Book Title: Seven Stories of Bad Government
By Patrick Pacalo, Ph.D., CPT, USAR(Ret)
Copyright ©Patrick Pacalo 2018. All rights reserved. This work may not be reproduced in any format without specific prior written notarized release from its sole author: Patrick Pacalo. The only exception to this reservation of all rights is that researchers, reporters, reviewers, editors, teachers, and students may reprint brief passages from this text if the source (this work) is properly cited and proper attribution to Patrick Pacalo is made.
Remembering the SMP/ECP Program
Captain Patrick Pacalo, Ph.D., USAR (Ret)
The Simultaneous Membership Program/Early Commission Program of the college ROTC in place from the years 1976-1984 is something we should pause to remember. The program was created by HQDA to fill gaps in the reserve forces in the post-Vietnam Era with eager and enthusiastic ROTC Cadets who would soon become Lieutenants. Under the program high school students would enter the Guard or Reserve in their junior or senior year of high school. These students would upon enlisting sign a letter of intent to enroll in the ROTC Advanced Course as ROTC juniors at the start of their freshman year of college.
The Cadets were enrolled in the ROTC Advanced Course as a result of placement credit given for the first two years of ROTC, by virtue of having drilled in a reserve forces unit and having graduated from Basic Combat Training prior to beginning their freshman year of college. At the end of the cadet’s sophomore year in college they would be commissioned in the reserve forces, with an option to go on active duty as an officer when they completed their degrees.
What did these cadets do while they were in the reserve forces prior to receiving their commissions? Many filled officer positions as platoon leaders, company executive officers or even at battalion staff levels. Many of these positions were then vacant in the reserve forces. The reasons for this were several. Not the least of which was that the Armed Forces in general were at a historical low level of prestige and credibility in the post-Vietnam era. This is not a slight against any veteran of any conflict or year group. It is simply the way things were then. Enlistments in general and enrollments in college ROTC programs did not begin to come up until the early 1980s, when pay and prestige among the military forces increased.
Some versions of the SMP program continue today, however only for cadets who are academically aligned. This means that for a cadet to be in the advanced course of college ROTC they must be in their junior or senior year of academics. There would be no more 17, 18, and 19-year old cadets acting as officers in the reserve forces and being enrolled in advanced ROTC simultaneously. Why was this done? This writer was told by a general officer at the 1984 AUSA convention that the ECP portion of the program was being discontinued because “it was too much stress on the cadets to be starting college and advanced ROTC at the same time.” Not all of the cadets that began the program were completing it, in this writer’s unit one cadet committed suicide, possibly in part due to such stress; another was killed in high speed armored night live fire armored maneuver exercises. These sacrifices should not be forgotten.
Essays in this Series: A Book Proposal: Seven Stories of Bad Government is the provisional title of the book; chapter titles are as follows:
The F-35: A Lockheed Martin Production – provided here in its entirety
The Gulf War
The Drug War
Epilogue: Relevant Observations
The F-35: A Lockheed Martin Production
In September of 1989 I started the ball rolling on the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world. That system is the F-35 Lightening II Joint “strike fighter.” I dipped into history and two prior attempts to get the armed services to fly the same or similar airplanes. In the op-ed piece I wrote for Army Times then, I did not use the term “strike fighter” – the editor of the paper forced it into my copy.
In past history there had existed the FJ-2 Fury. This plane, intended for air to air combat, was a version of the Air Force F-86 swept wing fighter of the 1950s. The FJ was intended for Naval aircraft carrier operations, however, its undercarriage was not strong enough for aircraft carrier duties and it was relegated to land-based service with the U.S. Marines. Bureaucratically speaking the Marines have always been a child of the Department of the Navy and fall under the Secretary of the Navy.
Another joint aircraft in past history was the F-111 which was rolled out in October of 1964 under then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The word joint refers to a program, mission, or weapons system that is to cut across service lines and thus involve more than one of the armed services. The F-111 was to serve both the Navy and the Air Force. It had a variable geometry wing and it turned out to be too heavy for Navy aircraft carrier operations.
There were 562 F-111s built for land-based operations. The “Aardvark” flew combat missions in Vietnam, attacked terrorists in Libya in 1986, and flew in extensive combat operations in Desert Storm in 1991. The last F-111 in service was used by the Royal Australian Air Force and was decommissioned in 2010, making for a long operational life. According to a US Navy source, when the Navy opted out of the program in the 1960s that service took the variable geometry swing-wing technology from the Aardvark and put it to use in the long-lived F-14 Tomcat fighter, the Tomcat also served in ground attack roles in the war in Afghanistan in the 2000s and left service in 2006.
Imagine, that’s what I did in 1989 when I was under employed in the light industrial portion of the Times Journal Publishing Company. Times Journal published papers for the armed forces, higher education, sports fans, and a string of local papers located near the Washington Beltway. The press rooms upstairs of the floor on which I worked would be considered heavy industry and were union labor. I had learned in political science class in the early 1980s that at one time newspapers were the third largest manufacturing industry in the nation.
I shall get to the imagination part in a second or two. On the ground floor where I worked, the newspapers would come out of the ceiling, or better said from our floor’s point of view, down from the press rooms on the floor above by way of conveyor tracks. My department would gather the papers into bundles based upon the zip code they were being mailed to and package them using strapping machines and load them into shipping containers. It was reasonably physical work but I found it pleasant. The only problem was that it did not pay enough to live very well on in the DC Metro area. Oh, the strengths we have in our 20s.
The presses would go down frequently for maintenance and when they did, we on our floor had nothing to do. Most of the packaging lines in our department were run by Vietnamese immigrants who were senior on the floor. When the papers stopped the supervisors would pick up a copy of their favorite paper and read, those of us down the line followed suit. It was all on the clock.
My favorite paper of the day was Army Times as I was a member of the National Guard in those days. Ever searching for a career-oriented position where I could earn a reasonable living doing something I enjoyed, I read the classifieds every time I picked up the paper. In those days the military service-oriented paper was in a format called tabloid and it was a weekly, it was produced on standard newsprint. A help wanted ad caught my eye in the late spring or early summer of 1989. It read “Capitol Hill Reporters Need Help.” Instructions were to apply to the editorial staff of the paper. It looked like the perfect trap for me to fall into, I smelled opportunity! When I got home that evening, I prepared a copy of my resume on my Smith Corona Memorywriter. The gray colored compact portable machine was a rudimentary word processor with an internal memory of about ten pages. The next day I dropped my resume in the mail box of Tom Donnelley, the editor of Army Times. One person at the paper had told me “he is in the family that owns the company.”
A day or two after I dropped the resume off, I went to the security desk at the foot of the steps that led up to the newsrooms for the armed forces-oriented papers. I asked to see the editor of Army Times, and without picking up the phone to see if it was ok for me to go up the guard said for me to go right ahead. All of the service papers, including Defense News shared a large spacious floor of the building that was somewhat divided into cubes with short walls to where people could see each other and share information. Defense News was somewhat more glamorous than the other papers in that it was all four color in higher quality printing than the rest. Defense News was funded by the weapons contractors out of money they earned selling weapons to the armed forces, thus taxpayer money was paying to advertise to taxpayers to get them to buy more weapons. Ha!
So, when I arrived on this floor, I enquired of the first person I saw as to where I might find the editor of Army Times. I was directed to a private office along the wall of the desks where that paper’s writers sat doing their jobs. As I recall I was dressed in the gruby work clothes I wore down on the mailroom floor where I prepared papers for shipping in the light industrial setting. The door was open so I introduced myself as the one who had answered the ad.
Donnelley was immediately hostile, or pretended to be so. He said in a raised voice that, “when I saw mailroom on your resume, I almost told them to throw you out!” I told him I had an idea for a piece on military involvement in the drug war. He said something to about liking the idea and then added that I should “cover some fires!” Some in public life were calling for the establishment of what would have essentially been martial law in the District of Columbia.
At the time DC had the highest rate of murders on a per capita basis in the nation. Young drug dealers were being found shot to the head with .38s and 9mms and having thousands of dollars in cash and drugs on their bodies in the city, sometimes nightly. Retired intelligence analysts were being brought into some of the regional police efforts to attempt to resolve the ballistics issues and catch the killers.
My thoughts on the matter were that the military forces, including the National Guard were ill-equipped to handle such assignments as civil inner-city drug interdiction without horrible consequences ensuing. I ended up selling a half page op-ed to Donnelly on this topic and my analysis of it for $50.00. More on this topic shall be included in the chapter on the drug war which appears later in this book. If memory serves correctly that piece ran in September of 1989. It was my bolt from the blue, I took shots at historians and strategists such as the late Harry Summers, Sr. and the Prussian Von Clausewitz in not so couched terms. I made sport of the reported 1960s comment on a Vietnam Village that had to be destroyed “in order to save it.” I was a bit surprised when that piece was published and not displeased with the headline Donnelly had put on it of “Drug War is Being Fought on the Wrong Battlefield.” Donnelly gave me a complement on the day that op ed appeared in the paper and said it was a “nice piece.” How gracious of the man, I thought at the time.
More salient to this chapter is the next article I sold to Donnelly, after the drug war piece was published. The second op ed piece was on close air support (abbreviated in military speak as CAS). Close air support referred to the use of aircraft to attack enemy ground forces that were close to friendly forces or were in direct engagements with friendly forces on the ground. The piece was a full page on the defense contracting involved and I doubled my asking price to $100.00 which I did not receive until well after the op ed was run. I had to call Donnelly several times to get paid and on my final call he yelled into the phone “what do you want, a check for a hundred dollars?” I said “yes.” And the check was awaiting me the next time I stopped in at the paper.
This article ran on October 2, 1989 and was headlined by Donnelly as “Army Faces Crisis in Air Support with A-10 Failure.” I was quite disappointed with that headline as I did not feel the A-10 a total failure, and further my meaning was there were far too many different aircraft in production for the armed forces at the time and this was the cause for high dollars spent and real-life logistical problems. Tactically the A-10 was a great plane, at my first National Guard annual training in 1982 in the Virginia countryside, I had seen the planes literally sneak up on us ground pounders. They would fly towards us with a ridge line between them and us so we could not hear or see them, then they would pop up over the ridge and engage us. Thunder screamed from their twin engines and we were had. As soon as they had appeared at tree top level they vanished behind another ridge. The A-10s in the desert in 1985 were much more vulnerable to ground fire due to the lack of masking terrain where they chose to attack us.
In 1985, at newly reopening Fort Drum, New York the A-10s were using us as targets on a live fire range. An OH-58 scout helicopter was spotting for them. The A-10s would fly towards our tanks at nearly turret level and track on us as we maneuvered across open ground. Then the planes would pop up over us and engage a plywood target just a little down range from us with live 30mm automatic cannon fire. They were often over the top of us when they let go with the automatic cannon fire. It was thrilling and another lesson on what aircraft could do to tanks when there was no defensive air cover to protect them from purpose-built attack planes. I recall one instance that year when we were maneuvering under the cannon fire under my direction – I had the whole company of tanks under me that year for much of the period though I was only a second lieuy. Well, one of the platoon sergeants called me on the radio and said, “there is a helicopter landing on my turret!” I looked over in his direction, to my right, and saw that the skid of an OH-58 scout chopper was nearly touching his turret. The aviators loved to play cat and mouse with us tankers!
My argument with the A-10 was not an argument against that plane per se, it was an argument against having perhaps a dozen different fixed wing tactical air frames in use at one time. This required a dozen sets of spare parts. A dozen sets of mechanics. And a dozen different types of pilot training. There was also the fact that if more common airframes were in use that during the extremes of war, the services would better be able to support one another with the stretched resources war brings into effect.
I don’t know even today if I was advocating a plane that could do ground attack and limited air to air missions, or something else such as an Armageddon aircraft that could fight a global war of the future and come out on top. Perhaps I was truly of two minds on the topic. What I think I was doing, looking back on my thoughts of the time, was pointing out there was a logistical problem and a financial problem with the way the military bought and fielded tactical fixed wing aircraft and further that support of the Army on the ground was not to be forgotten.
What I can say for sure that my concept for a dual role (air to air and air to ground), type of plane was picked up on at the War College where I had interned in 1983. LTC Thomas W. Garrett cited my article in a January 1990 paper in the tritely entitled “Close Air Support: What’s All the Fuss?”
Garrett, now retired, went on to graduate from the War College and according to his Internet biography he is listed in the following manner:
Commissioned officer United States Army, commanding Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during Desert Storm, advanced through grades to major general, deputy commanding general of I Corps, human resources director, commanding general Total Army Personnel Command, since 1997, assistant division Commander of the 101st Airborne. Commanding general United States Army Personnel Command, Alexandria, Virginia. Retired United States Army. https://prabook.com/web/thomas_w.garrett/516114 Accessed 28 Dec 2018
In a historical perspective in the op ed I stated that it had been a middle 1970s mistake to allow the two services that used the most fixed wing aircraft to split over the F-16 and F-18 in choosing a light weight fighter-bomber after Vietnam. The F-18 was a more flexible plane in that it was better suited to air combat and air to ground support of troops engaged in battle, or other types of ground attack missions. The F-16 was not as well suited to ground attack and not as survivable because parts of it were then made of plywood and it only had a single engine as opposed to the F-18s duel engine layout. There was a fly off between the YF-16 and the YF-17 and the 17 had won. The YF-16 and the YF-17 became the Air Force chosen F-16 and the Navy chosen F-18 respectively.
I noted in the article that during the development phase the Air Force had front end loaded its F-16 program with almost half a billion dollars, real money in those days. The Navy plane was initially funded with far less. Also, the Air Force and the Department of Defense sought to build momentum behind the F-16 by selling the concept to foreign nations even prior to the plane being fully accepted by the USAF and in production. All of this made the F-16 politically unstoppable on Capitol Hill.
I landed that second writing assignment by dropping off some photos I had taken at the Fort Irwin California Mohave Desert National Training Center in 1985. The photos showed an A-10 making a firing run on the advancing line of tanks I was a part of, the “Warthog” was firing flares over our forward speeding and exposed heads to take the place of real 30mm depleted Uranium automatic cannon shells. It was the photos that convinced Donnelly to buy the article. In my own coy way, by matter of sequencing my topics, I was equating the greedy free spending congress and defense contractors to the greedy murderous dope pushers behind the drug war.
To complete my research for the project I tapped into two pentagon sources. I had access to the building as a result of having a military identification card from the National Guard. It is not clear to me at this point how I found out the pentagon has an unclassified library. I began by going there and searching for information on joint aircraft programs. I found one document entitled The 31 Initiatives. This booklet was in effect a treaty between the Air Force and the Army concerning aircraft. The one initiative I can recall at this point is one stating:
Initiative 24 reaffirmed the Air Force’s mission of providing fixed-wing CAS to the Army. It required no implementation or development. That this mission required reaffirmation spoke to the traditional distrust the two services felt toward one another on this issue. Yet, its inclusion in a document advocating a comprehensive integration of the doctrine and means with which the Army and Air Force intended to conduct the next battle acknowledged its basic necessity to both. If the two services followed the intent of this initiative, with the Army trying not to acquire or agitate for its own fixed-wing CAS aircraft and the Air Force not only giving to its CAS mission the resources it requires but insisting that its CAS forces display genuine and effective cooperation and coordination with the ground units they support, then this initiative may turn out to be the most far reaching of all. Jul 11, 1983 – AIR STAFF HISTORICAL STUDY. THE 31 INITIATIVES: A STUDY IN AIR FORCE – ARMY COOPERATION. Richard G. Davis
On perusing the Initiatives, I recognized them for what they were. This document was an attempt to privately and quietly settle turf wars between the Army and the Air Force. Amazing that the power brokers in the military were so powerful and toxic toward one another that such “treaties” were required to keep the bureaucrats in their respective places, lest an open conflict between the armed services break out in the press and demonstrate to observers outside the system the level or waste and fraud that abounded within the pentagon walls. Nobody in the defense department or the Congress wanted that.
I then called the Air Force public affairs office from my apartment in Annandale, Virginia. They put me in touch with a Lieutenant Colonel I could interview for my project on close air support and the number of air frames in production. I called the man and we talked a bit, he answered all of my questions. He further said he could have some documents for me to pick up on the subject. We set a day and time for me to come to his office. As the time approached, I got nervous, I was after all gaining access to the pentagon as a reserve officer, not a journalist. I began to lose my nerve and I called the colonel and told him I would not be coming. He got mildly angry and stated that his secretary had all the documents I wanted compiled and ready for pickup. I told him I would be at the appointed place at the appointed time and left the apartment, got in my small red Mitsubishi pickup truck and raced to the pentagon to be on time jamming gears all the way.
I had been parking in the visitor parking lot when I was in the pentagon. The small lot had a gate and a very reasonable rate for visitors to park. The nearest entrance to the building from the lot was the prestigious river entrance facing the Potomac River. I walked along the winding sidewalk to the entrance, as I got closer, I noticed something unusual.
The walk way from the side walk that led to the river entrance was cement and somewhat broad. It was perhaps a few hundred yards to the building. I noticed the joint review squad was out in their best dress uniforms. They, members representing all of the armed forces lined the walk way on either side facing in. I almost froze in my tracks as I approached. Was the Secretary of Defense, the president, or some foreign dignitary destined to arrive at the same time as I was headed in to the Lieutenant Colonel’s office? Could I be arrested for interference with official business? As I recall it was a beautiful clear September day. One foot in front of the other I motivated with a lump in my throat and my heart pounding.
I walked down the apron leading to the few steps from the walk way to the pentagon proper, between the impeccably dressed stone-silent service members. I cannot say for sure what was going through my mind at that point, but no dignitary arrived. The service members just stood their firmly and silently, I know I felt pride in this (chance?) encounter. When I hit the door and approached the guards, the lone individual using the entrance at that time, I presented my identification and acted as if nothing unusual was happening. I was prepared to go into my “oh, dopey me” dumb act if necessary, but that was not required.
I found my way to the Colonel’s office and I am not sure if the door was open, I think it was. I walked in and presented my elated self to the gentleman in uniform and he directed me to his secretary who handed me a stack of documents on close air support about six inched thick. In the back of my mind I was sure I was about to be arrested for espionage or being a general nuisance. I made my way out of the office, back through the security of the entrances, down the apron, to the side walk and to my car. A drive down 395 and 495 brought me back to my apartment in the Patriot Village complex in Annandale in good order. None of what the Lieutenant Colonel had given me was helpful in putting the article together, none of it made it into print in my article. What I had gained from my drive to the pentagon was nothing more than a few hundred pages of jumbled “pentagonese.”
What came next? Well I telephoned an old school mate from Lake Braddock in Fairfax County Virginia. He was the serving in the active army in Germany, recall this was September 1989. One of the things he told me was that the F-16 did not have FM radios and thus could not communicate with ground troops to fly ground support missions. This turned out to be false but would later prove the influence of the article. It happened like this.
My publications, safety experience in the Army National Guard, and my formal education led me to interview for and secure a good job at Georgetown University as the Safety Specialist for the college, research community, law center and hospital. My supervisor was the Director of Safety. Dave Garcia had been a naval aviator flying F-14s prior to coming to GU, he had flown in the Vietnam conflict many years prior. Dave was impressed by my articles and my savvy slick polished interview skills. After I came on board, we had several discussions about the war and aircraft missions. He used to bring his copy of Aviation Week and Space Technology in and give it to me. Garcia referred to the magazine as Aviation Leak and Space Technocracy.
In one of the letters to the editor in that magazine a few weeks after my article was published the writer noted that every F-16 since the first one produced had FM. My article was being read. Oh dear. The dupe my school mate had played on me turned out to be a signal that let me know I was getting through. Also, in the article I clearly noted that a dual role multi service aircraft could save money in the end, result in better support for the army, and be more mission flexible across service lines. This led to another echo. Another letter to the editor around that time frame noted that the best air to air fighter in the US fleet, the F-14 Tomcat could drop bombs. The Tomcat would later fly ground support missions in the war on terror in Afghanistan some 15 years later. Garcia brought me a photo showing the F-14 carrying bombs. Signals were being sent below the radar across the periodicals. The idea that fighter planes should be duel role was inherent to my piece, Garcia’s photo presented me with proof that, to a greater or lesser extent, all of them were all along.
I had issued a call to the president of the United States and the U.S. Congress in public. It was a call from little old me, that is from a National Guard First Lieutenant to the man. By first writing about the drug war and then going into covering the weapons business I had made the connection between dope pusher and weapons merchants. My article on the weapons merchants posed the idea that we were proving Marxist economics correct by spending ourselves into deeper and deeper debit. I closed the article by stating that compromises were going to have to be made and the “petty political gamesmanship” behind weapons procurement had to end. Compromises was a deliberately loaded word, it meant compromises between and among the services and also that the over classification of information in government had to end. I knew my meanings would be deciphered by people on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Petty political was polite speak and loose code for Marx’s petite bourgeois.
I also did such things as put the term stealth in quotes, as in “stealth.” The meaning should have been clear in one way. I said the new generation of planes would employ “stealth.” Stealth, like the oft used term air superiority, has no jargon free definition. Also, it was a bohemian slap, as in – you gotta have stealth, like the saying “you gotta have art.”
Friends in the service saw the article, some of us had trained together for many months if not years. We were scattered literally all over the world. During my internship at the Strategic Studies Institute in 1983 I had gained valuable experience in global strategic communications. Not only had I visited the communications “bunker” below the institute, I had followed reports of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service. FBIS was a cooperative venture between the CIA and the State Department. I was also privy to the developing massive wargames complex planned for the future at the War College and other highly sensitive matters of the Cold War.
A typical FBIS report was on the subject of one of seven regions of the world or on a topical matter such as nuclear arms proliferation. The reports were color coded and bound by simple staples. As I recall green was for China, salmon was for the Soviet Union, pink was for Latin America, blue was for Europe, and so on; the topical reports were covered with institutional gray covers. Paradoxically any one could subscribe to the Official Use Only versions. There were also classified FBIS reports. Good university libraries and corporate market research entities often had subscriptions to the reports. In 1991 the price for a one-year subscription to the FBIS reports was about $600.00 per year, per geographic region.
The daily and weekly reports contained translations of media from the respective global reports’ subject matter areas. Television broadcasts, radio broadcasts, speeches, journal articles, newspaper articles, and other public broadcasts and print media on matters of politics, military issues, and government were included in the reports. If one kept tabs on the reports over time, one could begin to develop a feel for what was going to happen in public affairs down the road.
I can give two examples here of what you see from time to time in world events if you are reading FBIS regularly. First, in 1983 during my internship at SSI I was reading the pink covered FBIS reports on Latin America as fast as they were published. I was also reading the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post daily. The newspapers were supplied to me free of charge for me to read in my office in the SSI section of the Army War College daily.
One day, I am not sure which of the papers I read it in, a journalist working for one of the papers, in my opinion stepped over the line. The reporter took a paragraph word for word from an FBIS report and inserted it in their story as a confirmed fact, and without attribution as to where the material had come from. It was not however a case of copyright infringement, because U.S. Government documents are in the public domain, anyone can use them. Of course, the FBIS might well have infringed on the copyright of a source in the first place, making the reporter guilty of second-hand infringement. The problem I saw with the reporter’s use of the material is that it was presented without quotation marks as the reporter’s own original work. This use of material without attribution was in my view a serious ethical breach of trust between the reporter and the reader.
The next, even greater shock received by myself as a result of reading the FBIS material came in 1991. In late July I was reading FBIS for signs of terrorist activity, as a part of my duties resulting from being assigned as an Intelligence Officer in the 464th Chemical Brigade of the U.S. Army Reserve. My supervisor had a subscription to all of the reports and he had neatly dumped that responsibility on me, while I had numerous other assignments. I was to read all of the repots and report to the staff on what I was finding. This was done as a part timer; my fulltime job was still at Georgetown and when I left Georgetown my fulltime occupation was as a graduate student.
Well, one day in July of 1991 I read some translated FBIS messages sent by the Soviet military that were in no uncertain terms harshly critical of the Soviet Communist civilian government. I had never seen such direct commentary from the Communist military leadership of the civilian Communist leadership that was supposed to be running the whole show. “How odd,” I thought at the time. I simply continued with my job looking for material on terrorism.
At the time I thought and am sure of now, that others in the system would spot that fact and make something of it in the halls of the intelligence bureaucracy of which I was a very small cog distantly related. Only a few weeks later the Soviet military rose up against the Soviet civil government in a coup attempt that was destined to fail and result finally in the dissolution of the Soviet state into 15 countries. Also, oddly enough, in the middle 1970s a then Northern Virginia neighbor of ours happened to be a high-ranking United States Information Agency (USIA) diplomat named Ron Underwood. One day in the 70s we were sitting alone the deck behind the Underwood home discussing international relations. He said to me that there was a strong movement afoot in the U.S. government to stop treating the Soviet Union as a country because it was “really an empire” made up of “15 conquered nations.”
If all of this turbulence seems a bit hard for the reader to understand I can sympathize as I write this in the closing days of 2018. From 1980 to 1994 I moved in and out of the Guard and Reserve (active and inactive), freelanced, worked several jobs while until landing a job with Georgetown, then returning to the college campus as a grad student. It was quite a ride for a number of years.
Continuing with Underwood’s thoughts on the Soviet Union, on March 8, 1983, President Ronald Reagan would label the Soviet Union just that. In a speech to Evangelical Christians gathered in Orlando Florida Reagan said that there could be an attempt to view the Soviets and the U.S. as moral equivalents. Reagan said specifically that there could be,
the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all, and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and, thereby, remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil. March 8, 1983, public address – President Ronald Reagan
While I was writing these two op-ed pieces, I stopped in the news room several times to speak with Donnelley. He once offered me a job writing a column called “Defense Trends” concerning new weapons systems. This was prior to the offer at Georgetown coming thru and I probably should have accepted the offer. What flashed through my mind when he proposed it to me was that I would have to get in bed with the defense contractors, I ignored his offer and in an instant, he moved on to another topic of conversation.
Donnelly removed two items from my op ed on close air support. In the draft there was coverage of how the attack helicopters of the blue force used terrain to mask themselves and eliminate many of the red force tanks during the massive exercises in the California Desert in the 1980s. In real action during Desert Storm the copters attacked in a method similar to that which they had practiced at the California training base many times. The first night mission of the copters in the middle eastern desert 1991 raid was to knock out Iraqi radar facilities that could have proved a hazard to Coalition forces fixed wing aircraft in main aerial assault that followed Army aviation.
The other item Donnelley removed from the article was my dealing with the USMC’s AV-8 Harrier attack aircraft. The AV-8 had the ability to stop and hover in midair and also to take off and land vertically. While it could not carry a full load of weapons in vertical operations, this ability made it possible for the aircraft to operate without full-sized conventional nuclear aircraft carriers or full-sized airfields ashore.
I then tried my hand at a piece for Navy Times and it came to nothing. I had looked up sea planes in the unclassified public source pentagon library. As an aside, I had found out that the pentagon was known as “the building,” to the brass that inhabited SSI and other places in the military bureaucracy, during the 1983 internship that led me to be declared dangerous by some in the establishment. This is probably because “the pentagon” was not the official name of the defense office building. In that library I found two books on sea planes: Submarines with Wings, and The American Flying Boat.
The piece I proposed for Navy times was based largely upon the development of the jet flying boat known as the Martin P-6M Seamaster. I had an interest in the craft because my father had often talked about it. His patrol bomber squadron which flew the P-2V Neptune was slated to get the Seamaster in the late 1950s and early 1960s when a Seamaster prototype crashed under mysterious circumstances – according to the portions of the aircraft accident investigation report reproduced in the The American Flying Boat.
The P-2V that the P-6M was to replace, was conventional in the sense that the Neptune could not land on water. The P-2V was unconventional in that it had two jet engines, and two propeller engines; one of each on each wing. This allowed the P-2V to conserve fuel by flying at low altitude at low speed on the propeller engines, and light the jets to escape enemy aircraft if discovered. Soviet aircraft of the day did not have radar able to pick out the P-2V against the “ground clutter” when the P-2V was flying at wavetop or treetop altitude. This helped the P-2V in its mission of hunting Soviet submarines and sneaking up on and mining enemy harbors and straights.
This stealthy by tactic nature also gave the P-2V value as an intelligence gathering platform. Flying low over water or land made the plane also tough for ground-based radars of the day to detect, and the engine combination made the plane capable of mission aloft times approaching 20 hours. My father once told me of his crew being assigned a “provocation mission” off the Albanian coast in the middle of the night. In a provocation mission one attempts to get the coastal enemy to show its defenses by turning radars on and launching fighter interceptor aircraft hopefully without the provocateur P-2V being shot down. A number of P-2V Neptune planes, and its predecessor the P-1 were shot down around the periphery of communist nations, in particular China during the Cold War. In a number of those shoot-downs all or most of the 13-man crews were never recovered and presumed dead. The National Security Agency maintains a listing and map of some of these shoot downs at its public museum adjacent to Fort Meade, Maryland.
The aircraft carrier dominated U.S. Navy, was not interested in the P-6M as a more flexible, faster, longer ranged follow-on to the P-2V. The carrier admirals and those rising behind them had vested interest in carrier aircraft performing those missions. As well the Polaris nuclear missile submarine was just coming into its own and would keep the Navy in the strategic nuclear mission game, if the carrier aircraft did not have the range for it. As well the P-6M threatened the B-52s mission profile and the Air Force was against the Seamaster. After the rather mysterious second crash of a P-6M with its crew being lost, all of the then existing planes were broken up for scrap, not even one was saved as what would be an invaluable museum piece today. True, seaplanes had their problems, including corrosion due to exposure to seawater. However, the P-6M was capable of changing and engine while afloat and being refueled by tenders and submarines. Navy Times turned down the historical article on seaplanes that I penned, without comment or suggestions for improvements.
I made another attempt to get published at the end of 1989 and the beginning of 1990. This time I took aim at another Times Journal paper, the venerable four-color flash-and-dazzle Defense News. This weekly tabloid format paper drew hate at first sight from me. Here was a paper financed by the weapons contractors out of taxpayer money with the purpose of getting the taxpayers to fund more weapons purchases. This seemed to be on its face just plain wrong to me. I set to writing on my Smith Corona an article that showed there were at least 7 different tactical air frames in use for ground attack and air to air roles.
The point of that article, as was the point of the Army Times piece on aircraft, was that if aircraft were truly multi role as in the F-18 and more joint services craft were produced, then money would be saved, and the overall force would be more flexible. By flexible I meant that the various armed forces would be able to interchange parts, air crews, and support services in a critical war situation. This kind of flexibility could prove invaluable.
A junior editor at Defense News read the piece and agreed to run it, I think I was asking $150.00 for it. He said his editor had some problems with some of the numbers in the op ed and I demonstrated how the numbers could be interchanged by way of a formula that included the Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) costs associated with the aircraft type. RDT&E was usually written off after the aircraft was in production, thus showing a false cost per aircraft. If a billion dollars were spent on RDT&E then it should be divided by the number of aircraft produced and added to the per copy cost of the planes coming off the assembly line. Pentagon planners were able to write the cost off as a hidden cost because by the time the planes were in production that RDT&E money was since approved by congress and spent on their friends in the weapons industries where many of the pentagon planners planned to retire.
That junior editor said my article would run sometime after January 1st 1990. The story was killed. After it was killed at least one entire paragraph that I wrote appeared in a Defense News story without attribution. I was mad. I found out recently that that junior editor went on to a high-level editorial position with a major U.S. newspaper later in their career. Ah, the rewards of lying and plagiarism in the upper echelons of journalism.
I understand some of the things about weapons procurement that I understand because of three reasons. One, I grew up as the son of a naval aviator, in grade school and secondary school I used to read technical journals my father subscribed to and wrote for such as Naval Institute Proceedings and Naval Aviation News. Two, I spent 13 years and ten months under contract to the United States Army as an enlisted, then officer member of the National Guard and Army Reserve. And three, while I was researching the aircraft article that was published in Army Times, I contacted a former “Northern Virginia” neighbor who was an assistant secretary of the Air Force (pay grade Senior Executive Service – level 6). This gentleman, informed me that the Defense Systems Management College located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia had some unclassified materials that might assist me in my research. I read parts of them, including The Program Manager’s Handbook.
One morning in November of 1989, before going to teach defensive driving at Georgetown, which was a part of my duties as the university Safety Specialist, I turned on the TV in my apartment to see young people sitting on the Berlin Wall. All year long many thousands of refugees were flooding across the old iron curtain between east and west in countries like Czechoslovakia. Some of the East European nations that held their own people captive had taken down the fences, mines and barbed wire between their countries and the free side of (Western) Europe. At the time I wondered if some of the higher ups were on pins and needles over the flow of refugees pell-mell across Europe. Early on in the Guard I had been taught that one of the scenarios for an invasion of Western Europe was a huge pressure generated by the flow of a number of refugees intended to overwhelm that possibility of the west to control them. During the Korean War in the 1950s the Communist forces had on a number of occasions sent refugees ahead of fighting forces. There was a prediction for every eventuality during the Cold War.
However, some of the Communist politicos in the East German state were saying the Berlin Wall, dividing that city between Communist and free, would remain up for another 50 or 100 years. With the Wall coming down, information had won the day. Even futurists like Alvin Toffler could not have predicted that the free flow of information, not bullets, bayonets, and tanks would free the Communist world. The USIA, not the CIA had triumphed. One of the kids in my morning class speculated out loud that the unification of Germany would come, only possibly, in 20 years. It came a year later.
During the events of those days, more results occurred for me as a result of my articles. After their publication I was hired by Georgetown in a discreet but important staff position. I was making more money than the congressional staffers whose jobs I was seeking for a time. I wore the 20 something DC uniform of a white shirt, tie with fore-in-hand not, and jacket to work each day.
One night I was out with some of my White House and congressional staff friends at an Italian restaurant in Arlington. One of the staffers, a guy who worked for arch conservative “B-1 Bob” Dornan of California told me that Lockheed had box seats available for the Redskins games. I did not bite, I was continuing my writing but refused to get in bed with the contractors. Another fellow who was then working for President George H.W. Bush had said that the perks could be pretty good in that realm. That fellow, a friend of a friend, had had once told me that prior to his White House work he had worked as a staffer on The Hill and when he wanted to eat, he would just pick up the phone and call a lobbyist and say “take me to lunch.”
A former college friend, whom I had rented a house from in my last days before reporting back to Fort McClellan after college, called me in my office at G.U. This was while I was still in negotiations to get the article for Defense News into print. When I picked up the phone in my office, she identified herself and told me she was working for Martin Merrietta corporation. She said she had read my work and in a very coy voice stated that, “there are some people here who want to talk to you.” I explained that I was very busy working at G.U. and simply did not have the time. What went unsaid was that there is no way I was going to crawl in bed with them. This young woman had a shadowy reputation when I met her in school. The story was that her parents had climbed from the bottom of government contracting to the top by developing some kind of super-secret computer program. Their politics was extreme left, the sheik left. I always assumed they were NSA.
Back, more specifically to the F-35, in December 2016 a “selected acquisition report” was published on the F-35. It gets us into the ball park on what perhaps this boondoggle is costing the U.S. tax payer. My ideas had by then been taken way out of proportion, and by then were not even remotely attached to my name, as had been the case with the War College article in 1990 and letters to the editor in some of the periodicals. By this time, it seemed that all the tactical eggs America had, or most of them, had been placed in the F-35 basket at costs that were running out of control. Not only were there the costs of the F-35 and its maintenance and support to be considered, there are the trillions in costs for the redesign of the structure of U.S. Armed Forces around the globe based upon acquisition of the F-35. According to the report, organizations pumped up with F-35 money then included:
the United States Navy; the United States Air Force; the United States Marine Corps; the United Kingdom; Italy; The Netherlands; Turkey; Canada; Australia; Denmark; Norway. The F-35 Program is a joint DoD program for which Service Acquisition Executive Authority alternates between the Department of the Navy (DoN) and the Department of the Air Force (DAF), and currently resides with the DAF. https://fas.org/man/eprint/F-35-SAR-2018.pdf accessed 28 December 2018
According to the web hyperbole on the new aircraft is is not just the cure to all aircraft needs, sometimes the F-35 is jokingly referred to as “the plane that ate the pentagon.” Please consider the implications of the following,
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 is delivering more than just air combat superiority to the men and women of the United States armed forces. As an added benefit for the nation’s economy, it’s simultaneously delivering tens of thousands of high paying, high quality jobs to American workers across the country, and around the world.
https://www.f35.com/about/economic-impact accessed 28 December 2018
So, admittedly, the F-35 is a jobs program for the tight lipped Washingtonia based elite. The presidents involved, the Congress, the military, the department of defense, and the contractors have ensured that the pie will always be replenished for those feeding at the federal trough. There are presently 1,300 suppliers of parts and services to the F-35 and they are spread over 45 states of the Union. There being 2 senators from each state that gives the plane near automatic support from 90 of the 100 sitting U.S. Senators. It also gives the plane support from House delegates spread over districts in the 45 states involved.
The selected acquisition report states that the research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) phase of the F-35 project cost between 55 and 60 Billion dollars for the ten years from project acceptance to the time of the report (does anyone really know what this is costing us)? That phase of the program will continue into the future, with another 11 Billion apparently needing to be spent on the plane’s faulty computer systems. This money will be written off. These are just the numbers the government will admit to us.
At this point what is the plane to cost per unit? Bloomberg estimates that they total acquisition, that is to say sticker price, phase of the plane will be as much as nearly 350 Billion dollars. The U.S. will purchase some 2,500 of the planes. Simple division of 350 Billion by 2,500 units states that the plane will cost $140,000,000 per unit. Unknown is whether or not the Bloomberg organization included the RDT&E costs in its total acquisition figure.
Let us assume that the total basic RDT&E will be the higher figure from the selected acquisition report. That is 60 Billion dollars. Let us assume that the 11 Billion recently cited by the press as needed to revamp the planes computers is also necessary. This adds up to 71 Billion dollars in admited developmental costs for the F-35. Remember that number.
If the U.S. is to buy 2,500 planes, then this number is divided into the 71 Billion dollars to get the costs of development per delivered unit. That adds 28.4 million to the cost per unit. We are then talking about $168,000,000 per plane.
The selected acquisition report, differing and more specific than Bloomberg, states there will be different costs for each of the three variants of the F-35. There is the basic Air Force version projectedly costing, in 2016 dollars, at 89.2 Million dollars each, then there is the USMC version coming in at 115.5 Million dollars, and finally the USN version coming in at 107.7 Million each. These figures do not include the written off RDT&E figures of 28.4 Million per plane.
This math means that the Air Force version, acording to the selected acquistion report, plus its share of developmental costs will cost approximately $117.6 per plane, and at the high end using the Bloomberg figures the most expensive version will cost up to $168 Million each. Perhaps this is the price we pay for freedom. To get a program going we must drum up support of the engineering community by throwing 60 Billion dollars at it over ten years and at least 11 Billion more to come after that.
Perhaps the high number of 168 Million dollars per plane is acceptable; but is the plane as it sits, without combat experience, up to the tasks heaped upon it? From what I have read and experienced in my life I doubt it. US soldiers, sailors, and airmen always start a war with inferior equipment. The ace in the hole is that our troops are always better trained and motivated. Generally, as wars progresses U.S. equipment comes up to standard, as with the WWII era M4 Sherman tank that was clearly inferior to its opponents in the beginning, but with its M4-E8 variant came closer to matching the German firepower and armor. Similarly, during much of the Cold War the U.S. had inferior tanks fielded, it was not until late in the Cold War that America fielded the M-1 in significant numbers, in 1985, some 40 years into that conflict. It has never been said that America’s version of socio-capitalism is filled with integrity and honesty, or concern for the line soldier.
Reportedly the Obama administrations considered terminating the program some years back. Instead of cutting and running President Obama opted to hire some 122 subject matter experts to save the program. On coming into Office in 2017 the Trump administration spoke publicly about the plane stating that it had instituted a program of cutting the total cost of the F-35. I don’t think anybody knows what the program is costing and will cost in the future. We must ask ourselves, is the admited amount of 71 Billion dollars in RDT&E welfare for the class of aerospace engineers, and their families and friends, worth what we are now getting from the F-35 program?
Perhaps this is what I wanted when I wrote the 1989 article on CAS. That would be, a huge flock of interchangeable aircraft to fight the battle of Armageddon. A fleet of people and planes that could do all ground and air missions better than anyone in the world. A fleet that could work together across joint service and international lines in the direst of circumstances. It would be a fleet built to deter the big war on a daily basis and fight it and win it if deterrence failed. But is this what we are getting at such a high cost with the F-35? Are all of the hundreds of Billions, in particular the pot of fat worth at the very least 71 Billion dollars called RDT&E justifiable? As an educated and trained armature, I don’t know, and I hope we never find out by holding a huge war to get return on our American investments.
 “Army Faces Crisis in Air Support With A-10 Failure” by Patrick Pacalo was published in Army Times on October 2, 1989, page 25.
Dr. Patrick John Pacalo, Ph.D.
Award winning freelance writer and published author. Experienced in social sciences, humanities, and news writing. Extensive history in investigative and primary source research. Experienced college and K-12 level instructor. Experienced higher education administration at a major international university in the Nation’s capital.
2010 – Present –
Certified substitute teacher.
1989 – Present. Freelance writer –
Published over 450 articles and 9 books; please see google for book titles and blurbs. Frequent news-talk radio guest.
2009 – 2015. College Instructor –
History, Political Science, Medical Law/Ethics, Legal Ethics, Cold War. Delivered instruction in classroom and online.
Military service (14 years):
National Guard & US Army Reserve. Private soldier to crisis manager/Captain in Operation Caravan Guard in Germany in 1991. Distinguished Military Graduate of ROTC and Army Paratrooper. Heavy vehicle operator. Weapons officer. Advanced tactics. Passed defense language aptitude test. Army infantry, armor, and chemical schools, Strategic Studies Institute, CAS3. MOFWUS.
Entrepreneur and Non-Profit operations, Ohio:
1992 – 2016. Achieved BBB A+. Policy Work: RNC Capitol Hill, DNC presidential partners, multi precinct management as presiding judge of elections.
Certified substitute teacher, Marion County Public Schools since 2018. Ohio licensed educator 2010 – 2020. Certified Legal Assistant™ – National Association of Legal Assistants 2008 – 2023.
BA political science (1988), with graduate work safety and public affairs (1990-1992);
MA history plus grad work in writing GPA: 3.91, honors (1992-1998);
PC applications with high honors (1998);
Ph.D. history (2003); Post grad alternative medicines (2013);
Grad certificate in national security studies (2015).