What is Probation?

By Robbin Laird

Inside the Beltway is a place where even the normal word gets new meanings on a regular basis.  For most of us who have gone to high school, probation is clear.  The Principal or someone who is an adult authority figure does not see eye to eye with your behavior and you are on probation.

Or Commissioner Goodell from the NFL does not find Greg Williams pep talks to his defense amusing and gives him a life long suspension and every one else involved is on suspension and “on probation.”

Ok – clearly it is not good to be on probation.

So the Big Pentagon Chief decided to put an entire plane on Probation.

The well know advocate for airpower, then Secretary Gates, decided to put the “troubled F-35B” on PROBATION.

The F-35B Lightning II short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) version of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was placed on a two-year “probation” by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on January 6.

The decision was part of what Gates called the Efficiencies Initiative aimed at redirecting $102 billion in military spending through 2016. The plan includes purchasing 41 more F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters for the Navy and canceling the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, but a restructuring of the JSF program is the centerpiece of Gates’ effort. Gates expressed “serious concern” about technical issues in the F-35B program and said that planemaker Lockheed Martin may need to redesign the fighter’s airframe structure and propulsion system.


There is a lot to chew on here.  The Efficiencies Initiative is about buying more last generation aircraft and putting the centerpiece of the evolution of the USMC on probation.

Ok; how is this efficiency?

Well now we have another Inside the Beltway word:  Efficiency.  Apparently efficiency is what the Principal announces when he puts something on probation.

We had a chance to consult with Boomer to explain what was going on.

Boomer: “I have been working with the WASHINGTON BOAST and have found DEEP SNOUT who has been providing the BOAST with inside information to inform the public debate. DEEP SNOUT has given the BOAST the secret memos of then Secretary Gates which provides us with an inside look at PROBATION.

Let me excerpt from the secret memos:  “Today I sent General Mosely and Secretary Wynne packing.  This is great.  I can get rid of the overpriced and useless F-22 and move on to stockpiling key materials useful to the future of operations – I can increase by 5 times the MRAPS needed for the operations in Iraq through 2030.

Now that I have sent the USAF packing I need to focus on the USMC.  The USN is not a problem because they think F-18s are good for 50 more years.  I will label these 80% solutions and people will love this.

But the USMC remains difficult.  They are well connected in the Congress and other things.  So what can I do with these troublesome irritants to my program of empowering the military for the last century’s wars?”

Boomer: We then worked hard with DEEP SNOUT to find information that would indicate how the Secretary was going to deal with those troublesome Marines.  After some searching we found two clues.

The first clue was who to appoint as the new Commandant.

“I have find the perfect candidate.  He is quiet, listens a lot, and seems mild mannered.  And as a devote Catholic will take orders, after all I am his Pope.  So after I get him in as Commandant I can literally move on Plan B.”

The trouble with Gate’s memos and diaries is that as an intelligence operative he spoke in code and indirectly. So what was Plan B?

We searched and found the answer.

“I plan to put the F-35B on secret double probation and then on public probation.  Everyone knows that an aircraft that flies up and down is not needed.  And once I move from double secret probation to public probation, I can generate public concern from people like Winslow Why about the dangers of flying up and down and the unbelievable cost of doing so for 57 years.”

We searched further and found Gates had communicated with General Doug Neidermeyer about his thinking and the General underscored:

“I fully support you Mr. Secretary. When you want to win wars you send in the Army.  And for the next 57 years the global war on terrorism will require tripling our stability forces and fighting counter insurgency operations and you don’t need an aircraft that goes up and down for that.”

So double secret probation followed by public probation is designed to ENHANCE EFFICIENCIES by getting rid of what you don’t understand and you don’t like.”

Once again Boomer provided insight into what was a very difficult problem to understand.

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