Saturday, February 26, 2011

Deployments, excuses, suicides

The Richmond Times-Dispatch (link has text and video) reports on the send-off ceremony for 400 members of Virginia's National Guard who will spend two months at Fort Hood before deploying to Iraq. The Aegis reports, "A National Guard helicopter unit based in Harford County deployed for Iraq Saturday following a ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Ground." Bill Lawson (Arkansas' Maumelle Monitor) notes that "members of the 77th Theater Aviation Brigade Headquarters and left for Fort Hood, Texas on a mission that will eventually take them back to Iraq". Good thing Barack ended that Iraq War after he got elected, right? Thank goodness all US troops have been pulled out of Iraq and no more troops are being deployed there.

Meanwhile David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reports Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a speech at West Point Friday and declared, "In my opinion, any future Defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General MacArthur so delicately put it." Seriously? What about someone who's been Defense Secretary for over four years now and continues to advocate keeping troops on the ground in both Afghanistan and Iraq? In fact, we just attended, this month, a House Armed Services Committee where you did just that, Robert Gates. If there's anyone flashing more stupidity than Gates it would be Brad Knickerbocker (Christian Science Monitor), "But Gates’s message was clear: The US military services, as well as the elected and appointed civilians who send them to war, need better ways of foreseeing and preparing for national security threats." First off, Iraq was not a national security threat, Knickerbocker. Second, you sure are brave taking on Donny Rumsfeld's out of office. Guess you'll show some of that 'independence' towards Robert Gates when he leaves office as well -- provided you can get your tongue out of his ass by then.

Thursday the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan released their latest report [PDF format warning] "At what risk? Correcting over-reliance on contractors in contingency operations." Some of the key points:

* Total spending through contracts is correspondingly large. While there is no central federal source for definitive data on contracts and grants regarding contingency operations, the Commission’s conservative estimate is that since October 2001, at least $177 billion has been obligated on contracts and grants to support U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

* The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners has reported a survey-based estimate that 7 percent of revenue is lost to fraud. Applying this metric to the $177 billion in contingency contracts and grants suggests the cost of federal failure to control the acquisition process could be as high as $12 billion for fraud, not including contract waste.

* In the current setting of heavy reliance on contractors and clear weaknesses in federal planning and management, the Commission believes the United States has come to over-rely on contractors. This conclusion holds whether judged from the standpoint of preserving the government’s core capabilities and institutional knowledge, protecting mission-critical functions, or balancing mission requirements against the ability to manage and oversee contracts. And the conclusion holds more strongly when all three factors are weighed together.

The report notes the US is using 199,783 contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan -- 144,705 are under the Defense Dept, 19,310 are under the State Dept and 35,768 are under USAID -- those numbers are from Fiscal Year 2010. Charles Keyes (CNN) notes, "Among the proposals to rein in contractors is the creation of special teams of full-time federal workers to be ready to deploy and monitor projects. The report says the government also should restrict reliance on contractors for security by embedding government workers responsible for command and control and oversight." Robert Brodsky ( adds, "Among the most significant recommendations was limiting the government's reliance on armed private security contractors. Touching on arguably the most controversial aspect of wartime contracting, the panel suggested the government embed federal employees with armed private security contractors to ensure command and control of all hostile situations. The commission's final report, due this summer, will more broadly address concerns that the government has relied excessively on private security contractors."

The following community sites -- plus Washington Week and Jane Fonda -- updated last night and today:

Tuesday the Defense Dept issued the following:

The Army released suicide data today for the month of January. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 15 potential suicides: one has been confirmed as suicide, and 14 remain under investigation. For December 2010, the Army reported 12 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, one has been confirmed as suicide, and 11 remain under investigation.

During January 2011, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were seven potential suicides: two have been confirmed as suicides, and five remain under investigation. For December 2010, among that same group, there were 17 total suicides. Of those, six were confirmed as suicides and 11 are pending determination of the manner of death.

“Army wide efforts implemented during 2010 to improve the health of the force and enhance our overall resiliency will continue to be a focus for all members of the Army family in 2011,” said Col. Chris Philbrick, deputy director, Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction Task Force. “We must continue to examine our risk reduction and health promotion programs to ensure that in every instance they are readily available and accessible to those in need. Informed and engaged leaders are vital to these efforts and continue to be the most effective resource in this endeavor,” Philbrick said.

Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained consultants are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can be contacted by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by visiting their website at

The Army’s comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at

Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at

Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).

Information about Military OneSource is located at or by dialing the toll-free number 1-800-342-9647 for those residing in the continental U.S. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource website for dialing instructions for their specific location.

Information about the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at

The Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at

The website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is, and the Suicide Prevention Resource Council site is found at

The website for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors is, and they can be reached at -1-800-959-TAPS (8277).

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends