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What's Wrong With the US Defense R&D Budget?

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the loosest-sense dept.

The Military 225

Harperdog writes "Here's an in-depth analysis of what constitutes defense R&D spending and how some of those projects are classified. From the article: 'But much of what transpires in the name of military research and development is not research in the sense that it produces scientific and technical knowledge widely applicable inside and outside the Defense Department. A large part of defense R&D activity revolves around building very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required.'"

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R&D (5, Insightful)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533254)

A large part of all R&D activity revolves around building very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required.

FTFY.

Re:R&D (5, Funny)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533314)

Exactly. It R&D primarily revolved around proven, reliable technology then you've just removed both "Research" and "Development" from the acronym. May as well just call it &

Re:R&D (4, Funny)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534168)

You get a mod point from me for Funny.

From a geographic viewpoint, the & symbol always looks like "wander round in a circle until you are back where you started" symbol.

Re:R&D (5, Interesting)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534698)

In latin, "et" means "plus" or "and". You'll occasionally see "et" pop up in things like legal documents or academic papers.

The ampersand (&) is basically the current evolution of writing "et" in cursive. There are some interesting [wikimedia.org] pictures [blogspot.com] on the subject.

Re:R&D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535020)

Ampersand is a ligature for "et": a single glyph representing more than one letter.

Re:R&D (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534580)

Frankly, in some cases, the best course of action that U.S. should take with respect to its military R&D is precisely that - forget "research" and "development", and just look at what everybody else out there is using in practice.

Case in point: M16/M4 - the single most unreliable firearm in military service anywhere in the world for decades now (pretty much ever since Brits have fixed the mess that was SA80). Why? Well, mainly it's because of dubious design decisions like direct impingement that are seemingly there for the sake of being different from how literally everybody else designs their assault rifles. And if you look at the purported replacements, like FN SCAR or HK416, it's pretty much ditching that made the AR platform unique, and instead adopting what has been good practice in European gun design for a long time now (e.g. HK416 is essentially German G36 internally, just made to look and feel like M4).

Re:R&D (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535028)

I'm glad the army of my country uses steyr assult rifles then

The rot and waste aren't new! (-1, Redundant)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533374)

This reminds me about the billions that were spent on the so called space pen [about.com] . The Soviets showed us common sense, (and sadly continue to do so despite their economic troubles), by employing the time tested and proven hard black (HB) pencil.

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (5, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533410)

At least try to come up with a true example. That space pen one is bullshit.

http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp [snopes.com]

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (4, Funny)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533512)

But, But, the corporations.

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38533618)

At least try to come up with a true example.

He not only gave a bogus example: he cited a site that debunks it...;-)

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (3, Informative)

HarrySquatter (1698416) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533768)

The sad thing is that the about.com link even states that it's false.

Description: Urban legend
Circulating since: 1997 (as Netlore)
Status: False

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533790)

Bam! [gao.gov] Scuttlebutt at the time was that the system used FORTRAN and int math and had a rounding error that caused it to get progressively worse over time. Other scuttlebutt was that the scuds were so badly designed that most of the time they were fired they wouldn't have hit anything anyway. So there's a two-fer, one on either side!

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (2)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534912)

Shitty example. The Patriot system met the design requirements. If they had cared about continuous operation, they would have tested for it. Besides, it was, apparently, an easy patch.

I've never understood why people post links which refute the very point they're trying to make.

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (1, Troll)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535092)

Yeah it worked great, except that one time it didn't and everyone died.

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (2)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535124)

Yep, that's usually how technology works. Did you have a point to make?

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535136)

Besides, it was, apparently, an easy patch.

Sadly, the Scud got through because the Patriot installation at the target hadn't been patched. [gao.gov]

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38534476)

At least try to come up with a true example. That snopes site is bullshit.

There, fixed that for ya.

When do people finally learn, that just because you can find a website that states something else, but with a "we are the authority" attitude, that doesn't make it more correct!?

Also, the funniest part is, how snopes itself debunks its own statement by the end of the text:
"Lead pencils were used on all Mercury and Gemini space flights and all Russian space flights prior to 1968."
Even if they did use them later, that doesn't make the fact that a pencil is a simpler solution less true. (No, you don't have to have a problem with "lead" floating around more than you have with skin cells/hair/spit/tears/etc. floating around. If you really need to, go use one of those boxes where you put your hands inside and do it in the box so nothing can leave.)
(Not that you actually read it before using it to support YOUR personal views... Let alone doing any research of *your own*. And I won't even mention that nobody of us has ever observed any of it with his own senses. Or that even those have a uncircumventable built-in bias)

But I bet you still believe in the concept of "authority". Without ever questioning said "authority", of course.

IMO, snopes is just as untrustworthy as any other site on the net.

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (3, Informative)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535040)

Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]
NASA* [nasa.gov]
About [about.com]
Spacepen [spacepen.com]
The Space Review [thespacereview.com]
BBC History Magazin [historyextra.com]

If you've done the research provide an opposing source.

* NASA admits that they originally ordered pencils for over $100 each but backtracked. Latch on to that if you want to bash wasteful government spending, but remember they did respond to the public backlash.

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535166)

Well... there was the time the ?? army I think ?? ordered one hammer, and the company quoted a price of, IIRC, $100,000. My impression is that the company *really* didn't want to handle the paperwork involved for one hammer, but wasn't going to turn down such a big customer. The contract went through...at least until it hit the news. They may have canceled it after that. That's hardly R&D, but that was the budget it came out of.

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38533436)

The graphite dust that writing with pencils gives off is tremendously bad for electronics and breathing in zero-G environments. An ink system actually makes quite a bit of sense in this regard. Furthermore, it was developed privately and then sold to NASA.

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (2)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533652)

If you are going to link to an article as a means of making a point, it's often best to read the article. The one you link to shows that the space pen was developed by a private company at their own expense. There was never a government demand for one. Although, once one was available the government was happy to purchase them at a reasonable cost.

Re:The rot and waste aren't new! (4, Insightful)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533766)

If you are going to link to an article as a means of making a point, it's often best to read the article.

I think that statistically, this doesn't happen much here.

Pencil shavings start fires, Russians by US pen (5, Informative)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533996)

This reminds me about the billions that were spent on the so called space pen [about.com] . The Soviets showed us common sense, (and sadly continue to do so despite their economic troubles), by employing the time tested and proven hard black (HB) pencil.

Your own link debunks you:

"Be that as it may, beginning with the Apollo program astronauts did begin using a specially-designed zero-gravity pen called the Fisher Space Pen. The nitrogen-pressurized space pen worked in "freezing cold, desert heat, underwater and upside down," as well as in the weightless conditions of outer space.

It was developed not by NASA, however, but by one enterprising individual, Paul C. Fisher, owner of the Fisher Space Pen Company. By his own account, Fisher spent "thousands of hours and millions of dollars" of his own money in research and development — not billions.

The Fisher Space Pen is still used by both American and Russian astronauts on every space flight, and you can even buy one yourself direct from the company for a measly 50 bucks."

From http://www.spack.org/wiki/SpacePen [spack.org] :

"I hate to spam you, but on your quotes page you've tripped one of my pet peeves. The Space Pen. There is a common email circulating that describes how much money NASA wasted on making a pen that writes upside down, in vacuum blah blah blah. You know how much it really cost the US Gov't? Nothing. Fisher developed it at TREMENDOUS cost, all of it absorbed by them. In return they got to be the sole provider. Normally this means that they would sell these pens to NASA at some obscene amount. They charged just a few dollars. Admittedly, a few dollars for a pen was a lot in the 60's, but 1/100th what they could have charged. Fischer did this out of True Faith, True Faith that knowledge and research is its' own reward. And since that day, they have sold so many of their pens to the private sector, that they have made their money back a ten times, and still never charged that much. I have one of these pens, you can buy them at any stationary store, even Hallmark stores carry them. I recommend them, they're damn good pens.

Oh, and the bit about the pencil is true, the russians did use pencils. Remember the space station fires that they had? At least one of these, I forget which, but it caused a fatality, at least one was caused by airborn pencil shavings mixing with sensitive electronics. Their solution? Mail order Fischer Space Pens."

Re:Pencil shavings start fires, Russians by US pen (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535068)

There have been no space station fatalities at all so far, let alone any that were the result of pencil shavings. In fact the only (human) fatalities "in space" were the crew of Soyuz 11.

Better space pen citations ... (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535466)

There have been no space station fatalities at all so far, let alone any that were the result of pencil shavings. In fact the only (human) fatalities "in space" were the crew of Soyuz 11.

Yeah. That last little bit in the second quote does not match what NASA says. That the US has been using "space pens" since 1967 and that the Russians have been using them since 1969, pre Salyut, Mir and International space stations.
http://history.nasa.gov/spacepen.html [nasa.gov]

That said the hazards of broken pencil tips, graphite dust and wood shavings was a real concern with respect to electrical shorts, fires and physical hazards (ex: broken tip vs. eyes).

"Originally, NASA astronauts, like the Soviet cosmonauts, used pencils, according to NASA historians ... Pencils may not have been the best choice anyway. The tips flaked and broke off, drifting in microgravity where they could potentially harm an astronaut or equipment. And pencils are flammable--a quality NASA wanted to avoid in onboard objects after the Apollo 1 fire."
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-nasa-spen [scientificamerican.com]

Re:R&D (4, Insightful)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533556)

Exactly, the man's an idiot, especially this gem "The United States' high-technology, high-price, and high-maintenance weaponry is of relatively little value in such conflicts." What he fails to understand is that it is our high tech overwhelming advantage that forces them to use methods such as IEDs, since we ream their asses in any conventional confrontation.

Re:R&D (2)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533812)

There is also significant R&D dedicated to nullifying IEDs and much of the technology has been available for years. Google it.

Re:R&D (4, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534124)

Yes. A man that R&D lasers for the DOD, worked for national security and GAO, does not have a grasp of the US military system.

Ghoshroy is a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Program in Science, Technology, and Society. Before this, he was for many years a senior engineer in the field of high-energy lasers. He was also a professional staff member of the House National Security Committee and later a senior analyst with the Government Accountability Office.

Re:R&D (1)

eineerg (2098930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534604)

And here i was thinking they used IEds because they don't have stock piles of mines etc just lying around( or could just be easier to get hold of materials), I doubt the state of american tech had much to do with that decision.

Re:R&D (2)

1369IC (935113) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535518)

Not true. Air superiority keeps them on the ground. Weapons superiority keeps them out of a lot of force-on-force engagements. If we showed up with similar technology, they'd take us on more directly. But the obvious answers are not available to them, so they improvise. Full disclosure: I work for the Army.

Re:R&D (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534682)

Hi-tech vehicle and body armor and improved battlefield medical treatment have reduced US casualties to amazingly LOW levels. Still sucks to be one, don't get me wrong, but the author is ignorant of the military and should STFU.

Re:R&D (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535052)

Ahem. [slashdot.org]

Times like this where slashdot needs an ignorant asshat -1 mod.

Re:R&D (2)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534860)

That's not really a very good point, because it only needs to be good enough for them not to pick a conventional confrontation. Being ten times that overwhelming for a fight they're not going to pick anyway doesn't help. You don't need stealth bombers and smart missiles to beat these insurgents to a pulp, Cold War era warfare would do just fine. A much better point is that high-tech equipment does help in all other parts of the operation like patrolling and intelligence gathering and inflicting less collateral damage, not just that the guns are big enough when you know where to point them.

Re:R&D (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533772)

A large part of all R&D activity revolves around building very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required.

FTFY.

The only problem with this correction is that it isn't true. Sometimes R&D is expensive because one has to deal with expensive gadgets, materials, manpower, etc. And sometimes it's expensive because Congress decided a certain amount of money had to be spent [youtube.com] .

Re:R&D (3, Insightful)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533886)

Does free software count as a very expensive gadget? I know many form of R&D that use existing gadgets based on sound technology. Just because it's never been done before doesn't mean you need a $50M laser to do it.

A because of the lack of oversight in the DOD, questionable research gets done. But I'm not going to say that's entirely a bad thing. NSF and NASA are open to Congressional questioning about every dollar. Some Congressman is going to use important research to win political points if there's anything unusual about it. (The most famous recent case being "Effects of Major Oil Spills on the Multibillion Dollar Gulf Shrimp Industry", which is known to imbeciles as "Shrimp on a Treadmill") If someone at the Naval Research Lab or the Army Research Lab is doing the exact same thing, you'll never hear about it. The downside it there are ventures that don't have a chance in hell of working or finding anything new that get funded.

But as a researcher, if I were trying to launch a climate research instrument, for example, I'd probably be looking for opportunities on military spacecraft rather than NASA spacecraft. If a 4-star General goes to the Hill and tells Congress we need to be prepared for the strategic implications of global warming, they listen intently. If the NASA administrator says the same thing, they'll tell him we can't possibly know anything about the climate, and then cancel the project to make sure.

Couldn't agree more (4, Informative)

gadzook33 (740455) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533274)

I see this first hand every day. A big part is the government not having any engineers on it's staff and being led around by the nose by contractors every day (hence my sig).

Re:Couldn't agree more (1)

gadzook33 (740455) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533390)

Ug, I can't believe I used "it's"...sorry

Re:Couldn't agree more (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533502)

Im sold!

Re:Couldn't agree more (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38534174)

I see this first hand every day. A big part is the government not having any engineers on it's staff and being led around by the nose by contractors every day (hence my sig).

You have no business judging what is or isn't a poor expenditure of time and money in the field of R&D. If an engineer gets their best idea picking belly button lent, then they damn well better be paid to do it until they think of something (not a joke - develop something before you try to denounce poor spending in a field that to be competitive, at the cost of military failure and the detriment of an entire nation, must pursue even the most unlikely routes).

Re:Couldn't agree more (4, Interesting)

plover (150551) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534550)

develop something before you try to denounce poor spending in a field that to be competitive, at the cost of military failure and the detriment of an entire nation, must pursue even the most unlikely routes).

It depends on what you're trying to do. If you're responsible and want to conserve money, you let private inventors come up with new ideas, and let them risk their money building working prototypes. Only then do you think about investing in the ones that show some promise.

However, if you're a congressman, and your mission is to enrich the owners of the corporations in district #3A that donated to your campaign, then it's different. You rank the list of donor corporations in order of the amount they donated, and find out what they specialize in making. Say your top two donors make cotton string and brass eyelets. Then you write up a bunch of requirements for some invention that needs a net made of cotton string strung between brass eyelets, and make it sound really necessary. Invoking the safety of troops is always in vogue, so you might write up a request for a "biodegradable shell catcher to eliminate the possibility of reusing spent bullet casings as shrapnel in Improvised Explosive Devices." Never mind that the insurgents have never bothered using spent bullet casings for anything, but now you're selling cotton string and brass eyelets by the millions. The soldiers take one look at these things that show up one day and say "what the fuck are these useless things for?" Some kid figures out how to make beer holders attached to his bunk, and that's about all the action they see. So your contributors are richer, the taxpayers are poorer, and the troops have pallets of crap they don't care about shipped to bases where they don't want to be.

But by all means, let's pursue this unlikely route to ensure that brass casings are never used in IEDs again, and we can all breathe easier knowing our troops are safer. 9/11 !!! Never forget!!! O say can you see!

Or did I poorly judge these expenditures of time and money?

Re:Couldn't agree more (3, Interesting)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534924)

It depends on what you're trying to do. If you're responsible and want to conserve money, you let private inventors come up with new ideas, and let them risk their money building working prototypes. Only then do you think about investing in the ones that show some promise.

      That's a great plan. I will wait for a private contractor to come up with, say, an Earth Sensor for my satellite that is hardened against nuclear and laser attack. Then, and only then, will I decide whether to buy it or not. My military communications satellite can just sit on the ground until then, it's not like I actually need the capability.

      Brett

What's wrong? It's full of pork. (5, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533292)

Which is why we buy these expensive, unsound, unnecessary gadgets... it's congress idiots bringing money home to local defense contractors.

The DoD budget should be written by DoD administrative staff based on actual, military need, not by a bunch of congressional staffers trying to appease big donors.

Re:What's wrong? It's full of pork. (4, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533418)

This is something I have long argued for. Congress gets to determine most of what the DoD gets to spend money on without regard to what the DoD needs to have to perform its mission. And this artificially inflates the minimum required defense budget.

Re:What's wrong? It's full of pork. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38534060)

Riiiight ..

Because there could NEVER be corrupt generals involved in procurement / budgeting - only legislators.

Everyone in the army is on the up & up. 100%.

good one!

The voters are at fault too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38533492)

It has to be sexy and exciting projects.

I've brought home a contract for X F-xxs!

Saying "I've brought home a contract for repair parts and overhaul contracts!" Just doesn't sound so good.

Even with Congress at one it's lowest approval ratings in history, you will see most, if not all, of the incumbents be re-elected.

Re:What's wrong? It's full of pork. (2)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533758)

Yea that will probably be better, let the Pentagon do their contracts without any oversight, people who will jump to the private sector and work for the company they just steered that big defense contract too for a high six or seven figure compensation package as soon as its awarded. And of course they will be throwing the contract to their former bosses/generals who are already working at said contractor. The defense/security/industrial complex is riddled with corruption all the way through, it isn't just Congress.

Pretty good new article in The Atlantic, The Tyranny of Defense Inc. [theatlantic.com]

Just look at Lockheed Martin's F-22 and F-35 programs for sterling examples of why the U.S. is going broke buying weapons we really don't need, that don't work right, cost vastly more than Lockheed said they would when they won the contracts, and are years to decades late being delivered. Cost plus contracts are basically letting Lockheed loot the U.S. Treasury.

Expensive, late, too high tech and 150:0 kill/loss (4, Interesting)

drnb (2434720) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534628)

Just look at Lockheed Martin's F-22 and F-35 programs for sterling examples of why the U.S. is going broke buying weapons we really don't need, that don't work right, cost vastly more than Lockheed said they would when they won the contracts, and are years to decades late being delivered.

For those too young to remember. Those were *exactly* the same complaints made about the F-15 back in the day. You know the F-15, the fighter that has a 150 to zero win/loss aerial combat record.

Re:What's wrong? It's full of pork. (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533976)

I think its hard to define 'actual, military need'

I would certainly support slashing the entire military spending by 65%, keeping us on top but not so over the god damned top.

You can spend money or spend blood ... (1)

drnb (2434720) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534678)

I think its hard to define 'actual, military need' I would certainly support slashing the entire military spending by 65%, keeping us on top but not so over the god damned top.

I'm certainly against waste and fraud but 65% sounds like you may be trading blood for gold. Making it an unfair fight saves US lives, merely being on top may be too close to a fair fight.

Re:You can spend money or spend blood ... (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534826)

My thoughts too. If someone thinks they could stand a chance of winning, they might actually try.

Being hopelessly unbalanced is a near-guarantee of lasting peace.

Re:What's wrong? It's full of pork. (4, Informative)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534862)

"The DoD budget should be written by DoD administrative staff based on actual, military need, not by a bunch of congressional staffers trying to appease big donors."

Don't presume the cliques in DoD have the OVERALL best interests of the troops in clear focus and aren't fighting over DIFFERENT rice bowls.

We went to war in Iraq with SOFT-SKINNED support vehicles and HMMWVs despite the lessons of Viet Nam and Somalia. Troops had to RE-learn how to build gun trucks, and RE-install gun shields on our APCs.

SFC Paul R. Smith died firing an OPEN machine gun from an unprotected M113:

http://www.combatartfund.org/Images/MOH.PatrickHaskett.jpg [combatartfund.org]

(Most of the ACAV armor kits were REMOVED from M113s in the US inventory before it was realized Iraqis figured out what the VC did in the battle of Ap Bac many years ago. They are back, with the addition of TAGS windowed gunshields. As for the anti-RPG bar armor so common now, it was invented in the 1960s but rejected because it got tangled in Southeast Asian jungle. Tested on an M113, it was forgotten for decadesâ¦)

Viet Nam 113 with gunshields:

http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2570/4115742434_26c7ccf501_z.jpg [staticflickr.com]

EARMARKS helped field uparmor kits, MRAPs, armored trucks, etc which save many Soldier lives. The stopgap HMMWV armor kits were better than nothing, but HWWWV are still merely light trucks and not armored fighting vehicles like MRAP.

The military is complex and so are its internal politics. If you want ethical earmarks, ask for oversight, but they've done a lot of good.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2007-09-03-congressmrap_N.htm [usatoday.com]

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/sen-lindsey-graham-defends-certain-congressional-earmarks-us-military [cnsnews.com]

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38533298)

Wow, You gave no actual examples of waste. There is a reason why a small percentage goes to universities. The universality system knows little about practicality. AS we all know.......In theory it should work....In practice it doesn't!

I WAS A MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX (2, Informative)

wonderboss (952111) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533330)

I WAS A MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX—article ARTHUR T. HADLEY
Playboy May 1979 Magazine
ISSN: 0032-1478
Volume 26 Issue # 5

Who was the centerfold? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38534260)

I WAS A MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX—article ARTHUR T. HADLEY Playboy May 1979 Magazine ISSN: 0032-1478 Volume 26 Issue # 5

A more practical citation would have just mentioned who was the centerfold.

Re:Who was the centerfold? (1)

wonderboss (952111) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535312)

Michele Drake (born February 7, 1958 in La Jolla, California).

You can look up the images on your own.

whats really wrong (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38533360)

The majority of the funding goes to ridiculous rules, regulations and policy's in the DoD. There's no incentive to be efficient but tons of politics to set rules. So to buy a computer mouse, it has to go through a 5 level approval process all the way back to DC and takes 2 months. I wish I was joking.

Re:whats really wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38534522)

No joke, it cost my org $725 to buy a 5-box of Microsoft USB mice, vice the normal $36 I could pick it up at Frys. All purely regulation and overhead. I'd like to know who you are blowing because it took us 4 months for the order.

Re:whats really wrong (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38534652)

I've been part of the military-industrial complex for the past ten years. The real waste is not in risky projects that sometimes fail. We need more of that, especially as today's wars wind down and we reset the force to handle a full spectrum of threats and missions, from terrorism to a major conflict with a "near peer" competitor like China or Russia.

The real waste is in the mind-numbing, innovation-stifling bureaucracy. For every person (usually a contractor, despite the bad press) trying to actually *do* something, there are 10 people (government and contractor) worrying about budgets, funding, politics, endless layers of architecture and governance, ineffective security protocols, and, most of all, territorial "rice bowls." Almost every time I've tried to actually *do* something, I would promptly run into someone who claimed that it was their responsibility:

"OK, great! The war fighters I'm supporting need a thing that does exactly that. What do you have?"

"I have this PowerPoint presentation that shows my charter, my org chart, my budget, my made-up timeline, and some hand-waving architectural diagrams that don't even meet the [overwrought] DODAF standards never mind speak to the actual need."

"What about the actual [widget]?"

"It should be done in 2017."

At this point, an actual military officer (not a civilian bureaucrat), usually with boots-on-the-ground combat experience, points out that the present wars will be over in 2017. He already knows that I could build a 70% solution in a few weeks if people would just get out of the way. We depart, shaking our heads in disgust.

But woe be unto us if we try to solve our own problem or find someone else to help us. The bureaucrat, marking time until his retirement in 2016, safely before his project craters in 2017, will raise holy hell: "Hey, it's my job to not do that!"

The lack of technical guidance and leadership is also appalling. Some new initiatives are improving this, but too often there are no concrete guidelines at a hands-on technical level to even follow. The technical leadership role is in the hands of career bureaucrats who know their way around the org chart, but haven't a clue about the tech. Compare this to an environment like Google App Engine or the various Web 2.0/Web services ecosystems around Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and the like where your options are clear, there is tangible guidance on what you can and cannot do, and can often go from zero to an end-to-end proof-of-concept in a few days, if not hours.

I've tried to help, but I can't stomach it anymore and am executing a "strategic re-deployment" to the Internet/mobile consumer and professional market, where innovation and agility is welcomed, nigh demanded, instead of smothered.

Well... (4, Interesting)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533372)

It's all about scamming up those DoD contracts. Who cares if they ever deliver a viable weapon system, they can make payroll with feasibility studies all day long. The most hillarious of the 'urban legend' proposals I ever heard of was a couple physicists talking at a party during the Ronny Ray-Gun years, when 'Star Wars' funding was damned near bottomless. Their idea was, develop a tachyon beam weapon, deployed in space, that would shoot down enemy missiles 20 minutes before they were launched.

Rumor has it, they copped a cool 50 mil for a feasibility study before somebody at the Five-Sided Funny Farm figured it out.

Re:Well... (1)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534298)

That's brilliant. I wonder if it'll work again...assuming of course it already didn't happen in the future.

That is research (5, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533484)

'But much of what transpires in the name of military research and development is not research in the sense that it produces scientific and technical knowledge widely applicable inside and outside the Defense Department. A large part of defense R&D activity revolves around building very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required.'

I thought that was the definition of practical research?

Copyright © 2011 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Oh no, it isn't research in the pure scientific sense. It's the damned military: they don't do research in the sense you want. In the practical field, a failure is a success, of a sort. You now know what doesn't work. I mention this because TFA specifically brings it up. The military did a missile test that failed, and called it a success because it was the first of it's kind, and now they know what went wrong and how to fix it. TFA criticizes them for it. Maybe the program is a waste: faulty arguments like that do little to convince me of it.

There is a crapload of waste in the defense department, but this doesn't exactly seem the most sound way of attacking it. And as producing little of value: well, I'm not exactly in a position to judge, but things like the Keyhole program, GPS advancements, UAVs, even the F-22 (as bloated as it was) seem like they are pretty valuable. And that is all we know about: the stealth helicopters that were supposedly used in assassinating Osama seem like, well, like a massive advantage.

I'm also aware that Mr. Subrata Ghoshroy is far more well informed than I am. This just seems like a really lousy argument.

Re:That is research (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533698)

"There is a crapload of waste in the defense department, "

I hear that; but whenever an example comes up, it's bullshit; usually a person not understanding something, or an outright lie.

I'm not saying there isn't 'waste', but I have yet to see real waste. I have yet to see any Federal program have more waste the the private sector. I mean, holy crap.

Re:That is research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38533936)

> I have yet to see any Federal program have more waste the the private sector. I mean, holy crap.

Want to give examples? I, like you, have yet to see real waste.

Re:That is research (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535508)

Nationally-recognized retail company's in-house store design department decides that commissioning highly realistic 3D flythroughs of a typical store will somehow help management training (!) or cut costs associated with site visits (!) at a cost of $XX,000.

They pay a 50% deposit to us (a 3D production house).

They than fail to send the necessary information for six months, then inform us that they've switched store fixture vendors so all their fixtures are being redesigned and they have no information to send.

It is now eight months later, we're holding a nonrefundable ($XX,000 * 0.5) of their money, and have little confidence they will ever get around to providing information, much less asking for a milestone or deliverable.

Re:That is research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38534848)

I have seen many examples of waste, and intentional waste at that. I watched one of the DOD areas I was contracted into speed 100's of thousands of packaged software just too ist it on a shelf in a store room as an easy way of spending the last of their budget for the year so they would not look overfunded and get a cut the next year.

Re:That is research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535476)

You never worked in a big corp...

Re:That is research (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38533762)

"I mention this because TFA specifically brings it up. The military did a missile test that failed, and called it a success because it was the first of it's kind, and now they know what went wrong and how to fix it."

No, the article doesn't say that at all. The article says: "When the $100 million test of a ground-based missile defense system failed PDF in 1997, the contractors called it a "success" because there were no benchmarks." You're making things up, which means I probably shouldn't have bothered to read the rest of your post, but I did anyway.

The issue is that the government spends too much money doing "research" that isn't actually research. The military is treating piss-poor engineering projects as "research" when they are, in fact, projects. It's the equivalent of Boeing spending an enormous amount of money on a new plane and calling it "research" rather then "building a new plane". There is a difference because building something new based on already proven principles is not research, even if it is an improvement over a previous device.

The entire article says that there is not enough money spent on actual research and too much spent on things disguised as research.

Re:That is research (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534052)

This. I RTFA and I got the same result. Projects hidden under research budgets plus contracts to do the same, with no oversight. Sounds like wasted resources to me.

Re:That is research (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534316)

A classic example is payment upon the successful completion of a test.

Scientists types therefore design a test, run through the test procedure, collect data, pronounce "the test was a success".

Unfortunately the test completely failed to achieve the desired result, but that's NOT what they were paid for.

No kidding (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534032)

The thing to attack in terms of defense spending is wasteful spending, or just over all spending levels. There are plenty of times when the military buys or develops things it doesn't need, or gets ripped off by contractors. Also you can make a very valid argument that we simply have more military than we need, that we should downsize it and spend less.

However that the R&D gadgets often fail? Well duh. The military is willing to do real, long term, R&D which often means a ton of failures before you have success. It can be very lengthy, expensive, have lots of false starts, and so. That is life when you are doing long term research.

However for all that, we get things that are often useful, and not just to the military. GPS and the Internet would be the two greatest recent examples. GPS in particular because it was the kind of thing no private enterprise would try. Massively expensive and hard to do, and yet now it is the navigation system used the world 'round, everything else is a fallback for if GPS fails. It is so important that Europe has recognized the need for one outside of US control and for all that the technical and monetary challenges have been enough they STILL haven't gotten theirs working. Yet the military did it, and back when nobody had done it before.

I don't mind failures in any R&D. They happen. All I mind is waste. If the military tries to develop something it needs, like say a better rifle, and fails, I'm ok with that. I'm ok with them continuing to try until they get it right. Where I get annoyed is if the military spends money on something they don't need, or more often if contractors rip them off on the things they get.

Re:That is research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38534084)

You can research something like the F22 without building it. In my opinion the F22 was a massive R&D success however it should have never been put into production as it was too expensive and the nation has no practical need for a plane this advanced at this time.

It would in my opinion be better to scrap the F22 and begin work on the F23 or whatever.

It's real (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38533522)

As someone who made one of those expensive gadgets for DoD on a research and production series of events, I can say even those things that work are not admitted to in a way one would say, good job sirs. I made an egress rocket motor that took its mil pilot and its involuntary high value passenger in a vertical trip to a chute ride to an egress point a couple of miles outside of the hot zone. I am not allowed to know how many were transported or what the success rate was, but the reorders indicate it in fact worked.

One cannot infer the success of classified programs from public info. That is done to confuse our enemies. get over it.

P.S. Buy more uber-proximate rockets!!!

JJ

Two sides to this story (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38533546)

On one hand, yeah, of course the stuff fails to perform. That's why it's research. That's why it's experimental. For every "Fat Man" there's a "Thin Man [wikipedia.org] " that didn't work. On the other hand, just how much of this stuff is wasteful pork and how much of it is really needed even if it does work?

De facto government spending: (3, Insightful)

ockers (7928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533696)

"...very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required..." Somehow this reminds me of the new TSA budget too.

Mars (2)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533704)

So, how many times you recon can a manned mission to Mars move back and forth between Mars and Earth under a $76 billion per year budget?

That is seventy-six BILLION dollars, of which twelve BILLION are JUST for research. Per year.

It's the same with all government spending (1)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533720)

The goal of every government agency in any given year is to need 10% more funds than their current budget. You always need more, and never less, because cuts to your budget will mean you are under greater scrutiny the next fiscal year.

So you throw money at every half-baked idea the lab coats present. If something works out, great. If not, that just clearly shows that you need a greater budget next year, since more money = better ideas.

I Have an Idea! (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38533832)

What if we developed a catapult to hurl FLAMING GOAT HEADS at our enemies? You don't look very interested... Well what if that catapult were NUCLEAR POWERED! Ahh... Ahhh... now we're getting somewhere! Testing can start as soon as I can find a source for thousands of goat heads!

Re:I Have an Idea! (1)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534340)

Testing can start as soon as I can find a source for thousands of goat heads!

Duh. Thousands of goats. Distributed over influential congressmen's districts, of course.

Re:I Have an Idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535032)

You could find 535 of them in Washington D.C. at the Capitol. It would be a start anyway.

Re:I Have an Idea! (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535530)

you're confused, goats don't bray heee-haaaw like those D.C. critters.

More viable idea: have it do non-defense research (3, Insightful)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534016)

I think one of Obama's best ideas was to have DoD do research on solar energy. Like many of his talking points, it was not implemented.

What does solar energy have to do with defense? Well, nothing. But you know what? We have a giant defense infrastructure and do you really think we can take it apart easily? No, we should just re-purpose it.

The US economy is based on Military Keynesianism. (Which is an economic policy based on the acknowledgement that the New Deal works, but Americans hate all that mushy helping people bullshit. The drawback of implementing Keynesianism through military spending is that it generally does not produce anything of value, so it is a policy based on the broken window fallacy. ) If they take apart military spending overnight, the whole world's economy will collapse, so they just need to shift it.

Re:More viable idea: have it do non-defense resear (1)

hax4bux (209237) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534288)

Solar energy has everything to do w/defense. More self sufficiency means less stuff to bring.

Re:More viable idea: have it do non-defense resear (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534838)

Because acres of solar cells are more defendable than a small generator / reactor.

Re:More viable idea: have it do non-defense resear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535140)

That's why it's called "research", fucktard.

Re:More viable idea: have it do non-defense resear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535454)

I suspect that such a system would be developed in a way that minimized single points of failure, much the way that the Internet was. While it is nigh impossible to protect every last panel and generator, it's unlikely that a non-nuclear power would be able to threaten more than a few percent of capability, even if intelligence and the police let them have their druthers.

This would be a large improvement over the current state of affairs, where large scale outages are quite possible without enemy intervention.

Re:More viable idea: have it do non-defense resear (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38534358)

Alternative energy such as solar power has a lot to do with defense. Nearly everything runs on oil and if something happened in the middle east and we lost our main oil supply it would only be a matter of time before our economy collapsed when gas prices go through the roof. This is why we are spending so much to keep peace in the middle east now, imagine if we took that money and put it towards R&D on other alternative sources of fuel and came up with something that worked just as well as oil. We wouldn't give a f*ck what happened in Iraq or Afghanistan or South America and would save all the money from all these wars.

Re:More viable idea: have it do non-defense resear (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534570)

Nearly everything runs on oil and if something happened in the middle east and we lost our main oil supply it would only be a matter of time before our economy collapsed when gas prices go through the roof.

Considering that country that America imports the most oil from is Canada, perhaps as an alternative you could just not prevent them from building new pipelines to supply more oil to you?

Re:More viable idea: have it do non-defense resear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38534512)

Actually, the DoD uses solar energy every day. They have used solar panels in Afghanistan to power electrical devices in the field so they don't have to haul fuel to power generators. They still have to haul fuel, just not as much of it as before. The solar panels work, but come with their own set of problems (more routine maintenance, vulnerable, etc.).

The DoD is also spending a lot money on alternative energy sources like biofuels. Look it up. There was even a controversy about it in the MSM. Seems were spending $10s of dollars on biofuel rather than less on regular fuel. Some people wondered if that was an appropriate use of money.

Re:More viable idea: have it do non-defense resear (1)

1369IC (935113) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535490)

Just one example [army.mil] . There are others, but I'm not at work to have easy access to anything. Power and energy in general is a major push for the Army, and they've worked on hydrogen, solar, better batteries, etc. Full disclosure: I work for the Army R&D command in public affairs.

Engineering also falls under R&D (3, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534044)

In other words someone just discovered that R&D is not merely basic scientific research but also engineering.

Not Exactly An Impartial Observer (4, Interesting)

BobandMax (95054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534240)

Mr. Ghoshroy has a long record of disagreement with Defense contractors and programs. I am not saying that he is wrong on this one. However, other people do say that he is. To accept Mr. Ghoshroy's assertions without adequate rebuttal or background knowledge is, well, ignant. Note also that Mr. Ghoshroy has been very happy to allow some well known anti-defense agitators to exploit him in the name of making his case. This really has the smell of a personal vendetta. He may be right, but his approach does his credibility no good.

http://www.nriinternet.com/NRI_Sciectists/USA/A_Z/G/Subrata%20Ghoshroy/index.htm [nriinternet.com]
http://openmediaboston.org/node/1084 [openmediaboston.org]

Huh? (1)

KBehemoth (2519358) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534854)

FTA: Basic research funding is intended to support "fundamental" scientific research that has ostensibly no connection to developing a specific weapon system. This category is the principal source of Pentagon's largesse to universities. And whether the nation should continue to spend huge sums of money in defense R&D, especially at universities, is an issue worthy of debate.

So we should *not* spend defense R&D money at universities, where it has arguably the highest chance of benefitting the public? M'kay.

Biggest problem (3, Insightful)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535112)

The biggest problem is it's used to destroy stuff, not to build things up, heal or cure.
I don't mean this to troll or flame. It goes for any "defence" budget.
It's money I'd rather see spent on healthcare, education, science.
Hell. Even handing out food to those who really need it is a better use of that money.

Re:Biggest problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535452)

Hi Fuzzums,
I honestly don't mean for this reply to be troll or flame either. You seem to be under the impression that using that money for purposes other than defense will make the world better. Or that the money can be used in such a way that it's use as "defense money" is not needed. I.E. the "why can't we all just get along and we won't need to spend money on all these guns/ammo" premise. I'm sorry Sir but the world does not work that way.

The world is made up of people and countries who are only interested in themselves and their needs. There are exceptions of course, but the other 99% of the world is only interested in themselves. And a great many of these countries and people hate, repeat hate, the United States, its people and it's values. And would like to do us harm. On can debate whether or not they should hate us or if they have a good reason to hate us but that is left to another discussion. The fact is is that they hate us.

Now these people/countries who hate us and would like to do us harm are significantly hampered by one small fact: If they attack us, will will attack back. And we will KILL more of them. So the sane countries/people, with fairly intelligent people, don't attack us.

I'm sorry, but that's life. One can debate on whether or not the amount the US is spending on defense at the present time is too much, too little, or just right. But only an un-wise person spends nothing on defense.

Breaking News!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535310)

Study shows U.S. government is wasteful!!! Details at 11.

An aspect you're forgetting... (2)

Hellasboy (120979) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535364)

It's how much is funneled back into the DOD.
I worked at a government research center and ~40% of all our funding that was awarded to us for research went back to the DoD in the form of non-lab associated salaries and renting space.

How? Extremely high facilities payments (you wouldn't believe how much it costs for space in an 80 year old research facility), administration (you pay for secretaries, their supervisors, anyone within a mile of your lab, it doesn't matter if you need them or not), soldiers (you can request not to have a solider, but then you might not get all your funding - and while a soldier gets 22k a year, the government takes ~80k for their 22k)

I work at the Army R&D command... (3, Interesting)

1369IC (935113) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535388)

Full disclosure: I do public affairs for the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

I can't speak for the other services, but the Army created RDECOM about 8 years ago to make RD&E work better for Soldiers. One big task is having what they call a balanced portfolio that spans basic research through engineering work. The command has more than 16,000 people, more than 10,000 of them civilian engineers or scientists. A lot of smart people put a lot of thought into this. It is not transparent, even to me, for a lot of reasons. Some of it is secret, but some of it is just so particular to the military, or even one part of the Army. For example, under-body explosions. There's a lot of research into head-on collisions, etc., but who else would need to study how to protect people from an under-body explosion? And how transparent is that, and should that be, to people outside the military? And who else is going to work on a material that might be suitable for that kind of thing? And how, pre-Iraq/Afghanistan, do you see that coming as the next big threat or design a research program that can respond to something like that which no one sees coming?

Which is not to say none of our research transfers into the civilian economy, for example flexible display technology, robotics and nanotechnology. We're working on moving our basic overview onto the web, but it shows we have more than 1,000 partnerships of one kind or another with everything from universities and foreign defense agencies to individual researchers and at least one time two guys in a garage.

As it happens, the Army just finished another study on how RD&E should work. The results should be out soon and may mean some level of reorganization. Stay tuned if you're interested.

The color of money (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535422)

If you can't explain 6.1, 6.2,6.3, and 6.4 money, then you have no right to make a comment about military R&D
6.1 money is basic research. GUT, life the universe and everything. This pretty much doesn't exist anymore. The stuff we're building now is based on 6.1 research from the 70's to the 80's
6.2 money is to take basic research results and explore it further. Since 6.1 money is gone, 6.2 money isn't relevant.
6.3 money is to take stuff that turned up in 6.2 research and develop an exploitable application with it. Because there's stuff that was developed with 6.1 and 6.2 money 20 years ago, there is still some 6.3 money being spent.
6.4 money is to take results from a 6.3 exploration and build a prototype with some testing. This is still going on.

So if the author is saying we're spending on 'useless stuff', well that's true. Trust me, there's a lot of 'useless stuff' that you have to go through to find the 'useful stuff'. I've been in DoD R&D for 30 years. Don't blame the government for that, it's just the way R&D is.

The problem is, DoD stopped R&D 6.1 spending 20 years ago. They figured the contractors would do it. Instead, the contractors didn't see any purpose in R&D because it didn't pay off within two-5 years. Ten year payoff was out of the question. All that's left is 6.3 and 6.4 tasks. No one in the US is spending large money on 6.1 and 6.2 tasks. We're cannibalizing our future.

R&D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38535440)

Research means working in unproven areas, and Development means just that - developing the findings of that research in areas that you are interested in. I remember prior to the first Gulf War the same nay-sayers were screaming the technology that destroyed a lot of the best the Russia had to offer, was worthless and unproven... Till it decimated that technology, and showed the Russians that in a real conflict they would be toast. That led directly to the fall of the Soviet Union.

I for one get tired of the morons screaming about things their pea-brains cannot comprehend. Military R&D is a heck of a lot more productive than feeding people who sit on their a** and complain. Let them starve if you want to save money - I've found that hunger is a very productive motivator. Want to balance the US budget - cut all of those worthless social programs and put the money into NASA and other areas of Research - that is a heck of a lot more productive than the so-called social programs which just produce more criminals and another generation of worthless dead-beats.

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