Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pournelle CAS Fail

Surprise! Old Army Vet and SF writer thinks like a 'Grunt'. 

Jerry Pournelle's 'abolish the AF crap' is bad enough (based upon some 'conversations' he once had and a selective picking over of Carl Builder's [1] Masks of War), but the uncritical regurgitation of the standard 'Army' A-10 fanboi theme was too much.

If you've read much of Pournelle's work, you'll often find a lot of brute force military action up close and personal (very 'Army'). So in a way this is kind of to be expected. But one would think an accomplished SF writer would have a little more imagination than having the AF keep flying low and slow in an obsolete aircraft, Pournelle strikes me now as just another old cynic without a clue.

I know where he could find one or two, but if he got this far (he's in his 80s fer cryin' out loud) without being able to conceptualize a near term future with a better way to perform CAS or understand the reasons for the different services, given how the recent advances in the application of force provide evidence that we can become more precise, lethal, while lowering attrition on the good guys, then there's little hope of little old me making the geezer see the error of his ways. I won't even go into his throwaway lines about unmanned vehicles, except to observe he hasn't a clue about where they are in their evolution and where they need to be to replace most manned combat aircraft.
I read all of Robert Heinlein's work that I could get my hands on until he had his near stroke and wrote that POS titled 'The Number of the Beast'. I waited for and picked up a copy the first day it was out. I was enjoying it until right in the middle it took a hairpin turn from soft Science Fiction right into pure effin' fantasy. Sorry, parallel universes are one thing--parallel universes with an Oz (literally) is another. I now suddenly find myself not interested in ever picking up another Pournelle work after this demonstrated lack of thoughtfulness much less imagination.

[Note 1] I'm a huge fan of Builder. His writings and analytical methods as well as his insight into many things was awesome--like a Glenn A. Kent without the military experience and extra insight, But he had blind spots like everyone else, especially when it came to the 1960s-70s Army.  I learned much about the blind spots (among many good things) from one of my mentors who worked with and was a friend of Builder pre-RAND: the late great Gene Ostermann (whom most have never heard of, but probably should have).

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reuters & Lockheed Martin: Pick a Headline, Any Headline

Separate the Hacks from the Pros

'Reuters': Hacktastic 

I did my usual Google for F-35 news this AM and spotted a Reuters article about LockMart's quarterly earnings. Fine. What caught my eye first was the graphic:
I noted the title only in passing.

This evening I repeated the search, and saw the same graphic, only there was also a different headline attached:
 I went looking for the first headline and found it at Business Insider with a short blurb instead of an article (source of the first graphic above) but still attributed to Reuters:
Here's a bigger shot of tonight's article:

So what gives? Did a new quarterly report revision/update come out?


It just took Reuter's editorial staff a little time to decide how the wanted to report the news. How is everyone else reporting it?...

I see sides drawn here. 

The electronic rags the 'bizness' types follow seem to take the positive bent. The yellow journalism ratholes pick the negative. 

Note that while "sales rose", "earnings were weak", but the LM folks 'beat' the estimates (which is what you always want to do), and the F-35 has 'higher' demand. 

Note: There is an unusual factor involving an accounting change due to tax law changes (surprise) that moves money from one column to another and shifts the earnings downward. It's affecting a lot of companies. [sarc] I'm certain Reuters explains it rationally in their 'revised' article [/sarc]

Full disclosure: To the best of my knowledge I own ZERO Lockheed Martin Stock, but some may be in some fund or another that is managed for me.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Loyal Babblers, Pawns, Fellow Travelers, and the Old Guard Losers of the ‘Military Reform Machine’

How to tell who the Faux Military Reform Players are and the name of the ‘Show’… Since they won’t give you the REAL program.

Like many, I frequently begin the day perusing the web over coffee. One of the things I often check for these days is ‘breaking news’ about the F-35. My main interest in keeping on top of the F-35 story has little to do with my past or current associations with the program (contrary to the Crack Circumstantial Ad Hominem Suicide Brigade’s belief). I expect soon I will be shifting to the next big ‘target’ of anti-defense crowd: the Next Gen LRS program just because it will BE the big target like the F-35 today.

Usually, the legionnaires of manning their remote keyboard outposts around the globe have the ‘latest and greatest already posted’ before I’m even awake, and I need go no further to find a trailhead for the day’s trek through F-35 Newsdom. Sometimes though, I’ll just ‘Google’ “F-35 News”. Early yesterday just the other day that tactic yielded a ‘jackpot’ of sorts. I’ve been working on a “transonic acceleration” post in the little free time I can find, and will have it up eventually, but I’ve had a post on the back-burner even longer looking for just the right platform on which to roll it out. Today, er Yesterday, I mean TWO THREE FOUR days ago was “THE DAY”… (Delay explained in blub at end of post)
Brad Plummer
'Serious' (Just not when
it comes to "Defense") 
The Great Google spit this article out right at the top yesterday that morning. It’s a pretty vapid lamentation, written by some tech-deficient ‘writer’ named Brad Plumer. The article is titled “This military program lost 100 times as much money as Solyndra — yet no one talks about it”. The article has since begun descending to its rightful place in the deepest depths of Google anonymity. It is also hardly worth mentioning anything in detail about the ‘piece’: Brad does a lousy job trying to draw an analogy between the F-35 program cost increases to Obama’s Poster-Child-for-Crony-Capitalism, aka “Solyndra!”, and he loses all credibility when he reveals he based his overwrought title on an Atlantic ‘piece’ by James Fallows (introduced in some detail to regular readers here), opening with:
James Fallows has a long, excellent essay in this month's Atlantic….
That is our first clue….that Brad doesn’t have one.

I say Brad’s title was “overwrought” because, to quote ‘Brad’, “Fallows estimates that taxpayers could end up losing 100 times as much money on the F-35 as they did on Solyndra”. Annnnd…to quote Brad quoting Fallows:
Total cost overruns, losses through fraud, and other damage to the taxpayer from the F-35 project are perhaps 100 times that great, yet the "Solyndra scandal" is known to probably 100 times as many people as the travails of the F-35.
Setting aside unsupported allegations of ‘fraud’, in what reality do “estimates” and “perhaps” translate into a definitive statement of fact, ESPECIALLY when drooled out of Fallows' pie-hole? To be fair, ‘Brad’ probably had an editor write the title – writers often suffer the editor's imprimatur. If so, then Brad’s editor is a worthless producer of Bulls***. Brad is a worthless producer of Bulls*** for writing the rest of the worthless ‘article’. From his portfolio of writingit appears Brad has his own agenda for using Fallows ‘piece’ in his interpretive dance-cum-journalism routine. If so, that makes Brad an “Opportunist” and a “Fellow Traveler”. In the ‘Reformer’ sense he is merely a “Pawn” but he could with time work his way up to "Loyal Babbler" if he minds his manners (more on these characterizations later). But Brad’s electronic effluence is only the quick first stop on this journey.

Next Stop: Fallows’ Epic Cultural Hit Piece

James Fallows: Boy Speech 
Writer for the second worst 
President in my life-time 
has parlayed that gig into 
quite a career promoting 
bad ideas. One of Thomas 
Sowell's 'Intellectuals: 
Believes Inconsequential 
Knowledge should have
Consequential application.
So we follow Brad’s link to Fallow’s Atlantic ‘editorial’, where he re-sows some ground in his ‘fallow’ field of left-wing fantasy. This one is ostensibly about an America ‘disconnected’ from its military. He could have titled it ‘An Aging Leftist Regrets His Kind Do Not Enlist’. There’s all kinds of falderal inside the margins. Here’s a short list of Fallows’ most typical foibles that I would feel remiss if I let go by without pointing the reader to them.

1. Fallows expresses a wonderment that the percentage of people who are immediate relations to a (I presume living) veteran has dropped:
Among older Baby Boomers, those born before 1955, at least three-quarters have had an immediate family member—sibling, parent, spouse, child—who served in uniform. Of Americans born since 1980, the Millennials, about one in three is closely related to anyone with military experience.
Yeah, Total War for 5 years (1940-45 counting the call-ups in 1940, 0r 1941-1946 counting the time it took to return home – your choice) and an active ‘draft’ that ran right up to the early 70s will artificially raise the average until a few years past those factors fading won’t it? Want to feel more connected to the ‘Military’ Fallows? Move to a Red State. Then shed every silly Fascist urge you may feel a) to champion America’s return to a military ‘draft’ or b) that doing so would be ‘good for America’.
2. Fallows weaves a tale of cultural media (film, electronic and print publishing) ‘shifts’ in attitudes towards the military and how it is portrayed by the media. He provides enough cultural comparisons between days of yore and now to make the point but yet does so without ever observing that the shift is entirely due to today’s media and entertainment industries being controlled by the Left, not to mention carries the Left’s water on all things anti-military. But of course, if he did, he would be tacitly admitting his own complicity in attempts to ‘manage reality’ wouldn’t he?

3. Fallows drags up the ‘Missed-It-By-This-Much-Darn-You-Gary-Hart-Libido Reformer’: William S. Lind. Lind’s (keeping with the 'hyphenizin') much-debated-at-one-time-and-still-generally-seen-as-‘derivative’ Fourth Generation Warfare ‘shtick’ is used thusly: l
The most curious thing about our four defeats in Fourth Generation War—Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan—is the utter silence in the American officer corps. Defeat in Vietnam bred a generation of military reformers … Today, the landscape is barren. Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change. Just more money, please.
Perhaps the (asserted) utter silence in the ‘officer corps’ is more due to the widespread knowledge that the cockup ain’t with the military Mr. Lind, but with the ‘political class’ of which you and Fallows belong. The political class these days behave as self-annointed Archons of ‘truth’ with presumptive rights to define reality for the rest of us. The ‘Political Class’: the ones that Goldwater-Nichols’ed the military a generation ago. In Lind’s case here, he attempts to obfuscate what has really been occurring since the latest President took office: a retread of the Left’s canned ‘Vietnam’ strategy. That is the one that illustrates there is no military ‘Victory!’ the American military can secure that the Political Left will not turn into a political defeat if given the chance.

Full disclosure: There's a lot of Lind's stuff I like (see here). It's just that none of it has to do with 'defense'.

Oh, and Lind’s old meal-ticket Gary Hart (as part of his political rehabilitation?) makes a return from exile in an appearance later in Fallows’ dump.

Lind’s contribution actually seems a little out of place, as much of Fallows’ complaints seem pointed at the politicians and ‘Mericunizm in general. But the cognitive dissonance of lamenting a lack of ‘military reformers’ when ‘political reform’ is what is needed is…. palpable.

Fallows’ and Lind’s problem in selling this ‘stuff’ is that there is too much information and too many sources to get the information from for the gatekeepers to control the ‘message’ like they did the first time they hit the scene. Too bad for them.

Franklin C. 'Chuck' Spinney.
Good with 'Cost', lousy with 
Fallows, as a ‘Loyal Babbler’, continues to roll out nearly all the still-active Old Guard Faux-Reformers from his National Defense days. (If you must read it, please check it out at your local library or buy it used will you?) Besides Lind, he treats us to a mention of Chuck Spinney, whose fabulous (as in ‘fable’) “Defense Facts of Life: The Plans/Reality Mismatch” briefing book got him a TIME magazine cover once. Too bad his analysis sucked then and it still sucks now. I keep a marked-up copy of a ‘Westview Press’ edition in a binder because if I marked up the original the way it needed to be, I couldn’t read it. You could pick about any page number and I’d tell you where he was most ‘wrong’ on it, but IMHO most of his ‘sins’ derive from three fatal flaws. The first is a total lack of understanding of ‘complexity’ (origins, drivers, effects), The second was complete discomfort with not knowing the unknowable before it can become knowable. That boy had a textbook “High Motive for Certainty” and probably does still. The third was Spinney’s analysis relying on assuming the U.S. economic conditions at the time (particularly the high inflation rates) were “the” reality relevant to future spending, and then using them in his ‘projections’. From where I’m standing, Spinney suffers from a life-long and over-inflated concern for ‘costs’ with, like most of the ‘Reform’ blowhards, a vestigial (at best) grasp of the greater concept we call ‘value’.

Full Disclosure: I have a ‘bias’ when it comes to ‘Cost Analysts’. I do combat and logistics operations analysis (mostly the latter these days). It’s a side gig that I get ‘called in’ on now, but it once was my main job. One of my great professional frustrations has been when I have to closely deal with cost analysts for any length of time. They’re usually good people (like most people) and they do a job I would never want to do. The problem is they seem to rarely have the depth of technical experience needed to understand all the cost drivers they attempt to characterize, and I end up spending an inordinate amount of time every occasion I do deal with them just 1) keeping them for declaring something they’ve done in the past as ‘equivalent’ or 2) getting them to understand a nuance to a cost driver that took me or somebody else years to distill properly. Almost invariably, I’ve found myself presenting and standing behind my technical analysis including the explicit, and clearly-defined caveats, but having to explain some ‘hidden’ or overly abstract cost element on something that the cost analysts accepted and treated as somehow ‘real’ without bothering to caveats. It is almost as if the cost estimates become real dollars in their minds, and it is an affliction that is too often shared by some managers—it’s not a good ‘synergy’ when they get together.

Ricks: Long Time 'Go To'
Guy for getting the 'Reformist'
Propaganda out to the public.
There’s also a cameo appearance by semi-retired ‘Loyal Babbler’ Thomas E. Ricks. But more significantly, there is a ‘Reformer’ presence that isn’t explicit but it is clearly sitting there to anyone familiar with the subject. This unattributed ‘Reformer’ presence is of particular interest and will be used to wrap up this dissection of Fallow’s Fallacies. It is important because it can be clearly shown as the basis for the fallacious representation of reality: using gross oversimplification to dupe the unaware. It didn’t require particular insight to tickle out the fraudulence, as some of it has been used before by the ‘Reformers’. Specifically, there is not one but two presentations containing the same data (a graphic and a similar representation adapted for the embedded video) sourced from POGO (or were sourced TO POGO by Fallows? –whichever direction, the link is there). The data was used by CDI/POGO’s point man, Winslow Wheeler, a few years ago for much the same purposes, and I caught it that time as well.

Winslow Wheeler: CDI
Ringmaster at POGO
Wheeler and CDI/POGO fingerprints are all over Fallows’ craptastic article. As a bonus, Dina Rasor, founder of POGO and now running the high-grade idiocy collector and low-grade information dissembler called ‘Truthout’ (won’t link to it. Yeccchhh!), links to the Fallows video from their Buzzflash feed. 

The only guy missing from this Old Guard Faux Reform ‘all-star’ production seems to be Pierre Sprey.

Here is the graphic from the Fallows piece:

 Source: The Atlantic

This is a fraudulent (intentional or not) mishmash of unsourced (but largely traceable) numbers posing as ‘facts’ that is used in such a cavalier manner by Fallows et al. The acquisition costs are meaningless without knowing the fiscal year dollars involved, and comparing aircraft that do not perform the same mission is folly anyway. This chart is a typical 'fool the innumerate' propaganda that regularly comes out of the Faux Reform camp. The interesting thing to me here is the perverse representation and comparison of operating costs across aircraft types, especially the bit about:
“…the efficient A-10 Warthog has the lowest per-flight-hour cost, because it needs so little maintenance—yet the military plans to phase it out. The F-35, which was supposed to bring new efficiency to plane design, costs five times as much per plane and three times as much preflight hour.”
One must presume the target audience has no idea of the differences in the full-up capability between the two airplanes, among many other factors (perhaps a topic for the future?) that make such a comparison ludicrous.I slapped some of this ‘operating cost per flying hour’ horses*** down when Wheeler trotted it out the first time.  

POGO conveniently provides an updated version of the data Wheeler misrepresented at the time and it, along with all of the other operating cost data now shown by Fallows deserves the exposure it is about to receive. No direct link, but here's a screen capture showing how to get it:

The data Wheeler and Co. use is (ostensibly) from the Air Force itself. We have no reason to suspect otherwise. However, we have very good reason to call out the representation of the data as “highly-misleading”. This ‘data’ seems to be subject to annual exploitation by POGO/CDI now. Emerging (not fully 'conditioned' yet) Loyal Babbler Mark Thompson used it in March 2013 at Time’s 'Babbleland'. Wheeler and Pierre Sprey (Hey, he made it to the dance after all!) also rolled out the same meme in early 2014 (Google “Chuck Hagel’s A-10 Legacy”- I won’t link to that place if I don’t have to), where they did a Kaleidoscope-on-reality in a number of ways via the now-standard Reformer non-sequiturs. The only value of the article here is that it identifies the AF Comptroller’s office as the source. 
 Again, I have no problems at this time with the numbers Wheeler/POGO use: just the nefarious way in which they use it. 

The Numbers in the Fallows’ Atlantic ‘Cost’ Graphic

Now that we have identified just how widely and frequently this cost ‘scare tactic’ is deployed, let’s return our focus on this specific invocation: Fallows’ using sketchy O&S cost numbers that even if they were ‘correct’ are used in a way designed to mislead the public.

First, the only operating cost data shown above in the Fallow's graphic that we can trace to the same source and characterized in the same way as Wheeler’s 2011 hit piece is the B-2 and the V-22 (Note: The only rational explanation for the V-22 numbers that Fallows uses are if they are for the AF Special Operations Command CV-22s in 2011). The rest of Fallow’s numbers could have been randomly pulled from anywhere EXCEPT ‘an official source’ with the same provenance/ timeframe as what Wheeler used. Here's some of the big stuff missing from Fallow's graphic:
Dear James Fallows and the Atlantic: Sharing Numbers without Context is NOT DATA
As the inclusiveness of cost accounting has broadened over the decades, the Faux Military Reformers strived to exaggerate weapon system cost increases in an attempt to misshape public perceptions on ‘Defense’ and ‘Defense Spending’ in particular. One of the tactics of the Leftist Anti-Defense ‘activists’ has been to present the Operations & Support (O&S) Costs of a weapon system in terms of ‘Cost in Dollars Per Flight Hour’. When costs are presented in this manner, the unwary Public is left with the perception that it costs the Taxpayer these dollar amounts EVERY time, and for every hour these systems operate. In reality, these amounts include dollars that are spent whether the aircraft fly or not, dollars that have no direct connection to the weapon systems or their operation, and dollars that would be spent if there were no weapons systems present just to have the ability to support a weapon system. The dollars sourced from POGO contain every operational cost element listed in the graphic below as noted:
Everything except the Kitchen Sink. Well...actually that's in there too.
If you get the Excel spreadsheet from POGO, there are other cost numbers you may be interested in. 

Since Fallows’ Atlantic piece, another arm of The Atlantic media machine has spit out a screed titled "The F-35 Has to Phone Home Before Taking Off" (really), repeating out-of-date information as if it were somehow relevant to the F-35 ALIS system's current state. This was done when with only a modicum of journalistic inquiry, the issue could have been shown to be past.

Patrick Tucker, who wrote the piece had to reach past all current news, pushing newer well known developments out of the way to retrieve his moldy chunk of information ‘cheese’. From the ‘Reformer POV’ the author would be a ‘Pawn’, and perhaps the Pawn was moved by Fallows, the Atlantic’s Loyal Babbler’?

Update 8PM: Tucker has added an update from the JSFPO: 
Joe DellaVedova, Public Affairs Director F-35 Lightning IIJoint Program Office contacted Defense One about this story. He says that while previous versions of ALIS did not allow for a human override, ”this has been corrected in the latest fielded release (ALIS 1.0.3).”
He adds: “ALIS continues to mature per its development roadmap and we currently have it installed aboard the USSWasp today to support of an operational test and evaluation of the F-35B air system which will happen this spring. There is also a more portable, modularized version of the ALIS Standard Operating Unit server for shipboard and expeditionary operations that is currently in final integration and test. This version will support the U.S. Marine Corps initial operating capability later this year.”
Sounds like... me!

Kudos to Mr Tucker for not playing a 'Pawn'.  

Why I took the time to lay this all out.  

It’s kind of anti-climatic, but this entire sequence of events was perfect for making the following point:
The Old Guard of Military Reform are feeling the end is nigh. They have been operating within a certain framework for years now:
Indirect (Dotted Lines) Influence on Lawmakers and Strong Parallel Coordination With Fellow Travelers
But this is not the model under that they wish to operate. In this model, they have no ‘insiders’ in elected government and it irks them (Just read some of their published ‘work’) They yearn for the heady days of the 70’s and ‘80s when their crazy ideas about weapon systems being 'too complicated', 'too costly' were actually considered within the halls of government (Desert Storm knocked them off their game for an election cycle or three). This is the model they USED  to operate under:
The Old Days: When Reformers had a Toe-hold with the 'Ins' (May they NEVER return) 

The 'Reformers' want this arrangement to return, so they don’t have to spend so much time distorting reality and duping the Hoi Polloi. They’d like to just have to whisper in some politician’s ear, and party with their Loyal Babblers again. There’s been some rumbling by some politicians lately about ‘reform’ again. If one or more of the Old Guard hasn't been 'working' them already, I’d be amazed.

We covered everybody I wanted to cover in the system except the 'Foot Soldiers'. those are basically Old Guard 'wanna-bes', whose primary interest isn't just providing a conduit for the 'Reform' Message, but instead want to generate the Message as well. Not a lot of those guys around these days thank goodness, Although Thomas E. Ricks, through his activities at the fake defense 'Think Tank' the Left has set up called Center for a New American Security and 'serious' writings for the self-perceived serious 'Foreign Policy' audience seems to want to fill the shoes of a loyal 'Foot Soldier' in his semi-retirement.    

Why this took so darned long

The Excel spreadsheet POGO offers had some 'delimiting' problems when I grabbed a copy. On top of that, The original post I did on POGOs numbers was based on what Flight Global had at their site, and their 'interactive graphs that were....aren't anymore. An interesting thing to note about the AF Comptroller numbers (as represented by POGO) is that they are subject to correction. For instance, in my first post, I wondered why the WC-135W had a spike in one year's $/FH:
2011 POGO Data: 2006 Spike in Cost for WC-135W 
In this year's version of the data, the 'spike' is gone, and the numbers are completely different. take a look at the data, I may point out some things I noticed in some detail in a later post. Quick observations are that if the F-16C/D O&S cost trend continues, it will pass the F-35's estimated $/FH by about 2020, and the low density aircraft have the most sensitivity to support costs, groundings and airframe losses--and it shows in the data:
Chart added 11 May 15 to illustrate point made concerning estimated F-35 O&S Cost vs F-16 O&S cost trend