Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Not the John McCain you have been listening to.

There are some facts. I was a flight student at NAS Meridian, MS when Lt. John McCain was a flight instructor. By that time, he had destroyed two American air craft, an A-1 "Spad" and a T-2 "Buckeye. He was reported to have been reckless and careless when he was strapped into an aircraft. (No fear of losing his wings or an Article 32 or a DD with a daddy and grand daddy being CINCPAC) He had a reputation at Meridian of being a womanizer which might put into questions his head work qualities considering that most of the women on the base were student wives. This portion of his character was reinforced when he divorced,within months of his return to the world, the woman who had waited for him his entire stay in the Hilton .When faced with the choice between loyalty and money, he took the cash and married someone else. So much for a moral compass. As far as I am concerned, he can never be forgiven for his lack of support and outright marginalization of his Party"s candidate and his President. Three final comments? 1. He was at his most childish petulance when he refused to allow the President and Sarah Palin to attend his funeral..2. His politics were not only unsupportive of the President they were not conservative Republican values and Party Platform. 3. I would not be surprised if he was not breaking some ROE that put him into harms way and got his butt shot down. The President made a tasteless and unworthy remark regarding the shoot down of Lt. McCain.  But, again, he shows his petulance by a dramatic thumbs down on the floor of the senate killing a bill wanted by the President. He was no republican, he was not non partisan, he was disloyal to his wife and his President. With the exception of his reported heroic behavior while in captivity, I find nothing that makes him standout in any way from the other 99 petulant , egotistical, greedy and corrupt senators of the US Senate.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Actions for the Appointment of Judge Kavanaugh

Jack: I am afraid that I take exception to your para: Below are my comments to a proposed article by Jack Divine

“Bottom Line: Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to SCOTUS should be acted upon forthwith-and every senator’s vote should be based on his or her assessment of the merits of Kavanaugh’s candidacy, not on partisan pressures or presumptions about the position he might take on some future case.

This Supreme nominee is far to important to be left to the whims and corruption of any single or group of Senators. I believe that counting on Senators to assess the merits of Kavanaughs’s candidacy in this environment is a fools errand and you are no fool. They have not a single reason, other than a toddlers wailing for more milk. not to give the President what he wants. The dems want to play hard ball, then lets roll up our sleeves. No rules here, only results. Lets awaken a little Lyndon Johnson today.

Have the President put pressure on the President of the Senate and force him to announce that any Senator of any standing, select or special committees who votes against the Presidents choice for the Supreme Court will be permanently without a committee job of any kind the following day. There will be plenty of peers who would love to see this happen. Given the FBI’s penchant for partisan investigations, put the FBI on it and make careers swing in the event of failure. As for O'Connell turn his career upside down to make this work.

It all seems so surreal does it not. At this point, I would not give two cents for the moral high ground because I believe that Kavanaugh’s appointment is pivotal to the survival of this nation. The Dems want the head of our President on a stick. They have called for torching the White House with him in it. ( By the way, where in the hell is the SS.) They have marginalized his presidency, they have abused and threatened his family, they have forced his cabinet members out of public eating places because they were members of the cabinet, they have authored and pressed a baseless case of collusion with a foreign nation to rig a federal election. He has suffered the personal slings and arrows of the Ranking Member of the Senate on numerous occasion on the floor of the Senate.

So now the gloves should come off. He is the most powerful man in the world let us see him use some of it. Not for revenge, although that would be justified. Never in the history of this Nation has a President been so vilified every day of his tenure. He must do something to keep the court from becoming a tool for the conversion of the Constitution to a Communist Manifesto. The goal here is to WIN. Winning in this fight is the ultimate goal. Need to lie or ruin a career and you, generic you, lack the stones, get some from Obama. I have not seen a body count of the number of military officers he ruined during his tour. Some deserved it, most did not and the stakes were never that high.

This is heavy stuff, but I fear for our Nation. I fought for this country and this threat to the Nation needs a harsh political resolution.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

THE CONTROLS ARE FREE

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Controls are Free

"The controls are free. The wings are down and locked. The trim is set two down, zero and zero. The flaps are coming to one half. All the lights on the telepanel are out. The hook is up, my harness is locked, check yours, I am ready to go."

An act of professionalism, I suppose, but it is much more . This take off checklist, for the F-4 Phantom aircraft, is the stuff of gods and princes. It is the preamble to a declaration of intense sensory stimulation, fear pushed to the back of the conscious mind by superb training and a personal ego fulfillment unknown to most.

The preflight walk around the aircraft is often done without enthusiasm and excitement. In ever way and every day to "kick the tire and light the fire", will prove the old saw, "there are old and there are bold pilots, but there are no old and bold pilots". Your life hangs on the sleeve of the Reaper if you repeatedly show a lack of discipline that results in a sloppy and mindless rote performance.

Every input to the flight controls on the ground and in the air must be smooth but deliberate. I was taught that most inputs to the stick and throttle would require at least one if not more inputs to the throttle or stick in the opposite direction with one half the amplitude of the first input. Smooth is required at all times, but is especially important for aerial refueling, formation flying and recovering aboard the ship.

Like most professions, flying fighter aircraft is either an event that goes as planned or is an event that does not. The trick here is to ensure that you are not the primary reason for an unplanned event. In its most severe manifestation, an unplanned event that causes you to exit the aircraft before it successfully lands and comes to a full stop on all three landing gear is unseemly, unprofessional but most of all, really looks bad. Most fighter pilots would rather die than look bad. Looking bad is prevented by proper prior planning and skillful execution.

Even if you do all the things that are required and expected of you, it is still possible for you to lose control of your environment and have to eject from the aircraft. When this happens, you must, like getting bucked by a Brahma, immediately get right back on and finish the ride.

There are dozens of stories that course through my memory at present, but I will share only two.

The first story takes place in Kingsville, TX and on the USS Lexington sailing off the coast of the Florida Keys qualifying prospective Naval Aviators aboard this old but reliable ship of the line.

For weeks, we have been conducting FMLPs (Field Mirror Landing Practice) at outlying fields. We are flying a minimum of two sorties per day at remote fields scattered across the entire east Texas badlands and perhaps more sorties depending on the time of year and the amount of light available. We are in the hands of qualified experts referred to as LSOs. An LSO is a Landing Signals Officer and he expects and gets your undivided attention for every touch and go.

clip_image002

Here is the object of all the training. This is the picture you want to see. In this picture please note the mirror to the left of the landing area. It looks like its floating in the water. (Look at the close up of the mirror nearby.) In this picture, you see the mirror that is reflecting a light in front of it that projects the light out to infinity at a give angle in reference to the landing area. This beam of light is referred to as the glide slope and it is the optimum flight path of the aircraft all the way to touch down. In the picture, this light looks like an orange dot right in line with the two sets of green lights. The green lights represent the deck of the carrier. Just to the right and left of the mirror are a row of red "wave off" lights. If your approach to the carrier is hosed or the deck of the carrier is not clear, the LSO will command over the radio, "wave off, wave off" at the same time he will turn on the wave off lights by depressing a switch on the "pickle button" (see photo of me with the device in my hand and a cable going to the mirror). A wave off command over the radio or the illumination of the reds lights is mandatory. The pilot must wave off. There are absolutely no exceptions.

There are two other issues. The aircraft must be exactly on speed and lined up with the centerline of the landing area.

clip_image004clip_image006

We practice for weeks getting to see a sight picture like the one above and practice until we do it right every single time. This is show time. This is the time to man up. All the bragging, bravado, and BS comes to a halt here. You can kill yourself and lots of other people on the carrier if you screw the pooch. It is an unforgiving environment and you can lose your wings and your career right now. Looking bad is a sign of failure and it is not tolerated. There is no, I repeat, no aviation task so demanding as a night carrier landing when the weather is dog poop and there is no beach that you can bingo (low gas) to.

During the Viet Nam war, a study was made of an A-4 squadron aboard ship who were flying daily sorties over Hanoi and Haiphong (the worlds highest concentration of anti aircraft weapons in the history of aviation at any time before, during or since). The study showed that the breathing and heart rates of the pilots were at their highest when the pilots lowered their landing gear and tail hooks to land on the ship. If you have not gotten the picture that this is serious business then you have not been paying attention.

Like most of the students, I am spun up. I am afraid. Really afraid. Not afraid of the physical dangers associated with executing the landings and catapult shots, I am terrified of screwing the pooch.

Every possible problem has been briefed a dozen times and the carrier procedures have been drilled into us for so long we know no other world. We have no families and no other distractions to interfere with the focus we need to successfully navigate this right of passage in Naval Aviation.

With this intro, my first story starts.

I am in a flight of five F-9Fs lead by an instructor who guides the flight just to the clip_image008left of the carrier at about 800 feet. The plan calls for us to make a hard left turn (break) to generate separation between the aircraft, lower the gear and flaps and make four touch and go's then make six arrested landing and six catapult take offs.

For reason that remain a mystery to me, when I reach the place where I report my gear and flaps down with a fuel state, the LSO commands, "lower your hook for a full stop landing". NO,NO,NO this is not according to plan. My heart jumps into my throat and I start the process of lowering the hook while at the same time beginning to make my approach to the boat. In most aircraft, lowering the hook is a matter of touching one handle and pushing it down. Not the Cougar. The hook handle is on the right side of the cockpit extending from the instrument panel. You must grasp a "T" handle and ratchet the hook out and down by pulling on the "T" handle at least six times. Keep in mind, I am trying to accomplish the hardest task in aviation. While I am trying, I must let go of the stick with my right hand, grasp it with my left, give a couple of pulls on the hook handle and then reverse the process so I can make a power correction with my left hand. I play this dance two or three times and I finally get the hook down but as I roll out into the groove, I am way too low. I am three quarters of a mile from the end of the ship (Spud locker) when the LSO tells me to wave off. I apply full power and wait for the old engine to do its thing. I have the air craft wings level at optimum climb speed and my eyes are level with the deck of the carrier with me climbing very slowly. I am waiting for the LSO to tell me eject but I barely clear the spud locker and engage the "1" wire. I am safely aboard but scared to death. Every thing I had been briefed on is out the window. The plane handlers do not taxi me to the bow for a CAT shot but push me backwards toward the edge of the carrier. My tail assembly is hanging over the edge of the carrier with the motor still running as the deck apes chain me down to the USS Lexington, plug a fuel hose into my jet and I wait and watch. I watch as my entire team qualifies aboard the ship and then heads back to Texas for beer and back slapping. Not me, I am still chained to the deck.

But life is getting ready to get interesting. Over the 1MC (PA system) and over the radio, an announcement that the ship is changing its Foxtrot Corpen. Until five minutes ago, I did not know what this expression literally stood for. Thank you Google. The Foxtrot Corpen is the carrier's heading for optimum flight operations. So I hear this command and at the same time look at my right three o'clock and see an aircraft being man handled by about 20 able bodied seamen as they push the plane onto the forward starboard elevator to bring it to the flight deck. At the same time the captain brings the ship hard port and the boat, believe it or not, heels over to the starboard so much that the aircraft being pushed onto the elevator is picking up speed because of the ships angle. I was not kidding about the ship listing during a hard turn.

clip_image010The plane captains and deck apes start throwing chocks under the wheels to stop its movement toward the edge of the elevator and the waiting abyss of the Gulf of Mexico. I recognize the pilot who is doing his best on the breaks but is much more interested in getting unstrapped from the jet. The sailors are successful in getting chocks under both main landing gear at the same time. But fate will not be denied. As the Cougar comes to a stop, the angle of the ship and the jets momentum combine to cause the nose to pitch up. On land this would not be a problem because the tail would hit the ground and issue over. Not here. There is nothing below the tail of this jet and the aircraft continues to pitch nose up until it falls off the elevator. The pilot is a blur of motion and I get just one look into his face and all I can see in his bulging eyes is justifiable fear!

The Cougar almost completes a back flip before it hits the water. I am dumb struck. It must be having a dream. This is no dream. The aircraft does not float for a minute. I can still see the tail as it passed behind my tail. I snatch my head to the left and the plane is gone. The aircraft, replaced by a churning mass of bubbles which makes the water white. God only knows how, but the pilot pops to the surface like a wine bottle cork with his Mae West fully inflated. He has a big smile on his face until he sees the side of the still turning ship headed right at him. He rolls on to his stomach and begins a crawl that any Australian would be proud to claim. There is a roll of water that is proceeding the ship as it slides through the water and acts like a wave from the North Shore and surfs the pilot until the boat finally passes him and rolls him like a toy in the turbulence behind the ship.

The pilot is picked up by one of the ships SAR helos, returns to the carrier, the pilot is removed, with no injuries, to the Quacks dispensary and is given the traditional measure of grog. He takes a shower, gets a clean set of skivies and flight suit, briefs his return to Kingsville, signs for an A/C and launches into the setting sun. I, on the other hand, am still chained to the deck.

The air boss finally gets his stuff together and after many calls from me asking for a status, I am taxied to the CAT fired into space, trap five more times and then fly home by myself arriving after dark with no one to celebrate my accomplishment. I go by the club, but all have departed. I go home to my loving bride who makes up for my disappointment by emoting an attitude of cheerful adoration that I really don't deserve but love just the same.

Story number two.

While stationed in Chu Lai, Viet Nam in 1969, my RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) and I were chosen to fly one of our jets to Cubi Point Naval Air Station in Subic Bay in the Philippines for salt water corrosion wash down. This was a sought after boondoggle because you got to stay in the BOQ, talk to round eyes (Caucasian women), get a Cubi Special (A couple of different kinds of rum and some kind of fruit juice mixer), a Cubi Dog (A foot long with all the trimmings.), your boots polished, a hair cut, a shave, a mustache trim, a shampoo, a neck and shoulder massage, a short nap all for $2.25. We goofed off a lot, but we mostly sat around the pool, drank Cubi Specials and ate Cubi Dogs until we fell asleep and napped for a couple of hours.

An afternoon shower, clean skivies and flight suit and off to the Cubi O'Club for dinner and drinks. Mostly drinks.

I no longer remember why, but I was forced to fly my jet back to Chu Lai without my RIO. In my entire career, this was the only time I was asked by competent authority to do this.

We tied all the rear seats harness straps together so they could not get caught in anything during the one hour flight back to Chu Lai.

I got air borne late in the afternoon and when I reached 30,000 feet or so, I noted that the sun, setting precisely on my line of flight had only a sliver of sun left before disappearing over the horizon. As far as I could see, the evening sky was on fire with lots of high altitude cirrus clouds used to spray lavender, burnt orange and flame red across the firmament.

There have many times when the sights and wonders of the sky have been breathtaking and moving. Yet, they seemed a fleeting moment and left my immediate memory with little in the way of poetic verse to articulate how the senses are translated by our intellect into moments of self awareness and appreciation for the bounty that fills our days. For the most part, I chalk this up to limited life experiences. In my current dotage of 71, almost all visions I experience end up with some kind of cerebral artistic display. This is particularly bizarre since I have zero artistic abilities.

How do you describe our sun? In this episode, the sun I see is not really the sun's location. The sun is already below the horizon but its rays are bent by our atmosphere with two results. First, the light rays, bent by the atmosphere, are also passing through a planet sized prism which changes the colors to something different form what is actually being emitted by this small star. The atmosphere also makes the object look just slightly out of focus. The impact is to make the sun appear to have softer lines and the light is diffused enough to look right at it with my visor down. I find it queer that I had a desire to look directly into the center of this Hydrogen fire as if there were some cosmic secret to be gleaned from it's core.

I do not know what airspeed at 30,000 feet comes close to the speed of the rotation of the earth at the equator, but what ever it is, the sun stayed precisely where it was on the horizon from take off to a descent to landing. I had more than an hour to view this spectacle of nature and gather a meaning of some kind. I just remember it was beautiful and that I was fortunate indeed to have been able to see it. Perhaps that is enough.

This was something very special about this not too infrequent event, but I was not able to attach a meaning to my vision at the time. There was no one to talk to and the silence put my mind to other pursuits. I wish I could translate it for you now, but it's message still escapes me.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Being Presidential



Emailed to Aiken Standard for Publication  2330 16 Jan, 2018

Who Is Qualified To Define Presidential

Certainly not me nor you as well.

The sanity of anyone voluntarily running for the office of President of the US should be immediately questioned.

Acting presidential is just that acting.  There is no president who can claim to have a clue about what acting presidential actually meant for him. Would you forgive all that you hold against President Thomas Jefferson for being responsible for the Louisiana Purchase. A decision that resulted in the creation of 14 new states. Land from New Orleans to the Pacific. The Purchase was populated with 90,000 individuals half of whom were slaves. Jefferson could never be called anything but presidential.

Harry Truman, President by default and viewed as a country bumpkin, had the guts to drop two nuclear weapons on Japan to end WW II. Would you forgive the "awe shucks" attitude for the most difficult decision ever made by any US President. During his time as president, the public and press thought him far from presidential.

Being presidential, at its root, has nothing to do with outward appearances and oratory, although it helps.  What makes you presidential is what you do to improve the conditions of the American people.  If you are crude, rude and unattractive in public then your life will be more difficult.  However, if you fulfill your promises you made to the nation during your campaign then I, for one, am not at all curious if you appeared presidential while you were actually being presidential.  If your constant reversals and confusion caused by your Tweets puts you into holding the winning hand then, by all means.

Our President is completely unpredictable.  Never was there a more important personal characteristic for this job.  All want to second guess the President.  It's a cottage industry.    It is a reason why he is so universally hated by the diplomats, progressives and "allies".  They never know what he is going to do and that is to his liking for deal making. Like all successful men, the President expects the people who work for him to make his agenda happen and to be loyal.  Fail either of these test and you are history with the appropriate language.  Not fast enough in my judgment.

By the way, the language used when these "lawmakers" are not on hot mikes makes this shithole word look tame.  Did that word cause you personal angst? Were you embarrassed to read it.  Did you see a face of the racist Gus Fitch or was it a place for storage of offal.   Go to the movies much?  If you were to call me a racist for its use, I would profoundly think you a hypocrite.  Of course, I believe all those talking heads who spew the bile of racism are also guilty of the sin of hypocrisy.

The face of hypocrisy is politically correct in its diversity: "We will lead from the rear", "What difference does it make.", "I call them my five white men.", "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon".  But, best of all: https://www.snopes.com/oprah-winfrey-old-white-people-have-to-die/

The Rush To Crush the First Amendment



The Rush to Crush the First Amendment
Published in the Aiken Standard
August 21,2017


I have no tolerance for any organization or individual, regardless of their names, who preach the unconstitutional treatment of any persons residing in the US.  That should be enough to understand my position on any cult that fits the "unconstitutional treatment" group.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall said it best.  "I disapprove of what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it."  This is the essence of the right to free speech contained in the First Amendment.

Out of the violence of Charlottesville, VA not a word is heard about the rights of the white supremacist to assemble and speak in compliance with a permit that was originally approved by local authorities.  No matter how hateful their speech, absent the "Fire" in a crowded theatre scenario, they have a Constitutional right to express themselves.

But like dozens of riots across the nation over the past two years, counter demonstrators who attend from all over the US but seldom from the state in which the demonstration is held, arrive with masks covering their faces with clubs and other weapons to assault what would, otherwise, have been a peaceful demonstration.

These people are the source of the violence.  Yet no one is looking to arrest or indict these counter demonstrators.  No one in the justice department is looking to charge counter demonstrators with a variety of assault charges.  Fox news showed a board/club with exposed screws protruding from the end of the club.  Not once did I hear or view a source who would swear that this club was taken from the hands of one of the demonstrators and not from a counter demonstrator.

Press and political language has been over the top irresponsible.  I include the President in this group.  It is this rush to judgment, this use of language that can not be taken back, this weakness to face the uncontrolled mobs of the politicians and the entire fourth estate that make us vulnerable.

It is this crisis mode flamed by a repetitious press that causes us to forget our and their Constitutional rights.  Of such events are governments over thrown and replaced with tyrants.  Allow the law to give due process to the driver of the car and if found guilty of the charges, expose him to the maximum sentences available.  Keep in mind, the more the TV stations beat this subject to death, the more like minded domestic terrorist will be radicalized and their ranks swollen from all the attention.

Have faith in your Constitution.  If these wacko's from the most outlying fringes of our society had been allowed to speak, three Americans would be alive today and 20 injured would not have gone to hospital and the white supremacist dogma would not have been spread all over the world.  Recall, seldom does a fanatic give up his/her fanaticism based on some hyped-up news program or the blah, blah, blah of some vote scalping politician.

Monday, December 19, 2016

VA Budget Letter to Senator Scott


From: Gus Fitch
Colonel USMC (Ret)

To: Mr. Patrick Francescon
Legislative Aide
C/O Senator Tim Scott
520 Hart Senate Bld
Washington, DC 20510
Subj:  The VA Budgets for the last five years.
Greetings: Mr. Francescon
We have met once during a presentation of proposed legislation by Concerned Veterans for America and I stopped you at one of the monuments on the Mall this week and asked for your card so that I could send you the following:
Is there criminal activity in the following narrative?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/angry-house-members-berate-va-over-6-billion-in-improper-spending/2015/05/14/b9553130-fa59-11e4-9030-b4732caefe81_story.html?wpisrc=nl_pmpol&wpmm=1  This story is peanuts compared to what follows.  It is time that all of us demonstrate our outrage at these activities of the VA
I have been working on this discussion for almost a year and I am certain that the problems I surface are known to you or should be known to you.  Read it as you see fit, but make sure Senator Scott is acutely aware of the issue.
I would like to be clear.  My concerns extend beyond the current problems of the VA.  But the VA is an example of a Government agency that has the power to visit both good and evil on the everyday American citizen.  In our case with the VA, those who served, share a common history and perhaps a common bond in that at some point in our lives we swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and we did so at the time by serving our nation in its armed forces.  For a single hitch or a career.  In war or in peace, we did our part to the ability of our lights and gifts provided by our creator.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a retired service member, so I do not need the services of the VA at the present time.  This in no way lessens my concerns for my brother veterans.

I am assuming that some one on the staff of Senator Scott has the job of VA issues.  If you are not that person, would you kindly route the package to the proper person.  I am out of words, energy and ideas that help vets get the service they deserve so I am relying on you and your peers to make things right for our warriors.

Today the VA health care system has grown from 54 hospitals in 1930 to include 171 medical centers; more than 700 outpatient, community, and outreach clinics; 126 nursing home care units; and 35 domiciliaries.  The VA employs nearly 280,000 people and has requested a 2015 Budget of $163.9B out of a total of 3.901T.  This represents 4% of the nations spending.  Next to the Department of Defense, VA Affairs, now a Cabinet post, has a higher level of funding than any of the rest of the Cabinet departments.

We have a problem in our house.  It’s a give-a-hoot problem. Less than one percent of our population is on active duty or in the Reserves or Guard units.   What this means is that unless you have a direct relative (father, son, daughter, etc.) who has made multiple deployments to the mid east or has been killed or wounded in combat you are emotionally disconnected from the suffering of the veteran and of his family.  You may feel empathy, but there is no sense of loss, suffering or financial stress.  Without a larger population of military personnel this condition will never change, but it is not hopeless.  The term most commonly used for this condition is "Skin in the game".  Even a 25-year veteran like myself has no skin in this game. If you, are like me, believe that war (American war fighting personnel and/or equipment invades the land mass or the skies over said land mass of a sovereign nation)  is the responsibility of the legislative branch, then our current ability to apply military force to a foreign nation is way out of line with our Constitution.  However, if we are correct about the responsibilities of the Congress, then part of the duties of a declaration of war is to make sure the entire nation has skin in the game whether they like it not.  If not, then they can replace those that voted for a declaration of war.  The easiest way to do this is levy a Federal Sales tax.  There can be no exceptions because you want every citizen to wake up each morning and ask the question... is this war the right thing to do.

If you do not have skin in the game, there is a better than even chance that Iraq and Afghanistan are a long way off and have no impact on you or anyone you know.

Without this connection, its possible that over 300 million Americans find it hard or impossible to be an activist or even show interest for VA issues.  As a side note, this lack of skin in the game makes it a lot easier for the Executive Branch to initiate hostilities when he/she KNOWS that there will be no response from the voting public because the fighting, dying, suffering and unspeakable sacrifice is done by less than one percent of the population and believe it or not they do not have the support nor lobbying powers of the same people who sent them in hams way.  This apathy is dangerous.

I have been a participant recently in lobbying my state's US senators and house members in their offices to consider legislation that touches VA issues around its edges.  The legislation is not without value, but it is a far cry from reforming a unionized bureaucracy.  Regardless of what many will tell you, a voice of one without billions of dollars behind him is a voice unheard.  I should know.

There are lots of issues that you and your peers must handle each day and they all seem important.  If the government sends men and women to die and be maimed in some mindless extension of a failing foreign policy and then allows their return to society to be  anything but their first priority every day then the government's priorities and its national pride and traditions are marginalized to the  point of emptiness.

So what's to be done?  For me, I pick a single issue within the VA and make every effort to put this issue in front of folks like you.


My concern is the apparent waste, and I would presume illicit or illegal budgetary misuse of tax payer dollars.  This is not news.  This is old boring waste and theft of the taxpayers money.  I can feel the need to yawn myself.

Please hear me out!

Lets look at FedEx for a moment and consider a comparison:  You may agree that the US Marine Corps puts heavy emphasis on mission accomplishment. This skill is one that translates to the civilian world easily.  So if we look at Fed Ex's numbers, you will see a dramatic dichotomy in their comparison to the VA.

Annual FedEx Revenue
$39.3 billion
Number of packages shipped annually by FedEx
1.2 billion
Total miles traveled each day by FedEx couriers (equivalent to 100 trips around earth)
2.5 million
Number of countries and territories FedEx delivers to
220
Number of full time FedEx employees
300,000
Percent of shipped packages lost by FedEx
0.55 %
Highest Historic Stock Price Feb 17, 2007
$120.97
Lowest Historic Stock Price May 6, 1980
$2.50
Number of delivery vans in the FedEx fleet
43,000
Number of airplanes in the FedEx fleet
654
FedEx air fleet total daily lift capacity
30 million pounds
Total daily miles traveled by the FedEx air fleet
500,000
Amount FedEx paid to acquire Kinko’s
$2.4 billion in cash
Highest FedEx employee salary – IT Manager
$123,000
Lowest FedEx employee – Customer Service Representative
$10.42 / hour

The IT department of Fed Ex has a budget of $1B per year with which they control, by the minute, those activities I just mentioned and pay for all their R&D.

Now lets look at what the VA is doing.

As of 2013, there were over 600,000 out of 900,000 claims that are over 125 days old.  This is the problem that is a failure to meet standards set by the VA themselves.  Even these "goals" are arbitrary and, as you are well aware, falsified at every turn.

Here are the budget figures for IT Infrastructure and Documentation improvements from 2011 through 2015

All numbers are in BILLIONS of dollars.








Fiscal Year

IT Infrastructure
Benefit Processing
Total

FY 2011

3.3
2.2
5.5

FY 2012

3.1
2
5.1

FY 2013

3.3
2.1
5.4
16
FY 2014

3.7
2.5
6.2

FY 2015

3.9
2.5
6.4

Total

17.3
11.3
28.6


So the VA spent 16B dollars in these two categories and the backlog skyrocketed to 600,000 waiting over 125 days.  Please note that these budget request continue to this day and there is still a huge if less than 600,000 backlog.

Before he was relieved of duty/resigned, Secretary Shinseki signed a five year $12B infrastructure contract with fourteen Primary Contractors

These 14 Primary Contractors are to run its IT infrastructure project.  Half of the contractors were veteran/8(a) businesses and the other half was a whose who of Crystal City regulars. Try to imagine a project with 14 prime contractors.  When you want to know who is in charge, to whom do you go?

Director Shinseki said that the "T4" contracts…"will enable VA to acquire services for information technology programs that will help insure timely delivery of health care and benefits to our Veterans".  Wrong.

Spending 16B over those three years was not enough to do what is in the quotes.  The selected fourteen companies will compete for task orders to integrate VA systems, network and software to modernize the VA's information technology infrastructure.  Nothing in the report I read even hinted that there was going to be any effort to ensure that each of the 14 companies produce/procure hardware/software that was compatible with what the other 14 guys were doing and with what had already been done.  So after spending the $16B the systems are still not modern.  This year, the "T4" contract was turned into the "T4NG" project and applied an additional $22B over five years with a possible five year extension. It was interesting to note that in five years of Major Appropriation Issues the acronyms of "T4" or "T4NG" do not appear.  One hates to guess where this money comes from but more importantly where does it go!  A single $22B contract that has no visible funding line?

(Patrick: It is really hard to be nice and polite when thinking of those who bleed the nation of its resources for reasons of greed, rice bowl maintenance and power retention. )

A contract of this size requires a government project manager superman to keep this bunch of folks in line and to keep a $12B program from turning into a $35 B program.  Sorry, its already turned into $22B contract.  If the VA is anything like the Department of the Navy, (I was a supporting contractor for a Navy black program) there is no where near enough expertise in all 300,000 employees to even define what their IT and documentation needs are.  If there were, they would not need this contract. Here is what  the VA's Technical Acquisition Center says the goals of the T4NG contract are: "...acquire IT and Telecommunication services for program management and strategy planning, system/software engineering, enterprise network, cyber security, operation and maintenance and IT facility support".  So the VA is going to spend $28B over five years out of its normal budget process but will be adding, off budget apparently, $22B to fix, redo, modernize or some other meaningless expression to what has just been done but is totally unsat.

This much money brings out the worst in all of us.  Losing bidders before the ink was dry was challenging this contract.  The details are a repetition of most large government contracts and are ho hum in the land of the Beltway Bandit.  But this time, our wounded band of brothers is the target for getting screwed by greed, ineptitude, arrogance and the abyss of red tape ready and waiting courtesy of the existing unionized bureaucracy.

Is the status of fraud, waste and abuse so engrained in our government that our representatives seem to yawn when almost $51B dollars has or will be spent with no visible change in waiting periods for the veterans that can be attributed to what has been and will be spent?

Some where in this mess, a group of employees and contractors are directly or indirectly enriching themselves at the trough of the American taxpayer.  Should anyone in DC really want to fix the VA department, just make all 300,000 employees join the same health plan as the veterans.

So, why does no one ask the VA a couple of questions:
Show me the hardware and firmware that my money purchased.
Show me the single database software you are using for ALL of the VA.  Show me the database search engine and its ability to query every piece of data the VA owns.  For the single database, show me a list of database managers who are schooled and certified in this single database.  Are they the same people that were submitted in the proposal response to the RFP and who will stay with the project for no less than two years.
What telecommunications network?  Where is the requirement statement for such a network. How many management hours are charged to each of the 14 prime contractors.  Charges that produce not one line of code or one minute of bug testing, discovery and fix.

What if these questions have already been asked but we don't know the answers.  Answers that may have been in some email on some unknown server and erased contrary to VA and GAO accounting procedures?  Your mail, email, phone calls and personal visits must clearly show that the American public does not trust its own government.  All these negatives notwithstanding, lets keep sticking the issues with our trusty lance.

Lets assume that this money reduces the more than 125 day wait for veterans from 600,000 to 50,000.  The cost to bring each veteran out of the 125 day wait is one million dollars per veteran.  My arithmetic must be wrong.  No one would do this to America's taxpayers.

This discussion has been about a very small portion of the VA Budget.  Yet, if my observations are close, if the National Debt continues to rise past $18T, if the Fed and Treasury continue to print money based on just a promise to honor its debts, if Servicing the National Debt reaches $1T a year, if revenues do not increase past $3+T then this nation and its experiment in Democracy are in a "Clear and Present Danger".

Where you work is intoxicating.  The power, privilege and perks available to Congressmen and Senators and their staffs is far too habit forming for any normal human to withstand.  Washington is no longer the Washington of Jefferson.  Every news program points to a body of evidence that men and women who have fallen to the power of money abound in Washington's government.  This is unhealthy and unbefitting a nation of our stature.

The solution to the ills of the VA and all the rest of the departments that work with a unionized work force is to separate unions from the government.  Since this chore is immeasurably difficult and may be impossible, it is in your hands to find a way out, you are now the Best and Brightest.  Help this land that is unique in world history and help the Veterans, not with money, but with a population of vets as employees in the VA and a skipper to run the ship with the power to hire and fire at will.  He should serve at the pleasure of the President but not necessarily at the direction of the President.

Don't trust my analysis, do your own and fulfill the promise this Nation makes to each service member it deploys or sends to war.

Respectfully,


Augustus Fitch III
Colonel USMC (Ret)

References:

http://www.legion.org/veteransbenefits/218716/claims-backlog-working-group-issues-report
http://www.va.gov/budget/docs/summary/archive/FY-2011_VA-BudgetSubmission.zip
http://www.va.gov/budget/docs/summary/archive/FY-2012_VA-BudgetSubmission.zip
http://www.va.gov/budget/docs/summary/archive/FY-2013_VA-BudgetSubmission.zip
http://www.va.gov/budget/docs/summary/archive/FY-2014_VA-BudgetSubmission.zip
http://www.va.gov/budget/docs/summary/archive/FY-2015_VA-BudgetSubmission.zip