Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Whip It Out In Control

One of the unwritten rules of the blogosphere is that if Professor Reynolds comments on something in your area of blogging expertise, you're supposed to respond. (I think it's a rule because you hope for an Instalanche if he mentions your post in an update; since his post discussing the celebrated case of the homosexual COB on USS Chicago (SSN 721) is about to drop off his front page, though, I don't think I'll get another one.)

Most submariners remember the case of ETCM(SS) Tim McVeigh, who was "outed" when he sent an E-mail to the ship's ombundsman using his AOL E-mail account, the screen name and profile for which indicated that the sender might be gay (he put "gay" as his marital status, for example). His screen name ("Boysrch") and listed hobbies ("driving, boy watching, collecting pictures of other young studs") would probably be enough to make any ombundsman a little squeamish.

Here's what Instapundit has to say:

"Yeah, the McVeigh case is one I teach in Internet Law. Poor guy -- a gay sailor named "Timothy McVeigh." And the Navy's behavior in that case was atrocious, though to be fair it's a post "don't ask don't tell" phenomenon."

He's right, as usual; the course taken by the Legal Services Office in confirming the name of the owner of the account violated the rules. As a result, McVeigh was allowed to retire (with a promotion) and was awarded money in legal settlements with the Navy and AOL.

The rest of the Instapundit post talks in general about the costs of replacing people discharged from the military for homosexuality. He admits that the military is following a law passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in discharging such servicemembers -- he thinks the law should be changed. He also posts E-mails from readers saying that the vast majority of those discharged are for self-admittals -- some not even true, just people who want to get out of their contracts and know that saying "I'm gay" is the quickest way to get home with the minimum amount of fuss. (Personal anecdote: The last woman I dated before I met SubBasket was a Recruit Company Commander at RTC Orlando, when I was going to Enlisted Nuke School. She ended up getting discharged because one of her recruits had reported her for lesbianism, and she didn't fight it because she was going to get the same honorable discharge for a medical condition anyway. As soon as she was discharged, she moved up to New York to marry one of my classmates -- also a male, btw.)

What I disagree with is accepting at face value the conclusions of a GAO report claiming it cost $191M over the last 10 years to replace the 10,000 people discharged. This is almost $20K per trainee, which included "... 322 language specialists, 90 nuclear power engineers, 150 missile specialists, 49 nuclear, chemical and biological warfare specialists, 50 intelligence operatives, and 163 police officers and professional prison guards." Here's how the GAO works: they take the total operating budget, including instructor salaries, of each school, divide by the number of graduates, and say that the result is the cost to train someone for that specialty. This is despite the fact that many of these costs are fixed, and would have to be paid anyway.

I'm hesitant to give much credence to GAO reports because of a yearly paper they put out in the 90s about submarine officer shore duty slots, and how most of them should be eliminated to save money by cutting the number of required submarine officers to that number needed to fill the nuclear billets. (I can't find this report on-line anywhere, but I remember reading the following in Navy Times, so this stuff is unclassified.) Not even considering the effects on retention if sub officers didn't get shore duty, the report complained that several hundred Ensigns were on shore duty; they thought that only 3 of the billets were justified. This might sound reasonable, until you consider that the Ensigns on "shore duty" were the ones who were going through the Nuke pipeline! So, they apparently thought that officers didn't need Nuke School, Prototype, and SOBC. That's marginally defensible, until you realize what the three billets they wanted to keep were.

Back in the day (they might still do this) the NPTUs (other than Charleston) were allowed to have three "Staff Pickup Officers" stay around for a year after their class graduated. They helped train the officers in the following classes. These were the three Ensign billets the GAO said were OK to keep, and you can see where I'm going here: Why keep three officers around to train student officers who, under the GAO plan, wouldn't be there? Any, since there weren't any officers going through the pipeline, where were they supposed to get these three officer? This did not make sense.

Nevertheless, BUPERS still had to respond to this ridiculous report every year, explaining why it wasn't feasible to eliminate sub officer shore billets. And the very next year, the GAO would come out with the same report, still calling for 3 Ensigns on shore duty.

And that's why I don't put much stock in GAO reports on military cost savings...

Going deep...


Blogger Vigilis said...

Perhaps the slipshod method used by the GAO to calculate training costs was politically motivated at the time.

If this is still the case, what is the public to think about the accuracy of any of the GAO's reports and conclusions? My how times have changed when the auditors can't be trusted.

1/10/2006 2:22 AM

Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

Whoa, don't whip it out in control?!? What else are FT's supposed to do on watch?

At least Navy leadership (on ship and at squadron, at least, can't talk to anywhere else on the operational side) has backed off on the gay thing. We had at least 3 gay guys on the boat, and frankly, no one cared. One was on my watch team, and he stood a damn good watch, and ultimately, that was all that mattered.

As for the GAO, feh. Maybe a crusty old chief or two would happily stay at sea tour after tour, but cutting all non-nuke shore tours for bubbleheads would have been a great was to lose even more officers than we do already.

1/10/2006 7:29 AM

Blogger Chap said...

Was in theater at the time.

The Chicago COB thing was the result of several people sticking their nose where it didn't belong, including a wife or two, and then getting all "witch hunt" about it and breaking rules/laws--and that was AOL and the chain of command! It was ugly ugly.

You know, with this deal and the '93 LA suicide I might note that the overzealous pursuit of correct behavior fosters much worse behavior.

1/10/2006 2:42 PM

Blogger Xopher said...

Chief McVeigh was my ETC when I was Comm-O. Extremely capable guy. The Naval Submarine Sabotage Facility spent 3 days trying to fix our Type 18 scope. He lost patience and fixed it while they were out to lunch, literally. Navy lost a very valuable sailor with many years experience.

Given all those various high-tech ratings I find 20K figure a more than a bit low. Just think of salary and benefits for 1 year of school per sailor.

1/11/2006 4:45 PM


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