Monday, October 12, 2009

In 2008 Afghanistan firefight, US weapons failed

In 2008 Afghanistan firefight, US weapons failed - Yahoo! News

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There are many posts about this story on blogs and Internet news websites. The M-4 is a basically a shortened version of the M-16A2 with a collapsable stock. Many gun writers and bloggers hold the 5.56mm round in disdain for is lack of stopping power. The criticism isn't new, it has existed since the Vietnam War when the M-16 debuted. The original M-16 was also maligned for stoppages and malfunctions. The official Army response was the soldiers weren't properly cleaning the weapon. Eventually modifications would result in the fielding of the M-16A2 in the 1980's. Unfortunately, these modifications addressed the issues encountered in the jungles of Vietnam. The improvements were further compromised, in my opinion, when the Army tried to make the 5.56mm into an armor piercing round. The M855 green tip rounds were developed to defeat Soviet body armor and became standard issue in combat zones. The problem was US forces were sent to the desert with a fine sand akin to talcum powder. These sand would work into M-16s and cause the metals to seize. In Somalia and Haiti, soldiers weren't firing at Soviet heavily armored troops at long range but rather light clothed insurgents in short, urban encounters. The M855 rounds simply did not produce enough shock to stop an insurgent with a single shot. The insurgents would take several hits before they were unable to return fire. From accounts in Mogadishu during 1993, the M9 pistol had better stopping power at the short ranges in Somalia. Now 16 years later, we are still seeing the same problems. Our soldiers and Marines are not armed with reliable firepower that will stop enemy soldiers. Senior leaders are unconvinced of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I'd heard, but have not been able to substantiate, that back in 2004 the US Marines were refurbishing 1911-A1s because of the superior stopping power of a .45acp loaded with a 230gr FMJ compared to the 9mm when loaded with a 115gr FMJ. As neither round expands, it comes down to the .45 punching a bigger hole in the enemy. There has been studies looking at upgrading soldiers and Marines to a larger caliber round of 6mm. The higher ups are convinced this is unnecessary and merely better shot placement will obfuscate the need for a larger caliber round. Ever try to shoot with someone shooting back at you? Forget the movies and TV, adrenaline courses through your system and only the most highly trained military personnel can maintain the fine motor skills to make accurate shots. The rest need every advantage they can get. A Vietnam vet I knew said his favorite weapon to break up an ambush was a Browning 12 gauge. The shotgun's superior stopping power at close range made it a logical choice.

The fascination with keeping with the 5.56mm round seems more based on the ease of training someone to shoot it well versus actual combat experience. The changes in physical education in high schools meant the military have to deal with recruits who may lack the physical strength to carry heavier weapons. Females physical fitness standards are lower than males but they still need to be armed. Therefore, the 5.56mm affords the lowest common denominator in a round that can be chambered in a light, easy to handle weapon easy for men and women to qualify in. Police have followed the same line of reasoning for some time, hence the abandonment in part of the proven .357 magnum in favor of 9mm or .40s&w. If the only consideration was switching from revolvers to automatics, why was the 10mm (which has identical ballistics to the .357 or even .41 magnums) not the de-facto standard? The 10mm is a powerful round but is no more difficult to master than a large framed .357. The problem was fewer officers would be able to qualify with the 10mm so departments opted for the 9mm. The trade-off of course is a less powerful round striking the target. There is an alarming report out of Pennsylvania with a police officer shooting a suspect 22 times (center mass) with a .40s&w before the assailant finally died. While certainly atypical, it shows that even with a powerful round like a .40s&w a determined assailant can take multiple hits. Therefore, arming our soldiers and police with smaller, lighter bullets seems dangerous and irresponsible.

Should city, county merge police?

Should city, county merge police? | | The Cincinnati Enquirer

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The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a full section piece on merging the 48 separate police departments of Hamilton County into a single police departments. This has been done in cities such as Louisville and Indianapolis. The Enquirer article at first makes it seem merging doesn't save any money. In the short-term, this is probably correct. There are going to be a short-term increase in the purchase of new equipment or updating existing equipment and facilities. These costs could be offset though as redundant, senior positions are eliminated. There is no easy, painless fix for the budget crisis. Cincinnati is looking at $51 million deficit for next year and this may increase. Merging public safety agencies - fire, police, EMS - may be the only way to continue to maintain the safety and well being of the community in the face of decreasing budgets. Old politics and civic pride may have to yield to the fiscal realities of today. If the merger is planned out objectively, there is the potential of increasing response times to 911 calls.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Soldier suspended from school

Soldier suspended from school - WTEN: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports -

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The school officials have let their fears of "school violence", "bullying", and "Columbine" override their common sense. The pocket knife was locked in his car. The school policy still considers this to be a "weapon" although by this same standard the tire iron should also be considered a weapon. The case is not unique where a draconian policy sets into motion consequences that go far beyond what is necessary. Students get suspended for drawing pictures of guns. Students get expelled for writing hit lists. The students are summarily dismissed without regard to the circumstances. Was the student serious or just an idiot? By suspending or expelling students without due process we not only are ignoring our own judicial principles but also miss out on a teaching point to the students. The case also goes to further paranoia but Americans concerned that their individual liberties are being violated by the government. I wonder if the ACLU will support the student?

Friday, October 2, 2009

City's pension woes deepen

City's pension woes deepen | | The Cincinnati Enquirer

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The city went from $28 million to $38 million. The police department at one point was looking at laying off 128 officers. The uniformed officers were kept but behind the scenes non-sworns are being let go. Other city departments had to release workers as well. Now projections are $51 million deficit for 2010. The fire department will have to take a $7.6 million cut. Police and fire lay offs are almost a certainty for next year.

Balancing a public sector budget is never a pretty sight. Cincinnati has been hit with a lethal combination of increasing costs, decreasing tax revenues, and an aging workforce with hundreds of workers approaching retirement. By 2017, something like 49 percent of the city budget will go to paying retirements. The same phenomena caused a number of airlines to go out of business as more of their budgets had to be shifted from operations to annuities. As the the number of employees receiving annuities increased, less of the budget could be used for operations and maintenance of the fleet. Airfares could be increased only so far before competitors would drop their fares forcing the legacy carriers to also drop their fares.

The city is in a far more precarious position. It can't raise fares to meet the demand of more retirees. Increasing taxes can help only so much especially with so many citizens still looking for work. There will be less money available to hire new employees or purchase new equipment. The problems for the city doesn't stop with the budget. The fire department hasn't run an academy this year and there are no plans to run one next year. This means there isn't a new influx of firefighters to replenish the numbers of injured or retiring firefighters. Eventually the city will be forced into another drop program to retain firefighters beyond their retirement eligibility. The police are in a similar situations. There are around 200 police and 150 firefighters currently in the drop program that are eligible to leave in 2012. No new personnel, more personnel retiring and sever budget cuts paints a really grim future for public safety in Cincinnati.

The part that doesn't get discussed is the impact of a world class police and fire service to economic revitalization. Businesses are already disinclined to locating to Ohio due to our taxes. Compound that with a city that is perceived as "unsafe" due to fire and police that are stretched too thin adds another deterrent to new business choosing to locate in Cincinnati.

There are no easy answers to the above. The best solution seems to be approaching police and fire from a regional perspective. Sheriff Leis, who I disagree with on most things, has suggested one police department for Hamilton County. From a fiscal standpoint, this makes sense but local politics and biases will prevent this from happening. If we are truly interested in economic revitalization for the region, then we must focus on the safety and well being of the community. Maintaining a first class police/fire/EMS despite a depressed economic situation would show business owners that local leaders are invested in the well being of the community. A regional approach to police/fire/EMS is the only cost-effective way to do it.