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The Mil & Aero Blog
Get it done already
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Posted by John McHale
Watching the political shows this morning all I saw was the blame game and partisan bickering from Congress for why they failed to pass the economic recovery package for bailing out Wall Street.
This is getting ridiculous.
I refer to both parties. They claim lack of leadership from President Bush and the Wall Street elite caused the current crisis, but their behavior demonstrates they lack the responsibility or wisdom to fill that alleged gap.
A colleague of mine made an interesting point this morning when he said if this happened a year ago and not a month before an election, it probably would've passed already. It makes one wonder if the esteemed members of Congress are voting based on what will get them re-elected or what is best for the country.
Based on that thought I find it ironic the one "person" not ever running for office again is the only who has offered a solution -- President Bush. His proposed $700 billion bailout even goes against the small government mindset of his party. He and his administration may be at fault for some of this, but give them credit for risking political fallout to fix it.
President Bush's approval numbers remain low, but as a Wall Street Journal editorial put it today: "Congress is living up to its 10 percent approval rating."
Anyway, yesterday's stock market nose dive affected everyone including defense market giants. For example Boeing was down $2.85 a share, closing at $55.47; Raytheon was down $2.36, closing at $53.70; Northrop Grumman was down $1.41; closing at $61.59; and General Dynamics was down $3.52, closing at $71.40.
I don't know that we are technically in an economic recession, but it's hard to see us avoiding it.
That said I believe a recession or depression is much more personal. I'm reminded of Ronald Reagan's line when running against Jimmy Carter: "a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, a depression is when you lose your job, and a recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."
Yeah, it was a campaign slap against Carter, but the other part is very true. Quite a few of my friends are already in their own personal economic depression and this week only made it worse.
So get it done Congress.
Bailouts and pirates and bombs! Oh, My!
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Posted by John Keller
We do live in interesting times, whether that's a curse or not. U.S. government leaders just this morning reportedly reached an agreement to bail out the embattled U.S. financial system for about $700 billion. Meanwhile, if you thought pirates were just something out of the movies, think again. And how safe are we if international terrorists want to take a shot at influencing the U.S. elections?
News out of Washington early this morning has it that we have a financial bailout deal. We'll know by tomorrow if this urgent, fast-track plan to spend nearly a trillion dollars to buy bad loans will go very far in calming out turbulent investment markets. Keep an eye on the stock markets when they open Monday.
I'm still skeptical that this is the best way out of the mess we're in.
The bailouts ...
In particular I'm worried about how this hugely expensive plan will influence U.S. defense spending over the next couple of years. It's bound to put a squeeze somewhere. We'll have to borrow a lot of money to keep defense spending even close to current levels, which is what I think will happen.
I made a prediction in a blog last week that the bailout plan might about clean out existing government cash supplies, leaving us to rely on foreign lenders to pay for things like military spending, roads, and other things American citizens expect.
I was quoted in the Wired Danger Room Blog last week predicting that NOTHING will be left for defense spending after the bailout. What I REALLY meant to predict was that no ready cash will be left, and we'll have to borrow what we use to pay for military equipment, operations, and salaries. I know it's one of the last refuges of scoundrels to claim that I was quoted out of context. My wife always tells me I should be careful what I say. Maybe I should listen to her.
I know it's meant at least somewhat in jest, but I keep thinking about the so-called Birk Economic Recovery Plan that's been making the rounds on the Internet. This plan suggests that instead of giving close to a trillion dollars to the banks, the government ought to split up that bailout money among taxpaying U.S. adults. This would enable them to pay off their mortgages, buy cars, and save for their kids' college ... that is, solve the financial mess, take care of ordinary folks, and let the weak-sister banks go out of business. Yeah, I don't suppose something like that could ever work.
The pirates ...
Now to other news of the weird, piracy on the high seas appears to be on the rise ... except they're using machine guns these days instead of swords and pistols. Somali pirates in an attack the other day off the Horn of Africa took a haul that would render Capt. Jack Sparrow speechless. The pirates took a Ukrainian freighter that, much to their delight, contained 33 Russian T-72 main battle tanks and ammunition in its holds.
Think anyone in the world might want to buy some tanks and ammunition? Me, too, and I'll bet those pirates are taking bids right now.
We'll see of the pirates get a chance to move their armored booty, however. The Russians are not too happy about this, are sending at least one warship to the area in attempts to recover the armored combat vehicles and perhaps punish the pirates.
The U.S. Navy apparently is getting in on the act, too. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) reportedly is keeping an eye on the ship containing the stolen tanks. We'll see who prevails in this standoff over the next couple of days.
I wouldn't bet on the pirates, however, unless they're very sneaky and resourceful. The Howard is an Aegis destroyer with surface-to-air missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles, antisubmarine rockets, torpedoes, Phalanx close-in weapons systems and a five-inch rapid-fire deck gun, as well as electronic warfare countermeasures, decoys, passive detection systems, and a hull-mounted sonar. Plus, it can steam faster than 31 knots -- more than a match for a Ukrainian freighter.
I know members of the U.S. military have been brushing up on their foreign language skills lately. I wonder how you say "Avast, ye scurvy craven dogs -- prepare to be boarded," in Arabic?
... and the bombs
This just in: have anything important on your calendar for October 7? If you do, you might think about how to reschedule. Reports are floating around out there that we might be in for another terrorist attack that day.
A private research firm called the Northeast Intelligence Network says that Tuesday, October 7, is a likely day for potential attacks on New York and/or Washington, and that attacks might involve nuclear weapons.
Yes, I know. Some folks out there believe the Northeast Intelligence Network is a bunch of kooks, but take a look at their reports and judge for yourselves. Might international terrorists want to try influencing the U.S. elections, which will be less than a month away from 7 Oct.? They did it in Spain, and they might try it here, too.
I know I'm sounding alarmist, and maybe I am. I do know that I'll feel a lot better if we can make it to Thanksgiving without any major disasters.
Get out of your comfort zone
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Posted by John McHale
We finished a one-day advisory council meeting yesterday in Amsterdam for our Avionics show and I am feeling energized by it... and no, not just because I was in Amsterdam.
I tease my brother in the investment trade about wasting money to fly across the Atlantic for a one day meeting then flying back. Why do that when you can call, email, video conference, etc.? The digital world makes it so much easier to stay at your desk.
Or as they said in my Dale Carnegie classes, to "stay in your comfort zone."
The investment guys say it's because the deals they do are so big, the airfare is a pittance. Wish that were the case for me...
Regardless, the meeting I had with the council members shows that digital tools -- while amazingly helpful to my job -- can never replace the quality of face-to-face discussion.
What they can do is make us more prepared for the meeting. I was impressed how each council member was well versed on the more than 70 abstracts we evaluated, which they received only a few days earlier.
Digital communication made that possible and made the meeting smoother through electronic spreadsheet and video tools. It enhances face-to-face meetings but can never replace the value of personal contact.
There's a reason corporate coaches tell people to make eye contact in an interview, it shows trust and gives the perception you have nothing to hide. You can't look someone eye-to-eye in an email and video conferencing isn't the same as sitting across a table.
I'm reminded of an airline commercial from about 10 years ago. In it a small company's president is lamenting the loss of his biggest customer, who said nobody ever came to see him.
So the president started handing out airline tickets of course, and telling everyone they need to get out and see each customer in person, so they know they're not forgotten.
Yes, it's a clever way to promote an airline, but its message about the value of face-to-face meetings is right on.
Whether you're in sales or journalism, get out of your comfort zone and meet your source or client in person at a show, at their company, or just for a drink. It's worth it, and it's why I think trade shows and conferences are here to stay.
Financial meltdown and bailout: how much is left for defense spending?
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Posted by John Keller
The long-term influences of the September Wall Street financial meltdown and subsequent government bailouts have yet to be fully perceived, much less felt or understood. Right now, the week after the Lehman Brothers investment company went bust and Merrill Lynch sold itself off just to survive, many of the Wise Men in business, government, and academia are in a state of mumbling shock.
Among those Wise Men who have been called on the carpet to explain this sad state of affairs are U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., called these gentlemen in to a hearing before the Senate Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. Senator Dodd chairs the committee.
Picture a tattered, dust-covered survivor of the 9/11 Twin Towers attacks stumbling down a rubble-strewn Manhattan street and you get an idea of the condition of the U.S. financial system. I see a headline in The Wall Street Journal -- THE WALL STREET JOURNAL! -- that reads "The End of Wall Street."
Isn't that as if we were to see a headline in USA Today reading "World ends today." As for myself, I can scarcely characterize the magnitude of last week's financial collapse. A lot of people smarter than I are in the same boat. Nevertheless, I hear commentators on the radio say what we're seeing now in the investment markets is even more momentous than the stock market crash of 1929 that led to the Great Depression.
Is anyone else out there getting just a bit apprehensive?
Financial experts who keep an eye on U.S. military spending and the defense industry have been warning for years that rising federal costs for so-called "non-discretionary spending" on things like social security, Medicare, and interest payments on the national debt threaten to squeeze the federal budget such that current levels of defense spending cannot be maintained for long.
These stark warnings started coming long before Congress and the administration began discussing spending as much as a trillion dollars -- A TRILLION DOLLARS! -- to bail out struggling financial institutions in part by using taxpayer money to buy up as many as a million home mortgages at or near default.
At this moment we don't yet know exactly how the federal government is going to do this, but here's something we do know: all that non-discretionary federal spending -- or the money government has to pay whether anyone likes it or not -- is about to get a whole lot bigger.
My big question in all this is how much "discretionary" money will be left for defense spending, homeland security, subsidies for developing renewable energy sources, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, building new roads, and anything else?
More to the point, after the big upcoming Wall Street bailouts, how much will be left? Is that a fair question? My guess is NOTHING. As per usual, the federal government will proceed not on the basis of the money it has, but on its ability to borrow more, and more, and more money from foreign countries.
Now's where I start to get really nervous. Say you're a bank, and one of your clients just borrowed a bunch of money for home improvements. That client has been making his interest payments just fine, but he's come back several times to borrow more money. He can still make his interest payments, but it's a struggle. Paying back any of the principal on the loans is out of the question.
As the banker, what are you going to say when that client comes back for another loan? You might not say no, but what do you think of that client as a credit risk?
Well, the other countries that are lending the U.S. government money have to be entertaining the same thoughts. How good a credit risk is the United States of America anymore? Ever wonder why the value of the U.S. dollar keeps going down, and the cost of crude oil has started going up again? Well, look no further.
If we keep going down this path, sooner or later the folks overseas who are lending us money are going to stop, because we're too big a risk. At what tipping point will this happen? More to the point, at what stage will leaders in the U.S. Congress and the administration realize that maintaining some semblance of financial credibility is a core matter of national security and international relations?
We've come to this: paying our own bills and carrying our own weight is not simply A matter, but THE central matter of U.S. national security and international relations.
We continue to borrow money from Gulf states in the Middle East, and from China. When Iran gets on its feet, are we going to go hat-in-hand and ask them for a loan, too?
This nation has a great history, which has been my great pleasure and inspiration throughout my entire life to read about, absorb, and reflect on. I still get a great feeling when I think about the great American triumphs at places like the North Bridge at Lexington, Gettysburg, and a little town in Belgium called Bastogne. I think of how the United States helped rebuild a flattened Europe after World War II, and helped bring about an end to the Cold War.
Looking forward, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of optimism. Our investment system right now is flat on its back, the U.S. government is deep, deep, deep in debt with only more debt on the horizon, and our military is stretched thin and in need of rebuilding. How are we going to pay to fix all this?
In my nightmares, the United States as I know it at some moment in the future will not be defeated militarily ...
... but will simply be asked to leave.
Bitter about the bailouts
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
Is it the U.S. government's responsibility to bail out businesses on the brink of bankruptcy? Just this year, the federal government has bailed out AIG, Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae.
Michael A. Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times sums up recent months as follows: "The federal government has put up nearly $30 billion to avert a major financial default by the investment bank Bear Stearns; committed to investing up to as much as $200 billion in preferred stock of the loss-plagued finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and at least $5 billion in their mortgage securities; and agreed to provide an emergency loan of $85 billion to American International Group Inc. in return for an ownership stake of as much as 80 percent in the stricken insurance giant."
I think it is not the government's responsibility, and it is just bad business. I could understand the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac transaction given its repercussions on homeowners under their umbrella and the present status of the housing market; however, I cannot help but be disgusted that the government is now, essentially, in the real-estate business.
I think these bailouts set a bad precident, and in some cases rewards high-paying executives with potentially bad business practices. Hiltzik perhaps says it best:"critics contend that bailouts often encourage bad behavior by relieving underperforming industries of the consequences of their ineptitude."
Others in the know anticipate that more and more corporations will soon approach the government, hand extended.The government should be a helping hand to its beleagered citizens (kids and seniors without food, heat, and healthcare), not rich executives who gambled and lost in the corporate world.
Beating the airlines
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Posted by John McHale
Let's take a break from blogging about Sarah Palin and the election and talk about air travel headaches.
I do a lot of travel for my job and think I've developed the patience necessary when dealing with the expected flight cancellations and delays, accepting that I can only do so much. I figure writing complaint letters and filing lawsuits will get me just as much satisfaction as losing my temper with airline staff at the ticket counter.
In other words, nothing.
Yet, today I read a story today about a guy who actually sued Delta for canceling his flight and won!
It was an article on CNNMoney.com titled "A Flier Strikes Back" by Telios Demos.
According to Demos' article a passenger had his flight canceled due to weather and was told it wouldn't be refunded because weather delays are not Delta's fault.
However, the passenger, Mitchell Berns, "checked the National Weather Service report. It said snow that day was expected at five the next morning -- hours after his flight was scheduled to land."
The article went on to state that Berns eventually filed a small-claims suit against Delta, and the court ruled in his favor when Delta did not show up.
Where was this guy when I was sitting on the tarmac a couple years ago for five hours at JFK due to thunderstorms? The airline, JetBlue, apologized profusely, but all we received was free animal crackers. It could have been worse; at least with JetBlue we were able to watch satellite television for five hours...
However, on the same trip I was delayed four hours returning from Raleigh/Durham, and this time JetBlue gave us vouchers for a free flight. That impressed me.
British Airways (BA) was a little skimpier than JetBlue. They only gave out food/drink vouchers worth 5 British pounds for a canceled flight I was on -- but you had to ask, BA didn't announce it. A friendly BA frequent flier clued me in to this.
Skimpy, yes, but I enjoyed the free pint of Guinness.
According the AOL piece Berns only had to pay $15 and have a "working knowledge of English" or Spanish to file the claim.
I should mention that the passenger in the article is an attorney, but anybody can file a similar suit.
In the article Berns said "The lesson is, don't let them bully you with bogus cancellations."
Just something to think about next time you find yourself stranded at the airport.
A market view of media bias over vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Posted by John Keller
Yeah, I know. We're all sick of hearing claims of media bias when it comes to Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin. I'm starting to get my fill of it, too -- and by way of full disclosure, I'm a big Sarah Palin supporter.
I'm not getting too worked up about bias involving Gov. Sarah Palin. First, the media are defeating themselves by showing their hands. Credibility in the media, in general, is at historic lows, and I have a suspicion we are seeing the last gasps of this dinosaur we've come to know as the mainstream media. Besides, taking shots just makes people like her more.
Some of the attention Palin has been getting lately is just downright funny, no matter your political persuasion. Did you see Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live last night? I think the SNL Palin portrayal was spot-on. Take a look below if you don't believe me. Global warming "is just God huggin' us closer." Let's vote right now.
I have a feeling, however, that attacks on Sarah Palin from the national press are going to start dwindling out, particularly if the McCain-Palin ticket keeps rising in the polls. Folks in the press aren't stupid, really (just STOP that now!). They know that if McCain wins, they'll need access to Palin for their stories after 4 Nov.
I'm guessing that Palin's people are keeping score; she's flexing that velvet-gloved mailed fist, and the worst offenders in the media risk getting themselves frozen out -- at least for a time -- if Palin takes office as vice president.
No one in the national press wants to be in Vice President Palin's doghouse for long. Those folks will watch the polls and keep their fingers in the wind; if they see the Obama-Biden ticket on a long downward slide, then almost overnight look to see the national press as Palin's best friends.
It's funny how things work. Press bias is temporary. Keeping themselves in the game is forever.
Boeing machinists strike: cons, and pros?
Friday, September 12, 2008
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
"No one benefits from a strike," Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, states in a message to Boeing employees in Washington, Oregon, and Kansas.
That seems to be the case, at first blush, but I wonder in this particular instance, if that is, in fact, completely accurate. I am fortunate for never knowing what it is to strike, but I have to wonder: what is the downside for these machinists striking? Conversely, what are the ramifications to mil-aero industry? Forgive my naivete, but those striking are reportedly gaining roughly $150 a week while on strike; and, they have already received (and rejected) an offer that includes pay increases, bonuses, and other incentives.
If we can believe what we read, the current labor stand-off can be summed up as follows:
Boeing's latest contract offer proposed an 11-percent wage increase over the three-year life of the contract, a one-time lump sum and ratification bonus, and other incentives that Boeing representatives revealed would add roughly $34,000 to the pay of the average machinist, who currently makes an estimated $65,000 a year, including overtime.
The International Association of Machinists (IAM) union seeks a 13-percent wage increase, no change to health care contributions, and the rollback of provisions allowing Boeing to outsource work.
What is the cost to everyone else? According to best estimates, the repercussions include $2.8 billion in lost revenue per month for Boeing, further delay of the Dreamliner 787, and suppliers potentially going out of business.
Carson's statement reads:
"The decision by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to reject our contract offer is deeply disappointing, to say the least. The union has turned down what is, by any measure, a truly exceptional offer -- bar none. Our company went to extraordinary lengths to conduct these negotiations in an atmosphere of openness and transparency that allowed more time to understand the key issues and create a package that is unquestionably the best in our industry.
"An 11 percent general wage increase -- combined with a lump-sum payment, a ratification bonus, cost-of-living adjustments, improved pension and health care coverage and other benefit enhancements -- all added up to an outstanding package that balanced the needs of the employees with ensuring the long-term competitiveness of the company. In addition, our negotiators removed several company proposals that the union saw as issues in order to keep the negotiations moving forward and to make progress toward a solution.
"As disappointing as the IAM decision is to us, the impact is considerably wider. Our customers are obviously going to be affected. They are counting on us, and any delay of our new, efficient airplanes is going to hurt an already strapped air transport industry burdened with high fuel costs. Our suppliers, too, will feel the impact quickly. And there's no question about the negative economic effect on our local communities. As we've said before, no one benefits from a strike.?
In a recent article (http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D933D49O1.htm), however, Daniel Lovering offers a potential "silver lining." "Suppliers will have time to untangle problems that have delayed the company's long-awaited 787 jetliner," as a result of the machinists strike, writes Lovering.
We in the press can speculate all we like, but we want to hear from you: the sub-contractors, suppliers, and customers.
How are you being affected by the strike? Do you anticipate problems down the road as a result of the ensuing Boeing strike and labor negotiations?
If you are struggling with a challenge, consider "bouncing" issues off (or simply venting to or commiserating with) industry peers in the Command Post online community at http://community.milaero.com/.
9/11: more a day of infamy than Pearl Harbor
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Posted by John Keller
It's sad that folks don't seem to remember the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon -- all except for the anniversary of this tragic sneak attack on American soil by American enemies, which is today.
As I write this, it's 7:57 a.m., on 11 Sept., just about three-quarters of an hour before the first hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center towers seven years ago in the first of unfolding events in the 9/11 conspiracy to attack Americans on U.S. soil.
I'm hoping that all Americans take a quiet moment today to remember 9/11 and the attacks that so profoundly changed our lives. It really shouldn't be difficult. After all, more people were killed in the 9 11 attacks than were killed in the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to begin the Second World War in 1941.
While I was growing up, my parents talked about Pearl Harbor from time to time, and always spoke about where they were and what they were doing when they heard of the attacks. My dad was 11, and my mom was 10 at the time. They talk about concerned parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins who huddled around radios -- there was no television at the time -- in shocked silence as they absorbed details of the attacks.
It was much the same with us seven years ago. I had just gotten in to work that morning, and found all of my colleagues huddled around the television in our downstairs conference room -- all of them in shocked silence as they watched the World Trade Center towers burn and collapse. Some people looked numb, some looked outraged, there were more than a few tears rolling down faces.
I think these generations of people who were around on September 11, 2001 will be talking about the terrorist attacks for a long time. Our kids will grow up remembering about their folks speaking of 9/11 -- where they were and what they were doing. It's seared into all our memories.
Make sure you take a moment today to remember.
More on media bias
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Posted By John McHale
The past week whenever I watched CNN or Fox News election coverage all I heard was accusations flying that the media was biased toward Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican nominee for Vice President.
The republicans typically claim media bias during an election season mostly because it has benefited them at the polls. However, this time it was pretty blatant with even the mainstream press making an issue out of Palin’s pregnant teenage daughter, Bristol.
I thought it was revolting. It looked like desperation, when there was no need to be desperate.
Some of the claims made -- such as her cutting funding for special needs -- have been refuted. Factcheck.org has a breakdown of the some of the false claims made against Palin, under the heading "Sliming Palin."
Just because some of these accusations have been proven false does not mean more won't pop up. However, I don't think all of them will be due to media bias.
As a colleague and I were saying this morning any journalist with a chance to interview her should be zealous in his attempts to debunk her credibility in foreign policy, energy policy, past decisions made as Governor of Alaska, etc.
If they do it respectfully with facts to back them up and leave her children alone it won't matter how many republicans shout liberal bias.
I personally hope Gov. Palin comes through looking even better than she does now, but I don't want to see her get a free pass either.
Posted by John Keller
Who ever thought we'd need another Internet browser? We've seen the demise of a few over past several years -- remember Netscape and Mosaic? -- and we've become pretty comfortable with the industry standards of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari. I think Opera is still around, but I haven't used it in a long time. Still, there's a new free Web browser on the block, and it's worth a try.
I've been using Google's new Chrome Web browser for nearly a week now, and I like what I see. It's compact, fast, and does exactly what I need, even in the first beta version. I especially like the large feel of the screen. You see a lot of Web page with this streamlined browser.
What impressed me with the beta version of Chrome is its ability to handle our sometimes-quirky company-internal sites for our Military & Aerospace Electronics Website content management system, as well as for Website tracking software that for a while only seemed to render correctly with Internet Explorer. Not even Firefox did that from the get-go, and I'm a serious Firefox devotee.
You don't have much to loose by giving Chrome a try. Just don't tell the program to become your default Web browser unless you're really sold on it. I find I'm using Chrome almost all the time lately, but Firefox is still my default browser. I may change eventually -- or maybe not.
A couple of things you need to know when you first download Chrome. It initially comes without a button that brings you to your browser's home page. You can get a home page button to come up, however, by clicking on the little wrench icon on the upper right of the screen, choose options, and click on the "basic" tab. About halfway down, in the home page section, make sure the show home button on the toolbar box is checked. Believe me, that will head off some serious frustration while checking out the program.
Next, be advised that you can make a bookmarks toolbar appear by hitting Control-B on your keyboard. With just those two navigation tips, you'll be off and running very quickly.
Navy confrontation on the Black Sea not as serious as it looks
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Posted by John Keller
Lately I've been reading with interest some stories in the press that suggest an armed standoff between the navies of the United States and Russia in and around the Georgia port of Poti on the Black Sea.
My favorite is a story in the The Times of London headlined US warship confronts Russian military in ‘tinderbox’ port.
I had the impression that we had heavily armed warships of the U.S. and Russia tied up at opposite piers at general quarters with snarling gun crews at the ready. Then I noticed the specific U.S. warship involved, and breathed a sigh of relief.
It's the It's the USS Mount Whitney.
This important vessel, the flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, is a joint command ship. It's built to accommodate high-ranking joint-force commanders, and to serve as a combined-forces command-and-control headquarters. It also was the first U.S. Navy combatant to permanently accommodate women on board.
The vessel's stock in trade is shipboard communications. It can handle reams of secure data through HF, UHF, VHF, SHF, and EHF communications links, which enable the ship's joint intelligence center and joint operations center to gather and fuse information while at sea.
While it's C4I capabilities are awesome, the Mount Whitney is only lightly armed. It's got some air-defense missiles and a few guns. Suffice it to say that it just isn't one you'd send by itself into harm's way if you're looking for a fight. It's got too few guns and too many admirals on board to steam to where the shooting is.
Although the Mount Whitney is in an obviously dangerous place, contrary to what you might surmise from the headlines, the Mount Whitney is on a peaceful mission to send aid to Georgia after Russian tanks and soldiers got through manhandling that small country on a mission of intimidation.
Serious fighting surface ships -- like cruisers, carriers, and destroyers -- are designed to make noise and break things. The Mount Whitney, on the other hand, is on station in Georgia to help pick up the pieces
FEMA follies and aid antics
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Posted by Courtney E. Howard
I know I am going to get flack for what I am about to write, but heregoes. When Katrina hit, my old high-school chum who lives in New Orleans was thankfully on vacation elsewhere. Her apartment was not affected, aside from some rotten food, nor was her pocketbook and car. Yet, she was the benefactor of checks for several thousands of dollars.
We all know the sequence of events. My quick-and-dirty synopsis would read: people were in serious danger, some folks in the government dropped the ball, the Bush Administration was widely criticized, lots and lots of money was thrown at the problem (FEMA even reported egregious overpayments), and the city and its citizens are recovering and rebuilding. It was a horrific event, and my heart goes out to all those affected.
I have a friend in NOLA who is a real-estate agent, who has been having a couple great years. Property values were higher after Katrina than before, she told a group of us. Tons of people were interested in investing in are real estate. Why were people flocking to put their money in an area built below sea level that is susceptible to hurricanes, flooding, various natural disasters?
Enter Gustav. My friends who reside in NOLA happily went on a "hurrication" -- or hurricane vacation -- and have posted photos of them imbibing and partying online via their mobile devices. Some expect a check will be waiting for them upon their return.
On the other end of the spectrum, a friend of the family was in one of 12 local FEMA groups called to duty in NOLA. He was given three hours notice, and whisked off to Atlanta for two weeks. That is where he sits now. Just sits. Other teams are doing the same, but in Virginia. Many speculate that since they are not needed, they should be sent home, lessening as much as possible the hefty bill the taxpayers will have to foot for their room, board, and hazard pay. They are told, instead and in so many words, that the Bush Administration is "edgy" about hurricane rescue, considering the controversies that surrounded the "handling" of Katrina, and so they will sit -- and prepare themselves for likely deployment to the East Coast, where Hurricane Hanna is expected to strike, or to stay in anticipation of Hurricane Ike.
Granted my universe is but a small one, but perhaps you can see how it looks from my perspective. Three of the three people I know in New Orleans are benefiting from these circumstances -- and believe me, I am grateful for that rather than seeing them or anyone else suffer. And yet, I have heard similar stories relating to Reservists deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Case in point: a family friend in the National Guard Reserves was called up and sent to Afghanistan to give other military personnel a break from their post there. He sat, sweating in Afghanistan for a year, and then came home and bought a house and new car in cash with his hazardous duty pay. Don't get me wrong, you could not offer me enough money to go to Afghanistan.
I bring this controversial issue up because over the weekend I ran into a friend who was giving up her nights and weekends to provide care to hundreds of local children and seniors who were without health insurance and could not gain health care. Her stories were heart-wrenching. She was relieved that people in need were getting the help they needed during a natural disaster, and yet, she was disheartened that those who are always needy and perpetually sick and hungry gain so little of the Administration's attention and resources.
And so I cannot help but be caused to wonder, are we as a country and is our administration doing to right thing with our money? Is there not enough to go around? Where is the happy medium? I hope the new administration, whatever it may be, has the answer.
Government response to Gustav appears better than Katrina
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Posted by John McHale
The U.S. Government's response to latest hurricane -- dubbed Gustav -- already appears better than the negligence demonstrated during Katrina.
Fortunately Gustav seems to be reducing in strength and has only sideswiped New Orleans, but it seems on the surface that President Bush and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) learned their lessons.
President Bush canceled his appearance at the Republican National Convention, reportedly in order to focus his attention on the storm. That move is probably more symbolic than anything else, but news reports say that it seems that the government was better prepared this time at federal, state, and local levels.
One report told how New Orleans policeman were on the job last night whereas during Katrina there were reports of them fleeing the city to take care of their own families.
This year the police were given a weeks notice to see to their families and then return to duty.
Even in our little defense trade press world I've noticed more awareness from government and industry. Over the last couple weeks there was a significant increase in public relations announcements from the Department of Homeland Security, Coast Guard, and technology companies on their efforts to help during Gustav.
I pray that this is a positive sign and not a PR blitz as more storms loom off the coast.
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