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(Reason Magazine)   The Pentagon's brownie recipe is 26 pages long - but unlike Obamacare or Operation Iraqi Freedom, when the recipe is implemented you actually will have brownies   (reason.com) divider line
    More: Dumbass, Operation Iraqi Freedom, pot brownies, brownies, Korean War, antioxidants, LBJ, Bosnia and Herzegovina, flour  
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5277 clicks; posted to Politics » on 18 May 2010 at 11:27 AM (11 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook



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2010-05-18 2:33:33 PM  

yngdaniel: Of course, somehow Home Hardware manages to buy 50,000 hammers, pay the supplier, pay the trucking company, pay for QC, pay for storage, pay employees to move the hammers, shelve the hammers at 500 locations from coast to coast and process / account for your transaction, and still earn a profit selling them for $25 a piece


The part in my post about "the most appropriate tool for the vast number of people who will be forced to use this tool" somehow escaped you?

If Home Hardware could only buy ONE kind of hammer, do you think that one hammer might cost more and have a longer list of specs than the $25 hammers on the bargain shelf? If Home Hardware had to ensure that their one kind of hammer worked in temperatures ranging from -10 to 109 degrees don't ya think that maybe that hammer would cost more to test and to manufacture and don't ya think it might cost more to have someone doing the numbers on all the different types of hammers available in order to determine which one hammer should be stocked on their shelves?
 
2010-05-18 2:41:54 PM  

5lbs of Flax in a 4lb Sack:
They are actually Beryllium Free but you were close enough.

Price: $1,057.87
Usually ships within 3 to 5 weeks.
Ships from and sold by Ampco Safety Tools.


Holy crap....

As if I could just dig down in that wallet and sport that ol' credit card like I'm buying a flash drive or something...
 
2010-05-18 2:43:59 PM  
I did a procedure compliance activity at a local nuclear power plant. The procedure for making a peanut butter sandwich (with optional jelly) was five pages long, and we ended up in a hour long argument about the clarity of the spreading instructions.

/"It doesn't say what plane to spread the peanut butter on, so you need to spread it on the entire piece of bread."
//"But it doesn't say that you should spread it that way either! Clearly it only means one side."
///"But see now you're inferring or working off tribal lore."
 
2010-05-18 2:44:36 PM  

whidbey: 5lbs of Flax in a 4lb Sack:
They are actually Beryllium Free but you were close enough.

Price: $1,057.87
Usually ships within 3 to 5 weeks.
Ships from and sold by Ampco Safety Tools.

Holy crap....

As if I could just dig down in that wallet and sport that ol' credit card like I'm buying a flash drive or something...


Hah...read the amazon reviews in that link.
 
2010-05-18 2:46:29 PM  

Talondel:
Yes, but why? Why does business know they can take advantage of a government buyer, but that same business would never dare to do the same thing to Wal-Mart? Because Wal-Mart would drop them like a used rubber if they tried, but government can't and won't. Because government makes it's purchases based on politics. It hamstrings itself by drastically limiting the number of potential suppliers.


Here is the test: what would you change to make it better?

Remember you must account for corruption and you must be able to handle large quantities in ways the government current deals with large quantites(*) [in particular you must handle the ability to buy half a million thingies like blankets and not have a failure affect the troops (by, for instance, going blanketless because the blankets delivered to the warzone were not correct].

(*) It is satisfactory to come up with a completely different structure to the armed forces to better facilitate the changes you plan, but your changes can not reduce the reliability and readiness of personnel.

What would you do? Open ended: go for it.
 
2010-05-18 2:48:39 PM  

keithgabryelski: jdjoker: KJUW89:
Oh, and these pans ROCK!

[Baker's Edge brownie pan.jpg]

/too small for Barefoot Contessa recipe, but fabulous for boxed varieties...

Maybe the lasagna pan will work, then?

absolutely amazing: because using a knife to cut a lasagna is just too damn hard.


you're clueless.. it has nothing to do with making it easier to cut.
 
2010-05-18 2:53:20 PM  

sluck604:
you're clueless.. it has nothing to do with making it easier to cut.


I see that, now. need to get off the Nyquil.
 
2010-05-18 2:53:24 PM  

Smidge204: "Well when your $25 steel hammer causes a spark that sets a multi-million-dollar aircraft on fire, or it gets too close a high power military radar/communications magnetron and you lose a finger and ruin a vital (and very expensive) piece of military hardware, you'll understand why they buy $500 beryllium alloy hammers instead."

=Smidge=



Not to mention they have to fund BlackOps somehow.
There isn't a defense appropriations line for "Things you're better off not knowing about."

/I hope
 
2010-05-18 2:53:57 PM  

Bill_Wick's_Friend: yngdaniel: Of course, somehow Home Hardware manages to buy 50,000 hammers, pay the supplier, pay the trucking company, pay for QC, pay for storage, pay employees to move the hammers, shelve the hammers at 500 locations from coast to coast and process / account for your transaction, and still earn a profit selling them for $25 a piece

The part in my post about "the most appropriate tool for the vast number of people who will be forced to use this tool" somehow escaped you?

If Home Hardware could only buy ONE kind of hammer, do you think that one hammer might cost more and have a longer list of specs than the $25 hammers on the bargain shelf? If Home Hardware had to ensure that their one kind of hammer worked in temperatures ranging from -10 to 109 degrees don't ya think that maybe that hammer would cost more to test and to manufacture and don't ya think it might cost more to have someone doing the numbers on all the different types of hammers available in order to determine which one hammer should be stocked on their shelves?


I think that the bigger issue in that example is that the store isn't held responsible for the hammer itself. At most, they'll give you a replacement or a refund, but if you buy it and it turns out that it shatters in sub-zero conditions or the handle rubber is unholdable by a bare hand over 110 degrees F, the store will simply say "Too bad, you picked it up when you bought it, not our problem it wasn't what you wanted".

If the military did that, it could very well get someone killed (or worse, like make a billion dollar plane fall out of the sky. I've see jets torn in half because some factory line worker decided that a single double-drilled hole wasn't a big deal) and thus they have to take a lot of extra steps to ensure that it doesn't happen.
 
2010-05-18 2:55:04 PM  

5lbs of Flax in a 4lb Sack: They are actually Beryllium Free but you were close enough.


They might be NOW because apparently beryllium is highly toxic blah blah blah... still, beryllium has applications that the linked tool may still not be suitable for.

And I'm fairly certain the military doesn't buy from Amazon.com.
=Smidge=
 
2010-05-18 2:56:06 PM  

JokerMattly: Smidge204: "Well when your $25 steel hammer causes a spark that sets a multi-million-dollar aircraft on fire, or it gets too close a high power military radar/communications magnetron and you lose a finger and ruin a vital (and very expensive) piece of military hardware, you'll understand why they buy $500 beryllium alloy hammers instead."

=Smidge=


Not to mention they have to fund BlackOps somehow.
There isn't a defense appropriations line for "Things you're better off not knowing about."

/I hope


I'm pretty sure that there's a substantial chunk of Pentagon money that's just labelled "Classified". That or it's "Research" under some vague name ('non-lethal crowd control and sedation' or something).

Not like DARPA has to reveal *every little thing* they pay money for.
 
2010-05-18 3:15:28 PM  

KJUW89: Oh, and these pans ROCK!

/too small for Barefoot Contessa recipe, but fabulous for boxed varieties...


Expensive unitasker.

I just use this:

[image from shopworldkitchen.com too old to be available]
 
2010-05-18 3:17:32 PM  

keithgabryelski: jdjoker: KJUW89:
Oh, and these pans ROCK!

[Baker's Edge brownie pan.jpg]

/too small for Barefoot Contessa recipe, but fabulous for boxed varieties...

Maybe the lasagna pan will work, then?

absolutely amazing: because using a knife to cut a lasagna is just too damn hard.


Center-cut brownies are superior and preferable to edge brownies.

Discuss.
 
2010-05-18 3:25:20 PM  

JokerMattly: There isn't a defense appropriations line for "Things you're better off not knowing about."


Actually, I think there is, it's just titled "non-itemized funding". But a lot of times when we get money from TYBONKA, it comes from "other funding" or "discretionary SBIR" or some other nameless generic slush funds. You couldn't get enough to build a Stealth fighter that way, but you can sure get some cards designed for it.

Another thing they can do (and we've done) is use a purchasing fund that doesn't literally permit design services, you're supposed to buy existing hardware with it. But if they need a piece of hardware that doesn't happen to exist and are out of "other" for the quarter, they just give you the design spec, tell you to post it in your "private catalog" as an existing COTS product, then get three first tiers to bid it to them. You price it by amortizing your NRE over the first buy.

It seems a bit loony that you pretend to have a product they need already on the shelf, and then have three primes call you and all bid the same non-existent product. But it satisfies the legal requirements for multiple bids, and for 'off the shelf'.

It does, however, result in $5000 boards, at least for the first run.
 
2010-05-18 3:25:41 PM  

IXI Jim IXI: Of course, the brownies will be trillions of dollars over budget when they're done, and will be unable to withstand chocolate frosting...


Let's not be too hard on them; I'm unable to withstand chocolate frosting too, but for a lot less money!
 
2010-05-18 3:40:31 PM  

Bill_Wick's_Friend: yngdaniel: Of course, somehow Home Hardware manages to buy 50,000 hammers, pay the supplier, pay the trucking company, pay for QC, pay for storage, pay employees to move the hammers, shelve the hammers at 500 locations from coast to coast and process / account for your transaction, and still earn a profit selling them for $25 a piece

The part in my post about "the most appropriate tool for the vast number of people who will be forced to use this tool" somehow escaped you?

If Home Hardware could only buy ONE kind of hammer, do you think that one hammer might cost more and have a longer list of specs than the $25 hammers on the bargain shelf? If Home Hardware had to ensure that their one kind of hammer worked in temperatures ranging from -10 to 109 degrees don't ya think that maybe that hammer would cost more to test and to manufacture and don't ya think it might cost more to have someone doing the numbers on all the different types of hammers available in order to determine which one hammer should be stocked on their shelves?


If the MIL spec hammer would cost $100 at the hardware store because of it's design, that's your argument, not how costly it is to manage the purchase and distribution of 50,000 hammers.
 
2010-05-18 3:52:16 PM  

Jackson Herring: Hah...read the amazon reviews in that link.


What Amerikan kustomer may not be privy: AMPCO 7920 is not only gud for demolition (#1 Hammer of Choice of Berlin Wall souvenier manufacturers), but also for making most flat apfel streusel, tenderizing swine for all your Sausagemaking applications, and also, mit ergonomic handle, is equally gud as MARITAL AID for das hausfrau!!!

Looks like Anon's been busy at work swinging that thing...
 
2010-05-18 4:03:42 PM  
COTS is never really COTS.
 
2010-05-18 4:24:56 PM  
I have a protocols binder with copies of NIST-800-53, FIPS-199 & 200, and Mass 201-CMR-17. This just got added to it.
 
2010-05-18 4:25:12 PM  

Smidge204: Linux



good point. many of the CONgressmen have big money constituents in the Defense contractor industry that want to keep that river of public money flowing to defense.


and these CONgressmen do as they're told.
 
2010-05-18 4:26:22 PM  

Linux_Yes: and these CONgressmen do as they're told.


Didn't you say in a recent thread that you would trust Obama to be a dictator?

Those are some pretty good odds, man.
 
2010-05-18 4:37:24 PM  
mmmmmm, cocolate
 
2010-05-18 4:47:16 PM  
The same thing happens in the construction industry- architectural and engineering plans have to be meticulously precise and every damned detail must be thought through and made specific, because not only will contractors cut corners whenever they can (and they do), they won't add anything extra to the construction project for fear of lawsuits and liability.
 
2010-05-18 4:49:00 PM  

keithgabryelski: Here is the test: what would you change to make it better?

Remember you must account for corruption and you must be able to handle large quantities in ways the government current deals with large quantites(*) [in particular you must handle the ability to buy half a million thingies like blankets and not have a failure affect the troops (by, for instance, going blanketless because the blankets delivered to the warzone were not correct].

(*) It is satisfactory to come up with a completely different structure to the armed forces to better facilitate the changes you plan, but your changes can not reduce the reliability and readiness of personnel.

What would you do? Open ended: go for it.


You're trying to force me to defend a position I'm not taking. I'm not claiming there's a solution. Anyone who claims there is a solution is either a liar or a Utopian. It's a problem inherant in any system that allows elected officials to spend money. If you want a democatic system of government, then politics will drive government spending. Period. If you want a big government that can provide the typical "big government" services then you have to be willing to accept a certain amount of "political overhead." That is, a portion of the money government spends will be wasted because it will be going not to procure goods and services, but rather to procure votes.

Want to fix it? Abolish elected government. Boom. Done. No more money wasted on trying to buy votes. (Warning: This may have unintended consequences far more severe than a 26 page brownie recipie). Alternately, you can try to limit the size and scope of government, but history has shown that doesn't work out so well either.

Once again, as I have said multiple times before, my only point is this: War profiteers are not a consequence of free markets (they can be, if the market has produced a monopoly that the government is now forced to deal with if it wants to wage war, but last I checked there was no monopoly on blankets, or hammers, or moisture wicking shirts, or any of the other examples provided here). Rather, war profiteers are created by political systems that grant monopolies and oligopolies based on political considerations.

Markets don't wage war, governments do. Governments are not driven by markets, they're driven by politics.

Nothing you are saying disagrees with this statement. I'm still trying to figure out why you want to argue.
 
2010-05-18 5:01:06 PM  

cfletch13: cram_hole: The brownies are a lie.

I think you're refering to the CIA's yellowcake recipie.


I remember that (early) episode of Flashforward!

In thick Iranian, gangsta accent: "I'm going to be a big-time pot dealer, yo!"
 
2010-05-18 5:16:35 PM  

Talondel: You're trying to force me to defend a position I'm not taking. I'm not claiming there's a solution. Anyone who claims there is a solution is either a liar or a Utopian. It's a problem inherant in any system that allows elected officials to spend money. If you want a democatic system of government, then politics will drive government spending. Period. If you want a big government that can provide the typical "big government" services then you have to be willing to accept a certain amount of "political overhead." That is, a portion of the money government spends will be wasted because it will be going not to procure goods and services, but rather to procure votes.


But that's not at all what this article is describing. This article is describing 'wasted' government effort that is necessary in order to prevent private contractors from cheating the taxpayers.

Why you are arguing about waste due to the Government buying votes is incomprehensible, considering we are talking about a 26 page brownie recipe and not about a no-bid contract to Haliburton or something.
 
2010-05-18 5:49:43 PM  

Skleenar: Why you are arguing about waste due to the Government buying votes is incomprehensible, considering we are talking about a 26 page brownie recipe and not about a no-bid contract to Haliburton or something.


But that would be unthinkable. No-bids keep us safe from substandard unqualified outfits from trying to do work that only Halliburton is capable of doing.

*coughs*
 
2010-05-18 5:55:02 PM  

keithgabryelski:
Go ahead and spend 2 billion on an airplane with out it -- see what happens.


I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is some kind of really weak troll... surely you don't really believe that brownies deserve the same level of regulation and documentation as a "$2 billion airplane".
 
2010-05-18 5:59:27 PM  

Skleenar: Why you are arguing about waste due to the Government buying votes is incomprehensible, considering we are talking about a 26 page brownie recipe and not about a no-bid contract to Haliburton or something.


For those who can't be bothered to read the whole thread, here are the posts I was replying to. Please note: the first claims the need for long military specs arises from problems with "war profiteers" and the second goes on to blame this on free markets.

Aexia: It'd be easy to blame the military-bureaucracy complex for it, but the truth is it really lie in the underhanded business ethics of war-profiteers excuse me, defense contractors going back to at least the civil war. Because fo them, you can't simply let out a contract for "blankets" or some scummy merchant will underbid the contract, deliver a bunch of blankets thinner than cotton sheets and say well it's what I call a blanket so pay me"

Thus before you can ask a contractor for Blankets you have to define minimum standards: So many inches long, so many wide, so many thick, made out of these kinds of material only, in these colors, to meet this elvel of flame retardency, durability, etc etc

ergo Milspec

This.

It'll never occur to the free-market cheerleaders at Reason as to why details specifications like this are so necessary.


Most of my posts have been arguing (aparetnly unsuccessfully, since no one seems to realize what point I'm trying to make) that this the "war profiteering" is not a problem of the market, but a problem of the political system. I'll say it as succinctly as I can: War profiteering is caused by politics, not by markets.

Skleenar:But that's not at all what this article is describing. This article is describing 'wasted' government effort that is necessary in order to prevent private contractors from cheating the taxpayers.

Yet large private corporations don't have to rely on these types of specs nearly to the extent that government does. This is because it's easier for private companies to rip off the government than it is for them to rip off other private companies. Why? Because large private companies will actually seek out a supplier that is most likely to satisfy their needs and dump them if they don't. Government is more likely than private business to make purchasing decisions based on other factors (like political considerations), so they're easier to rip off. That's not a market failure.

Yes, these specs exist to help government keep itself from getting ripped off. Yes, that is a necessity given how decisions are made in government. No, there isn't a solution to it. As long as governments are both 1) elected and 2) spend money, they will use the money they spend to get reelected. No one really wants to get rid of either 1) or 2), ergo, there is no solution.
 
2010-05-18 6:33:18 PM  

Talondel: Government is more likely than private business to make purchasing decisions based on other factors (like political considerations), so they're easier to rip off. That's not a market failure.


Well, that's true in the sense that fair bidding is a 'political consideratio'n.

No one gives a shiat if private company A exclusively deals with private company B, because neither is charged with the fair use of taxpayer money. Since government is charged with this responsibility, it is incumbent on it to create open bidding processes that allow any qualified bidder to compete, and to avoid any charges of 'favoritism'.

You are continually applying a nefarious motive to how government spends its money--specifically you are claiming its main effort is to 'buy votes'.

But that is exactly the opposite of what open bidding processes foster--and that is the issue at hand.
 
2010-05-18 6:53:33 PM  

dj_swim: keithgabryelski:
Go ahead and spend 2 billion on an airplane with out it -- see what happens.

I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is some kind of really weak troll... surely you don't really believe that brownies deserve the same level of regulation and documentation as a "$2 billion airplane".


Check this out:
Link
Ameriqual Group, LLC, d/b/a Ameriqual Packaging, Evansville, Ind. is being awarded a maximum $37,520,000 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-quantity contract for Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE).
The Wornick Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, is being awarded a maximum $30,730,000 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-quantity contract for Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE).
Sopakco, Inc.*, Mullins, S.C., is being awarded a maximum $24,890.000 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, indefinite-quantity contract for Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE).


Not $2b, but a lot. Sure that's not just the brownies, but it's part of it and the regulations go on the whole program. There's Congressional regulations on how much oversight and whatnot are required. The DOD doesn't get to pick. You can go over to DAU.mil and browse ACQ 101 and other courses to learn all about the fun.
 
2010-05-18 7:09:35 PM  

Skleenar: Talondel: Government is more likely than private business to make purchasing decisions based on other factors (like political considerations), so they're easier to rip off. That's not a market failure.

Well, that's true in the sense that fair bidding is a 'political consideratio'n.

No one gives a shiat if private company A exclusively deals with private company B, because neither is charged with the fair use of taxpayer money. Since government is charged with this responsibility, it is incumbent on it to create open bidding processes that allow any qualified bidder to compete, and to avoid any charges of 'favoritism'.

You are continually applying a nefarious motive to how government spends its money--specifically you are claiming its main effort is to 'buy votes'.

But that is exactly the opposite of what open bidding processes foster--and that is the issue at hand.


You're talking about the goal of government, which is noble. Unfortunately, the goal is not the practice. Open bidding is a joke. The U.S. Tanker was an "open bid" project. In they end they just wrote a spec that they knew only one supplier could meet, with the specific intention that only one supplier be able to bid (i.e. the one they wanted to win, to satisfy the demands of Congressman who had to appropriate money for the purchase). You don't have to take my word for it. You can read the GAO report.

I'm not applying a nefarious motive to government. I'm applying their actual motive. The motive of government is not "to create open bidding processes that allow any qualified bidder to compete, and to avoid any charges of 'favoritism'." That's their stated goal. It's not their motive. Their motive is to get reelected. That's not a bad thing. It's simply reality. I don't want a representative who says "fark what the people want, I'm going to rape and pillage my district for all its worth until I finally get voted out." In general, politicians wanting to get reelected is a good thing. That doesn't mean it they're aren't negative consequences to that motivation. One place those negative consequences show up is in government procurement, a process that is universally less efficient and more prone to corruption than it is in their private counterparts. It's simply one price of democratic government. That's fine. No system of government is perfect, they all have their trade offs.

The primary motivation of the private sector is (generally) to make money. That's not the same as the governments primary motivation (to get reelected). It shouldn't be surprising that they don't always match up. However, it's not a market failure every time the markets don't satisfy the needs of government. Sometimes it's due to problems that are inherent to our system of government.

War profiteering is (usually) one of those things.
 
2010-05-18 7:22:16 PM  

Talondel: I'm not applying a nefarious motive to government. I'm applying their actual motive. The motive of government is not "to create open bidding processes that allow any qualified bidder to compete, and to avoid any charges of 'favoritism'." That's their stated goal. It's not their motive. Their motive is to get reelected. That's not a bad thing. It's simply reality.


Why are you complaining about the tanker project in an article about a 26 page recipe for brownies?

Obviously, there are abuses of the system, and I would be happy to concede that the tanker procurement was one of them.

But that is not why procurement specs are huge and unwieldy documents. It would be easy to write a spec for a tanker built by Boeing. You could just indicate the model and number of units you wanted.

But if you did that, you'd run into a firestorm of opposition from the voters--and it would be justified.

You also are mistakenly applying the motive of the individual members of the government (getting re-elected) with the motive of the government itself. They are not the same. And while it is probably inappropriate in any case to assign a motive to a composite entity like a government, it is even more inappropriate to assume that the motives of individual members of a group accurately predict the behavior of the group itself.

The constitution of the United States is based on the principle that individual ambition, when balanced against other individual ambitions works well to benefit the collective.
 
2010-05-18 7:26:23 PM  

dj_swim: keithgabryelski:
Go ahead and spend 2 billion on an airplane with out it -- see what happens.

I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is some kind of really weak troll... surely you don't really believe that brownies deserve the same level of regulation and documentation as a "$2 billion airplane".


surely you don't believe a $2 billion airplane's specification isn't 26 pages.

Read the entire thread -- i've answered this.
 
2010-05-18 8:50:21 PM  
Another important reason for these ridiculously long specifications is the legal process the government has to go through to select a vendor (called source selection). If a privately owned store doesn't want to stock shiatty blankets, they don't have to justify themselves to the manufacturer of said shiatty blankets.

However, if the government is letting a contract for blankets, it has to state its requirements for the blankets to any company that bids. After awarding the contract, they then have to tell the shiatty blanket maker exactly why they didn't choose their blankets. Furthermore, if the shiatty blanket company thinks they should have gotten the contract, they can file a grievance, and if the government can't show exactly how the shiatty blankets don't meet the requirements, the shiatty company can and will sue the government (and probably win).

A fairly recent example of this was the Air Force KC-45 tanker fiasco. While complicated, the main issue was the Air Force said they needed a tanker with a certain capacity. Boeing provided a design that exactly met the requirement, while the Northrop/EADS design was significantly larger. The Air Force went with the Northrop/EADS design, citing its larger capacity. Boeing then cried foul since the Air Force never said they would give bonus points for additional capacity. Long story short, Boeing's protest was upheld, and two years later a contract still hasn't been awarded.

The main point is if the government isn't nauseatingly detailed in its requirements, they either get sued which costs a lot and delays things, or they have to settle with inferior things.
 
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