Only Troubling

By Sarason D. Liebler | Jun 05, 2012

On Friday May 25, Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service, resigned after an audit of his fiefdom showed that the service had shifted some $30 million from budget categories approved by the all-knowing Congress to other categories that the director thought needed it more. Specifically, to keep open a number of weather stations not scheduled to remain open. The audit noted that no misappropriations of funds were noted and that all funds went to legitimate needs of the Weather Service.

Maine’s senior and retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe, the ranking member of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard subcommittee, called the reports “deeply troubling” and added, “I am further alarmed that the investigative report raises fundamental concerns that the core operations of the National Weather Service are underfunded.”

Clearly this is not a big issue for her; for the biggies Ms. Snowe is routinely “simply outraged.”

Instinctively I am on the side of Mr. Hayes. I recall my days as a supply officer on a destroyer escort patrolling for nuclear-capable missiles in-bound to Cuba in the early 1960s. The ship, which was commissioned in 1944, was of the type used in World War II to escort convoys to Murmansk in the USSR, and if it made one successful trip it was considered paid for. The ship had no ice maker, no air conditioning and its spare parts inventory was woeful. When they chipped paint as part of maintenance, the chipping hammers, with frequency, went right through the hull. Instead of it having a ship-generated budget called the Operating Target (OPTAR) Cruiser Destroyer Force Atlantic (CRUDESLANT) simply assigned it a measly allowance.

The supply officer I relieved and everyone before him had simply made do. The captain was resigned to his fate of commanding a ship that might quit at any time and ruin his career. Water on such ships was made by the ship’s evaporators. There was not much of it and showers were restricted to sea showers, “on – off - soap down – rinse and out.” Water to drink was warm at its coolest.

First I did research. I found that we had no ice maker because as an old, smaller ship the height of the mess deck or any other compartment was not sufficient to handle the height of the standard destroyer ice maker. I was told that no civilian ice maker met the specifications for installation on a ship. In 1944 that may have been true, but I suggested to the supply depot that we look, together, at those being used on merchant ships in 1962. I called some civilian shipping companies and found that indeed, small merchant ships had ice makers and all were constructed for marine operation. At the supply depot, searching through civilian industrial manuals, we confirmed this.

Now all I needed was some money to pay for it.

I studied the financial regulations that pertained to CRUDESLANT. In the Navy we described all regulations as “written by geniuses for implementation by idiots.” But the genius authors had goofed.

Every Navy ship has a “tender” availability, about every two years. A Navy tender was a repair ship that could do most any refurbishment or repair, as long as the ship could remain in the water. A normal destroyer drew up its anticipated needs and submitted its requests to its command, CRUDESLANT in our case, and the list was then pruned of “fluff” by CRUDESLANT. Our poor ship was not even considered worthy of such a review, so we were directed to submit our requirements to the tender and if the requests were approved the money would automatically be credited by the command to our ship's account.

And that was the back door to the goldmine!

I reasoned that the tender, which was graded on what they accomplished for the destroyers, would be only too happy to approve any of the ' “reasonable” requests, as they wanted to demonstrate that they were busy and productive. I also noted that if an “order” was canceled, there was no mechanism for the command to recover the money that had been transferred to our ship's account.

I thought about this as both a moral matter and what would happen to me if I got caught. First, I would not be breaking any regulations and second, no money would be going to me. In a sense no real money was involved; it was simply shifting between different naval accounts. The old tired ship would be improved and better equipped to do whatever mission was assigned to it. Life would be better for the crew and it would be a happier ship.

I asked to meet with the captain and described my scheme. He listened, a gleam came to his eye as he caught on and he said he was willing to take the chance on my planned righteous scam. I then suggested that it was silly to just go for the ice maker and why not fill up our spare parts, get a new gangway, etc.

It worked, the USS Parle (DE – 708) was reborn. I got caught and became an Admirals Flag Aide Lieutenant, but that is another story.

Please don’t tell Sen. Snowe, she has enough to be troubled and outraged about.

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