Dix

Funniest. Replacement. Ever:
Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has.


"It means a lot to me," the 25-year-old Homosexual said. "I'm glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me."


This time, he kept pumping those legs all the way through the finish line, extending his lead. In Saturday's opening heat, Homosexual pulled way up, way too soon, and nearly was caught by the field, before accelerating again and lunging in for fourth place.


After the race, Homosexual and Dix looked at each other and slapped palms, then hugged.
Follow the first link for the whole story.

h/t: Radley Balko

South Park Monday

Jesus...kicking ass!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Wrath of Khan(gress)

Via Ares, here's one of the many things Congress could do to the USAF if we decide to forgo rebidding the KC-X contract:
The fight over the tanker has grown even more heated, if that’s possible. While it may just be posturing, we hear that the nomination of Gen. Norton Schwartz to be Air Force Chief of Staff would probably be placed on hold should the Pentagon not reopen the bid for the tanker contract. The White House, which has so far tried to keep its distance from the controversy, might be drawn in if it’s get that ugly.


The latest congressional reaction on this comes from Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), a thoughtful representative who has generally been a good friend to Boeing, issued a press statement today which says, in part: “If, after reading this report, the Air Force thinks they can move forward with this contract without heeding the GAO’s recommendations and rebidding this contract, the problems at the Air Force go well beyond the tanker program.”
In other words, rebid the contract....OR ELSE!

I love politics.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Range Report

Hit the range on Saturday and my Grandpa's front yard on Sunday with the Carbine. She is SO much fun to shoot. Groups were relatively tight, considering that I haven't sighted her in yet, I was only shooting at around 50 feet, and the fact that she is 60 years old. I can't emphasize enough how much fun she is to shoot though. My dad burned through some rounds at the range with me on Saturday and a couple of my uncles and cousins shot a a few rounds at my Grandpa's on Sunday. The consensus of fun to shoot was unanimous. As far as performance goes, I was shooting five different types of ammunition: American Eagle (manufactured by Federal) Full Metal Jacket (FMJ), Remington FMJ, Remington Jacketed Soft Point (JSP), Federal JSP, and Cor-Bon Jacketed Hollow Points (JHP). Both FMJ rounds fed fine, without a single failure to feed (FTF) or failure to eject (FTE). I had two FTFs with the Remington JSPs, as well as one round that absolutely refused to seat in the chamber, causing the gun to be not able to return to battery. I had no trouble with the Federal JSPs. The Cor-Bon JHPs refused to feed. The only way I was able to fire these was by inserting a round in the chamber manually and then firing and hoping the next round would feed. Sometimes it would, but more often than not it wouldn't. While not unsurprising, given that the gun is mil-surp and only designed to shoot FMJ, it is disappointing as the JHPs were good rounds. I have some Aguila and Lake City remanufactured FMJ ammo on the way, which I don't expect to have troubles with, although I've heard that the Aguila is a little underpowered which can screw with the ballistics and accuracy.

Overall, I'm very pleased. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a gun more fun to shoot than an M-1 Carbine. And regardless, as the Box O' Truth guys are fond of saying, it's fun to shoot stuff..

Good Question

Steven Trimble over at the DEW Line put up a post that meshed perfectly with something I had been mulling over recently. What was the last major weapons system procurement contract that the USAF managed to get successfully signed?
Quick: Name the last time that the US Air Force successfully signed a contract for an all-new aircraft, competitively-sourced, that wasn't later canceled or indefinitely postponed due to legal challenges?

Answer: October 26, 2001, or nearly seven years ago.

That was the date when then-Secretary of the Air Force Jim Roche announced that Lockheed Martin won the Joint Strike Fighter competition. To their eternal regret, I believe, Boeing did not file a protest.

(Of course, even in that case, the JSF joint program office -- led by US Marine Corps Maj Gen Mike Hough -- actually managed the competition. The air force happened to be JSF's "executive agency" at the time, which gave Roche the right to announce the winner.)


Since 2001, the air force has failed even once to successfully select an all-new aircraft after a competition. Failed attempts include the original lease-buy deal for 100 KC-767s in 2003, and the E-10A program that was canceled in 2005.

Moreover, the CSAR-X contract remains in competition after the Government Accountability Office twice over-turned the air force's selection of the Boeing CH-47. And now, of course, the second attempt to replace the USAF's oldest KC-135Es is again tied up in GAO purgatory.

Compare that to the navy's record over the same period. Since 2001, the navy, which has other priorities besides buying new aircraft, has successfully signed contracts for P-8A, VH-71 and CH-53K. (Granted, the execution of the VH-71 deal has been problematic, but they at least manged to sign the contract.) Another contract -- for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program -- is signed, but its status is pending a GAO protest verdict.

The army hasn't done so so bad either. Since 2001, the army gave up on the RAH-66, but signed contracts for three manned aircraft: the UH-70 UH-72 light utility helicopter, the ARH-72 ARH-70 and the Joint Cargo Aircraft. (Granted, again, that execution on the ARH-72 ARH-70 deal has been rough.) The army also held a successful competition for a major UAV contract, awarding the extended-range, multi-purpose (ER/MP) contract to General Atomics for the MQ-1C Sky Warrior.
As he puts it, "A Lost Decade." Indeed. However, here's the really important part. In the comments, responding to someone who (in as many words) accused him of picking on the USAF, while ignoring similar blunders among the other services like the Navy's A-12 debacle or the Army's Comanche. However, the key difference is not in the initial problem, it's in how the service responded to it. As he puts it:
I agree the other services are not exactly innocent. The army's Comanche is a great example and so is the navy's A-12 fiasco. But, you also have to admit, both services quickly learned from their mistakes. The army took the $14.7 billion money in the Comanche budget and completely recapitalized their worn our aviation fleet. After the A-12, the navy learned to cleverly avoid over-stretching on technology, and instead focused on buying upgraded derivatives of the F-14 and F/A-18 for the next 20 years. They still don't have a long-range, stealthy attack jet on the carrier, but, unlike the aircraft, they do have hundreds of new aircraft with many modern capabilities, except all-aspect stealth of course.
Bingo! The biggest problem I see here with the USAF is not that they had problems with a procurement contract or two. It's that there has been an apparent systemic failure among their acquisitions personnel to be able to run ANY programs properly. Why might that be?

Via Lex, part of the possible answer:

Over the past decade, as spending on new military projects has reached its highest level since the Reagan years, the Pentagon has increasingly been losing the people most skilled at managing them. That brain drain, military experts like Kaminski say, is a big factor in a breakdown in engineering management that has made huge cost overruns and long delays the maddening norm.

Kaminski's generation of engineers, which was responsible for many of the most successful military projects of the 1970s and '80s, is aging. But declining numbers of top young engineers, software developers and mathematicians are replacing them. Instead, they are joining high-tech companies and other civilian organizations that provide not just better pay than the military or its contractors, but also greater cachet - what one former defense industry engineer called "geek credit."

Precise numbers are scarce, but one measure of this shift can be found at the air force: As a result of budget cuts, the demands of fighting two wars and the difficulty of recruiting and retaining top engineers, officials say, the number of civilian and uniformed engineers on the air force's core acquisition staff has been reduced by 35 to 40 percent over the past 14 years.

The downsizing "has taken a toll in our inability to refresh our aging acquisition workforce," said the air force's engineering chief, Jon Ogg.

When Kaminski and Ogg talk about military spending and the decline of engineering management, they tend to use measured, military tones. But with the Pentagon planning to spend $900 billion on development and procurement in the next five years, including $335 billion on major new weapons systems, the depth of their concern is reflected in a rising alarm among many in Washington.

Make sure to read the whole thing. The bottom line is that if you don't have good systems engineers, you will have bad systems. As simple as that. I was discussing this with my dad the other day, he expressed amazement that the military could allow these cost overruns to happen. As I told him, the reason they happen is that there is a lot of happy talk between the defense contractor and service about how they are going to develop the ultimate warfighting machine that will feature advanced "paradigm shifting" technology. No one asks the hard questions about how feasible any of this is or how much it is going to cost, the project goes on, the "paradigm shifting" technology turns out to a) not work, b) cost 50%+ more than originally thought, or c) both a and b. By this point the only choices are to either cancel the program and eat the cost (as the Army did with the Comanche and the Navy did with the A-12) or continue developing the system, accepting the fact that it will probably both cost a lot more than originally anticipated and not have much, if any, of the technology and capabilities originally promised. The second path is the one the USAF has chosen with almost all of its bad procurements over the past decade.

The solution is, obviously, more and better systems engineers, but as the article states this is easier said than done. No easy answer for this, and in the meantime the USAF continues to have an aging fleet and failing acquisitions. What happens when the KC-135s get grounded? Not something I want to think about.

On a related note, it appears that the OSD may be deciding to not rebid the KC-X contract. If that is indeed the case, they all had better make sure their teflon armor is in good condition for when they go before Congress to explain that decision. (h/t: Ares)

Mid-Week Rock

I haven't been drinking nearly as much this summer since I've been working my ass off, which is unfortunate. Given my drink of choice being quality beer and various kinds of whiskies (mainly scotch and irish), Celtic punk tends to be my favorite drinking music. In that vein, here's some Flogging Molly:

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Seven Summits

One of the pinnacles of mountaineering is climbing the highest points on all seven continents. It's not easy to do, both from a climbing and a logistical standpoint. A USAF team is aiming to be the first military team to complete the accomplishment. From their vision statement:
On each of the seven continents of our world, there is but one peak that stands above the rest. These seven summits represent the highest physical achievement obtainable on each land mass. The vision of our Challenge is to have Air Force members carry our flag to the highest point on each continent, ending on the highest point on Earth. In doing so, we will be the first American military or governmental group to reach the summit of Mt. Everest and the first military group in the world to reach all of the famed seven summits.

To summit each peak, to stand atop each landmass, is a noble and awesome challenge fit for an organization that flies to the highest heights and into the deepest blues.
We are excited to take on this challenge to honor the members of the USAF, to highlight the importance of personal fitness, to open to the public a new window into the lives of military members. Along the way we're proud to promote a worthy charity that brings better lives to widowed Americans and their children!
As they mentioned, they are doing it in part for charity, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, an organization that provides for the families of U.S special operations personnel killed in action or training. Here's a link to their team. They've just summited McKinley, leaving only Everest (Asia), Vinson Massif (Antarctica), and Kosciuszko (Australia). They've also got a blog here, be sure to check it out.

All in all, a pretty cool deal.

South Park Monday

Read a couple of articles in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs dealing with economics and free amazes me how stupid Americans can be when it comes to trade protectionism. More trade = increased specialization = good. Less trade = more inefficient economy = bad. Oh, and developing an energy policy that tied food prices to energy prices was GENIUS. Thanks corn producing states...good luck on that ethanol thing in 10-15 years when your aquifers are depleted.

Anyway, as you might have guessed, there's only one South Park episode to reference being in this frame of mind...Goobacks:

They took yer job!

...they took MY job!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Alternate ending for last week's BSG episode

Obviously, if you haven't seen it, semi-spoiler alert. It'll sort of give away the premise, anyway.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Smokey Bear... on the prowl in Nebraska this summer. However, he was nice enough to put out a list of where he's going to be on any given day and what he's going to be doing. You can find the list here. I highly recommend you check it if you live in or are going to be doing any traveling through Nebraska this summer, especially on the interstates and other major highways.

You're doing it wrong

For the record, the proper way to parallel park does NOT involve pulling into the stall front end first and then sitting there with your ass end sticking into the street, clueless as to what to do next while you back up traffic on a major thoroughfare, as I witnessed today in downtown Papillion.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Unintentionally funny quote of the day

From this news story on a topless soccer game played by women from Austria and Germany the day before the real teams met in Euro 2008 play (Germany won 1-0 in the actual game, for anyone who was wondering):

"I was supposed to hold the balls but I really have no idea how to do that," said German keeper Jana Bach.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mid-Week Rock

A twofer in honor of the GAO's KC-X decision:

And speaking of the decision, Congress and defense contractors, please stop acting like you give a shit about the warfighters. All you are interested in is money and jobs for your districts, and that's fine (well, in the defense contractors case, anyway), but continuing this talk about "delivering the best product for the warfighter" makes you sound like even bigger slimeballs. If you actually cared, you would've gotten this aircraft to the USAF 10 years ago. But you didn't. And now the Stratopigs are going to be 80+ years old (and counting) before we get them all off to the boneyard.

Oh, and if the chief of Air Force aquisitions hasn't been fired already, he or she needs to be. I'm kind of curious if anyone in that AFSC actually knows how to do their job. Judging from their awesome track record (KC-X, CSAR-X, Thundervision, etc.), I doubt it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My New Baby

There she is. Saginaw SG M-1 Carbine, serial number 3284195. Also pictured is the replica carrying case, two 30 round mags (including one original USGI spec manufactured by FN), 1 15 rounder, and, because every good gun layout needs a knife, my Ka-Bar.

The other side:Close up on the receiver:Close up of the action:(Poor) sight picture:Close up of the end of the stock and cartouche:
Close up of the barrel. Parkerizing (the finish) is still in great condition, which I'm very happy about.

View of the working end:
The next three photos are of various areas of the handguard and stock that have some sort of cut or gouge:That's pretty much it for major damage to the furniture. They're noticeable, but they could be a lot worse.

Here she is ready to go kill some Germans and/or Japanese:And here she is ready to kill some Commies:
Like I said earlier, overall I'm very pleased. A little worn, but all things considered not bad at all. Ammo has been ordered and we should be seeing how she shoots within a couple of weeks.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Change? Anybody have any change?

Good writeup in the WSJ about "change," the economy, how things aren't really that screwed up, and how the only real problem is government involvement. Money quote:

In contrast to what some people seem to believe, having the government take over the health-care system is not change. It's just a culmination of previous moves by government. And the areas with the worst problems today are areas that have the most government interference – education, health care and energy.

The best course of action is to allow a free-market economy to reallocate resources to the place of highest returns. In the midst of all the natural change, the last thing the U.S. economy needs is more government involvement, whether it's called change or not.

(emphasis mine)
Yeah, pretty much.

We don't have any change because they TOOK YER JOB!

h/t: Radley Balko

Canned Bacon

South Park Monday

Today's is a classic Randy moment:

I'm not drinking and driving, I'm driving while I'm drinking!

...What seems to be the officer, problem?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Range Report

Like I mentioned earlier, I shot a HK USP when I hit the range last weekend. Sorry it's taken so long to get up (that's what she said); I worked 60 hours last week and then spent 8 hours Saturday helping a co-worker take down a tree at his house. So all together I spent close to 70 hours outside doing landscape related things. Anyway, on to the gun:
I was pretty impressed, as one should be when shooting a fine German manufactured Heckler and Koch piece of machinery. The one I was shooting was a full size frame chambered in .40 S&W. Every time I shoot that particular round I like it a little more. My future carry handgun purchase will definitely be chambered in it.

Back to the USP, I think the thing I was most impressed with was the DA trigger pull. Not nearly as heavy as other DA/SA handguns I have shot. While I'm not a 1911 SA external safety nazi, I do like the versatility provided by having a DA/SA pistol with an external safety enabling it to be carried cocked and locked if you want but also allowing you to carry it DA and not having to have a ridiculously heavy trigger pull.

Shooting the gun was a pleasure. The weakest link in the accuracy equation was of course me, but I still managed to shoot some pretty tight groups considering how out of practice I am. Recoil was very manageable and I was able to reacquire sight picture quickly. Unlike other DA/SA guns cough*Beretta*cough, I actually enjoyed decocking the gun and shooting it in DA.

Overall, if it wasn't so damned expensive, I would definitely be buying one. As it is, it's definitely on my list of guns to buy someday.

There I Was... 10,000 feet and 300 knots in a convertible single seat Tomcat.

Oops. RTWT

h/t: Alert 5

Who are the advertising geniuses that came up with this one?

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Big Brother!

233 years old and it looks like it might be time to take the car keys away...

Pretty sure I put this one up before, but it's worth watching again (and yes, I know the dancing marshaller is an airman, and I know there's a few Marines in the video, including some Royal...they're still outnumbered by Army Stupid folk).

And some Johnny Cash:

h/t: Outlaw 13

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mid- Late Week Rock

It's late, but it's Zep. Range report and other stuff will be forthcoming this weekend. Maybe. Another 50+ hour week is on tap this week. The shortest I've worked this week has been 10 and a half hours.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Return of South Park Monday

Ask and ye shall receive, Jeff:

HAH! Fags!

Gun pictures should be coming shortly...she's back together in one piece with sling attached. Just need to do some light work on the stock, get the gunsmith to give her the once over, and buy some ammo and I'm good to go shoot. Speaking of shooting, hit the range today. Shot a USP. Will have a report on that sometime this week.

In the meantime, here's a twofer to make up for the lack of posts other words, I'm baaaaaccckk!

Monday, June 02, 2008


Sorry for the break in blogging. I've got three excuses. The first is that we've had some connectivity issues at home, on the wireless side of things. I still had internet access, but I had to go downstairs to use our desktop computer, and I'm lazy. Second is that I've started my summer job of landscaping, and it's been kicking my ass. 55 hours week before last and 52 hours last week, with working a full day both Saturdays (there were a couple rain days that I only worked a few hours, otherwise the 55 hour week would've easily been over 60). When you work 10-12 hour days outside all you want to do when you get home is shower, eat, watch some TV and go to bed. So that's what I've been doing. Third is that thanks to the Civilian Marksmanship Program, I am now the proud owner of a Saginaw SG manufactured M-1 Carbine. It's currently sitting completely disassembled in my garage. The cosmoline has been cleaned out and the Smooth-Kote has been applied. Still have to get the BP2000 Powder and Hi-Slip Grease on the gun and then get it back together. Pictures will be forthcoming when I feel like it. She looks like she'll be a good shooter, as she's got a bright bore and the muzzle/crown don't seem to be too damaged (although I still have to run the 30-06 bullet/muzzle gauge test). On the downside, her furniture has definitely seen some tough love. The stock isn't in too bad of shape (only a few minor dings), and is actually a very nice Springfield Red hue, but the handguard looks like someone took to it with a razor blade. Several long skinny gouges on the top of it. The cartouches in this bunch of Carbines were supposed to be FAT, since most of them were shipped back from Italy. Mine has a completely different cartouche: HD with UEF underneath it, as well as some sort of design that I can't quite make out to the right of the lettering.

All in all, I'm very pleased thus far. We'll see how she shoots.