Why LGBT voters should be prolife

This is part of a short series on why many LGBT voters would be better served under conservative values then far leftist values.

LGBT voters are traditionally associated with voting on left-leaning policies and almost always for Democrat candidates, yet during the last election almost a third of LGBT-identified voters said on exit polling that they voted for Trump.

Despite President Trump’s anti-LGBTQ past, including opposing LGBTQ workplace protections, he was able to attain 28% of the LGBTQ vote improving on his 2016 showing, when he ran against Hillary Clinton, and only won 13% of the LGBTQ vote.

thepridela.com

The article, not surprisingly, is shocked that any LGBT individual would even contemplate voting for a Republican candidate, much less President Trump. Yet I think this site, like so many others, misses the fact that in most cases conservative positions on issues are far more advantageous for LGBT individuals then leftist ones. I actually think that Republican candidates can probably capture more like 40% of the LGBT vote, which would finally start to highlight that LGBT individuals are not in fact one large, homogenous group of people, but rather individual voters that each have very different needs.

(A quick note: For this series I’m leaving of the …QIA+-= alphabet soup of people, which includes the pansexuals, cats and other really odd identities. Honestly, I think these people are overrepresented because they are so strange as to capture immediate attention and have an outsized impact via social media.)

First, lets look at who is considered an LGBT voter. In the case of the exit poll, its whomever happens to tell the pollster they identify as somewhere on the LGBT spectrum. This is somewhere around 1-5% of voters nationwide, by conservative and liberal estimates. However, I actually think its a bit higher, for two reasons. First, lots of people don’t like talking to pollsters, so exit poll sampling is notoriously very skewed liberal. Second, the LGBT people that would openly agree to the label are likely people comfortably out to their families, employer and the world…which is not the majority. There are likely a lot of closeted LGBT voters that simply stay quiet about their homosexual or transsexual inclinations.

That said, the ones most likely to be closeted are also most likely to lean conservative, since conservative voters are less likely to discuss this and other issues with…well, anyone really. This sets up a Harry Truman-esque scenario where traditional polling and thinking concerning LGBT voters and what they care about can be very easily misunderstood.

That doesn’t answer the bigger question of why LGBT voters would benefit from conservative policies. Let’s start with abortion, and over the next few weekends we’ll look at the economy, foreign policy and the military, plus marriage and the nuclear family. I’m leaving out religious discussions on these issues because 1., I’m not a religious scholar and thus not qualified to discuss it, and 2., Religions, especially Christian ones, vary widely on LGBT issues.

LGBT voters should be pro-life for many reasons, the most important being that as technology, and especially genetic testing, becomes easier and cheaper, there will be more people inclined to abort babies that aren’t “perfect.” This has been predicted for years, even appearing in science fiction films like Gattaca, where babies are tested and sorted into “Valids” and “In-valids.” The “Valids” are genetically perfect and given access to the best jobs, while the “in-valids,” if they aren’t euthanized, compose the underclass of citizens.

But that’s science fiction, you might think. One only needs to look across the Atlantic to see Europeans wipe out Down Syndrome kids through testing (which is not perfect, so plenty of otherwise healthy kids are lost to abortion in the process). It’s not a far stretch to assume that as we develop more and more genetic markers for what we consider disorders, it’ll be easier to “justify” aborting more and more babies that don’t line up to our idea of perfect.

Which brings up the LGBT issue, because scientists have been quite happily searching for a genetic link to explain homosexual and transgender individuals. If they find that there is a gene, or set of genes, that would incline an individual to this behavior, could there be an increase in people saying “I don’t want to bring life to this world that would suffer as a transgender individual.”? If abortion is available on demand, I can see a large number of religious mothers making this justification.

Which begs the question: don’t LGBT individuals have a right to life? Don’t babies with these genetic markers deserve a chance in this world? Who is to say that their genetics will ultimately determine how they think on any particular issue? I would argue that they do. Just because someone is genetically inclined towards something doesn’t mean they will take those actions. More importantly, this walks us down the slippery slope of euthanizing people who’s only crime is existing, which never bodes well for any minority group.

LGBT voters are best served with prolife policies, which may one day keep them from being literally aborted out of existence.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

MORE Navy manpower woes

I mean seriously, Navy manpower woes are the gift that keeps on giving. There are three (!!!) more NAVADMINs that show the Navy is really struggling to keep its people, especially its technical people, from leaving.

The first is NAVADMIN 186/22, which concerns Special Duty Assignment Pay (SDAP). SDAP is an additional monthly pay for Sailors that are in hard-to-fill jobs or qualify in difficult assignments. The Navy uses SDAP to help incentivize Sailors taking the hard duty assignments, because a few hundred dollars extra a month might motivate someone to fill that position.

SDAP has been changed for nuclear-qualified Sailors in the following manner:

Billet / NEC            Level    Pay              Change 
RDMC/EDMC/CVN DLCPO     7        525.00           +75.00 
N33Z NEC                6        450.00           New 
NPTU W/SUPERVISOR NEC   6        450.00           No change 
SEA W/SUPERVISOR NEC    5        375.00           No change 
SHORE W/SUPERVISOR NEC  3        225.00           -75.00 
SEA W/OPERATOR NEC      2        150.00           No change 
SHORE W/OPERATOR NEC    1         75.00           -75.00 
NAVADMIN 186/22

So what does that mean? In a nutshell, shore assignment SDAP was lowered, while at-sea SDAP was either added or increased. The N33Z NEC refers to an at-sea Sailor that qualifies as an Engineering Watch Supervisor (EWS), which is the senior most enlisted watchstander on a nuclear power plant.

Since SDAP is an incentive pay, this is yet more proof that the Navy is trying to push Sailors towards at-sea assignment and to qualify as an EWS at-sea. They wouldn’t bother increasing SDAP if Sailors were already filling those roles without issue.

What about technically-savvy officers? Well, NAVADMIN 188/22 changes the accession rules for the Baccalaureate Degree Completion Program (BDCP), which is a program where civilians or enlisted Sailors that have at least 60 credit hours can apply to get a commission, where they get paid while they finish their degree. It’s not as great a deal because it doesn’t pay for tuition, however it does land you a job as an officer afterwards, with the catch of requiring an 8 year commitment. If that sounds a bit long, it is, because a normal ROTC commitment used to be only 4 years…which was increased to 5 years, and for aviators, to 5 years AFTER you qualified to fly (which ends up becoming 8-10 years).

BDCP eligibility was extended to…you guessed it…the technical fields of cryptology, cyber, intelligence, networks and oceanography. The only reason to extend this program to those fields is because the normal methods of obtaining officers are not working.

The last odd NAVADMIN is 184/22, which simply says that the O-6 continuation board will immediately follow the O-7 selection board. For those not in the know, an O-6 in the Navy is a Captain and an O-7 is a Rear Admiral.

Now, normally this board is one of many that are on a routine schedule without any real attention paid to it. Remember that Captains eligible to be reviewed for selection to admiral are well past the 20 years needed to retire, and are allowed to hang out until 30 years of service. They can hang out longer if a continuation board allows it. Since the board already meets on a schedule, why would someone need a NAVADMIN to change when the board meets, and inform the rest of the Navy?

Simply put, there was a significant uptick in O-6 retirements after the last O-7 selection board. I asked a few people in the know (who asked to remain nameless) and the word was that the Navy Personnel Office apparently didn’t bother to communicate with a lot of O-6s that were not selected for O-7, and a lot of them submitted retirement requests in response to this poor treatment. While nobody is entitled to be selected for O-7, its not hard to communicate with officers to let them know they weren’t picked. Especially for someone that has given over 20 years to the Navy, you would think the Navy could reciprocate and treat them with respect. The number of retirements stung Navy manpower, hence the short NAVADMIN to try and prevent this from happening again this year.

Now, that’s all speculation, but given all the other things happening…is anyone surprised? I sure wasn’t. I am surprised at just how bad recruitment and retention are getting. I had predicted that 2023 would be the breaking point, but that was before the vaccine mandate and terrible withdrawal from Afghanistan. I think those events have accelerated a process that was underway long before this year. I see more and more servicemembers that would otherwise happily stay on a few extra years because they enjoyed the job instead decide to leave for greener pastures. When you go all out to make the Navy a miserable place to work, why would anyone be surprised that you have to increasingly bribe people to stay in?

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

You don’t want vigilante justice

While I was on vacation this week I happened to see this video of a store owner tackling a man that punched an elderly person in the face and stole his wallet. The story has a happy ending, with the loser getting thrown to the ground in what looks like a WWF wrestling move and eventually being arrested. Thankfully, the city is pursuing charges against the criminal and not the store owner.

But what happens when that is no longer the case? What happens when crimes go unpunished? What happens when people are allowed to ransack a 7-11 with impunity?

First, you’ll have stores respond with increased security, limited hours and eventually leaving. That’s what’s happened in San Francisco, where CVS and Walgreens began closing store after store when the city essentially allowed criminals to run free so long as they stole under $1,000 in merchandise. It’s not just California though…places as far away as Philadelphia have similar issues.

The second response, should crime continue unpunished, is far worse. When people feel that the police won’t or can’t protect them, they will turn to vigilante justice. It’s exactly how the Mafia started in Sicily, where the lack of police to settle disputes resulted in towns paying for groups of men to enforce justice. For a time, it worked: the Mafia kept crime low and people tolerated its existence. But it wasn’t a great system, as it incentivized the Mafia to engage in significant political tampering, as well as brutal enforcement tactics, to maintain its grip on power.

Mafia-like activity in America would be similar to Italy. Having local disputes solved by the equivalent of a local warlord might become a better option then waiting weeks for a court date with a corrupt judge. Neighbors will settle more disputes informally than formally. Most worrisome, we’d also see an increase in unsolved murders. If your store is robbed, you know who did it and you don’t expect the police to punish the criminal, then at some point you might take it into your own hands. Neighbors will know its happening, but since they are likely affected as well, they may shrug their shoulders and stay quiet. Why snitch on a neighbor that killed a local criminal? You’re better off without that criminal, and you certainly don’t want to be on your neighbor’s hit list!

We don’t want an America like this. Vigilante justice is not a good option. Let’s hope we can bring better law enforcement back.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Why I can’t be libertarian anymore

Back when John McCain was running for President, I just couldn’t get myself to support him. He was weak on all the issues I cared about, and I had never been impressed with his career as a Senator. I certainly wasn’t going to vote for Obama, so that year I voted Libertarian. I even got to meet the Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr, at a political event, and we had a solid 5 minute discussion about Navy issues, his background and what he wanted to do as President.

Obviously, John McCain got stomped in the election. When Donald Trump ran for office, I thought about voting Libertarian again, but the candidate was…disappointing. Between the jokes about being a “Big Johnson” and not being either candidate, there really wasn’t much of a platform on issues. So ultimately I voted Trump, thinking he was the least worst of everyone.

Thankfully, Trump ended up being a pretty awesome Republican. Trump also revealed the super ugly side of the Far Left. One after effect is that it seems everything became political, and it was “my way or the highway.” The ability to thread a needle and balance delicate issues is becoming increasingly difficult, and that is destroying the “live and let live” attitude that underscores much of Libertarian views.

A good example is the transgender bathroom issue. There are plenty of women that don’t want to see male genitalia in a bathroom. That’s a pretty reasonable request. Heck, I don’t want to see other men’s genitalia in a locker room. The dudes that walk around butt naked (if you’ve been in a locker room for any length of time you know who I’m talking about), I only ever think, “Did ya forget your towel?”

At the same time, would you want to see a person that looks very much like a girl in a male locker room? I know I would find that weird. Most people probably think its odd that someone can simply claim to be transgender and walk right into a female restroom, and worse still engage in despicable behavior that shouldn’t be tolerated regardless of gender. Most people have also probably seen at least a few transgender individuals that they would honestly think are women.

A Libertarian would probably be ok with states having different rules as we find a way that helps people navigate this issue. I would suspect that over time, states would settle on rules that allow transgender individuals that have officially switched there birth certificates over to use locker rooms, while creating more avenues to punish bad behavior in the bathroom. We would likely wind up with a system where transgender people fade into the background and aren’t really an issue.

I’m not saying its the right answer, but its an answer that might work for a majority of Americans.

That could work, but it won’t happen. The Far Left has planted a flag that says “You’ll get male genitals in a female restroom and you’ll like it!” Rather than accepting any limits, they want no limits. Not surprisingly, the immediate response is to craft bathroom laws and other ruling that pushes back with equal force.

Thus, you get forced to take a side, and Libertarians too often sit on the sidelines on this and other issues. You don’t get to be neutral anymore when one side is extreme and won’t stop. That’s not going to garner votes, and it’s not going to solve these problems. That’s why I’m glad Trump took over the Republican party, rather than starting another Bull Moose party, which would have resulted in a solid Democrat President for years to come.

Until we stop politicizing every aspect of life, we’re not going to be able to find reasonable solutions to complex problems.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

The Navy’s poor poker face on manpower issues

It’s not often I get immediate verification of something I blog about. For example, I wrote about how we’re going to have to accept that Russia will in fact win in Ukraine, and at first that prediction looked incorrect, but as the conflict grinds on, its becoming more obvious that Russia can’t afford to lose, even at a terrible cost. I could be wrong, maybe Ukraine will pull out a big “W” in the end, but I still think its unlikely.

But the Navy’s manpower crisis…wow. That’s a gift that keeps on giving. Since the last article, Navy has released three more NAVADMIN messages that prove the Navy is in a middle-management manpower crunch.

The first is NAVADMIN 176/22, which seems like a mundane update to retirement policy. The second paragraph is most interesting:

2.  Reference (c) modified the service-in-grade (SIG) (also known as time-in-grade) requirements for O-4s.  Specifically, reference (c) modified reference (d) to require 3-years SIG for voluntary regular retirement eligibility. 
NAVADMIN 176/22

Normally you can retire as an O-4 after only two years. This isn’t a huge change, however, it might push more people to stay an extra year.

But then NAVADMIN 177/22 came out, talking about incentive pay for submarine commanding officer special mission billets. There is plenty of competition to become a submarine CO, so many good people don’t select for submarine command. They can select for CO Special Mission, which is basically a way of saying “we need you to stay in the Navy to fill billets at higher levels” because so many submarine O-5’s retire at 20 years. It’s a problem that has waxed and waned over the years, but is now becoming increasingly difficult to manage.

The NAVADMIN allocates a bonus of $20,000 annually for members that sign a 3-5 year commitment. That is an awful lot of money, especially considering an O-5 submariner is likely making over $150K a year anyway. The eligibility requirements make it very obvious what problem they are solving:

    b.  Have completed at least 19 years of Active Duty Commissioned Service (ADCS) and not more than 25 years of ADCS at the start of the period of additional obligated service. 
NAVADMIN 177/22

Which really means “prevent people from retiring right at 20 years and keep them in a bit longer by throwing $20K a year at them.”

Essentially, these two officer-related NAVADMINs are trying to stem the departure of mid-grade Naval Officers. Gee, I wonder why mid-grade Naval Officers would be leaving in the first place? I’ll let you debate that in the comments.

So are there applicable actions on the enlisted Sailor side? You betcha! The most interesting is NAVADMIN 178/22. The first two paragraphs lay it out pretty well:

1.  This NAVADMIN announces a pilot program for Senior Enlisted Advance to Position (SEA2P) designed to keep deploying units mission-ready by aggressively filling critical at-sea leadership billets.  The pilot program will convene a billet selection board consisting of senior representatives from Fleet and participating type commander (TYCOM) staffs to select those Sailors who are best and fully qualified to advance and fill specific priority sea billets.  The pilot includes the Nimitz Strike Group on the West Coast and the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group on the East Coast. Additionally, the pilot will include USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73). Factors for consideration in determining best and fully qualified applicants include sustained superior performance, documented qualifications, platform experience, and potential to succeed in the billet.  Sailors selected must obligate service (OBLISERV) to complete 36 months in the SEA2P billet and will be permanently advanced upon reporting to their ultimate duty station.  This pilot will be limited to critical E8 and E9 sea billets and is 
separate from reference (a). 
 
2.  To be eligible for SEA2P, Sailors must have been selected or screened as a non-select for advancement to E8 or E9 by the respective fiscal year (FY) 2023 selection boards, or be advancement-eligible for the respective FY-24 boards in line with reference (b).  Time-in-rate (TIR) waivers will be approved for FY-24 advancement-eligible Sailors who are selected for SEA2P.  All Sailors selected for SEA2P billets should expect to receive permanent change of station (PCS) orders with a transfer date as early as  30-45 days after selection. 
NAVADMIN 178/22

In one long sentence this says: “We are critically undermanned at sea in senior enlisted positions, yet somehow we have lots of people that haven’t selected for advancement to these senior enlisted positions, so now they can apply to fill this position and get permanently promoted when they finish the tour.”

Now, my first question is: if we don’t have enough senior people to fill these jobs, but we have people that aren’t selecting for senior positions, why don’t we just select more people? Enlisted management sits almost entirely in the Department of the Navy’s purview, unlike Naval Officers that face considerable Congressional oversight as to their selection and promotion. The DoN doesn’t appear to be upping the selection rate, and is instead opting for a tightly controlled board that meets in relative secrecy to pick people for specific jobs. There are advantages to this, since you can force someone to take sea-duty orders, but you could do that anyway (to an extent), so I’m not sure why they are opting for this method.

These NAVADMINs, coming on the heels of the messages I previously talked about, are just another indicator that the Navy is experiencing a massive flight of talent that is really getting senior leadership concerned. I think they would be far better off addressing the real concerns of junior officers and junior enlisted, and to be fair, Navy Sailors get plenty of surveys about the health of the force, but then the Navy doesn’t appear to act on any of these issues. Just like the suicide crisis on the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, Navy has all the data, but isn’t choosing to solve the correct problem.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you enjoyed this article, please like it, share it on social media, and send a tip to Peter in DaTipJar. You can also buy one of my books for yourself or a friend to help me out.

How to know you’re in a recruitment crisis

The news media has finally jumped on the military recruitment crisis. The smart, intelligent, witty and dashingly handsome readers of this blog that look just like you already knew it was coming because of all the previous reporting here. But let’s say you weren’t so smart, intelligent, witty and perhaps only average in your looks. Let’s say that this not-nearly-as-good version of you wanted to know the truth, because the media likes to blow up a small story into something big to make money. Would there be a way to figure out if the military was really struggling to recruit new members?

Well, stand-in dumber-version-of-you reader, there is, because you can use the military’s readily available instructions to figure out just that! But first, we need a primer on military recruitment and promotion.

Military manpower is a big pyramid scheme, with lots of young blood on at the base of the pyramid, and fewer crusty old folks at the top ranks. Most military members only serve for 3-5 years, getting out for the much greener pastures in the civilian world. The one’s that stay in have some pretty good incentives: guaranteed pay, a pretty cool mission, a chance to get skills and experience on fancy, taxpayer funded weapon systems, and that sweet, sexy uniform that entices all the ladies.

Well, and the guys too, I mean, its 2022 and we have to be all inclusive.

Anyway, this pyramid scheme of manpower relies on a big influx every year of new recruits. We’ve already talked at length about why normal recruiting isn’t working. If recruitment sags, the military has other tricks to keep its numbers up, namely by making it more difficult for people to leave. They can do this by not letting people leave early, or even go so far as to force people to stay.

Let’s say that hypothetically we recruit a lot more people then we really need. Instead of showing them the door, the military can allow other members a chance to leave early. OR the military can tighten down on physical fitness standards, which they can use to boot people out. OR they can create some new stupid rule that will piss people off, which will cause more existing members to leave. These rules are like the handle on a water faucet that you can adjust so the water flow is just right.

Knowing this, guess which way the handle is moving?

Let’s look at the Navy, which releases NAVADMIN messages. These are bland, dull administrative things that nobody except slightly-inebriated Sailors actually read. At the end of June, the Navy released NAVADMIN 142/22 titled FISCAL YEAR 2022 ACTIVE COMPONENT ENLISTED FORCE MANAGEMENT ACTIONS (CORRECTED COPY), because I guess the admin person made a mistake and had to correct it.

Doesn’t inspire much confidence in our administrative people!

Anyway, let’s read the message.

1.  The purpose of this NAVADMIN is to implement key force 
management personnel policy actions in the enlisted active component 
to ensure the Navy remains fully manned and operationally ready. 
References (a) and (b) are hereby updated for enlisted personnel. 
For those who have decided to separate, please review reference (c) 
for additional career progression opportunities in the Navys 
Selected Reserves.  Navy encourages all qualified Sailors to stay 
Navy.  See your career counselor for more information.  While we 
strive to retain all qualified Sailors, commanding officers should 
continue to exercise their obligation to document performance and 
adjust their recommendation for retention, accordingly. 
 
2.  Sailors are encouraged to look for selective reenlistment bonus 
(SRB) updates frequently to take advantage of the opportunities 
published on the Navy’s SRB website at: 
https://www.mynavyhr.navy.mil/References/Pay-Benefits/N130D/. 
Please keep in mind SRB levels may be adjusted up or down depending 
on rating health. 

OK, not much here. Maybe this section was put in to put the inebriated Sailors to sleep?

3.  Early Separation Cancellation.  Effective immediately, all 
enlisted early out programs and new time in grade requirement 
waivers are hereby cancelled.  Service commitments such as 
enlistment contracts, service obligations for accepting permanent 
change of station orders, advancements, bonuses, training, etc., 
will be fulfilled.  Service members experiencing difficulty in 
fulfilling obligated service requirements are encouraged to work 
with their chain of command and respective detailers to examine 
available alternatives to complete their obligation. 
    a.  Commanding officers still retain the 90-day early out 
authority for policy outlined in references (d) and (e). 
    b.  Service members previously granted approval will not be 
affected by this policy change. 
    c.  Service members interested in pursuing commissions in the 
Navy are still encouraged to submit requests.  As always, these 
requests will be considered on a case by case basis. 
    d.  United States Space Force applicants are not affected by 
this policy change.

Well, that’s a change! No early-out options. Definitely closing the faucet handle.

4.  Delaying separation or retirement.  The Navy is accepting 
applications from enlisted personnel who desire to delay their 
separation or retirement.  The deadline for application submission 
is 31 August 2022. 

How about that! Did you want to rethink getting out? Well, now you can, just delay that separation or retirement for another year! Unless you didn’t take the COVID vaccine, in which case you better be part of the class-action lawsuit or else you’re out on the street!

The rest of the NAVADMIN is the dirty details of who can or can’t apply. Another NAVADMIN to look at is 172/22, titled: ACTIVE DUTY ENLISTED ADVANCE-TO-POSITION PROGRAM UPDATE. No corrected copy, looks like they got this one right the first time. I’ll summarize it: enlisted members can apply for billets one paygrade above their current one.

That sounds good right? Let people take on more challenges early? You might think that, until you realize the reason this is happening is because there isn’t enough people at that paygrade to fill all the slots…meaning the Navy is desperate to fill them, even if it means sticking otherwise not-as-qualified individuals in there to meet their numbers.

By the Navy’s own admission, it is hitting a personnel wall that it can’t seem to scale. One contributing reason might be all the “smart people” in the room telling us we could use part-time people, cut back on pay and benefits, and magically we’d have a better, cheaper Navy. I’m not making this up, see every single report that Beth Asch authored at RAND. She’s one of many “smart people” that writes up nice looking reports about policy that influences many people in Washington DC, but don’t seem to understand the nuances associated with a job where you actively kill people while they try to kill you. Since the military services did put into place many of RAND’s recommendations, how’s that working out?

The next steps I expect to see is the military suspending physical fitness separations. After that, expect waivers galore for things like tattoos and prior non-violent felonies. After that…expect stop-loss and calls to bring back the draft.

2023 is going to be even worse. So buckle up and hope we don’t go to war with China.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency, because those people will simply point you to some RAND report to justify their actions.

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Why we’re not solving the veteran suicide problem

Spoiler alert: its because we’re solving the wrong problem.

You can’t walk around on a military base without being innundated with suicide prevention materials. Walk down any hallway and there’s a poster with the hotline number. Navigate to any DoD website and there is a 24/7 military suicide chat line linked at the bottom. Heck, even if you sit down to do your business in the bathroom, you’ll see a suicide prevention poster on the inside of the door.

Granted, the suicide rate in the military is rising. The military is composed mainly of 18-25 year old men, who traditionally have the highest rate of suicide. Combined with the stress of working in a job field where people actively try to kill you while you kill them, and you’d think that would spike the suicide rate. But for the longest time, despite the many years spent in Afghanistan and Iraq, military suicide was statistically lower than average.

From Suicide Rates Among Active Duty Service Members Compared with Civilian Counterparts, 2005–2014

Look at 2005-2008 here. The rate is far below what you would expect. You can look at the crude numbers here as well.

It’s obvious though that the rate was rising. If you look at combat deaths and the news, the United States had a nasty surge in combat deaths from 2009-2011. This was when we were trying to drawdown in Iraq and surging in Afghanistan. It would be easy to blame the added stress for the rise in suicide. But I’m not so sure. After the surge, the number of combat deaths plummeted, yet the military suicide rate continued to rise. The additional stresses of combat, once removed, don’t support the hypothesis that it caused the increase in suicide.

In order to have enough troops to surge, the military, particularly the Army, waived a lot of requirements, including physical standards and prior drug use. This means that instead of selecting from the best of the crop, you get a swath of people that look more like most Americans, which means you get the suicide rate of most Americans. Notice that the suicide rate plateaus and matches the average civilian rate.

This is further confirmed by looking at the most recent suicide rates. The rate slowly began rising again from 2018 until today, despite a continued decline in combat deaths. Now its rising again. What are we doing that might cause it to rise?

From DoD Suicide Report
From DoD Report on Suicide

If you look at my previous posts here, I’ve been complaining about the drop in standards and loss in direction for the military for a while now. The Army finally admitted it will simply be short 10,000 troops, but that it “wanted to maintain high standards” instead of recruiting more soldiers. To that I call BS, because they already lowered standards a lot in order to get to where they are at now.

Worse still, we’re cutting back on training. The Army softened its boot camp, which caused retention to go up, but likely didn’t help build soldier’s confidence. Most of the services have cut back on specialized training (the Navy in particular), so its harder for service members to feel like an expert in their field. Combine that with a refocus on things like “extremism training,” and military members can’t be faulted for feeling a bit adrift.

So we’re lowering entrance standards, which we have proof raises our sucide rate, AND we’re shortening and softening our training, making less capable military members (who, by the way, KNOW that they aren’t as capable). That’s a bad combination, and its the real reason behind the continued rise in suicide. It’s not that we lack the funding for suicide prevention programs. It’s that we’re solving the wrong problem.

Until we solve the standards problem, we can’t begin to prevent military suicide.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

And if you’re thinking about suicide, put it off for a day, watch this Jordan Peterson video, and then call a friend or a hotline. We’d rather have you around.

The Navy’s “punishments” for the BONHOMME RICHARD fire, explained

USS BONHOMME RICHARD on fire on 12 July 2020, from Wikipedia

Do you remember the USS BONHOMME RICHARD fire from 2020? Today marks two years since the fire was finally extinguished, having raged for four days while the ship was moored in Naval Station San Diego. Thankfully, nobody was killed in the fire, although 63 people suffered minor injuries, but the ship was ultimately scrapped, being sold for just over 3 million dollars and towed to a scrapyard in Texas.

A multi-billion dollar warship being scrapped due to a fire that should have been put out relatively quickly? Perhaps the Navy will hold someone accountable? I mean, when LtCol Stu Scheller said mean true things on social media, he was placed in jail for nine days and ultimately fined $5,000. Surely the incompetence that leads to the preventable loss of a warship in a US port would be punished more severely?

Well, the Navy unveiled its punishments on Friday:

“The disposition decisions included six Nonjudicial Punishments (NJP) with guilty findings, two NJPs with Matter of Interest Filings (MIF) and a Letter of Instruction (LOI), two NJP dismissals with a warning, one additional MIF, five other LOIs, three Non-Punitive Letters of Caution (NPLOC), two letters to former sailors documenting substandard performance, and six no-action determinations,” according to a statement from the service.”

From navy.mil

The Navy also issued a letter of censure to retired VADM Brown and two LOIs for other admirals.

For most non-Navy people, the language used for the above punishments listed is confusing, so I’ll translate what it says into what it actually means.

First, the letter of censure. In this case, it was issued to VADM (ret) Brown, who is already retired. The letter can be viewed here. A letter of censure is a “strongly” worded letter from the Secretary of the Navy expressing their disgust for someone’s actions. It sits in a service member’s record, so if you were hoping to promote, its unlikely to happen. That…doesn’t matter much to someone who is already retired. Worse still, it appears that nobody interviewed VADM (ret) Brown, and he is contesting the results, so the letter may ultimately be rescinded.

In other words, letter of censure = no punishment if you’re retired.

Let’s look at the non-judicial punishment (NJP) results:

  • 6 NJP with guilty findings
  • 2 NJP with MIF and LOI
  • 2 NJP dismissals
  • 1 MIF
  • 5 LOIs
  • 3 NPLOCs
  • 2 letters to former Sailors
  • 6 no-actions

NJP is a legal proceeding where the Navy doesn’t have to prove something “beyond a reasonable doubt,” instead they can punish someone if there is a “preponderance of the evidence.” If that sounds a bit sketchy to you, it should. The “preponderance” level essentially means you can find someone guilty of a crime even when there is substantial evidence placing doubt as to whether the person was really responsible.

The Navy is supposed to use NJP to punish small offenses quickly so as to maintain good order and discipline. NJP punishments are limited in nature and aren’t considered an actual conviction, so they don’t translate to felonies or misdemeanors on a service member’s record when they leave service.

The fire on the BONHOMME RICHARD was not a small offense. Reading through the description of the poor response to the fire should make you angry as to how the Navy, charged with maintaining the premier maritime fighting force for the most important nation in the world, could let a critical warship burn in a major city when it has plenty of firefighting equipment nearby. This SHOULD have gone to court martial. The one Sailor accused of starting the fire, a Seaman Apprentice, is facing criminal charges at a court martial, and we don’t know yet those results. Yet for some reason the Navy elected to not pursue court martial charges for any other person involved in this case.

So NJP it is. Six members were found guilty at NJP. We don’t have the full results, but the SECNAV said that two members, the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer of the BONHOMME RICHARD, were assigned letters of reprimand and forfeiture of pay. NJP limits pay forfeitures for officers to 1/2 months pay for up to two months. With this in mind, we can calculate the lower limit for how much pay was taken by assuming they each lost 1/2 months pay for one month, and the upper limit as 1/2 months pay for two months.

CAPT Thoroman enlisted in the Navy in 1988 and thus has 34 years of service. His base pay is $12,980 a month, so he could have been fined $6,490 or $12,980. CAPT Ray joined via NROTC in 1996, and his base pay is $12,725, so he’s being fined either $6,362.50 or $12,725.

Adding these up, the lower limit of total fines is: $12,852.50
The upper limit of total fines is: $25,705
The estimated cost to fix the BONHOMME RICHARD was around $3 billion, so these fines represent 0.000857% of the repair cost for the ship.

I might be off a bit, check my math and let me know in the comments.

So that’s the financial cost, and as far as I can tell, the ONLY financial cost. Granted, its not likely the Navy could get $3 billion from all the people involved, but only punishing the CO and XO financially seems a bit light. The other guilty NJPs probably issued letters of reprimand, which like the letter of censure is a black mark on your record that otherwise has no bearing in the civilian world.

What about the Matter of Interest Findings, or MIF? A MIF is a negative letter that also sits on a service member’s record that essentially says this person wasn’t necessarily guilty, buuuuut we think we should be concerned about this individual. Translating that to reality, it means that person will likely never get promoted, but the MIF doesn’t become a felony or misdemeanor in the civilian world.

Letters of Instruction (LOIs) are letters that say “You did something wrong, and I’m instructing you on how to do better.” Then, once you complete all those items, the LOI is considered complete. I have an LOI from my first command where I screwed up a tagout and my CO made me provide tagout training to my division. LOIs don’t go on your record and don’t affect promotion. They correct bad behavior and are one step above yelling at someone for doing something stupid. Again, not much of a lasting punishment.

A NPLOC is a non-punitive letter of caution. It has even less teeth than a punitive letter, because it doesn’t sit on your record at all. A NPLOCs whole purpose is to give you more evidence on someone that is likely committing crimes but staying just below the threshold to get caught. Do you remember the “I’m not touching you game,” where you irritated your sibling by putting your finger just bareeely in front of their nose or cheek and said “I’m not touching you,” like somehow not touching you meant you couldn’t be punished? Remember when your birthing person mom or dad said “That’s strike one, do it again and you’ll get a whooping.” That’s a NPLOC. Not a punishment at the time, but could be used later.

Did any Admirals besides VADM (ret) Brown get punished? Well, Rear Admiral Scott Brown (not related to the VADM (ret) Brown) and Rear Admiral Eric Ver Hage both got LOIs.

And that’s it. So, just to review:

  • USS BONHOMME RICHARD catches fire on 12 July 2020, burns for four days and is a total loss of somewhere around 3 billion dollars.
  • Two years later, the Navy issues approximately 30 pieces of administrative paper that say they are really, really mad with how a Sailor acted.
  • The Navy also issues somewhere between $12K and $25K in fines.
  • The Navy has an ongoing criminal trial into one Sailor they think started the fire that we don’t have resolution on yet two years after the initial event.
  • No other Court Martials were convened.
  • No Sailor above the paygrade of O-6 was held responsible in any meaningful way.
  • No person was sent to jail (at least not yet).

And that’s it. That’s the extent of how the Navy holds people responsible for losing a warship inside our own port.

We often talk about the “Deep State” and how it protects bureaucrats from punishment while holding all the “little people” responsible. While its been obvious for some time now, the failure of the investigation into the fires on the BONHOMME RICHARD confirm that the military should be included into this “Deep State” calculus. It goes far beyond COVID vaccines and extremist “training.” The people wearing stars in our military will gleefuly destroy the lives of the hard working men and women in our service while continuing to provide poor leadership, poor guidance and force an ever increasing focus on non-warfighting skills. They are responsible for the poorly structured command and control diagrams, the shortened damage control training pipelines, and the increasing focus on non-warfighting skills, yet they demand all the pomp and circumstance for their office from every service member below them, and demand that we ASSUME (always a dangerous word) that they are really ready to conduct warfighting on behalf of this great nation.

Contrast the response to the BONHOMME RICHARD fire to that of the USS COLE, which had a massive hole blown in the side at the waterline from a suicide bomber, yet stayed afloat long enough to be brought home in one piece on the MV Blue Marlin, and eventually returned to service. Think about that when you read the descriptions in the BONHOMME RICHARD report on how Sailors didn’t know basics about their fire fighting gear:

On the morning of the fire 87% of the ship’s fire stations “​remained in inactive equipment maintenance status,” according to the investigation. None of the crew members tried to use the ship’s foam sprinkling system because it had not been properly maintained and “in part because the crew lacked familiarity with capability and availability.” The crew made several other mistakes that day, including waiting far too long to report the fire, the investigation found. Several sailors decided not to put their firefighting gear on because they thought they were not wearing the proper uniform to take part in firefighting efforts. Sailors were also not properly trained on how to use emergency breathing devices, leading to cases of smoke inhalation.

Task and Purpose Article

What happened in the 20 years since the COLE bombing? How did we get worse at damage control as a Navy? Most importantly, who should be held responsible for that?

One final piece of history. The original BOMHOMME RICHARD was a converted merchant ship used by Captain John Paul Jones to raid the coast of Britain. In the Battle of Flamborough Head, Jones fought the HMS Serapis, which heavily damaged and eventually sank the RICHARD, but not before Jones had lashed the ships together, stormed the Serapis and ultimately captured her in a massive win for the fledgling United States Navy.

One has to ask how Captain John Paul Jones, currently interred at the Naval Academy, would react to his old ship’s namesake suffering such a tragedy, and how he would have conducted the follow-on investigation.

This post represents the views of the author and does not represents views of the United States Navy, Department of Defense, or any other government agency. You’re welcome to read their views in their official posts on navy.mil. If you learned something from this article, please consider donating to Da Tech Guy, or purchasing one of the author’s books for you or someone you care about.

Building solid products

I still enjoy going to the theater for a movie. My last in-theater movie was Dune, and while I have a good sound system at home, nothing can compare to giant theater speakers making your chair shake as a sandworm travels across the screen. Theaters have had to up their game compared to when I was a kid. Back in my day, you were lucky to get hot popcorn with something resembling butter and a seat that was cleaned a few hours ago. Now your seat is cushy, was reserved in advance (no rushing to the theater), and at my local theater you can order alcohol and dinner from your seat!

Movies are finally starting to up their game as well. We went through a drought of movies after Avengers: Endgame that just seemed didn’t inspire spending the money to go to a theater. On top of that, the movies went both woke and China-censored at the same time (which ironically often conflicted with itself). But times are changing, and Hollywood seems to be waking up to the realization that it should make solid movies and worry less about pleasing the Chinese or the woke mobs.

Apparently, its big enough that even CNN is recognizing it.

Look at the Top Gun sequel. Rather then make a movie about a sad Tom Cruise now working as the top DEI enforcement officer at the Pentagon, or cut out the Taiwanese flag on his iconic jacket, Hollywood decided to just make a solid movie. And it sold, bigly, now well over 1 billion dollars. Or look at Spider-man: No Way Home, another solid movie that just focused on being a movie. Or Dune, which took complicated source material and pieced it into an action-packed film.

My point is, if you make a solid movie, more often than not you’ll make money. That holds true across many other disciplines: make a solid product, and you’ll make a solid profit.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you like this post, why not listen to the author narrate his epic tale of woe to you by purchasing his book on Audible?

When should you start a family?

I have five living kids at home, and would have an additonal six year old girl with Down Syndrome had she not died after a failed heart surgery. I also have a pretty odd mix of friends, most of whom don’t have a family anywhere near my size, so I get asked a lot of questions about raising a large family. The most common questions come from younger couples asking about when the right, perfect time is to start a family.

And well…there isn’t one.

Someone might tell you to at least wait till after high school, which sounds like pretty good advice. After all, you probably aren’t married in high school, need to finish your diploma, and let’s be honest, most high schoolers don’t think through such life altering choices as having a baby.

Yet I know a few families that were high school sweethearts that married in or pretty near to high school graduation. My mom was one of them. She was married at 18 to my dad (who was graduating college and 4 years her senior) and somehow managed to successfully raise three kids while traveling the world with a Marine Corps officer. Compare that with too many of today’s graduates that can barely write English papers and brag about doing their laundry only a few days late with hashtag adulting on social media. Perhaps that says more about the current state of education than family planning though.

We could pick more times: after you finish your degree, after to start your first job, after you “settle down” (whatever that means), or after you are “ready” (seriously, what the heck does that mean??). But every time you try to nail down a right time, you’ll find lots of counter examples of people starting families that don’t follow that logic that come out just fine.

Which is why there isn’t a perfect time to start a family. Sadly, I see too many good, family-oriented couples searching for the perfect time to start a family. Many of them pray over it, but their prayers revolve around asking God to tell them when to start a family, like they expect some booming voice to emanate from the clouds declaring “Have intercourse at 6:35 pm on July 12th!” or some other nonsense like that. This delay and worry is part of the reason people are waiting later and later to start families, which makes it harder to have children as your biological clock only runs at full tilt for so long.

The recent SCOTUS decision is likely making many couples revisit this question. Abortion and contraception make it appear to give us control of when we have children. Neither does, or certainly doesn’t without consequences. Accepting the challenges, and the joys, of having a family will mean accepting it on the timeline that it comes to you.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. If you enjoyed this article, please consider donating to this blog or purchasing one of the author’s books.