On the right you will see the graph showing the numbers of ideas submitted to the Secretary of Defense’s INVEST Program. INVEST being the acronym for INovation for new Value, Efficiency and Savings Tomorrow. On AFN the commercials come on every hour, with the SECDEF talking about why we need new ideas, the importance to the average service member and so on.

As a Navy, we’re holding a respectable fourth place, considering the size difference between the various branches, and the amount of time the Air Force spends in their chairs (lol). But, together as the Navy and Marine Corps Team, we’re in a close second to the Army, having a combined number of submissions of 506 to the Army’s 528. I think we can do better, I think we need to as well.

Bottled water. It’s all you got to drink out here, and there are tons of it. One of the things you’re told when first handed a bottled water is how much they supposedly cost. I’ve heard claims of $2.75 a bottle to $2.00 a bottle. I, more or less, believe the cost estimates. Another thing you come to be told after a month or so in the ‘Stan is how much YOU cost for just having your boots on the ground–around $1,000,000 dollars for the year total ownership cost is the common number cited at the smoke pit.

That last figure was verified for me by the CSBA analysis of the FY 2011 budget (h/t CDR Sal). But, actually places how much I cost in FY10 at just below $2,000,000 dollars.

It’s hard, real hard to sit here and think about what I do for this war effort costing that much. I know I am not worth that much money spent. You could get a Master Chief Yeoman out here doing my job and they wouldn’t produce a product worth two million-ish for a years worth of work. The only person out here that I can justify that cost for are those actually putting rounds down range–the guys actually fighting this war. But, the kicker is, those guys actually winning this war don’t live as comfortably as I do. Those guys, more often than not, are in much more austere FOBs (Forward Operating Base) than I am in Kandahar.

I’ve submitted to the SECDEF that I could do my job just as well somewhere outside of Afghanistan than I can actually here in Afghanistan. I process awards for units who’s admin office is just across the street from me. Know how I get the work from them? Email. The only time I really see them face-to-face is when I am dropping off their completed awards or they are picking them up from me. Units at other FOBs, more often than not, I mail the awards to them. So… Why am I here again? Why do I actually need to be in Afghanistan sucking up two million dollars of the tax payers money?

The Solution. Take the real estate that is about to become vacant in Suffolk that has all the connectivity I could need to communicate with S/R/G/N/J/CJ-1s (yes, there are that many designations for offices like mine) here in Afghanistan. Put my work schedule in Suffolk to match Afghan local time. Make the unit in Suffolk joint so as to have a working knowledge of awards procedures for each branch, and process their awards there and mail them to the unit in Afghanistan, or to their home station to be awarded upon home coming. Maintain the Admin shops in Afghanistan (O-5 command and smaller) to be able to process spot awards, and keep me from costing so much! I won’t be earning Imminent Danger/Hostile Fire pay, I won’t be getting War Zone Tax Exclusion, I won’t be getting Hazardous Duty Pay, none of that; let alone the cost of giving me this funny looking Army uniform and gear. One less admin person out here is one more war fighter who could be out here.

So, that’s my idea–what I told the SECDEF. Why don’t you tell the Secretary your idea? For us REMFs (link not for the faint of heart) and POGs (Personnel Other than Grunt), that may just be the best way we can help win this war.

Posted by CTR1(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III in Innovation

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  • Nothing better to have around than a smart Yeoman.

  • RickWilmes

    Based on what you just said my suggestion to the SecDef is that the two of you should trade jobs.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    So true. And now the Army has made him put on all that muscle.
    The man is truly dangerous…brains, brawn, types 100 wpm and knows all the admin manuals backward and forward, and likes to write up benny suggs.

    Be afraid, be very afraid;-0.

  • Retired Now

    USA Helps Freedom All Over The World: I’m all for our country attempting to help change or at lease expose the rest of the world to the wonders of freedom, but couldn’t we do this a bit cheaper ?

    Come on, now. How can our costs in SouthWest Asia be so high ?

    Somebody must be syphoning billions off for ?? black projects ? come on, where’s all these 1,000 of billions going to ??

  • Paul Withington

    What would be the impact of moving the “back office” back to the U.S.?

    For each person moved out, how much less must be transported into Afghanistan?

    How much less must be devoted to protecting those personnel and assets that could then be redirected to the tip of the spear?

    If we don’t need those personnel in country, do those personnel even need to be military personnel?

  • ToTheRiver

    I’ve heard the $1M / year number as well. What gets lost in the numbers however is what a sailor costs stateside. I have a feeling that the marginal cost of a sailor in the sand is not as exorbitant as the $1M makes it seem.
    For example numbers are qouted about the cost of operating a jet over Afghaninstan, but absent the war that jet would be flying training missions and expending training ordance anyway. The better discussion would be about the marginal cost.

    About why you need to be there and not in Norfolk, I would say it’s not for the 95% of the time that you only communicate via email, its for the 5% of the time that you need to be in person, and need to talk face to face, and need to understand the issue beyond what an email conveys. As a reservist, I would say the military is built more on interpersonal relationships than civillian life.

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    There are ways to have interpersonal relationships with out face time, some of my closest friends and mentors I’ve never met in person. They key is that everyone needs to be on the same schedule.

    One of the biggest challenges for me on my first cruise was staying up late enough in the Gulf to talk to our CLASSRON which was out of San Diego, as well as sending work to a PaPa Det which was 9-5 Monday through Friday.

    My biggest point is, that even with the face time I do provide, regardless of cost being marginal in any sense, I am not worth close to 2 million. Only those who are really winning this war are, and even then it seems a stretch.

  • RickWilmes

    Another cost comparison I would be interested in.

    How much did a Soviet Soldier cost when they were in Afghanistan?

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    A figure for the cost per year of the Soviet invasion of AFG I found is $20 billion per year in 1986 dollars. The dollar has inlfated 99% since 1986. So, close to $40 billion a year was spent by the Soviets in AFG. The US has spent around $327 billion on the war thus far. So, we are spending around $36 billion a year, thus far.

  • ToTheRiver

    Also be carefull how you understand averages. The budget linked in your post was an average cost per soldier. At $2M that doesn’t mean if you go home there is $2M saved. You in a FOB I’m sure are much less than the average as there is a cost savings in having so many in one place. Regular supplying of a smaller outputs that may not be as comfortable, may actaully cost more as it takes more helo resupplies to keep it fuctional. Their average cost may be higher.

    You pose great questions, but statistics can be very misleading unless we know how it was built up.

    I would bet the commanders in AFG get constant reminders to reduce their force size to the samllest possible footprint to accomplish the mission.
    I also wouldn’t discount the benefit your presence to do awards gives the commander across the street. You never see him and are always emailing him (or his staff), but he knows your just across the street. What’s the unseen benefit of taking one less issue off his mind so he can focus on warfighting.