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Author: TriSec    Date: 02/02/2016 10:52:11

Good Morning.

With the last Republican debate behind us, I'm a little late on the draw with this one, but nevertheless I hope you've been following this news on the book of face.

When Mr. Trump decided he didn't want to face a reporter and went his own way, he also decided that he was going to use veterans as campaign props. Friend of the Blog Paul Rieckhoff didn't take too kindly to that, and has been leading the anti-Trump charge online recently.

The head of an Iraq and Afghanistan veterans group says they will decline donations from the fundraising event Donald Trump plans to hold Thursday night as he sits out the Republican primary debate.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America founder Paul Rieckhoff said on Twitter Wednesday that his group had not heard from the Trump campaign and did not know which organizations would be involved in the veterans event.

Rieckhoff's criticism wasn't reserved only for Trump. He had a similar message for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz after a super PAC supporting the presidential candidate offered to donate $1.5 million to veterans if Trump accepts a one-on-one debate challenge.

Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina also said her campaign would donate $1.5 million to veterans' causes -- if she can join the proposed Cruz-Trump face-off.

It's unclear which groups will be involved in the Trump veterans event Thursday night in Des Moines. Trump's campaign quickly put the event together after the Republican presidential front-runner announced he would not participate in Thursday's Fox News/Google debate held at the same time, claiming he had been treated unfairly by the network.

The campaign said Wednesday night that the "special event to benefit veterans organizations" would be held at Drake University in Des Moines.

"We're going to raise a lot of money for the veterans. A lot of money is going to be raised," Trump told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, while repeatedly refusing to reconsider his decision to boycott the debate. "A lot of people are going to be there, and I can do some good."

Rieckhoff has been critical before of politicians' comments about veterans issues on the campaign trail.

After Sarah Palin, during her Trump endorsement, seemed to point the finger at President Obama over mental issues her son may be dealing with following his Iraq war service, Rieckhoff pushed back. He called PTSD a "very serious problem" and reportedly urged Palin not to "politicize" it.

IAVA says it has over 180,000 post-9/11 veteran members. The group spent about $3 million on awareness, community and advocacy programs, according to the most recently filed financial forms analyzed by Charity Navigator.

But then again, there's at least one "veteran's group" that would probably gladly (and greedily) take any amount of cash being offered up by the candidates. It's come to light recently that the "Wounded Warrior Project", one of the nobler-sounding veteran's groups, does little for veterans with their funds and instead uses that cash for lavish parties to - wait for it - raise more cash. Obviously cut from the same cloth as the Republican candidates, this would seem like a good fit for their donations.

A CBS News investigation into a charity for wounded veterans, the Wounded Warrior Project, looks into how the charity spends its donation money.

What caught our attention is how the Wounded Warrior Project spends donations compared to other long-respected charities.

For example, Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust spends 96 percent of its budget on vets. Fisher House devotes 91 percent. But according to public records reported by "Charity Navigator," the Wounded Warrior Project spends 60 percent on vets.

In its commercials, Wounded Warrior Project appeals to the American public's generosity, and it works. In 2014 alone the group received more than $300 million in donations.

"Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, but what the public doesn't see is how they spend their money," said Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette.

Millette came home from Iraq in 2006 with a bronze star and a purple heart -- along with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

Initially, he admired the charity's work, and participated in its programs. He took a job as a public speaker with Wounded Warrior Project in 2013. But after two years, he quit.

"You're using our injuries, our darkest days, our hardships, to make money. So you can have these big parties," he told CBS News.

Millette said he witnessed lavish spending on staff.

"Let's get a Mexican mariachi band in there, let's get maracas made with [the] WWP logo, put them on every staff member's desk. Let's get it catered and have a big old party," he described.

"Going to a nice fancy restaurant is not team building. Staying at a lavish hotel at the beach here in Jacksonville, and requiring staff that lives in the area to stay at the hotel is not team building," Millette continued.

CBS News spoke to more than 40 former employees who described a charity where spending was out of control.

Two of those former employees were so fearful of retaliation they asked that their faces not to be shown on camera.

"It was extremely extravagant. Dinners and alcohol, and just total accessm" one employee explained. He continued, saying that for a charitable organization that's serving veterans, the spending on resorts and alcohol is "what the military calls fraud waste and abuse."

According to the charity's tax forms, spending on conferences and meetings went from $1.7 million in 2010, to $26 million in 2014. That's about the same amount the group spends on combat stress recovery -- its top program.

Former employees say spending has skyrocketed since Steven Nardizzi took over as CEO in 2009. Many point to the 2014 annual meeting at a luxury resort in Colorado Springs as typical of his style.

"He rappelled down the side of a building at one of the all hands events. He's come in on a Segway, he's come in on a horse."

About 500 staff members attended the four-day conference in Colorado. The price tag? About $3 million.

"Donors don't want you to have a $2,500 bar tab. Donors don't want you to fly every staff member once a year to some five-star resort and whoop it up and call it team building," said Millette.

Wounded Warrior Project declined CBS News' repeated interview requests for Nardizzi, but offered their Director of Alumni and a recipient of their services, Captain Ryan Kules.

Kules denied there was excessive spending on conferences.

"It's the best use of donor dollars to ensure we are providing programs and services to our warriors and families at the highest quality."

Nice work if you can get it.

And of course, if we're talking about wasted spending, that can only mean I've got another story about the F-35 "flying turd" for you. Add another problem to the lengthy list of things wrong with this jet. Apparently the on-board computers are crap.

The U.S. military’s new F-35 stealth fighter is again falling behind schedule in its 16-year, $60 billion development. The problem this time—the radar-evading plane’s 8 million lines of computer code, amounting to arguably the most complex software suite ever installed on a warplane.

The code delay is the latest—and possibly most damaging—setback for the Pentagon’s ambitious and controversial plan to replace almost all of its Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighters with three different versions of the F-35 at a cost of more than a trillion dollars over the next 50 years.

Damaging, because the military and F-35-maker Lockheed Martin have increasingly sold the F-35 as a sort of “flying computer” whose software can outthink enemy pilots even when the enemy’s own planes fly faster, maneuver better and carry more weaponry than the F-35 does.

The stealth fighter’s software is its last possible claim to being a first-class warplane. If the F-35’s code doesn’t work, then neither does the F-35. Saddled with thousands of dysfunctional F-35s, the Pentagon could lose command of the air.

J. Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s top weapons tester, warned about the schedule slip in a Dec. 11 memo. “The current ‘official schedule’ to complete full development and testing of all Block 3F capabilities by 31 July 2017, is not realistic,” Carter wrote, referring to the software update, or “block,” that’s supposed to give the F-35 the basic ability to use its sensors and some weapons—albeit with limitations.

According to Gilmore, the Block 3F code delay is a consequence of the F-35 developers’ rush to install the earlier Block 2B software, which is suitable only for testing and training but is supposed to form the basis of the later, combat-ready code. The developers’ hurry with Block 2B resulted in “poor performance” that slowed progress on subsequent code.

Realistically, there are only two ways to fix the Block 3F software, Gilmore noted. One is to triple the pace of testing. But caving to budget cuts and the enormous—some might say overwhelming—challenge of developing a jack-of-all-trades stealth fighter, Lockheed and the military are actually planning on slowing testing by two-thirds.

The second possible solution is to strip some features from the Block 3F software—say, compatibility with certain high-tech weapons—and wait to add those capabilities back to the F-35 on later software blocks.

But either option means a “very high risk of failing” when the F-35 with Block 3F code undergoes its developmental final exam in 2018, Gilmore warned. In a move with more public relations value than military utility, in July the Marine Corps declared a single squadron of F-35s combat-ready with the Block 2B software. The Air Force plans to declare a squadron combat-ready in late 2016 with an interim software called Block 3I, but the flying branch is waiting until the Block 3F code is ready before it clears its F-35 squadrons to deploy to the most dangerous conflict zones.

And rushing the Block 3F software could have the same deleterious effect on the next batch of code that rushing the Block 2B software had on Block 3F. If the F-35 developers can’t get the current software update right, they risk derailing the stealth fighter’s entire development. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of U.S. air power rests on these 8 million lines of code.

I really hope Canadian President Cruz will be able to fix this.

11 comments (Latest Comment: 02/03/2016 00:58:56 by BobR)
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