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POLITICS: PennAve

Big Ideas: On camouflage, fewer banks and baby boomers

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The Pentagon,Finance and Banking,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy

Kelley Sayler for the Center for a New American Security: In the latest installment of the ongoing military camouflage saga, the U.S. Army is said to have abandoned its $10 million investigation into replacing the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP), a design that was so reviled by military operators in Afghanistan that the Army was pressed to authorize — at a cost of over $38.8 million — the use of an alternative.It is unclear how or why the UCP, which itself cost $5 billion, was ever selected to begin with. As a 2012 GAO report details, the UCP was not included in the Army's evaluation of 13 camouflage patterns, nor was it tested “prior to the June 2004 approval of the pattern by the chief of staff.” Furthermore, a 2009 Army study concluded that the UCP “offered less effective concealment than the patterns chosen by the Marine Corps and some foreign military services, such as Syria and China.”

This most recent decision, which will leave the UCP in place for the foreseeable future, occurs against the broader backdrop of camouflage proliferation across the services. Since 2002, patterns have skyrocketed from two — woodland and desert — to 11, several of which have been beset by complications. Like the UCP, the Air Force’s Airman Battle Uniform was found to be ill-suited to combat in Afghanistan (this time due to unacceptable heat buildup) and quickly swapped out for the Army’s own replacement uniform. Meanwhile, Navy restrictions on the use of the Type II desert uniform temporarily forced the service to outfit some of its Afghanistan units with woodland camo. And finally, in a light-hearted review of the Working Uniform Type I — more entertainingly known as “aquaflage” or “blueberries” — Navy Secretary Ray Mabus concluded that the uniform was capable of camouflaging only a man overboard. ...

It would be easy to dismiss the camouflage affair as a relatively unremarkable, if farcical, example of business as usual within the Defense Department, but it stands as a microcosm of the deeper and far more insidious problems that pervade the department. Everything from redundant layering and inefficient business practices to interservice rivalries and vested interests is on display here. And if they are present within such a seemingly innocuous corner of DOD, then one can only imagine the challenges that lie ahead.

 

FEWER BANKS, BUT THEY'RE GETTING BIGGER

Alan Pyke for ThinkProgress: As of the third quarter of 2013, there were fewer banking companies in America than there have ever been since the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) started keeping track in 1934. The record contraction signals that banking assets are concentrated in fewer institutions, which reinforces concerns that some banks remain “too big to fail.”

The FDIC’s most recent quarterly report found that there are 6,891 banks in the country, down from a peak of over 18,000 in the 1980s. Of the 10,000 banks that disappeared between the 1984 peak and 2011, about one in six collapsed, according to the Wall Street Journal. The rest of that contraction comes from mergers. As the number of companies has shrunk, the size of total banking deposits has grown to a record high.

As the industry has grown more concentrated, its largest companies have grown even larger. The four largest banks in the country — JP Morgan, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo — now hold assets equal to about 47 percent of the entire American economy, up from 43 percent in 2008.

 

SOMETHING TO THANK BABY BOOMERS FOR

Scott Hodge and Andrew Lundeen for the Tax Foundation: As Americans age, more and more of the tax burden will be borne by older taxpayers. In 1997, 61 percent of all income taxes were paid by taxpayers over age 45. Today, that burden has jumped to 74 percent. The biggest increase has been in the tax share paid by taxpayers between 55 and 65. In 1997, this group paid 18 percent of all income taxes. Today, they are paying 27 percent of all income taxes. Those over age 65 are now paying nearly one-fifth of all income taxes. Naturally, this raises concerns over the ability of this older generation to save for their own retirement while financing the lion's share of the cost of government, especially as Washington continues to raise taxes on the “rich” to close rising deficits.

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