It Was 30 Years Ago Today…

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….that Battleland contributor Franklin C. “Chuck” Spinney’s penetrating countenance gazed out from Time’s red-bordered cover asking U.S. Defense Spending: Are Billions Being Wasted?

The cover story (we’ve put it outside the paywall — Special Limited-Time Offer to read it for free!) — instantly made Spinney the poster child for Pentagon insiders distraught at the profligacy of the Reagan Administration’s military buildup. The sidebar on him inside the magazine (dated March 7, 1983, which means it had been printed a week before), available here, began like this:

Franklin Charles Spinney not only does not appear dangerous, he does not even seem readily distinguishable from hordes of other bureaucrats. His round, smiling face and well-brushed hair rather give him the look of a 37-year-old Charlie Brown.


Alas, the Lucy that was, and remains, the Pentagon didn’t find him very funny. His spiel on the “plans-reality mismatch” – the Pentagon’s seeming inability to craft realistic cost estimates so that today’s plans can fit into tomorrow’s budgets – remains as valid now as it was then.

The cover story was written by Walter Isaacson, who has since gone on to write acclaimed biographies of Henry Kissinger, Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. Presidential photographer David Hume Kennerly took the photos of Spinney that graced the cover package. The cover itself was an illustration of Spinney by Burt Silverman, who also [Bizarre Connection Alert!] did the cover art for Jethro Tull’s Aqualung album (you can see the resemblance here).

We don’t always agree with Mr. Spinney, and he hasn’t always been right, but we always find his thinking relevant and intriguing. We’re pleased that he continues to grace Battleland with it regularly, a decade after leaving the Pentagon, when he’s not out sailing.


An anniversary gift for Chuck. Enjoy!

GAO Report, Feb 8, 2013
The Defense Department failed to properly justify most  of its sole-source contracts worth more than $20 million over a year period, says the Government Accountability Office.
After federal regulations were changed on March 16, 2011, the Defense Department failed to report on six out of the eight sole-source 8(a) contracts worth over $20 million, according to a GAO report. The two contracts that complied with the new regulations were awarded by the Air Force.
The 8(a) program is one of the federal government’s primary means for developing small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Contract awards under this program may be competed among eligible 8(a) firms or awarded on a sole-source basis to 8(a) firms in certain instances. For example, DOD may award 8(a) sole source contracts to firms owned by Alaska Native Corporations and Indian tribes.
“The DOD components awarding the remaining six contracts did not comply with the requirement, either because they were not aware of the requirement and did not prepare a justification, or because they were confused and prepared an incorrect type of justification,” the auditors wrote.

We know how awards to  "Alaska Native Corporations" are abused.


I am sorry there are not more Chuck Spinneys in the government to hold all government employees including Congressmen's feet to the fire at all times. If there were more of these whistle blowers, and the graft and waste were called to account, there would be less waste,cost overruns, and other examples of graft in all of government and there would be no deficits or we could even pay less in taxes..a definite Republican love.


Hear, hear. And how about another cover story for the Chuckster? A bit more assertive, now that he's a senior commenter and has a lot more to say.

"Billions Are Being Wasted."

Of course the war profiteers will say "What's waste to you is profit to me."
(Reminds me of the civil engineering instructor I once had -- "It may be sewage to you but it's bread-and-butter to me.")

My favorite war profiteer story, from 2005: Uncle Bucky Makes a Killing

Addendum to the story from wikipedia: In 2005, reports emerged that [Bucky] Bush had garnered significant profits from the sale of Engineered Support Systems, a defense contractor working for The Pentagon in Iraq and Afghanistan. Further reports in 2006 corroborated these stock sales in the range of US$1.9 million


Chuck Spinney has always been willing, even eager, to speak truth to power. What a shame that there are not more like him.


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