Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Thursday, July 21, 2005


The House of Representatives voted yesterday, 291-137, to reject a call for a planned and timely withdrawl from Iraq. The House instead said the U.S. must stay to make Iraq free. Free for who? For the people of Iraq or free and easy for the big corporations to slice and dice the country up.....spoils go to the winner.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

MASSIVE SPACE COST OVERRUNS AT PENTAGON

by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Jul 19, 2005

In testimony before the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Committee on Armed Services delivered last week, Robert E. Levin, director of Acquisitions and Sourcing Management at the GAO, delivered a devastating critique of the Bush administration and the Pentagon's space acquisitions' record.

"The results are discouraging," he said. "Systems cost more and take much longer to acquire than promised when initially approved.

"Overall, we have found that DOD (the Department of Defense) has been unable to match resources (technology, time, money) to requirements before beginning individual programs, setting the stage for technical and other problems, which lead to cost and schedule increases," Levin said.

Many of the problems, Levin said, came from sloppiness on the part of DOD leaders or senior officials in defining what they specifically wanted their new space-based high-tech systems to do, or in being too visionary -- approving programs when the technology did not yet exist, or had not yet been developed sufficiently to ! assure the necessary reliable performance.

"Technologies are not mature enough (in some cases) to be included in product development," Levin said. "Cost estimates are unreliable -- largely because requirements have not been fully defined and because programs start with many unknowns about technologies."

Levin painted a picture of thousands of hardworking and dedicated individuals stymied by the complexities and cross-purposes of the bureaucratic structures in which they had to function.

"Factors that make it more difficult for DOD to achieve a match between resources and requirements for space acquisitions," he said "... include: a diverse array of organizations with competing interests; a desire to satisfy all requirements in a single step, regardless of the design or technology challenge; and a tendency for acquisition programs to take on technology development that should occur within the S & T (science and technolo! gy) environment."

Also, he said, "DOD starts more programs than it can afford in the long run, forcing programs to underestimate costs and over promise capability."

"As a result," he said, "there is pressure to suppress bad news about programs, which could endanger funding and support, as well as to skip testing because of its high cost."

Levin acknowledged that the Department of Defense "has recently revised its space acquisition policy, in part to attain more knowledge about technologies before beginning an acquisition program."

"However," he continued, "we remain concerned that this policy still allows programs to begin before demonstrating technologies in an operational or simulated environment."

The results of these shortcomings have cost billions of dollars and seriously reduced the space capabilities that the Department of Defense has been able to deliver, Levin said.

"For decades, space acquisition programs have been encountering large cost and increases and schedule delays," he said," As a result, DOD has been unable to deliver capabilities as promised.

"This year alone," Levin said, "... costs have continued to climb on the Space-Based Infrared System High (SBIRS-High) program ... pushing DOD's investment in this critical missile warning system to over $9.9 billion from the initial $3.9 billion made nine years ago."

Also, he said, "the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System has been restructured and is facing cost increases and schedule delays."

Even the simplest and most straightforward part of the military space program -- launching satellites into space on reliable, cost-effective rockets -- is becoming more difficult and vastly more expensive, Levin warned.

"Unit cost increases for launch vehicles have now increased! by 81 percent since 2002 due to erroneous assumptions about the commercial launch market upon which the program's business case was based," he said.

In the case of many programs, Levin said, there would be no improvement in sight and cost over-runs would continue for many years.

"DOD originally planned to complete expenditures for SBIRS-High in fiscal year 2005, for example, but currently plans to spend about $3.4 billion in fiscal years 2007 through 2013," he said.

Levin and his GAO analysts were not alone in their indictment.

Pedro "Pete" Rustan, director of Advanced Systems and Technology at the National Reconnaissance Office, told a congressional subcommittee, "I think space acquisitions procedures are the biggest challenge facing our space systems today. "We must do things differently."

"Unless decisive actions are taken," Rustan said, "I think we will continue to spend lar! ge amounts of money without returning a commensurate capability to our stakeholders."

Rep. Terry Everett, R-Ala, the subcommittee chairman who called the hearing, made clear he took the criticisms seriously. "Acquisition and management practices, as well as industry standards and quality control must be vastly improved," he said in his opening statement.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

FULL REPORT ON RECENT ORGANIZING TRIPS

This report covers the period of July 11-18 when I traveled to northwest Michigan for a six-city tour, and then participated in two events in Maine.

My trip to Michigan was initiated by an old friend, Carol Still, whom I knew long ago in Florida. She was a member of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice and some years ago moved to Michigan to be near family. Carol had recently shown our video, Arsenal of Hypocrisy, on her local cable TV station and received quite a number of phone calls from new people expressing interest in the video. As a result a task force was created to begin working on the space issue and they then sent representatives from their new group to the recent Global Network annual conference in New York City. The group, called the Interfaith Peace & Justice Network of NW Michigan, also decided to host me on a speaking tour.

I had never been to northwest Michigan before and was to see much of the region as talks were scheduled for me in Traverse City, Suttons Bay, Petoskey, Alden, Charlevoix, and Manistee County. This part of Michigan is along beautiful Lake Michigan and is also the cherry capital of the world. The organizing committee took turns driving me from place to place throughout the rural countryside that is heavy populated with tourists during the summer. Tom Shea, in Traverse City, was the hub who kept things coordinated throughout the week. Unseasonably hot weather was on everyone's mind and needless to say I ate a lot of cherries during the trip. During each of my talks I read bits from my new book, Come Together Right Now, that is currently at the printer and should be finished within a week.

A young journalist from a small newspaper in Manistee County came to my first talk that was held in Traverse City. He taped the presentation, and then wrote a strong front-page story for his local paper promoting my talk that would take place in his community at the end of my tour. As I was packing up my things from my literature table after my talk he asked if he could take the handful of Keep Space for Week posters that I had left. He said he'd like to put them up around the county. It is not often that a journalist volunteers to do that. He had a special light in his eye and you could see that this young man was alive and was going to amount to something.

After speaking in Petoskey, I was driven to the small town of Alden to speak at a local library. I was told this is the community where filmmaker Michael Moore lives, and that he is often active with the local progressive community. Folks reported that Moore is now working on his next film, to be called Sick-O. Apparently it will be about the fact that health care is not available to legions of citizens in our country. One of my hosts took two of our Global Network videos and promised to give them to Moore.

That evening I stayed at the home of Barbara and Bruce MacArthur in Charlevoix, overlooking Lake Michigan. The next morning Bruce took me to his Rotary Club meeting, where he had arranged for me to speak. Thirty people were there to hear me, including the chief of police and the county prosecutor. I began by asking how many of them relied on cell phones, computers, cable TV and GPS receivers. I talked about the growing problem with space junk and Bush's plans to deploy weapons in space. Of course this plan would dramatically increase the likelihood that civilian satellites would be destroyed by the debris created when the Pentagon knocked-out other countries' "space assets" in order for the U.S. to "control and dominate" space. I got a good reception.

During my last stop, I stayed at the home of Robert and Diane Burnett in Frankfort. They live on a small piece of land not far from Lake Michigan where they raise animals and have a large garden. I enjoyed my time with Robert, who loves baseball as much as I do. He took me swimming in cold Lake Michigan early on my last morning there. They have a 16-year-old dog named Bobo who they described as the "town bum." Bobo loves to wander through town and various shops have a spot set aside for Bobo to rest. One local man always waits for Bobo to visit and then he takes the dog to the local hamburger joint and buys him a burger. While I was there Diane had to drive into town to pick up Bobo after they discovered he had once again slipped off for another one of his jaunts to town.

Folks in northwest Michigan are now discussing active participation during the GN's October 1-8 Keep Space for Week. It was a great visit and I am grateful to all of my hosts.

I returned to Maine just in time for a July 17 Town Hall Meeting on Iraq that our Congressman Tom Allen (D-ME) had agreed to hold after months of pressure from the peace movement. Phone calls, letters, following him to speaking events, and an occupation of his office in Portland finally convinced him to hold the public event. Well over 500 citizens turned out to give testimony against the war in Iraq and called on the congressman to vote against further funding for the occupation. He recently introduced a bill that says the U.S. should not permanently stay in Iraq but he has not yet been willing to vote for legislation calling for an exit strategy and a timeline for withdrawal to be set. Much to our dismay, but of no surprise to us, the local newspaper failed to cover the event.

On July 18 I drove three hours north to Deer Isle where I joined about 25 people from the group called Island Peace & Justice for their weekly anti-war vigil. Later that evening I spoke at The Good Life Center, the former home of Helen and Scott Nearing, who became famous for their back-to-the-land efforts. The center today hosts speakers throughout the summer and holds programs on homesteading and sustainable living. Among the many books published by the Nearings are titles such as Living the Good Life and The Conscience of a Radical. The Nearings built their home of stone, made much of their own furniture, grew their own food, and served as teachers and inspiration for millions. It was an honor to sleep in their bedroom and feel the power and simplicity of their lives. The caretakers suggested I read an anti-war pamphlet written in 1946 by Scott. I was struck by how little things have changed since that time. The military industrial complex still promotes war between "good and evil" and still suggests that the U.S. is the nation of great virtue. During my talk at the center I emphasized the current campaign underway in Maine to bring the economic conversion theme into the consciousness of the people. If we ever hope to end war we must get a handle on how people make a living. Why can't we make rail cars, solar, and windmills at the military production facilities in Maine and throughout the U.S.?

My next speaking trip takes me to Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia from July 28 - August 10.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

IRAQ TOWN HALL MEETING

Under intense pressure from the peace movement in Maine, Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME) held a town hall meeting today at Portland High School on the Iraq issue. Several months ago the peace movement in the state began a coordinated campaign to get our congressional delegation to agree to hold a town meeting. We've been calling, writing, and holding occupations of their offices reading the names of U.S. and Iraqi civilian war dead. Today well over 500 people turned out for the event.

At first Rep. Allen would not hold such an event. Rep. Allen maintains that we can't leave Iraq because if we do there might be a civil war and innocent Iraqi people will suffer. It appears that is happening now. His position is the basic Democratic party position, and at one point in the event he suggested we all go and read the statement of Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) who forcefully articulates this position that we must stay in Iraq and stabilize it until the Iraqi government asks us to leave. One Veterans for Peace member reminded the congressman that the Iraqi government, like the one the U.S. installed in Vietnam during that war, is a puppet government and is not likely to ask us to leave.

Two parents of GI's now in Iraq both spoke out strongly against the war calling for the troops to be brought home ASAP. None of the people who spoke up during the event expressed the slightest support for the war.

At least half a dozen of the people who spoke up called for the conversion of the military industrial complex. This, I think, indicates that our campaign to bring that issue alive here in Maine is making progress. People are seeing the common sense of using our tax dollars to build mass transit rail systems, solar power, and wind power at the weapons production facilities in the state that now produce weapons for endless war.

When I spoke I asked the audience what the nation's number one industrial export was. WEAPONS they yelled out. And when weapons are your number one industrial export, what is your global marketing strategy, I asked? WAR they yelled back.

This was a great day for the peace movement in Maine. We showed that we can mobilize people, we got very little help from the mainstream media who basically refused to give any advance coverage to the event. We also showed the growing power of ordinary people who are moving to oppose the war. Rep. Allen continues to say that we can't leave Iraq but he is moving in our direction as he clearly is feeling the pressure to change his position. We will keep working, and building, in order to grow this anti-war movement.

Next month we will again occupy the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) where we will read the names of dead GI's and Iraqi civilians. Each time we read them it takes us longer - the last time it took six hours. But each time we read the names our numbers grow.