Monday, April 4, 2016

Where the Defense Department Spends its Money

The USS Minnesota is a Virginia-class fast attack submarine that cost the Government $2.7 billion. The builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries announced in 2013 that it had delivered the USS Minnesota eleven months ahead of schedule. The boat didn't get too far however. Soon after sea trials began, a defective weld was discovered in a hard to access spot and for the last two plus years, the boat has been in port undergoing repairs. The same defect has been found in two other submarines in the class.

This post is not about defective submarines however. It is about comparative cost of military programs. As mentioned, the USS Minnesota cost $2.7 billion. A Nimitz-class aircraft carrier cost a bit more than that at 4.5 billion. The fly-away cost on the B-2 Spirit was $737 million (in 1997 dollars). An F-22 Raptor cost $150 million (in 2009 dollars) while the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is costing a paltry $135 million.

But, get a load of this. The Department of Defense recently awarded an ID/IQ (indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity) contract for linguist support services supporting military operations and exercises throughout the world. The total value of this procurement is estimated at $9.8 billion over a ten-year period. Is that possible? Ten billion for translators! For that price, DoD could buy a couple of Nimitz-class carriers, or a carrier and a Virginia-class submarine with a few F-22s or F-35s thrown in.

So, what do these linguists do? Well, they communicate with other foreign military units, the host nation government , and the local population, in order to gather information for force protection. They transcribe, translate, and interpret information gathered from a variety of sources to meed operational requirements. There is an intelligence gathering element to their jobs.

So, how many linguists will $10 billion buy over a 10 year period? We don't really know because we haven't seen any proposals or contracts but if you consider each one earns $100,000 per year with fringe benefits, that would work out to 10,000 linguists.

Honestly, we had no idea that the Government was spending that much money for interpreting and translating services.

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