Yesterday Tom Woods posted a comment from a reader who was upset about Woods’ commentary on the $17,000 drip pans the army bought recently. The reader, Greg, made a big deal about the criticism and wrote: “If that drip pan can be gotten for cheaper then either someone in the army made an honest mistake or that drip pan is really needed.” He went on to argue that “[I] think its (sic) best if you leave it to the command structure (who know a thing or two about helicopters) to decide what the army needs or doesn’t.”
As it happened, and as Woods noted, Greg got Marshall McLuhaned by another reader. After providing a robust enough resume in aircraft maintenance, he noted that a drip pan is “a large pan you slide under an aircraft while it’s parked to keep oil or hydraulic fluid from ‘dripping’ on the hangar floor.”
However, the biggest problem with Greg’s statement was his admonition to “leave it to the command structure.” Like a good sheep, Greg is perfectly content to let someone else make all the decisions, and pays no mind to what is done with his money. Not only that, but he instinctively jumps to defend the planners without even understanding the subject matter.
As a veteran of the latest chapter in the war on Iraq, I can say that almost without exception, the “command structure” is probably the last group of people who should be consulted about what “the army needs or doesn’t.” These guys have no idea what goes on in the army, what works, what doesn’t. The military is perhaps the single greatest bureaucratic nightmare that any central planning board could ever devise.
There is so much waste in the military it’s hard to explain it to someone lacking firsthand experience. Just looking at a soldier’s personal equipment and the bureaucratic regulations that go along with it is bewildering enough, let alone getting into weapon systems development and equipment procurement.
For my first deployment we were all issued plain black fleece jackets, clearly meant for outerwear. But, because the uniform regulations hadn’t been updated to prescribe proper wear of a jacket, we weren’t allowed to wear them, except as “undergarments.” They were required items on the packing list, we had to take them with us, wash them, and bring them home, but we were never allowed to wear them.
By the time of my second deployment the army had updated the uniform regulations and soldiers who were issued green fleece jackets could wear them. The thing was, only the new soldiers were issued green jackets, and all the older soldiers had to take their black fleece, again, but could not wear them, again. It’s completely insane.
And this is the group Greg wants to be in charge of everything, and you’d better not dare to question them.