I Finally Figured it out! How government contracting works

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by KL7AJ, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. KL7AJ

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 4, 2008
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    It's good to be working in free enterprise again. After 7.75 years too long in a government contracting job that lasted 8 years, I'm finally able to see objectively how the process "works." I've set up a little textual flowchart to demonstrate this.

    Step 1: Government decides it wants something done.
    Step 2: Government discovers it doesn't know how to do anything.
    Step 3: Government decides to hire a contractor who knows how to do something
    Step 4: Government discovers it has no money with which to pay someone who knows how to do something, such as a government contractor.
    Step 5: Government collects taxes from people who have real jobs because they know how to do something...however the particular something these people know how to do may not be precisely what the government wants done.
    Step 6: Government takes tax money it has collected from people who know how to do something and gives it to government contractors who know how to do something else.
    Step 7: Government collects additional tax dollars from the very government contractors they hired, after they've performed the thing that the government decided it wanted done in the first place.
    Step 8: Government uses tax dollars collected from government contractors to figure out something else it wants done.

    Now, here's how actual free enterprise works:

    Step 1: I discover I have three feet of snow on my driveway.
    Step 2: I find toothless old guy who lives down the block who has a snowplow.
    Step 3: I pay toothless old guy $35 to keep my driveway plowed for the winter.
    Step 4: Toothless guy goes away $35 richer, and I have a nice clean driveway.

    See....only half the number of steps involved.....and not one of them involves the government.

    Life is grand.
     
  2. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    You left out the part where the snow plow hits the car. :D

    Wait, that was a government worker.
     
  3. maxpower097

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2009
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    Missed a couple steps.

    Step 1: Government decides it wants something done.
    Step 2: Government discovers it doesn't know how to do anything.
    Step 3: Government decides to hire a contractor who gives them kickbacks and donation promises, then outsources job to much cheaper contrator.
    Step 4: Government discovers it has no money with which to pay someone who knows how to do something, such as a government contractor.
    Step 5: Government collects taxes from people who have real jobs because they know how to do something...however the particular something these people know how to do may not be precisely what the government wants done.
    Step 6: Government takes tax money it has collected from people who know how to do something and gives it to government contractors who know how to do something else.or don't know anything at all and are just the lowest bidders. (Read article on google entitled how 2 miami pot heads became the largest gun dealers in the middle east in 3 years)
    Step 7: Government collects additional tax dollars from the very government contractors they hired, after they've performed the thing that the government decided it wanted done in the first place.
    Step 8: Government uses tax dollars collected from government contractors to figure out something else it wants done.
     
  4. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
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    There will be a need to erect a large building, all in glass and chrome steel + a big reception. Inside about 20 people sitting in the office and let say...downloading the latest software updates + doing backups.

    Borchures need to be printed.

    A budget is allocated. Then this budget has administrative requirements.

    The purpose of the project: to research alternative energies. About 50 million are needed each year.

    However, actual research or actual work does not take place inside the building. It is just for administration purpose + to have some showcase devices around and a half-ready laboratory.

    5 years later no actual commercial products have been derived.

    At this point the hardware in the laboratory and the computers as well are outdated. A major upgrade + renovation, as well restructuring become neccessary. People are on rotation...some leave, some new are hired.

    The big hope is that it will be free of corruption!

    But research has a price, not everything can be invented on a farm these days, like color television. Major breakthroughs are no longer possible by individual people.

    There is a need for glass palaces where very little or no actual work is done. For people to invite + show them around, for the purpose let say...to allocate additional research funds!

    Give $50,000 to the right person, upgrade existing technology to latest standards, and many 10s of millions of cost can be saved. Sounds phony?

    This research facility maybe pays $500 to $1000 for a LCD control panel, where you know the cost for a cheap mobile phone? Which even has superior computing power. Well it is for showcase, and for research, no one saying there is a need to cost-optimize it, and put some good will into it. It has to be 3mm chrome steel!

    By the way this is freely made up, no correlations intended.
     
    maxpower097 likes this.
  5. maxpower097

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2009
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    Well said and good points.
     
  6. gerty

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 30, 2007
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    Probably should add a #9 Government worker collects enough from taxpayer for new departmental SUV or Lexus for "Official Use"
     
  7. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
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    If it's absurd to tax government contractors then it's surely absurd to tax active duty military. I was taxed at about 20% while active duty. If I were to serve for 5 years at the same paygrade, I would have worked the first 4 years to pay myself the last year.
     
  8. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    Don't forget these steps:


    * Make mad dash at end of year to spend all money remaining in current year budget.

    * Submit budget request for following year, emphasizing how entire prior year's budget was exhausted thus, obviously, additional funds are needed for following year.

    When I was on active duty and working in the hydraulics shop, one year we couldn't maintain our bench stock at the end of the year and so had to order each $0.10 O-ring that was needed as we needed it, which meant spending about half an hour filling out the forms and calling in the order and then waiting for about an hour for the delivery to be made and then filling out more paperwork to close out the order. Why? Because the unit's budget had been exhausted and wouldn't be renewed until after the start of the new Fiscal Year, so any parts needed to be billed against the specific part being repaired.

    Now, at the exact same time, we were getting brand new desks and chairs for both us and our sister shop (environmental control systems). In addition, the very classy and utilitarian dry-erase three-month calendar system, which basically consisted of framed plexiglass over three blank calendar templates with some nice unit decals around the margins, built for about $20 and donated to the shop by one of the civilians and that had been used by both shops for many years, had to be replaced with a brand new magnetic calendar system that took much more time to update and had lots of small pieces that loved to be lost. And each shop had to have its own calendar system. Cost? Over $1000. Each. In 1986 dollars. Why? Because the unit had unspent money in its budget had to use-it-or-lose-it. Never mind that we couldn't afford to keep a dime O-ring in stock (wrong color of money), never mind that we had requests for tools that we were authorized (in some cases even required) to have, but the requests had been sitting for years because there was never enough money to make the purchase (the most expensive tool was less than one of the calendars). No can do, wrong color of money. Never mind that the squadron had done several beautification projects that year, spending tens of thousands of dollars on materials and using slave labor (known as enlisted personnel, including yours truly) for weeks and even months at a time. We could afford all that, but we couldn't afford to keep a ten cent O-ring in stock. Oh, and by the way, that O-ring was needed to quickly repair an F-15 that was sitting on 10-minute ready alert. If the O-ring had been in stock, the entire time from when the part entered our door until when it left would have been about 15 minutes. As it was, it took nearly two hours.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2012
  9. Blackbird

    New Member

    Jul 25, 2012
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    But now I know who our Russian government to learn to fill their pockets with money for government projects .. and invent new taxes idiotic ..!
     
  10. Wendy

    Moderator

    Mar 24, 2008
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    The Chinese? They have the oldest bureaucracy.
     
  11. maxpower097

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2009
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    Watch preview. This has been my experience with corporate budgets,
    http://www.hulu.com/watch/47440
     
  12. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
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    WBahn,

    When I was in the military, there was a division that called and asked if I could spend 20k in the next five minutes. Poof ... nice spectrum analyzer was on order.

    Later in my career, it would be nothing for me to transfer 10k to another unit so they could buy 4 vacuum tubes for their transmitter. I kept the money in the same program.

    Here is the vacuum tube I speak of ... f1086, water cooled ... 275 amps on the filaments.
     
  13. WBahn

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    Mar 31, 2012
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    Yeah, the even have a whole terminology surrounding the process now. These are called "fallout funds" (at least in the Air Force). At about three months before the end of the FY, units have to commit to what they are spending for the rest of the year and then can't spend anything above that. So for three months, you can't respond to needs that come up. Then, at some point, all the money in your account are swept away and combined and then they ask units for lists of how to spent lots of money really fast, like $50k that can be spent in three days and sometime, like you mentioned, the odd phone call about how to spent it in a matter of minutes.

    Now, on the one hand, this can serve as a legitimate tool. If a bunch of shops have a little bit of money, then it can be pooled and used to purchase something useful (like the tools I was talking about) that the shops couldn't buy on their own. Then this year Shop A gets a long-time need met and next year it's Shop B's turn. And this actually happens. Occassionally. Unfortunately, the various constraints associated with making legitimate use of the money frequently results in the "spend it now" overriding the "spend it well" objective. Worse, units learn that if they develop a reputation for being able to gobble up the money in the shortest amount of time, then in the future they are more likely to be tasked with gobbling up the really big chunks.

    When I was a student co-op student at NIST I discovered that we had a full copy of AutoCAD sitting in the box on a shelf. This was about a $3000 item at the time (1988). I knew enough AutoCAD to make use of it and so installed it and used it. But that was pure coincidence. The reason that they had the software was because the prior FY that Group got a phone call and was asked to spend $3000 in a hurry. The Group chief happend to have a software catalog open in front of him and so simply bought the most expensive software he could find that exceeded the $3000 by as little as possible (meaning that he actually used some of the Groups money to ensure that ALL of the new money was completely consumed!). It happened to be a copy of AutoCAD.

    What was that beast for? Radar of some kind?
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2012
  14. KL7AJ

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 4, 2008
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    I know that tube well! If you got it for $2500, you actually got a bargain!
     
  15. WBahn

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    Mar 31, 2012
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    So what is/was it used for? The only things that come to my mind are, perhaps:

    1) DEWS (Distant Early Warning System) radars.
    2) LORAN or other ocean-scale navigation beacons.
    3) ELF communications for talking to submerged subs.
    4) DSN (Deep Space Network) for talking to very distant probes, such as Voyager

    Are any of these close?
     
  16. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
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    WBahn,

    It was the finals in a Loran C Transmitter. The higher powered transmitters had 12 in the finals and the lower powered version had four.

    The anode voltage was 21.5 kV.

    Any vacuum tube with an anode over 15.5 kV has the potential of ionizing radiation from bremsstrahlung radiation, or "braking radiation".

    We had plenty of people die from ionizing radiation diseases, like leukemia, attributable to the bremsstrahlung effect. There is a report available at http://www.loran-history.info if anyone wants to read it. If you want to see one measurement of ionizing radiation, visit http://www.loran-history.info/health/health.htm and click on the first video, where you see the filaments glowing.

    KL7AJ,

    That was the government price about 20 years ago. I doubt I could get two for 10k these days.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2012
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