Lack of Right to Repair Limits Ability of US Military to Maintain its Own Equipment

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

Captain Elle Ekman, a logistics officer for the United States Marine Corps, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on Wednesday that shocked me – and I don’t shock easily, Here’s One Reason the U.S. Military Can’t Fix Its Own Equipment.

Apparently, even the US military doesn’t enjoy a  right to repair for materiel it purchases, and instead must ship some equipment back to the states, for maintenance and repair by the original manufacturer, rather than fixing it locally.

No joking.

Why?

Over to Captain Ekman’s op-ed:

A few years ago, I was standing in a South Korean field, knee deep in mud, incredulously asking one of my maintenance Marines to tell me again why he couldn’t fix a broken generator. We needed the generator to support training with the United States Army and South Korean military, and I was generally unaccustomed to hearing anyone in the Marine Corps give excuses for not effectively getting a job done. I was stunned when his frustrated reply was, “Because of the warranty, ma’am.”

At the time, I hadn’t heard of “right-to-repair” and didn’t know that a civilian concept could affect my job in the military. The idea behind right-to-repair is that you (or a third-party you choose) should be able to repair something you own, instead of being forced to rely on the company that originally sold it. This could involve not repairing something (like an iPhone) because doing so would void a warranty; repairs which require specialized tools, diagnostic equipment, data or schematics not reasonably available to consumers; or products that are deliberately designed to prevent an end user from fixing them.

I first heard about the term from a fellow Marine interested in problems with monopoly power and technology. A few past experiences then snapped into focus. Besides the broken generator in South Korea, I remembered working at a maintenance unit in Okinawa, Japan, watching as engines were packed up and shipped back to contractors in the United States for repairs because “that’s what the contract says.” The process took months.

I also recalled how Marines have the ability to manufacture parts using water-jets, lathes and milling machines (as well as newer 3-D printers), but that these tools often sit idle in maintenance bays alongside broken-down military equipment. Although parts from the manufacturer aren’t available to repair the equipment, we aren’t allowed to make the parts ourselves “due to specifications.”

The right to repair has become more prominent on the political agenda, with both Senators Sanders and Warren endorsing versions of the concept, as has the editorial board of the New York Times (see Right to Repair Initiatives Gain Support in US).  The Federal Trade Commission debated the idea during a workshop this summer, and Ekman and captain Lucas Kunce submitted a comment letter, Comment Submitted by Major Lucas Kunce and Captain Elle Ekman, which provides details that support her NYT op-ed.

How the Military Lost Control of its Right to Repair

Efforts to streamline defense production ended up with these bizarre repair implications (some may say this was a feature, not a bug, and I won’t bother to quibble). From the FTC letter:

In 1970, the DOD funded one third of all research and development (R&D) in the Western world. Key aspects of technology and product development could be organized by the Pentagon due to the sheer size of its budget. As the civilian sector grew both in the U.S. and abroad, the clout once possessed by the national security community in the marketplace diminished. By 1992, the amount of aggregated R&D spending directed by DOD had dropped from one third to one seventh. By 1999, it fell to 16% of just domestic R&D.3 As the technology revolution of the 1990s accelerated, and as the post-Cold War environment induced further relative reductions in military budgeting, an increasing amount of critical cutting-edge technology development occurred in the commercial sector.

Policymakers responded to this change by shaping DOD’s procurement choices around norms in the civilian economy, with the hope that DOD could leverage “dual use” technology developed in the commercial sector. One goal of these efforts was to loosen rules on vendors trying to sell commercial products. Since the 1990’s, the Pentagon, along with the rest of the Federal government, endeavored to become a “better customer” to industry and vendors, by reducing oversight, simplifying rules, and becoming more trusting of industry. This over-arching policy goal was implemented through changes to US Code, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), among other policies, rules and regulations.

Another policy choice was to encourage concentration across the defense industrial base in order to reduce overhead in industry. At a famous dinner with contractor CEOs nicknamed the “last supper” in Pentagon lore, Secretary William Perry directed defense contractors to consolidate to address a changing budgeting environment.Secretary Perry’s dinner worked. In 2005 the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) found 107 contractors that had consolidated to five. This consolidation was also an example of DOD following civilian sector financial and industrial norms, as in the 1980s and 1990s there was consolidation across most industries in the civilian economy.

The consolidation of industry, acquisition reform, and relatively less money spent on R&D, contributed to DOD’s current weakened negotiating strength and increased its drive to be a better customer in order to acquire items and services to accomplish missions. The situation is well captured in a DOD negotiating guide from 2001:

“Challenges to the Government today are to find ways to entice commercial industry into collaborating with the Department in vital research efforts, and to acquire commercial products using commercially friendly terms. While the acquisition streamlining legislation of the 1990s went a long way to create more commercial-like contracting processes for the government, some practices from past decades are holdovers to today.”

Another effect of the consolidation of the defense industry is the soaring use of sole source contracts. Sole source contracts are used when DOD is unable to find competition for an item or service and therefore is limited to negotiating with a single vendor. To illustrate how prevalent this has become, in the first three quarters of 2016, more than 50% of DOD contracting dollars were awarded without competition. The DOD has in many cases become a “price taker”, accepting terms and conditions commonly used in the commercial marketplace for weapons systems and vital products. Because of this shifting power dynamic, the decisions made for the commercial marketplace, like the FTC’s decisions on the right to repair, impact and influence federal contracting and DOD. (Jerri-Lynn here: citations omitted).

Translation: no right to repair. As the letter continues:

The FTC’s examination of right to repair is critical for this type of contracting because, when purchasing commercial items or processes, the Federal Government is limited to acquiring “only the technical data and the rights in that data customarily provided to the public.”The federal government, therefore, frequently finds itself in the exact same position when acquiring goods and services as a civilian or individual purchaser accepting a standard terms of use, warranty, or repair agreement.

The net result:  serving military are reprimanded for trying to repair balky equipment on site. I’ve not been able to find data on how widespread it is for the military, the eye popping size of military contracts means that beaucoup bucks are involved (and I’m not the only one to find it difficult to assess how widespread the problem is; see this Extreme Tech account, The US Military Needs Right-to-Repair Legislation to Fix Its Own Broken Equipment).

Yet Kunce and Ekman’s FTC letter provides examples that show the problem is not just an abstraction:

Although the problem will become far more significant in the future, the issue today is not just theoretical. The following examples demonstrate how right to repair influences military operations. Note how both commercial and non-commercial items are affected with these contractual terms.

– While in Korea for an exercise, a mechanic was prohibited from conducting maintenance on a generator because the warranty would be voided, leaving the unit with the choice of voiding a warranty or losing the equipment that supported their training.
– Deployed Marines who did conduct maintenance on warrantied equipment were reprimanded because they voided the contract when they fixed the equipment.
– The process for managing secondary reparables (SECREPs), costly parts that
are economical to repair (e.g., various types of engines and transmissions), includes shipping these items back to the contractor in the continental United States from Okinawa, Japan, because repair efforts by Marines would violate repair support contracts. This creates significant transportation costs and time costs, and reduces forward-deployed unit readiness.
– New equipment increasingly incorporates electronics, and diagnostic software and data needed to trouble shoot is either not available for procurement or not procured because of the up-front procurement cost. The costs saved up-front are then absorbed during the equipment’s life-cycle and are manifested in increased Marine man-hours spent trouble-shooting and repairing equipment because Marines do not possess all of the tools and diagnostic equipment that would help them do maintenance more efficiently.
– Marines possess capabilities to fabricate, machine, and manufacture repair parts using a variety of tools (e.g., water-jets, CNC mills).While creating parts can save money and time, these parts either need to be reverse engineered or made according to manufacturer specifications. Often, those specifications are cost- prohibitive or Marines are not allowed to create the part due to manufacturer restrictions. As the Marine Corps continues to expand its capabilities in additive manufacturing (i.e., 3D printing capabilities), part manufacturing will continue to face vendor-induced obstacles. These obstacles will prevent Marines from repairing equipment if a part is unavailable due to supply chain issues in austere environments
– Overall, Marines are less capable of repairing equipment in extreme circumstances because they are not allowed to repair the equipment during regular operations and do not have the tooling, diagnostic equipment or diagrams, or hands-on experience (Jerri-Lynn here: citations omitted.)

Kunce and Ekman discuss two case studies, involving the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. The base contract for the former was for $2,424.5 billion, with an additional contract for modifications, repairs and maintenance, and the vehicle has been used for ferrying troops and equipment since 1998. According to the FTC letter:

This warranty and repair contract was similar in many ways to those in the civilian or commercial world. The vendor became the repairman, and the warranty limited the right to repair for a third party, in this case, maintenance Marines. In a short-sighted way, that is good, because it frees Marines to perform other duties. However, the restrictions mean limiting the capability, flexibility, and experience of Marines who will be needed to conduct these repairs if they are ever in a hostile, kinetic arms, or D-Day-like situation.

This arrangement also increased cost to DOD. The requirement to return the parts stateside for repair incurred high shipping costs, and time spent in transit from overseas locations and the fixed price repair cost meant that significant funds were expended on repairs that could have been repaired faster and cheaper by Marines present at the location in which the repair was required.

What Is to be Done?

As I mentioned above, both Sanders and Warren propose a right to repair for farm equipment, and legislation is pending in approximately twenty states, some of which covers consumer electronics.

As Gizmodo reports, Lack of Right-to-Repair Protections Is Even Screwing With the U.S. Military:

Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Repair Association, told Gizmodo by email that the problem Ekman raises in her piece “illustrates the pervasiveness of repair monopolies and their very real-world consequences.”

“The military cannot possibly function without being able to fix their own stuff—but here we are. Farmers cannot put food on the table if they cannot fix their own stuff—but here we are,” Gordon-Byrne said. “Consumers are waking up to the fact they cannot fix their stuff either—and the legislative solution is in front of us. We don’t need to wait for the federal government to unlock monopolies—we can do it right now by passing right-to-repair legislation in any of multiple states.”

Gordon-Byrne noted the many bills that have been proposed in more than 20 states that hoped to secure right-to-repair protections for consumers. Gordon-Byrne said detractors of these proposals have described the bills as “too broad,” but she added that she doesn’t think “that argument is going to hold water going forward.”

“If we cannot fix our phones and bulldozers while waging war,” she said, “we’ve really screwed ourselves.”

Obviously, general right to repair legislation is not the only way to address the military issue. Speculating on how procurement specifications could be amended to fix this, however, is above my pay grade.

More Apple Shenanigans

Meanwhile, Apple continues its shenanigans over the right to repair, responding earlier this week to questions at a hearing before the subcommittee on antitrust, commercial and administrative law of the committee on the judiciary.

As Motherboard tells the story, Apple Tells Congress You’ll Hurt Yourself if You Try to Fix Your iPhone:

Apple’s primary arguments were that iPhones are too technical for the average person to repair without special training, that doing such repairs could be dangerous, and that it costs Apple more money to do repairs than they charge. It’s the first time Apple has ever gone on the record about its repair policies at length.

“Repairs that do not properly replace screws or cowlings might leave behind loose parts that could damage a component such as the battery, causing overheating or resulting in injury,” Apple said when asked why it stops third party repair stores from receiving official parts and information. “For these reasons, we believe it is important for repair shops to receive proper training when obtaining access to spare parts and repair manuals.”

But, right to repair proponents weren’t fooled. According to Phone Arena, Apple: we fix iPhones at a loss, Right to Repair proponents cry ‘absurd!’, quoting Nathan Proctor, Director of the Campaign for the Right to Repair at US PIRG:

“Apple’s argument is absurd. In defending their decision not to make spare parts or service information available, the company claims that certain parts and information are necessary for a reliable repair. It’s a totally circular argument. Apple wants their customers, and the federal government, to accept the notion that while a repair monopoly exists, it’s a beneficial monopoly, made for our good.”

Apple also tries to claim it actually loses money on its repair monopoly. No, really. Motherboard again:

Apple also seemed incapable of answering basic questions about the repair market it insists it must tightly control. When the Congressional committee asked Apple how many technicians it had, it claimed there were tens of thousands. When the Committee asked how much revenue Apple generated from repairs, Apple claimed that “For each year since 2009, the costs of providing repair services has exceeded the revenue generated by repairs.”

Apple seems to be performing a sleight of hand here, and including in its “repair”  figures the costs of fixing its crapified  products, such as the debacle with its butterfly keyboard (see  Design Genius Jony Ive Leaves Apple, Leaving Behind Crapified Products That Cannot Be Repaired). Motherboard concurs:

The idea that Apple is losing money on repair is wild, and a curse of its own making. The answer by Apple seems vague on purpose. Throughout the years, Apple has had to offer many “service programs” for defective products. Most notably, Apple has had to replace a large number of MacBook and MacBook Pro devices for free because it designed an unrepairable keyboard that breaks easily and with normal use. Rather than replacing a few keys on those devices, Apple has to replace half of the computer. If Apple is including warranty repairs and service program repairs in addition to standard retail repairs, well, then, it is quite simply misleading the public and Congress.

And,  if it’s in fact actually the case, and Apple is losing money on repair – as legitimately defined, and not including its design-driven own goals – it should be happy to facilitate efforts by third party repair services to enter or expand their presence in this market. If they can undertake the repairs at lower cost, and turn a profit, this saves Apple from losing money from maintaining its repair monopoly.

Not to mention the reduction in e-waste that would follow from repairing rather than discarding products that might be salvaged.

How about it, Apple?

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34 comments

  1. Noel Nospamington

    Considering the purchase power of the USA military, why don’t they mandate field repairablity as a requirement for their suppliers during tendering?

    We as individuals do not have this clout to demand repairablity, but with the hyperinflated USA military budget, I would think that they should have some influence.

    Reply
    1. Synoia

      Because it is a rent extraction scheme. Any procurement group who challenged the status quo would be both punished, and would not get a job at a supplier after their military service.

      Too many people are eating the the trough to break the practice.

      I never understood decline and fall of empires before the last two decades. I’m beginning to understand it now.

      Outstanding success carries with it the seeds of failure. Sears, IBM and Boring stand out as shining examples of fantastic success, followed by an amazing fall.

      Reply
      1. Noel Nospamington

        Do you mean the “Boring” company founded by Elon Musk which is a tunnelling and infrastructure company? It is relatively new and has not achieved any major success, so I doubt you could use it as an example.

        Perhaps you meant “Boeing” instead?

        Reply
        1. Synoia

          I did mean Boeing, Thanks. I find the Boring Company Boring. The London Underground has been boring for over 100 years.

          Reply
          1. stan6565

            Is anyone aware of any actual tunnelling projects having been actually started and completed by Musk’s Boring Company.

            I am in the engineering industry and I have not heard of any.

            Can the hype alone make money? Can someone send me the recipe please?

            Reply
    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      The military is about as a “go along to get along” place as there is. Look at Shinseki. The job of most cabinet secretaries is mostly to inspect. Shinseki was a team player and whined about his underlings lying to him. When he wasn’t redesigning uniforms (the hallmark of incompetence for the most part), he was being a brown noser.

      Very few will rock the boat. Its not in their nature. This is why need to draft the officer corp.

      Reply
    3. rd

      The repair facility is in a state and the Senators and Representatives in that state want that work to be in the state to make jobs. National security is secondary to getting re-elected.

      Reply
      1. JCC

        “National Security is secondary to getting re-elected.”

        Let’s face it, National Security is secondary to the entire M.I.C.C. It’s a profit center (for some), pure and simple.

        I recall reading an article on the F-35, about 18 times more expensive than the F-18, fully loaded. An Air Force General was quoted in the article calling the F-35 “the Lockheed Bailout Program”.

        I also recently took the DoD ACQ-101 course (ACQ=Acqusition), about 45 to 50 hours of agonizing Computer Based Training (flunk one module and you have to start over at Module 1).

        Module after module reminded the trainee that long term maintenance and upgrades often met or exceeded the original purchase price.

        Think about that the next time you read about the costs of the F-35 or the Zumwalt Class Destroyers (at $7.5B per ship so far).

        Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      Re Catch 22. Never liked the book or the film but there was one conversation that stopped me in my tracks, namely-

      Milo Minderbinder : Nately died a wealthy man, Yossarian. He had over sixty shares in the syndicate.
      Yossarian : What difference does that make? He’s dead.
      Milo Minderbinder : Then his family will get it.
      Yossarian : He didn’t have time to have a family.
      Milo Minderbinder : Then his parents will get it.
      Yossarian : They don’t need it, they’re rich.
      Milo Minderbinder : Then they’ll understand.

      I find that last line quite profound in it implications.

      Reply
  2. JBird4049

    All this is not stupidly. It is rent extraction using any means with no consequences being considerable. Period.

    We need to kill the MIIC and end the Forever Wars, but we will still need a military. To heck with the Empire, but there will always be someone that the United States might have to fight whether it wants to or not. I really don’t want national survival depending on some corporation’s profits.

    Reply
    1. Tim

      Not all of it is as simple as “because rent extraction”. There are certain safety critical items that you don’t want somebody fixing on a hunch. Things like airplanes that can fall out of the sky. The situation happens more often than we’d like it too, because the technology and level of quality that the DoD originally specified required for a repair to retain proper function simply isn’t possible without the contractor’s know how, which often they did develop with their own funds, which is one of the reasons they won the contract in the first place.

      Personally, I’d like to think in a wartime environment the DoD reserves the ability to say we’ll accept the risk, and fix it ourselves if that is what it takes to get the job done. It’ll save more lives if we can get “X” working right now, forget the contract. If the contractors seriously valued their customer relationship they wouldn’t protest in those conditions.

      Non war time? Here we are. Not saying it’s good, just that given the inputs, SOME times the lack of right to repair is the correct choice to go along with for the DoD. “Don’t touch it you’ll break it.”

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        It seems to be the standard neoliberal playbook to make sure that everyone is dependent on them, and when something goes wrong, and people die, it’s oh well, here are some excuses.

        Wars happen when they happen and shipping something back and forth across an ocean because reasons seems unwise. Maybe today, right now, we should be sure that the military has the capability to whatever is needed to have functional equipment whenever it needs it. Before the next actual war.

        Reply
      2. Salamander

        And what persuades you that a military can do anything in wartime conditions that it hasn’t trained to do – routinely – in peacetime?

        Reply
  3. JTMcPhee

    Too bad if the US’s imperial military equipment breaks down. Maybe enough of that and the Imperial Wizards who park their posteriors in nicer “ergonomic chairs’ while they operate the consoles that have them “managing the Battlespace” that now is the whole planet will have to find decent work, maybe excavating Superfund sites or replacing lead pipes in public water supply systems or fixing other critical (for civilians) infrastructure.

    We mopes read this and most of us cheer for the GIs and Gyrenes “in the field,” facing down the nation’s implacable foes but hamstrung by “contracts” and “warranties” from killing more Wogs (and facilitating more “political instability”). This particular Vietnam veteran notes that implicit in all of this is “growth,” infinite growth, of the global arms race where the players seek hegemony by striving to create unstoppable and infinitely fatal weapons. I think Captain Ekmann does a fine job of peddling the memes of perpetual war, by playing on the sort of universal experience of frustration with technology we mostly don’t understand, let alone have a clue how to repair. Open the hood of your car built in the last 15 years or so — you got a prayer of figuring out how to even diagnose, let alone repair, most of what’s in there? A few of us can dial up a Youtube video that shows how to do a lot of stuff, even major things like pulling the engine or rebuilding transmission and brakes, but how many can figure out which IC or surface mount component has caused the emissions or systems computers in their “drive train” has blown, let alone how to even remove and replace — or fix software problems. (And yes, I know that quite a few of the shade tree mechanic set have dug into these arcanae and figured out how to fix some things, and there are specialists who can help, for a price, but how many have the time and funding to do this level of “right to repair”? Got any idea how to change the battery or screen in an iPhone, even one that has not been glued shut “at the factory?” Not many do.

    Let’s note that other nations’ militaries have opted for stuff that’s (relatively) simple and robust (e.g., AK-47), mostly intended to defend the nation as opposed to “projectIng power” (though more of that is seemingly happening, an ineluctable consequence of the US Empire having shot its wad for all the reasons and in all the ways cataloged here at NC and other sensible places and creating niches that other equally flawed humans will infill, for better or worse for the planet and its biosphere…). The US Army flounders (for profit) with what to dress the Troops in, https://slate.com/technology/2012/07/camouflage-problems-in-the-army-the-ucp-and-the-future-of-digital-camo.html, and of course there are the prolonged internecine combats between procurement groups and their coteries of “contractors” over the next pistol for the official “sidearm,” https://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/01/19/army-picks-sig-sauer-replace-m9-service-pistol.html, and so much else “newer and better and more complex.” Cute RtoR article on the Sig Sauer P320, which the military has just “selected” to replace the Glock: http://www.awwba.com/field-stripping-sig-p320-including-trigger-group-video/

    Of course all this is what happens when “business” achieves its long-range objective of making the US government and its subsidiary units all “run like a business.”

    When does the disconnect between the shibboleths and reality become so painful that some kind of reboot is inevitable? More likely, the “Clod” Warriors will keep at it, burning the largest share of the world’s fossil petro energy to ensure their continued supply of petro energy, and protecting the protection racket that is US imperial foreign policy: “Nice little country you got here. Too bad if something was to happen to it.“

    Smedley Butler confronts the Sopranos…

    Reply
    1. Buckeye

      The ability to do battlefield repairs by Field Maintenance units is vital to modern warfare, especially the high tempo conventional battlefield. Rommel’s Afrika Korps in WWII competed strongly with the superior British forces because they could recover and repair equipment much faster. The Israeli Defense Force perfected the German techniques (ironically) and used it to great effect in the Yom Kippur War where they lost half their tanks to Sagger missles in the first week. Out of 1000 tanks knocked out, the IDF had 500 up and running within 7 days, using traveling repair caravans that worked only a couple miles behind the front.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        Any idea when and where the next “high-tempo conventional war” that supposedly depends on equivalence to Rommel and the Israelis (a cute couple if ever there was one) will be fought? Other than on Pentagram gaming consoles or in slick presentations by Imperial war contractors?

        Reply
  4. jfleni

    RE: right to repair:

    GET used to it soldier, sailor, marine; YOU are just the
    proverbial PEASANT, TOTALLY beholden to the PLUTOCRATS!

    Reply
  5. IronForge

    As a Logistics/Engineering Officer for the Navy Years Ago, I can put in my two cents:

    In short, Gear are often mishandeled out in the Fleet; and On-site Maintenance/Repair Skillset Personnel and Tools are not readily available. Though much Equipment are deemed Repairable, those that require Depot Level Service tend to Lag in Service Speed and Quality – Oftentimes Cannibalized for Parts making the Gear Useless.

    We had our concerns on my Guided Missile Cruiser during the Iraq-Iran War Naval Escorts during the Late 80s; and I was notified of a “Cannibalization- Repair Fiasco for an F,-18 Cockpit Component during the First Gulf War.

    I was visiting a Naval Air Base when a Mechanic approached me regarding these Cannibalized Components collecting dust for Months. The Regular Supply and the Air Maint Self Officers somehow had their hands tied. Since I was at a Defense Avionics Contractor Plant Managing Govt Engineers at the Time. I called my Commander to get the Ball Rolling; and by the Time I returned from my Plant Visits 4days later, we had ALL Components (made Overseas as a NATO Welfare/Sharing Program) sent back to the OEM Plant for Maintenance/Refurbishment. Back to the Fleet.

    Field and Depot Level Personnel Training and Qualifications are Essential; but OEM-Access is Vital for Complex Gear.

    Reply
  6. Susan the Other

    Just reading between the lines I get the impression that around 1990 everybody had decided that the military was answerable to the economy and that it had a patriotic mandate to support the economy commercially. Including accepting equipment they could not repair in house. This is a total oxymoron. Unless peace, world peace, has been established and there’s no chance of backsliding. Right. Didn’t anybody think at that time that switching roles (switching having the economy mobilized to serving the military over to having the military mobilized to serving the “free market” economy) was a classic oxymoron? A much better adaptation of the military to civilian needs is to mobilize the military to be the first responders to climate disasters and logistics for maintaining civilization in these existential times. Their equipment failures are just a mandate to find new repairable equipment. Screw Neoliberal Monopoly Free Market Schizophrenic Economic control of the narrative. I think that business plan comes under the category of looney religion.

    Reply
  7. Chris

    I work in a procurement and logistics organization in DoD, and as the article and comments suggest, our entire mission is impeded daily by this neoliberal infestation. It was the biggest shock of my life starting here as an intern, desperate for a job, sold on the patriotism of civil service – especially in service to our men and women in uniform – before I quickly realized what real patriotism looked like from defense industry monopolists protecting their intellectual property. As soon as you’re under contract with one of these bastards, it’s like “aww you’re deployed overseas but your gear won’t work? Fuck you, pay me. That laptop you use to control fires won’t run Windows 10? Fuck you, pay me. There’s no one else who can make that sensor? FUCK YOU PAY ME

    And this even with the buying power of DoD, we must resort to piddling contracting gimmicks such as escrow accounts that release the tech data if a vendor decides to walk away. But you still pay a ransom for the escrow, and as the article states, you’re left with a costly reverse-engineering process that wastes time and precious resources.

    I don’t know of anyone in our neoliberal economy who can match these apex predators. These defense monopolists are the real deal gangsters.

    Reply
  8. The Rev Kev

    History will recall that in the US-China War of 2021, the Chinese won by doing nothing and staying home. Initially the war started off well for the US but then problems arose. Deliveries of spare parts from China and Russia to keep the US Navy ships going were “mysteriously delayed” and ships could not be repaired. The aircraft-carrier USS Ford had to return to the west coast when none of its eleven ammunition elevators worked and contractors refused to travel to a war zone to repair it.
    Some US weapons systems stopped working when the companies that supported them shut down the servers as “not being profitable enough” to keep them going. A lease of a global network of US spy satellites used ran out and by the time the Pentagon realized this, China had taken out the lease themselves. Other weapons could not be used when they broke down and the companies that manufactured them refused to repair them until the terms of the contract had been re-negotiated.
    The US lost this war but the stockmarket had a massive boost which was followed by a series of executive bonuses.

    Reply
  9. DHG

    I fix everything I buy, dont care what a company says about repair, when I pay them for the item it becomes my property and I do with it as I see fit, period.

    Reply
  10. Bob Heister

    This is not new. Over 40 years ago US taxpayers were bring ripped off when computer circuit boards had to be sent back to the factory for repair – clipping out a resistor and soldering in a new one then returning the board to my ship – for $14,000. I saw this happen dozens of times.

    Reply
  11. Bill Wald

    The situation is worse than described because, at least in the USAF, every nut, bolt and the wrench and screw driver used to install them must meet a mil-spec. The paper work costs more than the part or tool.

    This may also apply to the US Navy. Back in the 1940’s electronic parts had to meet a JAN spec. (Joint Air Force-Navy)

    Second problem, the USAF has aircraft being flown by the grand kids of the people who built the planes. Assembly lines are not maintained for 50 years. If a part or assembly of parts on a KC 135 or B 52 needs to be replaced, the new part or mechanism must be re-certified even if it can be purchased at Home Depot.

    Third problem: Government military agencies still use floppy discs and Windows 97.

    Fourth problem: Military agencies (and local governments) are not permitted legally or pragmatically to plan ahead. For example, the US Constitution demands that the US Army budget can not plan ahead for more than 2 years. See Article 1 Section 8.

    Reply
  12. R232425

    Amen JTMcPhee and IronForge. I guess there will be no SecDef fellowship in the future for Captain Elle. http://www.defensefellows.org/?page_id=69

    Captain Elle USMC alludes to a “kinetic or D-day” like scenario in which a soldier, sailor or marine (lower case) opens up a Craftsman workbench to pause and fix a broken weapon. Her invocation of this allusion begs the question. Was she really referring to the Tim Allen movie Galaxy Quest and the rudimentary lathe scene enacted by Sam Rockwell as Guy Fleegman?
    Watch “Guy’s Rudimentary Lathe” on YouTube
    https://youtu.be/QQzg1vpxnnY

    Reply

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