Santa Claus wears four stars

When I enlisted, it wasn’t for the money. Every month, the $540 odd bucks that hit my bank account weren’t near what I made selling stereo equipment- but, I also didn’t have to pay for food, housing or my daily fashion. I also had a comprehensive health care plan, and a great personal trainer that made me do a lot of push-ups, sit-ups and run 2 miles before most of you rolled out of the sack. Pay is slightly better now, many years later- but we still have young soldiers on food stamps to try to support their families.

If you think about it- the military is a socialist organization. The systems were fair, utilitarian, and the rules were clear. Do this- get a promotion. Screw up- get a demotion. It worked better than most civilian businesses I’ve been in.

In all my time in the service, Generals were people you saw drive by in a car with a flag on it, or on a parade ground. A Bird Colonel was as close to God as you wanted to get (I was in the Army- and when I first walked on base at WPAFB- at the BX- I thought I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up at the planetarium- there were stars everywhere).

I’d actually been pretty good friends with a Marine Corps Major when I was in high school, helping him coach pee-wee hockey. He came from money (his last name was the same as one of the big banks that’s too big to fail) but never seemed overly well off. He worked hard as the head of recruiting- and was driven to serve his country. He was the real deal- having done tours in ‘Nam- that left him unable to go through a metal detector without setting it off.

I move in different circles now, and have friends that hang out with Generals (not around here) and know how much they make. One four-star who used to be on TV a lot, is now pulling in several million a year, in addition to his pension. Something never sat quite right with me with this knowledge.

So now, we find out courtesy of USA Today, via the Dayton Daily News- that Generals have been working both sides of contracts right after retirement, to the tunes of millions:

The Pentagon and Congress are looking into whether retired senior military officers have a conflict of interest when they serve as paid advisers, or “mentors,” to the Defense Department at the same time they are being paid tens of thousands of dollars to help defense companies try to win military contracts. The investigations follow a series of reports by USA Today on the topic.

USA Today reported that it identified 158 mentors across the military services, including former Air Force Gen. Gregory Martin, a retired commander of the Air Force Materiel Command. Martin now is chairman of the Colorado-based Durango Group LLC, which provides paid “mentor” advisers for the Defense Department program that allows retired senior officers to participate with active-duty officers in war games exercises and share expertise.

via Former high-ranking military official limits his consulting work.

Sure is nice work if you can get it, but, when I think about how far removed these brass asses are away from the dirty work that’s being done by the grunts and jarheads who have their actual asses on the line, it makes my blood boil.

Greg and I talk about these double dipping criminals in today’s Dayton Grassroots Daily Show, but, I think we went pretty easy on them.

And while I don’t agree with bankers getting million-dollar bonuses after having to be bailed out, I think that if you “support our troops” and think that this chicanery should be stopped tomorrow, you should be sent to the front lines in Afghanistan on a GI’s E-3 pay and see how you like it.

There is a difference between serving one’s country, and serving your own interest- and I expect better from those who wear the uniform and especially those who have the stars.

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3 Responses

  1. jstults January 9, 2010 / 12:47 pm
    Greg:

    …painting a tank is much different than painting a plane, BS…

    Dude, it actually is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stealth_aircraft#Cost_of_maintenance
    Maintaining those specialized aircraft structures, coatings and paint is different (and a lot more technically demanding) than painting big steel parts on a tank (sorry tank maintainers, but it’s true).  Not that it is an argument against a ‘purple’ force (there are much more compelling ones than paint), but there’s a huge devil you’re glossing over in them thar details…
     
    David:

    Don’t have ’em retire…

    Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.  Our ‘up or out’ system is a big part of the problem you are describing.  The Brits and the Germans do a much better job of letting folks become technical specialists and retaining that expertise without requiring them to keep getting promotions to stay in the service.
     
    While the General Officer one-way Revolving Door is interesting, you guys didn’t manage to get to the really interesting organizational dynamics of the Iron Triangle Ike warned us about.  That’s likely the most significant reason for our huge (in relative or real-historic terms, though not in fraction-of-GDP terms) defense budget.

    Brilliant or Bozo? Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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