Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Army Chief briefs Senate Armed Services Committee

While sitting and having some mandatory fun watching GEN Casey brief the Senate Arm Committee, I watched Ted Kennedy indicated his concern regarding officer retention and linked it to the current 15 month terms. GEN Casey, basically replied he was right, in that the Army as a whole is stretched. GEN Casey mirrored SEN Kennedy's concern regarding that and the increasing issue of suicides.

Senator Kennedy referred to the Army's Suicide Task Force as "underfunded" and continued to reenforce his concerns regarding midcareer Majors and Captains. Secretary of the Army Pete Green again linked that getting the deployment timetables from 15 back to 12 months would continue to be a step in the right direction. Senator Kennedy reminded the Chief of Staff and the Secretary that while a 12 month cycle would be a step in the right action, it would probably now address long term problems.

One of the more colorful discussions centered around the overall size of the Army. What size should the Army be? All sides agree that the post-Desert Storm drawdown was a mistake of epic proportions. What they did not agree on was just how big we should grow our ground forces. Frankly, they jumped around the answer like Barry Sanders. All eventually agreed that the current target of 547,000 would not be enough to provide the Reserve and National Guard the relief they need.

My read? No one knows the answer on what we need to fight a global counterinsurgency. All the answers provided by Chiefs and Senators are based on high end analysis and modeling. Similar modeling and analysis created our current undersized Army. History teaches us that it is harder to build an Army and relatively simple to tear one down. Time and again America paid a steep price for drawing down its military in exchange for what we call a "Peace Dividend."

Our challenges our steep: In the 90's, we cut too many people. The protracted war on terror has made recruiting difficult. It is not going to be simple to grow the needed 70,000 Soldiers to meet the Army's goal of over a half a million. The Army is continuously lowering recruiting standards to maintain the current force.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Congress passes Bill to allow In-State Tuition to Military Families

Let's face it. College admissions love to screw military families. Sure, many schools offer admission break to get our kids into their schools, but the real reason they love them is that they get to charge them out-of-state tuition whether they live in the state or not. Most military members do not meet mandatory the state residency requirements that are recognized by college admissions. Some require residency of up to five years before granting in-state status to an incoming student. A friend of mine had a kid's status changed to out-of-state after his family PCS'd to another state. FAIL.

Well, Congress decided to fix the problem. The amendment to H.R. 4137, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007, will Lower College Tuition for Military Children. Specifically, it grants in-state tuition to families where they are stationed, and keeps it if the family leaves due to orders. This means an annual savings of around $10 to $20 thousand for families with college aged students.

The bill is sponsored by REP Nancy Boyda (D-KS)and REP Chet Edwards (D-TX), mirroring a policy already in place in Kansas. I find it funny that no Republican is attached to the measure, possibly setting up a showdown in the Senate or if the bill reaches the White House. From my point of view, we, and by we I mean military families receive our best benefits from Democrats, while the military industrial complex benefits most from Republicans (i.e. gear).

I need both sides to survive, so I'll take any help I can get. I'll keep my eye on this one.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why My Generation is Screwed

Well, the way I see it we're facing three crises that will destroy our current economic structure:

1. Healthcare. Beginning 2011, the baby boomers start Medicare. By 2015, estimates are our national debt could triple at current expenditure rates.

2. Social Security - Ultimate ponzi scheme. Again, starting in 2011, there are more payees than payers. To maintain current benefits through 2020, tax rate on the average citizen goes to 60 percent on SS alone.

3. Military modernization - No one is talking about this. The Air Force is slowly dying. Potential adversaries are enjoying unprecedented advances in armor and artillery platforms. A scheduled modernization program was put indefinitely on hold in place of the war on terror. Per capita (GDP) spending on the American military is at an all-time low. Cost for full modernization including the Reserve and National Guard runs in the low trillions.

What created this mess?

Already, I see that a particular candidate wants to fund a national healthcare system with savings made by ending the war in Iraq. If our current war is grossly increasing the national debt, what happens when we simply move that money over to healthcare? Already the military (specifically the Army) is broken. We're wearing our Soldiers and tanks out. All experts agree that to meet the threat of terror we need a military back to the pre-drawdown/Desert Storm size. Growing that could take trillions. Oh, that still doesn't address the massive shortages in the National Guard and Reserves. Damn, I forgot about the Air Force. They're flying around platforms primarily built in the 70's and 80's. This is a service that absolutely relies on technology overmatch. Estimated modernization of the Air Force exceeds the cost of rebuilding the Army.

It amazes me that no one in either campaign is talking about Social Security. Next to Medicare/national health plan issues, Social Security has the biggest potential to bankrupt the American economy. It funny we send folks to prison for running Ponzi schemes, but that is exactly what the government does. Remember those budget surpluses of the 1990's? That wasn't actually cash. In fact, they were actually forecasted Social Security surpluses that resulted from the balanced budgets implemented by Newt Gingrich.

Back then there were still more workers than retirees, mainly because the baby boomers were at the peak of their lifetime's earning potential. The nasty secret no politician likes say was that they spent it as they collected it. They took the forecasted surpluses and spent them at the same rate as the Reagans. Politicians built massive political clout for the resulting surpluses that went in as Social Security contributions and went out mostly in the form of massive pork expenditures. Oh, the national debt continued to increase during this time.

In 2001, the war on terror kicked off, we realized that we under spent our military. We began to pay the bill for the 'peace dividend' earned from drawing down the military. Spending never changed and the new war rocketed deficit-spending. Military spending, 6% of our GDP at the end of Desert Storm, was at a paltry 3%. Currently it's risen back to 4.5%, but that goes more to cost of war than to modernization. During this period, Medicare and SS expenditure also increased, oh, and congressional pork never went away.

How do we fix it?

No one individual can take the blame. A lot of folks like to blame our current President, but my friends; this is a train wreck coming since the days of FDR (a switch-in-time-saves-nine ring a bell?). My generation is unfortunately stuck with the task of cleaning it up. Unfortunately, we do not even own the majority of the voting block.

We want to fix the situation, but cutting benefits for us means cutting benefits for all. Again, my generation doesn’t even hold a voting majority. Go as a 65-year old retiree how he votes if a particular candidate mentions “benefit cuts.” “Old” and “stubborn” go together like “beer” and “block leave.”

I didn't mention immigration because I don't believe it's relevant to the solution. Sure, it taxes our Medicare system, but compared to the baby boomer problem, it is minor league.

No one wants to say "tax increase" or "benefit decrease" but the reality is that the answer lies somewhere between "socialized medicine" and "decreased retirement benefits."

The problem is we are all too selfish to admit that the solution lies with sacrifice, a lot of sacrifice. Let's face it, we, Americans that is, are selfish. I understand sacrifice, my family understands sacrifice, the average Joe-Six Pack on the street has no idea what the word means. Our two political parties are more concerned with individual political victories than changing things for the better.

I don't know the answers; I just figure we're screwed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Marksmanship Training USPSA Style

Since receiving a warning order for going over Iraq sometime later in the year, I decided it was time to get serious about towards the tools of my craft. My first trip over to Iraq showed me that I was not as proficient as I should be with my sidearm. A good friend here in Leavenworth introduced me to practical shooting competition. I spent the the entire last two months training up for February's monthly United States Practical Shooting Competition (USPSA) Match at Mill Creek Gun Club here in Kansas.

Previous training with my issue Berretta M9 sidearm consisted of a semi-annual trip to the 25 meter range resulting in a quick 40 rounds into a paper target; not really enough to actually become dangerous with the weapon. OK, dangerous might actually be the right word.

Well, below are the result of about 2 months and around 500 rounds of training. I got some excellet results with accuracy, scoring only one miss for the entire day. Keep in mind, all paper targets require two rounds, so there was a lot of shooing, and more importantly, a lot of fun. I now know I can indeed hit the broadside of a barn, I just now have to do it faster. As a buddy always tells me: Accuracy first; speed will come.

My equipment: gunsmithed Springfield XD9 Tactical with Dawson fiber optics, Bladetech carbon holster, XD mag holders, Ralph Lauren Polo prescription lenses.

Friday, February 8, 2008

U.S. Army to Sponsor Halo 3 Play & Win Sweepstakes

Someone up and the Department of the Army is doing a pretty damn slick job. The Army continues to attach its name to some rather popular and well viewed events. In recent years, all of NASCAR fandom watch Joe Nemechek and now Mark Martin represent the black and gold with pride. The Army also sponsors the premier High School All-Star game, the Army All-American, featuring the nation's top blue chip football prospects.

Well, the marketing continues as now the Army attaches it's name to the gaming world's top franchise, Halo 3. You can register your Gamertag with live.xbox.com for chances to win limited edition prints and Xbox Live points. The entry period for the sweepstakes is seven full days, and you can get a new entry for each day you play a Halo 3 multiplayer match online.

Nevermind that the Master Chief and his lot were all in the Navy, but we all know they were Soldiers at heart. By the way, why does everyone assume the moment the human race goes intergalactic, the Navy takes over?