Archive for October, 2007

This Time We Were Lucky

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

The pressure was on.  Before the young Major General could take the podium, the Secretary of the Air Force had some opening words.  Those words included breaking the ages-long tradition of neither confirming nor denying the existence of nuclear weapons.  However, this time it was undeniable.  The basic facts of the embarrassing scandal of temporarily losing a pylon of nuclear missiles confirmed their existence to even the most casual observer.

The seats in front of him were filled with reporters.  Their nonthreatening, inquisitive faces stared up at him as he began.  He looked down at his prepared notes, apparently to make sure he got the facts correct before he spoke.  There could be nothing so serious as to make a faux pas in reporting on this serious event.

His eyes never strayed far from his notes as he said, “Nothing like this has ever happened before.  This was a failure to follow procedures that have proven to be sound.  It involved a limited number of airmen at two bases.  Our extensive six-week investigation found this to be an isolated incident, and that the weapons never left the custody of airmen.  They were never unsecured, but clearly this incident is unacceptable to the people of the United States and to the United States Air Force.  We owe the nation nothing less than adherence to a high standard.  In addition our investigation found that there has been an erosion in adherence to weapons handling standards at Minot Air Force Base and at Barksdale Air Force Base.  We have acted quickly and decisively to rectify this.”

Confident in his prepared notes, he went on to read the details of the event where the weapons were lost, but not really, and then recovered, confirmed the firings of a handful of Colonels and Lt Colonels and the disciplining of an undisclosed number of lower-ranked airmen, and then he discussed the follow-up steps that were being taken.  Before long, he was ready for questions.  He motioned to a reporter near the front.

“My question is about what you meant when you said, ‘in addition,’ what did you mean by that?”

“It means that I was repeating the information that I had just covered.”

“Are you sure?  Because normally when someone says, ‘in addition,’ they are usually adding something to an original list or statement,” the reporter quizzed.

“Hey if I had wanted to add something to the things I had already said, I would have made it clear with the words that I used.  After all, I was reading from my carefully prepared notes.  When I said, ‘in addition,’ I was merely going on to repeat the information that I had said earlier.”

Of course the General didn’t really get asked that silly question.  Therefore he didn’t really say those silly answers; I just joked that he did.  Instead he was asked something much more serious about his opening statement.  However, his response was just as elusive as the silly answers I just joked about.

He was asked by several reporters about what he had meant with his statement about “an erosion in standards.”  Each time he was asked about it, he repeated the first part of his opening statement in slightly modified words.  Mostly to the effect of, “This was an isolated event, with a failure of attention to detail, a failure to follow tech orders, checklists and procedures.  It involved only a limited number of airmen.”

At 7 minutes and 25 seconds into the filmed account of the press release, it only took 8 seconds for General Newton to say, “In addition, our investigation found that there has been an erosion in adherence to weapons handling standards at Minot Air Force Base and at Barksdale Air Force Base.”  He had already covered the data about the “isolated” event, and it was clear to see that he had prepared notes for the briefing.  What does “in addition” mean?

A common man would believe it to mean: There was a serious mistake made, but the Air Force and DoD are handling it.  And in the course of an investigation, it was discovered that something else had happened to degrade the way airmen are following established standards dealing with certain types of weapons.
 
That “something else” was metaphorically called “erosion,” which everyone knows is something that happens over time due to some catalyst.  For example, wind or water can erode the earth supporting a building, road, or a dam.  Eventually the foundation begins to crumble, small pieces fall away, cracks in the structure appear, then widen, and eventually the entire structure fails.  Small pieces have been falling away from the Air Force for years with little notice.  Was the serious incident a crack appearing or widening?  When is the structural failure coming?

Of course the reporters had questions about that!  However, General Newton retreated into a standard barrage-answer tactic to fend off any of their probing for more information.  The reporters eventually abandoned that line of questioning, but with obvious frustration.

Things that would be nice to know are (1) Who is responsible for the erosion; (2) What started the erosion; (3) When did the erosion begin; (4) Where is the plan to reverse the erosion; and (5) How bad has the erosion become?  Those are the basic who, what, when, where, and how questions that if answered candidly would probably reveal a clothes-line of embarrassing stains that could be the talk of the neighborhood for decades.  And as bad as that would be, it would be even worse to conceal the data and do nothing about it.

Something has happened to the Air Force.  The Air Force used to be very good at adherence to tech orders, checklists, and procedures.  Some time in the past, an erosion of standards began.  That erosion is probably the root cause of the serious incident.  The serious incident is only a symptom of that erosion.  The people fired were, at the most, part of that erosion – not the cause of it.  The cause of the erosion must be identified, targeted, stopped, reversed, and eliminated or other serious incidents are likely to happen in the future.  It just makes sense.

On Obama

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

obama-dis-the-flag.jpgBy now, most of you have seen the picture of Obama standing in front of the Flag with his hands clasped in front of him as he casually gazes off to his right.  Behind him are his competing Democratic Party member Presidential candiates striking a typical “hand over the heart” pose, while the National Anthem plays.

Snopes.com gives Obama every benefit of the doubt while makes every excuse possible to justify his behavior.  The photo suggest that Obama must have something in his psyche that makes it seem right to him to not even show a modicum of respect for the nation that has given so much for him to live in the comfort he enjoys.  Something indeed.
 
Is it too much to ask of a Presidential candidate to say the Pledge of Allegiance?
 
Obama said, “True patriotism is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security.”
 
Webster said, “Patriotism is devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country.”
 
Obama’s spokesperson did not dispute the photo we’ve all seen, he said, “sometimes he puts his hand on his heart, sometimes he doesn’t.  He wasn’t making a statement, suggesting otherwise is ridiculous.”
 
Is it ridiculous to expect devoted love, support and defense of the United States by elected officials?
 
No.
 
Is it ridiculous to expect devoted love, support and defense of the United States by Presidential candidates?
 
No.
 
Is it ridiculous to listen to the excuses given to defend such examples of disregard for all the traditions of Americanism?
 
Maybe, especially when our nation is involved in a global war against terrorism — with terrorists who have attacked our nation and killed our people — with terrorists whose greatest wish to see all Americans beheaded. 

What happened to our standards?
 
The United States has only a few parallels in history of where our nation has been attacked from outside our borders.  Thus historical examples are difficult to show, but here are a couple:
 
Most of us remember or have read that the US was also attacked back in 1941 and then we launched into World War II:
 
How ridiculous would similar behavior to Obama’s have been in 1942?  Could a Presidential candidate have behaved in such a manner without having been pulled off the platform and beaten by the people there?
 
Some of might have read that the Washington DC was burned by our enemies in 1812, this of course was some of the opening blows of the War of 1812:
 
How ridiculous would similar behavior to Obama’s have been in 1813?  Could a Presidential candidate have behaved in such a manner without having been pulled off the platform and stoned by the people there?
 
In 2007, did anyone present even “boo” the candidate?  Was the camera person the only one who noticed? 
 
Hopefully, we’re all taking notice now. 
 
Our current politicial behavior doesn’t make sense. 
 
I understand that the Democratic Party members want to win elections against the Republicans, but can’t everyone just agree to respect this nation and the symbols of American (such as our Flag, the Anthem, and the Pledge), to be united against the enemies of our nation (less we embolden them to kill more of us), and then to debate the other issues honestly in order to decide the elections? 
 
Wouldn’t that make more sense?

New OG at KBAD

Friday, October 26th, 2007

Not sure  if any of you knew him but Tim Faye is the new OG at KBAD. He was at Minot for a while late 90’s.

Doug

Show me the mission

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

I submitted this to the Military Times back in July, it was timed for the debut of the new OPR.  Apparently it didn’t make the cut, so I’m posting it here.  If the Times ever changes its mind, I’ll remove it from here. 

Show me the mission

Officer performance reports (OPRs) have reportedly been overhauled, but it looks more like they have been stripped.  The mission has been abandoned, and a standards consolidation will test the integrity of the raters of company-grade officers.

Yes, it’s shorter, but at what cost?  The one-page OPR format was made possible through data reorganization and a disappointing elimination of unit mission descriptions and the officers’ impact on those missions.  The reorganization cost raters 33% of their space to assess their people, the additional raters gave up 20% of their space to concur, and the reviewers’ space was shrunk by 20%.  However, most of the space was purchased by combining the pre-existing 6 performance factors, along with a new fitness factor, into one line, which requires only one X to be entered.  The new form has been highly praised, but I’m not sure if it meets standards.

Years ago, OPRs had 10 performance factors, each of which required a small paragraph to explain how the officer actually met those standards.  After a while, it became obvious that while most officers were doing good work, sometimes their work had nothing to do with the mission they were supposed to be doing.  Some people argued that the wrong officers were being promoted because of a flawed OPR form.

So in 1988, “the mission” became the focus of officer performance reports.  The unit’s mission was described at the top of the form and the officer’s performance was required to have an impact on that mission.  The performance factors were reorganized into 6 and no writing was required to explain their performance, merely an X was placed in the meets, or does not meet, standards block.

But now, all we’ve done is go full circle back to the pre-1988 form and leave out the writing part which explained the officer’s performance.  It gives the appearance that the Air Force has decided that the mission doesn’t matter.  The form is praised as being based solely on performance, but it appears future promotion boards will be making decisions based solely on 6 lines of assessment given by a rater with an unknown mission.

For years, I heard it preached that, as a supervisor, one of our most important jobs was to ensure we accurately documented the performance of our people in writing.  Since Air Force officers are promoted and chosen for special duties mainly from what is written in the performance reports, OPRs are of paramount importance to their careers.  Was that just another one of those old-fashioned ideas that needed to fade away?

But there is another, more dismal change in the new form.  Since the same form is used for all officers, from Second Lieutenant through Colonel, the performance standards for field-grade officer and company-grade officer are now the same.

While the Air Force has often treated many of their field-grade officers, especially aviators, as if they were company-grade officers, it has always expected them to behave and perform as field-graders.  But now the new OPR form clearly shows that company-grade officers are to behave and perform to the same standards as the more seasoned field-grade officers do.

So, will Lieutenants and Captains suffer when evaluated against these new standards?  Probably not.  More than likely, busy supervisors will give as much adherence to holding the company-grade officers to the new performance standards as they have given to the requirement to provide performance feedback.

Will the Air Force’s mission suffer if its officers focus more on their personal performance metrics than they do on their unit’s mission accomplishment?  You can bet on it, because it just makes sense.

11 Oct 07- Johnboy

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Howdy folks! great to see the posts so far.  I really like this Blog thing, even though I had a hard time figuring it out! I think I have the hang of it now!  Things here are moving right along. My cadets are improving slightly, some are great , some need a swift kick in the ass. It is pretty amazing how defiant kids can be nowadays. They like to test you to see how big your balls are. Fortunately, last time I checked, mine are pretty big, so so far I haven’t had to physically restrain anyone! I do keep any eye out for weapons and stuff like that, though! Most of the kids are good, it is just those few psychotic ones ya have to be worried about. You have heard about the Cleavland shooting, and that kid’s background.  Well we have so many kids like that here it isn’t funny.

On the home front things are progressing. We bought some new furniture which will complement the stuff we have in storage in SHV. Hopefully my wife will be transferred here early next year, so we can have everything in one place! I just bought another LCD Tv for the family room and I had the house prewired for sound during construction. So the guy came out yesterday to give me a quote for getting it all put together, and I almost choked on the price! I think I will do a room at a time and do it myself! I have time and nothing else to do!

My daughter is doing very well in school and working her ass off, so even though I hate that she took the plunge so early in life, she is working hard to improve herself and take care of her family. I’m proud of her and she will definitely know the value of hard work from now on. 

I think it islooking good as far as getting some part time personal training work at one of the local gyms. Although I commute over 4 hours a day to work, I think I can pull off a couple of hours at night a few times a week. Especially the weekends. At least I can get a free gym membership!

Have a great rest of the month guys and I really enjoy hearing from all of you! My new address is 1309 Osmond Rd, Mount Pleasant, SC, 29466.

Johnboy  

11 Oct 07 – DB

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Howdy all

Time for the monthly update from Northern Virginia.  Not too much has happened in the last month.  We did run up to Westminster, MD to help our brother-in-law at the Maryland State Wine Festival.  By volunteering to help pour wine we got into the festival for free.  We’ve been helping out at various festivals since we returned from Germany.  Usually, I attract the lunatic fringe (“Do you have any wine that tastes like grape jelly?” or “Why is your dry wine tart, it doesn’t taste anything like my dandelion wine.”), but this time I got lucky.  Just poured lots of wine, although more and more of the customers tend to chug the sample. 

At the end of the month we took a week vacation and headed out to visit some friends of Marcia’s from Mt. Home. They are retired in Phoenix so we hopped on Southwest for a quick jaunt out there (anybody we know fly for Southwest?).  We also got to visit with some friends from Germany while we were there.  After a couple of days in Arizona we flew to Albuquerque, where we met my sister and her husband and then drove up to Santa Fe to see the rest of my family.  It was the first get together of all the sibs and my parents in quite awhile.  We had a great time in Santa Fe; we also were looking at the area because we’re considering it as a possible retirement spot once Marcia decides to retire.  After Santa Fe Marcia and I flew to Dallas to see my oldest daughter, her husband and their two children (that’s right, I’m a grandfather twice over).  We just did a patented Miller “Drive-by” visit (less than 24 hours), but I got to reconnect with Brandon (almost 3 years old) and met Ethan (1 year) for the first time.  Nice thing about being a grandfather was that I got to spin the kids up and then hand them back to their mother.

We flew back to Baltimore on Saturday and drove back to Virginia that night. 

Well those are my highlights for the month.  All is well in Northern Virginia.

I do have one question for you all though;  What happened in the 11th after I retired?  It seems like all the experienced field graders were moved out of the squadron or off base within six months after I departed.

Well take care everyone and keep in touch.

Later
DB

11 Oct and a new job!

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Yes, its true…I have a new job.  Its taken 9 months, but hey I’m not with CVS! 

 17 September SAIC called to let me know they won the contract for the AOC Training making me an AOC Training Specialist.  Even though its the AOC, it just like running a training flight in a squadron; training requirements, IQT, MQT, stan/eval/ etc.  8th AF is going through a re-organization and my shop is moving over to the AOC floor next to the 49th Test.  Actually the 49th is moving to a new location on base and the 8th AF AOC is expanding to take over the whole building.

 My hours are 80 per two weeks, no more no less.  If I work more one week, I can work less the next.  Seven holidays (actually paid ones!), plus two additional holidays at my discretion, no work on weekends or weeknights!  Yep, life just got better.  Wife is upset now…home too much and bugging her to boot! LoL

Chuck: sorry to hear how they mis-treated you at Boeing…their loss!

 Reed: no ducks yet,  but I cannot wait to try our my new Remington 11-87!

James: reading a new history book on WW1 by John Keegan – pretty good so far…

Yes, I can spend time reading again! 

Ooops, forgot to sign off.

 Until next time, take care!

Andy

11 Oct – James

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Hi BOB,
 
Chuck, this blog may be a little too high tech for me.  Next thing you know you’ll be advocating getting rid of Peachtext and 5.25 discs on our Z100s and moving over to Wordstar 🙂
 
Sorry about your Boeing job.  It may still work out just fine.  Who knows?  I’ve heard horror stories from my civilian friends about their work organizations.  One friend of mine from college who has been in mid level textile manufacturing his whole career was once sent on a two week tour of a Chinese manufacturing plant only to learn upon his return that he was let go for unknown reasons.  I guess in the AF we had to deal with the occasional so-so commander or vagaries of some MPF system, but the personnel problems never seemed that bad to me.   

We had a fairly busy month.  We traveled the 1000 miles to Whiteman AFB to see Gary Harencak’s change of command ceremony.  Gary took over from Greg Biscone who is going to be Deputy J3 at Centcom.  He’ll be busy.  Gary’s kids were in the audience.  His son, Michael, is a cadet at the Academy.  His permanent party commander is Major Kathy Winans.  What a small AF!  Bill Winans is also stationed at the Academy. 

We moved into a new apartment about 10 minutes from our old one in a growing section of Savannah.  A friend of mine with a truck helped us move all the small stuff and we hired “All My Sons” to move the furniture.  It was strange moving without going through Transportation to handle everything.  This move worked really well though.  Four guys showed up, wrapped all our furniture and drove it straight to the new place.  There was no inventory, other than mental, and the whole process was over in two hours.  There wasn’t a scratch on anything.  We were very pleased.

My father is doing okay at the nursing home.  We go daily for a few hours to feed him, etc.  After six months of observing how the nursing home works, and I assume this place is typical, I’ve learned it is vital to have a family or friend presence in the home.  It’s easy for the staff to ignore people and their needs otherwise.  Sad, but true. 

The anniversary of the Revolutionary War Battle of Savannah was a couple of days ago and there were several celebratory events leading up to it.  I attended one lecture at the Savannah History Museum on the French participation in the Revolution.  We could have done without D’Estaing, but we might still be having afternoon tea if it wasn’t for Lafayette, Rochambeau, their Navy and other resources. 

Oh, and one thing I learned this month is that it is very important to carefully thread your Maytag washer input hoses onto the water inlet valve.  Otherwise, you might strip the threads on the $22 water inlet/valve part and incur a $118 Maytag Repairman visit (He actually does work sometimes!)

Talk to everyone next month.

James

11 October BOB Ponch

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

All

Not much goin on in the So Cal except the usual daily crap that feeds my misanthropy.  Like tonight while headed home for lunch some big dude was stopped in the middle of the road beating the crap out of someone else sitting next to him in his car… girl I think.  I was on the cell phone and had just enough time to look over and gasp.  By the time I turned around to go see what could be done, they were gone.  I hope it wasn’t another murder goin on.  That’s been pretty regular around here lately.  Seems like they find a new body every night. 

Oh well prices on houses are goin down, we hope to move soon and get out of here. 

Chuck I’m sorry about the job thing.  Can’t but feel guilty about advising you to hold out for more money.  I never expected they would treat you like that.  I don’t understand how unprofessional and cheap the HR folks acted. How can they get good people to work for them if they treat folks like that. (Again the misanthropy thing gets fed)   No matter… there are plenty of good jobs out there for very talented people like you.  I’m surprised the manager that wanted to hire you didn’t call?  Well screw them anyway.  I’m kind’a in the same boat cause I’ve not heard about the Global Hawk position yet.  Mmmm maybe there is a conspiracy against old Buff guys (misanthropy). 

Oh well..on to other stuff.  Andy any ducks yet?  I have not been out quail hunting this year.  Been busy finishing the Cal Tech school thing.  Now that’s done I will start on getting my CFII.  I still have GI bill money available so I will try to work that issue.  Yuck dealing with the government to get benefits is a huge pain.  Chuck keep trying on the disability… I just found out the junior college tuition is free for kids of disabled vets. No matter what level of disability.  Of course this means going to the government with the tin cup in hand (misanthropy again).  However every little bit helps;-) 

Headed for the hills for three days this weekend.  It’s the annual CalStar Party at lake San Antonio. 

Lots of fun look’n at expensive telescopes and making fun of the weirdo’s that come down from San Francisco (vegetable Lasagna types..oops misanthropy !-) 

All if you havn’t read any of Michael Yon stuff I highly recommend it.  This weeks post is extremely moving. http://www.michaelyon-online.com/

Chuck your article on the draft was the best yet…why they didn’t post it, I can’t believe it those no good …were can I buy a sniper rifle… %#@&*…… misanthropy!!!

Peace Out!

11 Oct 2007 – The Chuck

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Alright, here we are on 10/11/07, I’m hoping our Bob Blog goes over well, but either way we’ll be fine.  Which is how I’m doing, I’m doing fine.

I’m doing fine after my debacle with Boeing.  I applied for a position with them, and they offered me the job.  However, they pretty much low-balled me on the salary offer.  I talked it over with a couple of folks, and I counter-offered.  They sat on the counter-offer for over a week, without a peep.  Then their HR department called and offered me a compromise . . . which was still a low-ball, but I had discussed it with Cindy during our wait, and decided that even if they came back with the same offier, we wanted the job and the location.  The HR manager said they would love to have me in Kansas in a week (!) but understood that it would take a little longer.  In addition, he told me that would have the lower-level, HR pogue contact me with the “official offer” the next day.  I thought that was great, so that evening I said goodbye to the tech support job, which brought no tears to my eye, and I started to scramble to get the house ready to go.  Then before I knew it, three days had passed, and I had heard nothing.

So I called, and kept getting answer machines.  Finally an HR worker that I had never talked to before answered and gave me HR 101, “if you don’t have an official offer, you don’t have an offer . . .” So it’s been about a month since then so there you have it.  At least the Boeing debacle got me out the tech support job, because I don’t think I could have quit without a good reason (not liking the job is not a good reason) because being “disloyal” isn’t a part of my psyche right now . . . the last time I quit a job was in high school, so I could go in the Air Force, then I retired 32 years later.  I’ll probably get better at being selfish over time.  I’m fine with that.

The moral of the story is whenever an HR dude or dudette is talking; don’t trust a single word they say until you have an offer in writing . . . of course, even then — they could fire you two days after you sell your house, which would be worse that a fake-job offer over the phone . . . maybe the moral of the story is to watch out for HR folks from Boeing.  Ah, those great mysteries of life, I don’t even have the moral of the story for certain, which can be bad for morale.  I’m still fine with it.

I’m fine with submitting my novel to the Amazon.com Breakthough Novel Award contest.  I’ve been collecting rejection slips for my novel The Last Dragoneer and they want unpublished novels.  Grand prize is a publishing contract with Penguin Books, who won’t even look at a non-agented writer.  So I consider this a backdoor submission.  It was nice to have a novel that I’ve edited 20 times and I’ve been refining for a year and a half.  If this goes wonderful, some time in April I’ll know something really good.  I’d be fine with that for certain.

My grandsons turned two back on the 7th.  You’d never know to look at them that they almost didn’t make it a while back.  I’m really fine with that.

I visited a few shut-ins in local nursing homes and was privileged to lead them in the Lord’s Supper ordnance.  That is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done as a Deacon.  They were very pleased that the church was visiting them.  We’re probably going to keep this “new” tradition going, so about every three months, I’ll be doing it again.  We Baptist don’t observe the Lord’s Supper very often, but it’s always a moving experience.

I still haven’t gotten a rating from the VA board.  I’m absolutely fine with letting the combat-injured vets in the front of the line, but somewhere in the 15 months since I filed with them, you’d think they would have gotten around to me.  The unspoken message to me must be “hurry up and die.”  My email query this month was long and laced with veiled sarcasm.  It’s probably about time to write somebody with more clout that you guys.

I’m hoping this Bob Blog is soon adorned with your comments and postings for this October 11th communiqué. 

In your profiles, you can set up your account to get emails from the Blog when somebody posts to the category of your choice.  I discovered that option a little late for some of you that changed your passwords in the beginning.  So if you’re not getting the announcement email, you can subscribe yourself.

FYI: You can comment on my other postings, or even make postings of your own if you want to.  If this isn’t working right, let me know and I’ll get my admin geek to make changes as necessary. 

Until we post again, take care.

The Chuck

The All Volunteer Force is an American Tradition

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

I submited this column to the Military Times back in early August.  Apparently it didn’t make the cut, so I’m posting it here

Some people have recently suggested we need a military draft.  I disagree.  The suggestion is out of sync with the historic use of the draft, current national restrictions on military end-strengths, and basic common sense.

 

During the first 168 years of our nation, the draft was used for less than ten.  The United States has mostly been defended by volunteers, with World War II being an anomaly.  Over ten million men, two-thirds of all that served during World War II were draftees.  In 1948, the draft was reinstituted in order to extract manpower from a war-weary population, to keep the expansionist Soviet Union in check during the Cold War.

 

In 1969, President Nixon established a commission to develop a plan to return to the traditional all-volunteer military.  Two years later, an all-volunteer baseline was established as pay was raised for all ranks.  The entry-level recruit’s pay went up to $307 for October 1972 from a stark $130 a month the year prior.  After adjusting for inflation, the new recruit enjoyed over 221% of his previous buying power.  An E-4, with over 4 years in service, got a 21% increase, while most other ranks enjoyed nearly a 10% increase in their buying power.  Officially ending in 1973, the longest draft in American history had lasted almost 25 years.  It has been over 34 years since the all-volunteer force has been standard operating procedures.

 

The all-volunteer force attracts the modern equivalent of the people that fought and won our independence.  They are the best and the brightest our nation has to offer.  In contrast, many people can still remember how the financially elite did the nation a service by obtaining draft deferments for their children as they attended ivy-league colleges during the Vietnam War.  Unfortunately, as the draft pulled many non-volunteers who could manage to pass the mental and physical requirements of the services, the military culture degraded, becoming less attractive to those who were truly called to defend our nation.  Possibly, the only good thing the draft did for our nation was to encourage some of our lesser citizens to flee, seeking refuge beyond our borders in hopes they would not be asked to serve anything beyond their own personal lusts.

 

It defies common logic to suggest a draft is needed when tens of thousand of qualified airmen and sailors are being required to leave service against their personal desires.  Congress establishes each service’s end strength.  When a service exceeds its authorization, they are required to reduce their numbers.  For example, in 2003 the Air Force and Navy forced thousands of “overage” people to leave.  Our military is the size it is today because our elected officials have so ordered.

 

It is true that the all-volunteer force has had cyclical problems with retention.  However, those problems were the result of a failure to maintain the 1972 base-line pay scales.  Decision makers used the power of inflation and lagging pay adjustments to shave funds off of personnel costs.  By the end of 1980, all service members had lost 17% of their buying power.  The Air Force was short thousands of pilots and the Navy was parking ships because they didn’t have enough petty officers to float them.  The nation reacted to the mass exodus and brought military compensation to where in 1993, it actually exceeded the 1972 base-line only for a short while. 

 

After the Soviet Union dissolved, the Cold War was over, and then the startling quick victory during the Gulf War, Congress reduced the end-strengths by nearly 40%, which made some sense at the time.  What didn’t make sense was a deliberate effort to deviate from the 1972 all-volunteer baseline.  History had already shown that an all-volunteer force needed a certain amount of compensation and quality of life.  Dropping below that amount jeopardizes retention and recruitment.  When 9/11 hit, the military was almost down to the pay scale equivalents of 1980.  However, retention had been manipulated during the down-sizing through the use of targeted bonuses in order to retain key career fields, while the overall base pay’s buying power continued to wither.

 

The terrorist attacks on our nation reinvigorated our best and brightest to serve, recruitment went up, separations and retirements were put on hold.  And for a while, quality of life issues took a back seat as a new generation of heroes answered the call to arms.  Our enemy’s strongholds in distant mountains and harsh deserts were rolled into a ball and buried.  With the toppling of two national governments behind us, a protracted war of dealing with a network of organized terrorists, mostly intent on undoing what we’ve started, wearies us as the nation rests safely behind our all-volunteer force.

 

As our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines deploy over and over and over to remote regions of the earth to fight, build, defend, and occasionally witness their comrades make the ultimate sacrifice, some folks look at falling retention and strained recruitment and say we need a draft.  In reality, we just need to correct back to the 1972 all-volunteer base-line.  Even after the latest targeted pay raises, the 2007 recruit’s $1,203.90 has less than 78% of the buying power of the 1972 recruit’s $307.  An E-4’s $1978.50 has a little over 87% of the buying power of his 1972 counterpart’s $445.50.  For a Major, with over 14 years of service, to equal the buying power of his 1972 counterpart’s pay, he would need a base pay increase of nearly $465 a month.  A draft is not going to fix that problem.

 

The 2007 all-volunteer force should live at least as well as the all-volunteer force of 1972.  The richest nation in the history of mankind has a mere 0.7% of their population defending the rest of them.  Certainly we can afford to provide those that serve with an American quality of life.

 

It is one thing to ask young people to offer the prime of their learning and earning years for the defense of the common good.  It is another to expect them to make a career of it, while their families’ quality of life is less than their historic counterparts.  We need to stop experimenting with trying to see how little we can compensate personnel for their military service and just accept the 1972 baseline as a fixed expense for the price of an all-volunteer military.

 

The best recruiting tool will always be satisfied career NCOs and officers.  Those who are able to, will want to be like them.  The real strength in an all-volunteer force rests in its ability to retain the volunteers who have answered the call. 

 

It just makes sense.