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What's Wrong With the US Defense R&D Budget? 225

Posted by samzenpus
from the loosest-sense dept.
Harperdog writes "Here's an in-depth analysis of what constitutes defense R&D spending and how some of those projects are classified. From the article: 'But much of what transpires in the name of military research and development is not research in the sense that it produces scientific and technical knowledge widely applicable inside and outside the Defense Department. A large part of defense R&D activity revolves around building very expensive gadgets that are often based on unsound technology and frequently fail to perform as required.'"
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What's Wrong With the US Defense R&D Budget?

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  • Couldn't agree more (Score:5, Informative)

    by gadzook33 (740455) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:06PM (#38533274)
    I see this first hand every day. A big part is the government not having any engineers on it's staff and being led around by the nose by contractors every day (hence my sig).
  • by wonderboss (952111) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:10PM (#38533330)

    I WAS A MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX—article ARTHUR T. HADLEY
    Playboy May 1979 Magazine
    ISSN: 0032-1478
    Volume 26 Issue # 5

  • by plover (150551) * on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:16PM (#38533410) Homepage Journal

    At least try to come up with a true example. That space pen one is bullshit.

    http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp [snopes.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:17PM (#38533436)

    The graphite dust that writing with pencils gives off is tremendously bad for electronics and breathing in zero-G environments. An ink system actually makes quite a bit of sense in this regard. Furthermore, it was developed privately and then sold to NASA.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:26PM (#38533546)

    On one hand, yeah, of course the stuff fails to perform. That's why it's research. That's why it's experimental. For every "Fat Man" there's a "Thin Man [wikipedia.org]" that didn't work. On the other hand, just how much of this stuff is wasteful pork and how much of it is really needed even if it does work?

  • by HarrySquatter (1698416) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @08:45PM (#38533768)

    The sad thing is that the about.com link even states that it's false.

    Description: Urban legend
    Circulating since: 1997 (as Netlore)
    Status: False

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:08PM (#38533996)

    This reminds me about the billions that were spent on the so called space pen [about.com]. The Soviets showed us common sense, (and sadly continue to do so despite their economic troubles), by employing the time tested and proven hard black (HB) pencil.

    Your own link debunks you:

    "Be that as it may, beginning with the Apollo program astronauts did begin using a specially-designed zero-gravity pen called the Fisher Space Pen. The nitrogen-pressurized space pen worked in "freezing cold, desert heat, underwater and upside down," as well as in the weightless conditions of outer space.

    It was developed not by NASA, however, but by one enterprising individual, Paul C. Fisher, owner of the Fisher Space Pen Company. By his own account, Fisher spent "thousands of hours and millions of dollars" of his own money in research and development — not billions.

    The Fisher Space Pen is still used by both American and Russian astronauts on every space flight, and you can even buy one yourself direct from the company for a measly 50 bucks."

    From http://www.spack.org/wiki/SpacePen [spack.org]:

    "I hate to spam you, but on your quotes page you've tripped one of my pet peeves. The Space Pen. There is a common email circulating that describes how much money NASA wasted on making a pen that writes upside down, in vacuum blah blah blah. You know how much it really cost the US Gov't? Nothing. Fisher developed it at TREMENDOUS cost, all of it absorbed by them. In return they got to be the sole provider. Normally this means that they would sell these pens to NASA at some obscene amount. They charged just a few dollars. Admittedly, a few dollars for a pen was a lot in the 60's, but 1/100th what they could have charged. Fischer did this out of True Faith, True Faith that knowledge and research is its' own reward. And since that day, they have sold so many of their pens to the private sector, that they have made their money back a ten times, and still never charged that much. I have one of these pens, you can buy them at any stationary store, even Hallmark stores carry them. I recommend them, they're damn good pens.

    Oh, and the bit about the pencil is true, the russians did use pencils. Remember the space station fires that they had? At least one of these, I forget which, but it caused a fatality, at least one was caused by airborn pencil shavings mixing with sensitive electronics. Their solution? Mail order Fischer Space Pens."

  • Re:R&D (Score:5, Informative)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @09:22PM (#38534124) Journal
    Yes. A man that R&D lasers for the DOD, worked for national security and GAO, does not have a grasp of the US military system.

    Ghoshroy is a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Program in Science, Technology, and Society. Before this, he was for many years a senior engineer in the field of high-energy lasers. He was also a professional staff member of the House National Security Committee and later a senior analyst with the Government Accountability Office.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @10:47PM (#38534862)

    "The DoD budget should be written by DoD administrative staff based on actual, military need, not by a bunch of congressional staffers trying to appease big donors."

    Don't presume the cliques in DoD have the OVERALL best interests of the troops in clear focus and aren't fighting over DIFFERENT rice bowls.

    We went to war in Iraq with SOFT-SKINNED support vehicles and HMMWVs despite the lessons of Viet Nam and Somalia. Troops had to RE-learn how to build gun trucks, and RE-install gun shields on our APCs.

    SFC Paul R. Smith died firing an OPEN machine gun from an unprotected M113:

    http://www.combatartfund.org/Images/MOH.PatrickHaskett.jpg [combatartfund.org]

    (Most of the ACAV armor kits were REMOVED from M113s in the US inventory before it was realized Iraqis figured out what the VC did in the battle of Ap Bac many years ago. They are back, with the addition of TAGS windowed gunshields. As for the anti-RPG bar armor so common now, it was invented in the 1960s but rejected because it got tangled in Southeast Asian jungle. Tested on an M113, it was forgotten for decadesâ¦)

    Viet Nam 113 with gunshields:

    http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2570/4115742434_26c7ccf501_z.jpg [staticflickr.com]

    EARMARKS helped field uparmor kits, MRAPs, armored trucks, etc which save many Soldier lives. The stopgap HMMWV armor kits were better than nothing, but HWWWV are still merely light trucks and not armored fighting vehicles like MRAP.

    The military is complex and so are its internal politics. If you want ethical earmarks, ask for oversight, but they've done a lot of good.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2007-09-03-congressmrap_N.htm [usatoday.com]

    http://cnsnews.com/news/article/sen-lindsey-graham-defends-certain-congressional-earmarks-us-military [cnsnews.com]

  • by similar_name (1164087) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @11:18PM (#38535040)
    Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]
    NASA* [nasa.gov]
    About [about.com]
    Spacepen [spacepen.com]
    The Space Review [thespacereview.com]
    BBC History Magazin [historyextra.com]

    If you've done the research provide an opposing source.

    * NASA admits that they originally ordered pencils for over $100 each but backtracked. Latch on to that if you want to bash wasteful government spending, but remember they did respond to the public backlash.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @11:23PM (#38535068)

    There have been no space station fatalities at all so far, let alone any that were the result of pencil shavings. In fact the only (human) fatalities "in space" were the crew of Soyuz 11.

  • by bongey (974911) on Friday December 30, 2011 @01:23AM (#38535722)

    Those were *exactly* the same complaints

    Citation needed
    The F-22 contract award was in 1991, went into service in 2003 . 12 years
    The F-15 contract award was 1969, first delivery was 1973, went into service 1976. 7 years on the high side.
    The F-15 recorded its first combat kill in 1979 , only 10 years after the contract award.
    The F-15 program has just been better overall and the F-22 is still sitting in the garage looking pretty.

  • by MalleusEBHC (597600) on Friday December 30, 2011 @10:54AM (#38538188)

    The American government spends so much money that even if every single income tax payer was paying 100% of their income in tax, there would still be a deficit. Most of that deficit is military spending.

    2010 Federal Spending: $3.46 Trillion
    2010 Federal Tax Recipts: $2.16 Trillion
    2010 DoD, Social Security, and Medicare/Medicaid spending: ~$700-$800 billion apiece
    (Sourced from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], so take with the usual Wiki grain of salt.)

    2010 US Per Capita Income: ~$40k
    2010 US Population: ~300 Million
    2010 US Income Tax receipts: $900 Billion
    (Sourced from here [unm.edu], here [census.gov], and here [wikipedia.org], respectively.

    Putting on our big boy hats and doing some math, here are some interesting facts we can get from those statistics. First, defense spending is one of only three major pillars of our deficit, and it's project to expand at a far slower rate than Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid. Second, taxpayers rake in ~$12 Trillion in income but only pay $900 Billion currently, so we could easily run a surplus by raising taxes. Third, people with no knowledge of orders of magnitude should not spew FUD that will further confuse a public that has little knowledge of how much money comes into and goes out of government coffers.

Two is not equal to three, even for large values of two.

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