[May 9, 2019] During my 40 years of military service, my Engineer friends and I have been assigned some near-impossible tasks. More often than not in combat, these new tasks have ranged from building new bases in a few weeks to clearing intricate anti-personnel and armor obstacles in a few hours. Usually, we used a quick and dirty method.
One day a good friend of mine and I were called into a U.S. Army 4-star General’s office for a new mission. We were both full colonels, each with over 25 years of engineering experience. There wasn’t much that could surprise us and with enough money and materials that we couldn’t get done. This visit turned out to shock us both.
We were told that the U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has just promised the Iraq Theater of Operations an additional $1 Billion. The challenge? To come up with a plan and spend the money by helping only Iraqi citizens and do so in less than 60 days. My friend had the balls to say, Oh, so you want the quick and dirty technique.
It was 2000 hours (8 pm), and we were to brief the fully-staffed plan the next morning at 0600 hours (6 am).1 The short story is that we proposed several hospitals, schools, and utility projects that easily consumed the money. Fortunately, the $1 Billion didn’t come from U.S. taxpayers but from a combination of “found money”2 and charity-donated money.
My friend also proposed that we could spend yet another $1 Billion if it came to it. As an aside, socialist governments, like that which Saddam Hussein ran, rarely spend their money to help their citizens. Most of it goes to friends and relatives for a lavish lifestyle; so much for socialist-style governments helping their countrymen and women.
The way spending the money (according to our plan) was completed in less than 60 days as required, the projects werewritten up for news publications worldwide, U.S. laws were obeyed, and Iraqis were helped in the effort. Was there corruption? Yes. Was there “missing” money? Yes. Was the money spent carefully? No. This is because there was no alternative but to use a quick and dirty method; minimal oversight, unproven contractors, and little guidance.
Any time the quick and dirty method is used, there will be problems. We explained this during our session with the 4-Star. The mission came our way and, like any good leader, we got ‘er done.
- Anyone who has worked any issue in a 4-star military command knows that staffing takes days at best, even in a combat zone. We did come up with a plan, and it was run by all the key staff sections which gave us their up-vote. My friend liberally used SecDef Rumsfeld’s name and President Bush’s “guidance” as a crude bludgeon for those who were reluctant to give their okay. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.
- Found money was usually cash, paper money from non-Iraqi governments that troops discovered when searching Iraqi government buildings. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/1428506/Troops-tempted-by-Saddams-780m-hoard.html