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Army of Davids Beats Pentagon Procurement 412

Posted by Zonk
from the many-hands-make-smart-work dept.
chris-chittleborough writes "The Wall Street Journal reports that 'a Marine officer in Iraq, a small network-design company in California, a nonprofit troop-support group, a blogger and other undeterrable folk designed a handheld insurgent-identification device, built it, shipped it and deployed it in [Iraq] in 30 days.' Compare this to the Automated Biometric Identification System, a multi-megabuck Pentagon project now 2 years old. With bureaucracy increasingly strangling innovation, will agile smaller businesses be able to accomplish what once required a sprawling government project?"
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Army of Davids Beats Pentagon Procurement

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  • by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:44PM (#17952576)
    You used "government" and "innovation" in the same sentence.
    • by jonnythan (79727) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:49PM (#17952650) Homepage
      They used "strangling" in the same sentence, so it's OK.
    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@yah o o .com> on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:49PM (#17953572) Journal
      Large corporations also suffer from beaurocracy and inflexibility. I can't believe I'm saying this being as lefty-liberal as I am, but the difference is that companies follow a natural life cycle. They start out small and agile, get bigger through success against their less nimble rivals, become less nimble themselves, and get beaten in their turn. Government has no natural rivals and thus never dies. It just shambles on, zombie-like.

      I'll put that down to people's fear of not being able to support themselves, and thus being unable to let go of a job even if that job is no longer relevant. Perhaps if rights to food, clothing and shelter were garaunteed, government departments that had outlived their usefulness would be less resistant to being dissolved.

      Whew! Almost let a pro-capitalist thought slip through unchallenged. ;-)
      • by caseydk (203763)
        Perhaps if rights to food, clothing and shelter were garaunteed, government departments that had outlived their usefulness would be less resistant to being dissolved.

        Let's see: "Life, Liberty... Congress shall make no law... reserved to the States respectively...". I don't see anything about any of those things being "rights" in the US Constitution. Could you tell me your source on that one?
      • by timeOday (582209) on Friday February 09, 2007 @06:08PM (#17955240)

        They start out small and agile, get bigger through success against their less nimble rivals, become less nimble themselves, and get beaten in their turn. Government has no natural rivals and thus never dies.
        It's not just that. Bigger companies (and governments) solve bigger problems. The reason the Army is careful is because going off half-cocked gets people killed just as much as doing nothing, and, yes, is more scandalous. It sounds great to give everybody autonomy so they can react quickly and decisively, but along with that comes Abu Ghraib, friendly fire, and missing palettes of cash. You can say what you want about our nimble opponents in the face of an ossified DOD, but the fact is the US has a very high kill ratio due to things like standardized training, fighter aircraft, and M1 tanks, which result ONLY from big, coordinated activities that no single small company - or even a collection of exclusively small companies - can do. (Nor am I saying a high kill ratio in itself will win Iraq, but that's more a problem with the mission itself than the force structure). Even projecting an invasion force from the US to Iraq in the first place is by definition a large scale activity that could never be approached as a large, highly coordinated effort (again, aside from whether going there was a bright idea in the first place).
        • by ben there... (946946) on Friday February 09, 2007 @10:44PM (#17958620) Journal

          It's not just that. Bigger companies (and governments) solve bigger problems. The reason the Army is careful is because going off half-cocked gets people killed just as much as doing nothing, and, yes, is more scandalous. It sounds great to give everybody autonomy so they can react quickly and decisively, but along with that comes Abu Ghraib, friendly fire, and missing palettes of cash.

          The missing palettes of cash were known about through independent news and radio long before the news hit mainstream media, including an interview with a woman soldier who had refused to take the money who said that she was told to keep quiet about it, not send any home, and not to make it obvious when she returned home. But it's only a small part of a bigger picture. The DoD has over $2.3 trillion unaccounted for [youtube.com][CBS], 25% of its budget of taxpayers' money. The palettes of cash are business as usual. The worrisome part is not the American and Iraqi soldiers receiving what one might call "bonuses", but where the rest of that $2.3 trillion+ went. If the Executive and military authority are that brazen about giving out unaccounted for money and then telling them to keep quiet about it, imagine what other undocumented transactions of our tax money they might be willing to do. It's obvious at this point that the people of this country (and their representatives) will not hold them accountable, and I'm sure they realize that.

          It's also hard to believe that Abu Graib was the result of giving too much "autonomy" while Alberto Gonzales is arguing for the use of torture. Do you think you'll ever really know how high up the chain of command the knowledge of what was going on in Abu Graib reached? Or whether the same thing didn't happen at other locations? Do you think you'll ever know all the horrors and atrocities that have resulted from an urban war that has gone on far too long, with many of its battered participants now having served several tours of duty?

          No, it is my belief that only the uninformed will believe that these cases are isolated incidents resulting from giving the perpetrators too much autonomy. They are the exact opposite: the inevitable corruption resulting from giving a military bureaucracy too much power with far too little oversight.
  • by with_him (815684) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:45PM (#17952582)
    A great story of how I won't take no for an answer solves problems. I just hope, and bet, it will save lives on the ground in Iraq.
  • Apples & Oranges? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:47PM (#17952614) Homepage Journal
    So does their device withstand extremes of temperature duration both
    operation and storage? High humidity? Is it impervious to dust?
    How does it handle shock and vibration?

    20+ years ago, I worked for a company that designed & manufactured
    power supplies for the military. It's one thing to design a quick
    & dirty one-off, proof-of-concept. It's quite another to build a
    production device that will withstand continued use in a multitude
    of military environments.

    • Infantry proof (Score:5, Informative)

      by wiredog (43288) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:53PM (#17952702) Journal
      That's what we called it when I was in the Army in the mid-80's. The PRC-77 was the size of a briefcase, carried on your back, and fairly pricey. Cost far more than handheld walkie talkies that operated on the same freqs. But the PRC-77 was far more robust. When it's raining artillery, robust is what you want.
      • by sconeu (64226)
        Ah, the PRC-77. You could drop an HEA shell on them and they'd keep working.
      • Re:Infantry proof (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmail.cFREEBSDom minus bsd> on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:26PM (#17953196) Homepage Journal
        The problem is that military technology is falling behind consumer technology. For example, many troops are carrying consumer GPS units because the military units (which can actually be more accurate) are too difficult to acquire and use. It's a lot easier for the troops to get large shipments of consumer GPS units w/spares that do what they need them to rather than waiting for the contracter to finish building an improved model after the war is over.

        Another way of thinking of the situation is like this: Is it better to have a piece of equipment that might break rather than having no equipment at all?

        If the answer is "yes", then a stopgap solution like the one in the article needs to be deployed immediately. If the answer is "no, it would be worse than having nothing" then the troops should make due without.
      • Re:Infantry proof (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Qzukk (229616) on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:40PM (#17953422) Journal
        But the PRC-77 was far more robust.

        And naturally, after the PRC-77 run was over, every engineer that made it robust was taken out back and shot, and the plans shredded, pulped and incinerated, and the contractor began working on the PRC-78, spending 5 years trying to figure out just how to make it robust.

        In the real world, robustness is solved. Engineers don't need half a decade to build some contraption that can take a licking and keep on ticking, they just have to look at the previous designs and apply the same techniques to a modern device. But hey, when its the government's money, spending 2 months researching 400 different types of rubber grommets to determine which one works best for shock absorbing because, you know, physics might have changed in the last year or so, is a perfectly reasonable idea.
    • by Greyfox (87712) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:55PM (#17952738) Homepage Journal
      That the quick and dirty app working now usually trumps the super-duper uber app that may get built in 3 or 4 years.
    • Re:Apples & Oranges? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bluekanoodle (672900) on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:01PM (#17952848)
      Take the google example to extreme, build the system of out cogs, and when a cog breaks replace it. Granted some things need to be military spec, but these devices are being used in a law enforcement style capacity, not a chugging through the brush for 20 days role. Just like the police style equipment this is modeled from, the users of the system are never more then a couple of hours aways from the base of operations that a replacement part can't be substituted. whats important is to ensure the units are interchangeable and that you keep sufficient stock on hand.

      In any case, having something like this that has not had extensive field trials is better then what they had before, which was nothing. The problem with the military procurement system, is that everything has to go thrugh the same process, regardless of whether its a 200 handheld unit, or a 1 million dollar vehicle. This does not allow the agility that the private sector can afford.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Granted some things need to be military spec, but these devices are being used in a law enforcement style capacity, not a chugging through the brush for 20 days role. Just like the police style equipment this is modeled from, the users of the system are never more then a couple of hours aways from the base of operations that a replacement part can't be substituted. whats important is to ensure the units are interchangeable and that you keep sufficient stock on hand.

        If it was only that simple.

        The Army has a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ajlitt (19055)
      RTFA: They did not design any new hardware. They put together an application to run on an off-the-shelf ruggedized fingerprint scanning PDA and a hardened (article isn't clear about what this means) laptop for database storage. The app isn't even from the ground-up: a police event tracking application was used as a base.

      This goes to show that the Not Invented Here attitude of most government contractors is due to wanting to stretch out a contract rather than trying to make a more reliable design.
      • by winkydink (650484) *
        I did RTFA. This thing is going to get dropped (a lot) on hard ground and in the sand, and probably in water for that matter. It will be left out overnight in who-knows what kind of elements, it's going to get left on the hood of the HMMV when somebody drives away. It will get tossed in somebody's pack and that pack will then get tossed who-knows where and who-knows how hard. Are you getting the picture?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      A good solution now is better than a perfect solution two years from now. I'd rather have one of these devices that breaks down occasionally than go without until it's perfected.
    • by MECC (8478) *
      I had a friend who was deployed to Iraq a couple of years ago. He carried an iBook for a year and a half through the worst of it. A large zip-lock bag was how he got it through the desert. It didn't break down.

      He found a way. They can too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by winkydink (650484) *
        You know why? It was his. He bought it with his money. If it broke, he didn't get issued another one. People take better care of stuff they have to buy with their own money. The IT dept in my company can show you a shelf full of busted laptops that never went to Iraq and never made 18 months.
    • by soft_guy (534437)
      The important thing is that if the device can save lives but is not perfect in every way that it be denied to our troops forever lest its imperfection save fewer lives than it might have had it been perfect. Thus, our troops should have nothing. In fact, let's send them naked and unarmed to Iraq lest their clothes or weapons fail.
    • by khallow (566160)
      For a comparison, valid or invalid to occur, there has to be something to compare this against. We have a prototype that is probably rugged enough for law enforcement use, but not rugged enough to meet military specs. But as far as I can tell, we're comparing this against having no device at all. I think that's a clear win for the device. And this isn't something that has to be that reliable (as another replier noted). It's not life-threatening if it breaks in the field and most of the time, they'll be able
    • So does their device withstand extremes of temperature duration both operation and storage? High humidity? Is it impervious to dust? How does it handle shock and vibration?

      Which is better: a theoretical device that has not been delivered, or a real device that may be unreliable?

      There are many reasons why some military equipment should withstand such environmental stresses, but applying the same rules to all equipment makes little sense if the end result is that the US army does not readily have the e

      • by MoxFulder (159829)

        I think the Israeli forces have recognised this.

        Hmm, interesting. Where did you read that? I was under the impression that defense procurement is universally slow, inflexible, rigorous, and paranoid (make a $100 radio cost $5,000 by building it to withstand a nuke).

        It'd be interesting to hear about a military that has managed to reduce cost and delay without sacrificing reliability of critical systems.
    • by Skapare (16644)

      So what if it can't take a beating. It's probably so much cheaper that you just pull out another one. Maybe it won't work in the extreme 25% of cases. But if it saves at least SOME lives TODAY, then by all means deploy the fragile one while the durable one is designed and built. And then deploy the durable one while it gets all the official testing to make sure it really is durable enough to be run over 10 times by a tank while being toasted with a flame thrower (how many lives will that make a differen

    • by chill (34294)
      It is a Dell Axim X50 series PocketPC with ruggedized case, screen protectors, fingerprint scanner and custom software. Base price of about $450 for the hardware. The unit is only rated to 104 degrees F for operation, so that could be an issue. However, if these are being used in police capacity, in the city, and not in the field, then that could be mitigated.

      I don't think high humidity is going to be an issue in Iraq. The casing is supposed to protect it from dust, as well as provide protection from sh
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:48PM (#17952632) Journal

    I once learned (or was taught) at a consortium if you (as a corporation) couldn't build a new major application/suite of applications in six months, you shouldn't do it. I think the message wasn't that if the task was more than six months it was too hard... the message (in my interpretation) was you should find a better way to get to your endpoint, i.e., in a business setting you had to be more "agile" (sorry).

    I think this is even more true for this example. Bigger organizations (and they don't seem to get more bigger than the government, eh?) beget less ability to:

    • decide what you need
    • design it
    • create it
    • deliver it

    When lives are at stake it is even more/most glaring. It would be nice to see the government (whoever that is) take a lesson from this. However, different pieces of the government maintain a stranglehold grip on their turf and are generally loathe to loosen that grip.

    Less is more, but it's hard to convince the more to let the less get 'er done.

  • by Rei (128717) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:49PM (#17952634) Homepage
    Now without all of those pesky "legal restraints", "checks and balances", and "aquittals"! Now, when you round up every male between the ages of 16 and 70 after an attack and have them fingerprinted, everyone else will know that they're all suspected terrorists.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by El Torico (732160) *
      Actually, the insurgency would have been over very quickly if every male between 16 and 70 had been executed. Of course, that would be a monstrous atrocity, but it would be effective. After all, Rome didn't get much grief from Carthage after the Third Punic War. Fingerprinting doesn't seem so harsh in comparison.
      • by killjoe (766577)
        Why aim so much higher then the lowest point in history? Sure fingerprinting is better then killing but then so is castration or mutilation. Why not just castrate all the males after all it doesn't seem so harsh in comparison. Better yet why not rape them and the cut off their legs it doesn't seem so harsh in comparison to the third punic war.
  • Something tells me that if we drafted the appropriate industries to build a *REAL* military industrial complex, and punished profiteering adequately in the first place, our troops could have had this technology (instead of a stupid deck of playing cards) in 2002, instead of waiting until 2007 for it to be delivered. But since Bush doesn't want to impact the profitability of this war, we have to wait for a significantly patriotic David to identify who the enemy is. It's exactly this lack of vision that has turned Afghanistan back into a Taliban-controlled country and destroyed our success in Iraq.
    • How does anyone, even with patriotism levels, identify who the enemy is [cagle.com]?
    • by compro01 (777531) on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:15PM (#17953040)
      well, we (Canada) are working on afganistan, though no one seems to want to help us with it. not meaning the US, as they have their hands full with iraq.

      though this is yet another example of how damn effective gururla warfare is. the only time you tend to see terms like "dishonourable conduct" and "unfair tactics" is from the side that is not doing well.

      if you don't buy that it is effective, consider that the enemy, armed with AK-47s, RPGs, high explosives, and dedication to their cause, are holding their own against what is likely the most expensive and advanced miltary in the world.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by soft_guy (534437)

        if you don't buy that it is effective, consider that the enemy, armed with AK-47s, RPGs, high explosives, and dedication to their cause, are holding their own against what is likely the most expensive and advanced miltary in the world.
        This is classic asymetric warfare. It is how the US was beaten in Vietnam and it is how the US is likely to be beaten in Iraq and Afghanistan.
      • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:37PM (#17953370) Homepage

        though this is yet another example of how damn effective gururla warfare is. the only time you tend to see terms like "dishonourable conduct" and "unfair tactics" is from the side that is not doing well.

        Traditional armies have been saying that about insurgents since at least the US war for independance. They didn't line up into neat rows and square off against British soldiers like they were expected to.

        if you don't buy that it is effective, consider that the enemy, armed with AK-47s, RPGs, high explosives, and dedication to their cause, are holding their own against what is likely the most expensive and advanced miltary in the world.

        Of course it's effective. They are using the tactics that the Americans trained and equipped them to use against the Soviets. And, they were good at it -- you'll notice the Societs eventually gave up and went home.

        It's a higly effective set of tactics.

        Cheers
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by servognome (738846)

        though this is yet another example of how damn effective gururla warfare is.

        Guerilla warfare is very effective as a political tool, it has limited military value. It's primary purpose is not to "win," it's to induce weariness in the enemy through disruption.

        the only time you tend to see terms like "dishonourable conduct" and "unfair tactics" is from the side that is not doing well.

        Or when one side plays by a set of rules and the other side doesn't. For example a US bomb killing 100 insurgents and 1 civi

    • by Skadet (528657) on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:25PM (#17953186) Homepage

      But since Bush doesn't want to impact the profitability of this war[. . .]
      Wait, do we hate Bush because he's spending too much money on the war, or because he didn't finance it enough to let the troops do their job? I'm so confused!
      • by cybermage (112274)
        Wait, do we hate Bush because he's spending too much money on the war, or because he didn't finance it enough to let the troops do their job? I'm so confused!

        Why can't it be both? We shouldn't be there in the first place; but, if we're gonna be there, we should be doing it right. Doing the wrong thing poorly is double-plus un-good.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by E++99 (880734)

      Something tells me that if we drafted the appropriate industries to build a *REAL* military industrial complex, and punished profiteering adequately in the first place, our troops could have had this technology (instead of a stupid deck of playing cards) in 2002, instead of waiting until 2007 for it to be delivered. But since Bush doesn't want to impact the profitability of this war, we have to wait for a significantly patriotic David to identify who the enemy is. It's exactly this lack of vision that has t

  • by gravesb (967413) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:51PM (#17952676) Homepage
    The government will never be as efficient as a business. This is especially true in procurement, where there are enormous safeguards to try and restrict corruption. Of course, these safeguards don't always work. But they have been added over time as people learned to cheat the system, and are there for a reason. What we lose in agility we gain, somewhat, in transperency and review. Its a trade-off, and it makes the article's contention a truism. Its also intentional.
    • by MrSteveSD (801820)
      Efficiency is not always the best thing for the consumer though, which is something governments never talk about when they want to privatize things. For example, since privatisation, the trains where I live have been getting shorter and shorter, so people really have to cram in now. It's more efficient for the train company since they don't need to purchase as many carriages, but their improved efficiency has been at the expense of customer comfort.
  • the wrong question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by User 956 (568564) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:52PM (#17952692) Homepage
    With bureaucracy increasingly strangling innovation, will agile smaller businesses be able to accomplish what once required a sprawling government project?

    I think a better question is: "Are sprawling government projects and bureaucracy really necessary?
    • by qwijibo (101731)
      Do you have a better idea to keep the utterly incompetant from turning to a life of crime? I thought the whole point of these projects was to keep those people away from projects that could work if they didn't get involved.
  • I wish we could. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:55PM (#17952728)
    If my login wasn't clue enough...

    I've had so many negative experiences when dealing with governmental customers. While there is a lot of blame to be laid on the large companies, I can't fathom (or rather I don't want to) how much money has been wasted by people who really don't understand what they want, or how much it will cost to actually get what they want.

    I've spent months doing work only to have it erased by the customer, worked another month, only to have them revert back to the origin. Only then do they discover that you can't just 'go back' once production has started without huge costs.

    Or maybe they do understand it, but just don't care.
  • by mattbadass (165861)
    In situations like this, I would be careful the source. This is coming from an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, which is extraordinarily conservative. I'm not saying that this isn't a shameful example of the Pentagon getting bogged down in bureaucracy. But anything coming out of the Wall St Journal's editorial board smacks of political agenda. In this case "government == bad. free enterprise == good". And this is one of the directors of the editorial board to boot.

    Just my 3 cents.
  • Gold Platting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hangtime (19526) on Friday February 09, 2007 @03:59PM (#17952816) Homepage
    There is a difference between trying to get everything perfect and good enough. This is good enough. Waiting around trying to figure out how to get all this networked isn't it going to help.
  • The moment you try to limit funding to a wasteful Pentagon program you're accused of hating the troops.

    And so it goes.

    The standard rip against wasteful education spending is, "You can't just throw money at a problem and expect it to be fixed!"

    Yet that's done 10x with the military and no one bats an eye.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bmajik (96670)
      More is spent on education than defense in this country.

      CIA world factbook shows that Defense is 4.06% of GDP.

      This page shows that Education is 5.7% of GDP.
      http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/edu_edu_spe-educ ation-spending-of-gdp [nationmaster.com]

      What that page doesn't show you us that the US GDP is 12tr$, so 5.7% is 648 BILLION dollars, or over $2k per year for every man, woman, and child in this country. When you consider the fraction of the 300m assumed population that actually receive public school instruction, and the m
  • Nope (Score:3, Informative)

    by kurthr (30155) on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:02PM (#17952860)
    "will agile smaller businesses be able to accomplish what once required a sprawling government project?"

    No, because they don't have the political power to actually get large contracts. Their larger competitors will use their influence on legislators to get "written in" to large budget bills. Can you say, "No bid contract"? Their less scrupulous competitors will bribe legislators or military procurement. We've already seen this in Iraq with everything from oil and water, to flack jackets.

    The most insidious tool that's used are the absurd design requirements documents. They set out an often completely unnecessary set of requirements that often only one company, or perhaps two very large companies can provide. This keeps any bidding process "under control". What will be delivered may not even meet those requirements, but only after years of delays, "best effort", and disappointment. The only good thing that seems to come out of the larger projects are the much derided "slush funds" that let individuals actually innovate without being put under this absurd process.

    Why is it set up this way? Is there a better way with the Bureaucracy we have? Is tearing it down the way to go? Good questions. DARPA and some small programs try to fix this around the edges, but something with this much money in it will always draw the crooks.

    NASA is subject to the same pitfalls. It just costs less money, and fewer people die.
  • by jofny (540291) on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:05PM (#17952896) Homepage
    Yeah, smaller companies distribute and process information more effectively, so they are almost always better suited to developing new things than the government or the large contractors. However, producing old things repeatably to the same spec and with organizational resiliancy is something smaller companies have a harder time doing, so from a long term perspective it's not a clear win for smaller companies.

    The only time the government really beats out private industry (and to a greater extent, larger orgs beat out smaller ones) on new technology innovation is when it's a money issue (the materials really do cost billions of dollars). As technology has gotten cheaper and become more accessible, that advantage has slowly disappeared.

    A larger issue than size, though, is that governments (most of them, this one in particular) tend to recruit homogenous workforces and encourage groupthink. Workers are encouraged (directly or through lack of promotions, harassment, etc.) to "fit in" at an institutional level. So, it's not surprising that the government is not as innovative as other places.

    People lately are often heard saying that the US government doesn't "pay enough" to get good people. I dont know about you all, but I'd give up a little pay to work on interesting projects and with good people. The government's problem is that it doesn't -like- people who are creative, innovative, and different and actively selects them out - not the pay.
  • by fermion (181285) on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:05PM (#17952898) Homepage Journal
    We know that we can build equal equipment cheaper and faster, but just think of the children of the KBR executives that will not receive a tropical island for christmas because some do goodder was more interested in protecting troops than Haliburton profits. I mean, my god, if our desire was to simply stop terrorism we would have another president right now, and probably would have put bin laden on trail rather than hussain.
  • by CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:06PM (#17952920)
    The government doesn't spend $10 on a screw. They spend $10 on an M2.5 truss head stainless steel threaded fastening device.
    • by E++99 (880734)

      The government doesn't spend $10 on a screw. They spend $10 on an M2.5 truss head stainless steel threaded fastening device.

      Sounds like a bargain!
      **APPROVED**
  • All I could think of is that they found a nice security hole into Iraq.
  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vic-traill (1038742)
    So, call me an ignorant foreigner (I'm Canadian), but why are US military forces doing the job of a domestic police force in a middle-eastern country?

    I swear to god I'm not trolling - but for the life of me, I don't understand why you're shipping guys halfway around the world to do someone else's job.
  • by paiute (550198) on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:28PM (#17953236)
    Trying to fight a "major war"? We are not at war and have not been since 1945.

  • by finlandia1869 (1001985) on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:42PM (#17953448)
    IAANAT (I Am A Navy Acquisition Type). Don't give me the "ditching the peacetime acquisition system would fix this" argument - innumerable, half-assed products are developed and dumped on the troops during wartime in the name of getting things to the field quickly. They get fixed only after it catches fire and kills the crew. Or they don't work after falling in salt water. Or something like that. Wartime is no better. Troops in the field always want the latest and greatest Right Now; they don't care that 79 other guys are asking for the same thing, but a little different, resulting in 80 incompatible systems that each carry their own, unique logistics tail.

    I also can say that the big contractors are indispensable for some things. Lockheed Martin maintains and updates the monster that is Aegis, for example. David has no ability to do this. Maybe an army of Davids overseen by LockMart acting as lead integrator, but otherwise no.

    The acquisition process has serious problems, don't get me wrong. But anecdotes don't make a good argument.
    • That's the problem, isn't it?

      This thing probably isn't up to military specifications.

      Can it be dropped?

      Can you turn it on in a volatile atmosphere?

      Will the RF generated by the system trigger the detonators in a model XR5 demo pack?

      Is the information encrypted? I sure as hell don't think so. Good luck getting a milspec encryption chip, Dave.

      Yeah, you can get a crappy system cobbled together that will probably work. Will it work in all reasonably foreseeable circumstances when lives are at risk? No, but you c
  • by jalefkowit (101585) <jason&jasonlefkowitz,net> on Friday February 09, 2007 @04:45PM (#17953498) Homepage

    It's news that a small group of committed individuals moves faster than Department of Defense procurement? Continental drift moves faster than Department of Defense procurement.

    It can take decades for a new weapons system to go from concept to prototype to deployment. Look how long systems like the F-22 fighter [globalsecurity.org] were in the procurement pipe. The DoD procurement process is so lengthy that by the time the system is deployed, the threat it was designed to counter has often disappeared.

  • Look at the war the US lost in Vietnam (looks a lot like the Iraq war). The US troops had planes, jeeps, tanks which guess what, they kept working but got stuck in the mud or were very slow in the woods. The Vietnamese defenders were using freakin' bicycles to get their stuff transported. They were much more quiet, they did it without being noticed, didn't need an airstrip, and they didn't get stuck as often. Of course, I imagine their tires would frequently go flat or their frames rusted through, probably
  • Along similar lines to this article, during the middle ages The Thema of Byzantium (Present Day Greece and Turkey) were military districts made up of farmers/soldiers who independently procured all their own uniforms, weapons and provisions without a centralized military bureaucracy. They came up with some interesting military inventions such as "Greek Fire".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thema [wikipedia.org]
  • I know it's the WAR AGAINST TERROR, but isn't anyone concerned that the US Military gave the Iraqi police which has been implicated in numerous atrocities and is not going to be under direct control of the US for the infinite future a means to fingerprint every man woman and child? That will be really useful if they have to hunt down non-Shiites/non-Sunnites/non-Kurds in the upcoming ethnic cleansing.

    Since the Brits and the US military have to go out and dismantle police units that freelance as death squads
  • Rumsfeld's military (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bassman59 (519820) <andy@l[ ]e.net ['atk' in gap]> on Friday February 09, 2007 @06:29PM (#17955752) Homepage
    "You don't go to war with the military you want. You go to war with the military you have."
  • by hey! (33014) on Friday February 09, 2007 @06:31PM (#17955778) Homepage Journal
    Issues of government (in)competence and procurement arcana aside, let me offer an alternative explanation.

    We, through our elected representatives, have not faced up to the fact that we're in the occupation and counter-insurgency business for the long term.

    We've created a military with unprecedented tactical agility -- which doesn't help in this situation, as they trudge out on patrols and get picked off on the way back. We've equipped them so they are more lethal per person than any military in history -- which is downright harmful. What we can infer about this is that we want our guys to fly in, kick the shit out of anybody they have to, then get the hell out.

    Rushing new technology into the hands of troop is les than ideal for many reasons. Nor should you need to do it if you anticipated how you'd be using the troops correctly. The first weeks of the Iraq war showed how well the troops were equipped, trained and structured for the ass kicking duties we thought we'd be using them for. The remainder showed how poorly we'd planned the aftermath; the intention was to be well out of there by now. We were assured that while nobody could predict how long it would take, that people who said it would take years were crazy or something.

    The bottom line is the reason we are bogged down in Iraq isn't bureaucratic incompetence, it is strategic incompetence.
  • by Bassman59 (519820) <andy@l[ ]e.net ['atk' in gap]> on Friday February 09, 2007 @06:40PM (#17955932) Homepage

    Face it ... the large military contractors (the Raytheons, the Halliburtons, the whomevers) are not rewarded for their innovations. They're rewarded, in units of large contracts for weapons systems with questionable necessity and dubious quality, for their contributions to the campaigns of the political leaders who control those contracts. Can you said "quid pro quo"? Sure you can. And the more impressive-sounding and more expensive the proposed weapons systems are, the more likely the funders get hard-ons for them.

    Oh, yeah, and let's add in the concept of cost-plus contracts, where the contractors make more money the more they spend. There's no incentive to build anything for a reasonable cost, and no incentive not to keep piling on the extensions and overruns.

    So simple things, like better body armor and better defense for humvees and the cheap electronic ID-things mentioned in the article, which aren't sexy (but save lives), don't get the attention of the Big Contractors nor their political funders.

    I'm kinda surprised that Raytheon hasn't tried to stamp out the little guys ...

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