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Just Leave me Alone!
us.gif Congress keeps adding military equipment restrictions to the Iraq emergency funding bill that the branches of the military themselves do not want. The Congress apparently is doing each other favors so that they can all keep their worthless programs alive at taxpayer expense.

QUOTE
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
April 21, 2005

Measure Supports C-130J

The Senate on Wednesday approved a watered-down version of an amendment that would prevent the Pentagon from canceling the C-130J military cargo plane built in Marietta by Lockheed Martin. The amendment, approved on a voice vote, was attached to President Bush's budget request for Iraq. It prevents the Pentagon from using any of the money in that budget request to pay the $1.6 billion termination penalties required to cancel the C-130J -- though there was no indication that the Pentagon had ever intended to use that money for the C-130J.

Georgia Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson had originally hoped to win approval for an amendment that would have prevented the Pentagon from using any of its current or future budget funds to pay the C-130J penalties -- a move that would have prevented defense officials from canceling the program. The current amendment, which is not in the House version of the Iraq budget bill, would not guarantee the survival of the C-130J program, though Georgia lawmakers said it reinforced their message to the Pentagon that canceling the C-130J was not acceptable.


And it's not just unwanted planes we're buying. Bill Would Extend Life of Carrier Kennedy


Questions for Debate: Should the Pentagon or Congress decide on what equipment the military needs? Should something be done to limit Congress' ability to specifically choose military equipment or should Congress just pass the overall budget? If Congressional limitations are needed, what ways can this be prevented?

Edited for: Second Article quotes removed, and link added to avoid rule violation of overquoting copyrighted material.
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Hobbes
Should the Pentagon or Congress decide on what equipment the military needs?

Hmmm, let me see. Congress makes decisions for political reasons, the Pentagon makes decisions for military reasons. Having Congress decide what the military needs makes no more sense than having the Pentagon decide how Social Security should function. The Pentagon should be given a budget, and then be allowed to spend it as they see fit. If Congressmen want to play soldier, they should join the armed services.

Should something be done to limit Congress' ability to specifically choose military equipment or should Congress just pass the overall budget?

I would love to remove Congress' ability to fiddle with line items within the military budget, but don't think that's likely to happen. Even if were legislated that way...how would you remove under-the-table discussion?

If Congressional limitations are needed, what ways can this be prevented?

This is a sticky issue. How does Congress get involved in this issue to begin with? Because they approve the budget. So essentially certain Congressmen can just make it known that the budget won't pass unless certain items are included. That can't really be legislated away. What needs to happen is for either the Pentagon or the President to stand up and say its a military matter, let the military decide it. Either would be reluctant to do so...the Pentagon needs the budget passes, and the President would need to be careful which bridges he burns. Essentially, this is pork-barrel politics. The problem isn't just with the military..its much bigger than that. Congress has no incentive to control costs anywhere, and military projects make such juicy targets that they can't keep their fingers out of the pie. Do the citiizens of the states that receive the pork benefits complain? Of course not (though they should). Citizens of other states are apathetic...so there's no disincentive. What needs to happen is for the people to stand up and say they won't accept it. But I don't see that happening either. Unfortunately, this is just one of those things we don't need to like, but might as well accept....it's simply how the process works, and there doesn't appear to be a remedy. Would you vote for someone who said they'd clean this up even if it meant significant harm to your local economy? Until most of us answer 'Yes!' this problem will never go away.
JeffreyGoines
One would think that when the military says it does not want a particular weapons system/platform, their decision would be dispositive on the matter. Nope. Congress has to keep the pork alive for everyone, even if it means saddling our servicemembers with flawed aircraft like the C-130J.

The Pentagon has stated that it only needs to have 10 carriers, yet you have Congressmen stating they need 12, but only so long as one of those carriers is based in his district of course.

Sad.
overlandsailor
Questions for Debate: Should the Pentagon or Congress decide on what equipment the military needs? Should something be done to limit Congress' ability to specifically choose military equipment or should Congress just pass the overall budget? If Congressional limitations are needed, what ways can this be prevented?


The answer seems simple on the surface. The military knows what the military needs and thus the military should make the decisions.

I have a few problems with this.

One problem can be seen if one takes a hard look at the corporate executives of many of our defense contractors. There you will find a surprizing number of former military flag officers. Look further and you will find many instances where these officers were in charge of procurement of something where the contract was eventually awarded to the defense contractor they now find themselves in the employ of.

(Note: Now I know there will be some that say prove it. Sorry, but my life is quite busy at the moment, I don't really even have the time to write this post, let alone research the obvious. Feel free to disprove or ignore me. cool.gif )

Second problem. The military leadership is quite conservative. Remember, it was the Flag officers who failed to see the potential of special operations forces in Vietnam and used them for such duties as firebase defense and the like.

For example: There is a new ammunition technology out there. A blended metal bullet that is extremely effective and has proven it's effectiveness in the hands of security professionals working for contractors in Iraq. link

Yet the pentagon seems to not even want to consider this ammunition for future use. The congress appropriated money for military testing of these bullets I believe last year. No testing by the military has been done (I do not have the expertise to determine if this is or is not a good solution for the military, but I do have the sense to see it as a possibility worthy of testing).

So it would seem that the military doesn't always know what it needs either.

Now The job of congress is oversight of the military's spending. It is their job to ensure that the military does not waste tax-payer dollars. Admittedly, they regularly fail at this job. However, in that case we at least have a resolution. Don't re-elect the bum, or if this member of congress is not in your district, then hammer your own congressional representatives to actively oppose this individual, as to make them ineffective, which will hopefully result in the loss of their next re-election bid.

When it comes to the military leadership there is no such option for the public.

Perhaps a solution could be reached by creating a committee of both military and congressional leaders so that they can hammer out the differences. Neither is right all of the time, but perhaps together they can be right most of the time.

Edited to add: After thinking about it, it would probably be best if whatever solution was chosen if that solution included seriously taking into account the input from the men and women "on the ground" who use these systems / weapons. hmmm.gif
Just Leave me Alone!
Should the Pentagon or Congress decide on what equipment the military needs?

The Pentagon knows what the military needs. Congress can never be as effective because they have too many other concerns to deal with. Congress micromanaging our armed forces is a recipe for inefficiency.

Should something be done to limit Congress' ability to specifically choose military equipment or should Congress just pass the overall budget?

I suppose that the same level of nepotism could occur if the Pentagon chose their equipment, but the overall budget would be set by Congress. This would decrease the amount of pork available to misuse. That is a good thing to me.

If Congressional limitations are needed, what ways can this be prevented?

There are plenty of ways to limit Congress from forcing unwanted equipment on our soldiers. The line item veto would be one way that would decrease pork across the board. Another way would be to handle military equipment purchases the same way that we are currently handling base closures.

The Pentagon has decided to close up to 25% of the military bases in the country to save money. Of course, no one in Congress wants a base to close in their district. The Pentagon and Rumsfeld get to put together a list of bases they want closed. Then there's an independent commission, nominated by the President and confirmed by Senate, of 9 people that looks at the recommendations and submits their own recommendations to the President. Bush can either forward the recommendations to Congress for a vote or send back to the commission for revision. Congress has to either accept or reject the commission's recommendations in their entirety. No voting on it piecemeal. Why not try the same thing with military budgets? Let the Pentagon and the Secretary of Defense create a budget, have it reviewed by a panel of experts chosen by the President and approved by the Senate, and then have Congress vote on the proposed budget in it's entirety.
Hobbes
QUOTE(Just Leave me Alone! @ Apr 22 2005, 09:27 AM)
There are plenty of ways to limit Congress from forcing unwanted equipment on our soldiers.  The line item veto would be one way that would decrease pork across the board.  Another way would be to handle military equipment purchases the same way that we are currently handling base closures


Actually, I would use this as an example of how NOT to handle it. The base closure issue is a prime example, for me, of Congress butting in on military issues. Military bases are there for military reasons. Almost always, Congress wants to keep them open for political purposes. Our military budget shouldn't be spent on that. Let the military decide which bases it needs. If Congress wants to keep some of those bases open, they should do so out of separate funding, since, at that point, they don't serve a military purpose.

The line item veto I'm all in favor of. Unfortunately, though, this still allows political priorities to override military ones. Also, with military spending, the issue often isn't pork per se. Its choosing of bases or weapons systems based on where they're likely to have economic impact. So, the militarily 'correct' item isn't even in the budget....and taking out the other line item doesn't resolve the problem, and might even make the military situation worse, as they would then not have either of the competing systems in place. Consider the following...suppose the military wanted weapons system A, but Congress forced it to purchase weapons system B. A is not in the budget, and if you take B out via the veto, then the military is left without either one.
Just Leave me Alone!
hmmm.gif I see what you are saying with the line item problem, but it would actually be very effective in these current situations. Congress is adding wording to the budget that does not allow the military to spend money buying out of obsolete contracts. The line veto would eliminate the restrictions and free the military to spend the money in the best way.

As for Congress butting in on base closures, what would have stopped Congress from putting restrictions in the military budget that forced all of the bases to stay open? It would have been much worse than any interferance that they can cause with an approval vote.
Aquilla
Questions for Debate: Should the Pentagon or Congress decide on what equipment the military needs? Should something be done to limit Congress' ability to specifically choose military equipment or should Congress just pass the overall budget? If Congressional limitations are needed, what ways can this be prevented?



I don't think I'd want to mess with trying to change in any radical fashion the system we have now. It's hardly perfect or even close at times, but believe me, it could be made a whole lot worse.

As the articles cited show, clearly there are Congressional politics involved in all of this, have been for a very long time and always will be. But, at least those politics are out in the open and if they get too ridiculous, the people can make political corrections. However, what you don't see but are every bit as real and perhaps even more incidious are the politics on the "other side" in the Pentagon, both civilian and military. One might logically assume that the "military knows what they need" and we'd all like to think that, but in reality it's not always the case. Sometimes it's a case of "General so and so knows what HIS career needs". Not dissing General so and so here or questioning his loyality, but it is a fact of life that people don't get promoted nearly as quickly for managing an upgrade program to an existing weapons system as they do for managing a nice, shiny, brand new weapons system. That can color one's judgement.

One example is the afor-mentioned C-130, an airplane with which I have had quite a personal invovlement in the past when I was at Lockheed. The first C-130 flew back in 1954 making it as we say, a "mature design" today. smile.gif And, the Air Force has been trying to get rid of it since the 1970's. Why? Well, ask a Herc driver and they don't know, they love the thing and we're still using a bunch of them in all kinds of roles. My thought is that because the 130 has propellers instead of pure jet engines it just doesn't look sexy enough to get that colonel his star. All it does is fulfill all kinds of needed roles for the US Military and by military standards is cheap as dirt. Where I a congressman and I heard the Pentagon start making noises about phasing out the C-130, my radar antenna would go up even if it wasn't built in my district or state. And, that brings me to my second point. Congress.......

I know it's the "in" thing to dis Congress, we all do it, and of course, we continue to send the same people back to it. But when it comes to something like defense decisions, some of those critters in Congress are pretty darn smart about things. Guys like Warner and Levin, and Sam Nunn before them know a whole lot about things like this and they've been doing it for a very long time - a lot longer than some of the decision makers in the Pentagon have been doing it. They know all about the Pentagon politics and they understand pork spending and allow some of it, but when it comes to the really big decisions like the cancellation of the Crusader program, they're pretty good about doing the right thing. I really don't think it would be a good idea to take them out of the loop.
Just Leave me Alone!
thumbsup.gif There are 2 points that I would like to make in response to Aquilla. #1, the Pentagon is not guaranteed a shiny, new program by killing an old one. They would still be held within the bounds of whatever budget Congress allotted them. #2, the President as Chief Commander can remove irresponsible Generals at will. So the Pentagon would still be held accountable for their actions.
CruisingRam
Here is where Aqulla and I agree on almost every point, if not every point. thumbsup.gif

There is a history of generals making very political, very selfish and very wrong decisions about weapons systems, not just in the US, but in other countries as well, some of them with long repurcussions.

Even while I was in, there was an enormous debate about boots. Many generals wanted a boot the soldier had to shine. Those shiny boots were not only hard on the feet, but it turns out, you could see them better on various night vision equipment better than dull boots.

So, instead of one persons personal opinion, we get civilians that have some over site and have someone to answer to- thier consituents.

Everytime they yammer about getting rid of the C-130, folks that have been the beneficiaries of this great machine have to shake thier head. Like Aquilla said, it is not a sexy as a nice shiny new program, but they side step the cost effective question on programs like this quite often!
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Mrs. Pigpen
I agree that the military makes some poor decisions about programs and acquisitions. From the perspective I've been given, one problem the military faces is that the services are constantly competing for their own programs. As needs change, each service continues to fight for its own budgets. For example, although we are currently doing primarily land combat in Iraq, the Air Force and Navy are certainly not going to volunteer to shift any of their money to the Army. Someone has to be the referee, and that someone should be the Secretary of Defense, who is ultimately responsible to ensure that the military spends its money wisely, and has a huge staff of experts to help him accomplish that task.

On the other hand, as has been noted, Congresspeople often have other agendas than simply making sure that the military is properly equipped. Every year the services are forced to buy things that they donít want and canít use, and such items are added into the budget by Congress with no input from the services. Congress forces bases to remain open that the military doesnít want and canít afford. The C-130J (mentioned already) is one of the prime examples of this situation. While the C-130 has been a true success for the Air Force, the J model has been an absolute disaster. I donít believe the Air Force ever wanted to buy it in the first place, and it has been very eager to cut its losses, yet Congress will not allow it. I have been told of other cases where the Air Force wanted to consolidate similar aircraft at one base to improve efficiency, yet these moves were blocked by Congressmen who would not allow any aircraft to leave their states. In these situations the military has essentially no recourse.

Anecdotal: One of the most egregious examples in this regard that I have ever heard of were funding issues involving the F22 years ago. Some members of Congress insisted that a certain number of the aircraft have two seats. This would have added significant cost to an already expensive aircraft. The Airforce didn't want it, and certainly couldn't afford it...so the fanagling went on for months. The reason they wanted two seated jets? If you haven't guessed yet, it's so that Congressmen could catch an occasional ride (of course that wasn't the official reason, but it was the real one). Fortunately, after many months, the politicians lost and the F22s are all one seaters. That's a story that I heard first-hand from a friend who worked at the Pentagon and was involved in such budgeting issues at that time.

I believe that the potential dangers facing our country are far too serious to be playing politics with the defense budget. The services should absolutely have budget oversight, but this oversight should come from the executive branch in the form of the Secretary of Defense and President.
ralou
Questions for Debate: Should the Pentagon or Congress decide on what equipment the military needs? Should something be done to limit Congress' ability to specifically choose military equipment or should Congress just pass the overall budget? If Congressional limitations are needed, what ways can this be prevented?


How about we let the people decide? By popular vote. Since the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the military and the government both are corrupt?


overlandsailor
QUOTE(ralou @ Apr 23 2005, 01:21 PM)
How about we let the people decide?  By popular vote.  Since the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the military and the government both are corrupt?
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Several problems here.

One - The people have no idea what the military needs. Even the former military people like myself, have a limited knowledge of what would work best on the modern battlefield.

Second - A lot of the military budget is secret. Meaning we have no idea what the money is going to because the equipment in question is classified to protect both our military capabilities and our service personnel's lives. I think you would have a hard time pitching a multi-million dollar check for an undisclosed use.

Lastly, and this is the killer, If you think the process is politicised now, you ain't seen nothing yet. Putting this issue in the hands of the public will turn the military budget into the biggest political football of all time.

Just Leave me Alone!
smile.gif OLS. Aren't the same reasons that you put forth against having the public make these decisions applicable to the US Congess as well? The military can be held accountable through approval votes from Congress, the Secretary of Defense, and the President. The fact remains that the military is going to be more efficient and less political in spending military dollars than Congress. I have seen no evidence pointing to the contrary.
NeoCon30
QUOTE(Just Leave me Alone! @ Apr 23 2005, 07:59 PM)
smile.gif OLS.  Aren't the same reasons that you put forth against having the public make these decisions applicable to the US Congess as well?  The military can be held accountable through approval votes from Congress, the Secretary of Defense, and the President.  The fact remains that the military is going to be more efficient and less political in spending military dollars than Congress.  I have seen no evidence pointing to the contrary.

The Congress only approves the budget. The President submits a budget getting advice from the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the JCS concerning military spending. Furthermore, the President has great control over the budget. He can suspend payments to a program, delegate additional funds from a miscellaneous purse and completely cut off a program to transfer the funds to an exigent cause. If you are trying to say that Congress is as ignorant as the masses and about as influential, I am in agreement with you.

We were warned of a military industrial complex by Eisenhower. That complex has taken over our country. Northrup-Grumman, TRW, Lockheed-Martin, and Boeing have new technologies and gigantic contracts to offer the US government. A Congressman can create jobs in their states ensuring re-election and receiving a lucrative kickback. DoD officials preserve their jobs by brokering these contracts. Herein lies the dilemma, these companies create new high-tech weapons for the military, now all the government needs to do to justify their spending is create a reason to use them.
overlandsailor
QUOTE(Just Leave me Alone! @ Apr 23 2005, 06:59 PM)
smile.gif OLS.† Aren't the same reasons that you put forth against having the public make these decisions applicable to the US Congess as well?† The military can be held accountable through approval votes from Congress, the Secretary of Defense, and the President.† The fact remains that the military is going to be more efficient and less political in spending military dollars than Congress.† I have seen no evidence pointing to the contrary.
*




The congress is directly accountable to the electorate. The Military is not.

QUOTE
The fact remains that the military is going to be more efficient and less political in spending military dollars than Congress.


The Pentagon came up with the 500.00 hammer, the 200.00+ toilet seat, and the 200.00+ ashtray, not congress.

The Pentagon has a long history of conservatism in the face of change, this has hampered the military and cost lives again, and again though out our modern history.

QUOTE
I have seen no evidence pointing to the contrary.


Then you have done no research.

Lets take one area of technology that I am familiar with, and leave it vague as heck because I have to. One of the key elements in the mission of my unit is electronic surveillance to protect ports. A major factor in that is sonar. To date, the sonar used, upgraded again and again, since the Vietnam era when the unit concept was first created has NEVER worked effectively even remotely close to effectively or consistently since it's inception.

Who pushes this useless technology? Ask a congressman, and I bet you might find one who has ever heard of Naval Coastal Warfare. It is the Department of the Navy pushing it.

The Navy describes our unit combinations as complete port protection. UNDERSEA is even part of the name of my unit. And they do so knowing that they technology never worked.

That is just one, of a huge list I could get into from personal experience in the 80-90s on active duty and modern times on reserve duty, if not for the concern that I might disclose too much.
Just Leave me Alone!
whistling.gif OLS. "Trust me man, I know from experience" with anectdotal stories that can't be researched is not a very convincing argument.

The hammer thing was a good point though. Perhaps the Pentagon came up with the $500 hammer etc to fund the secret programs that you spoke of earlier.

You say that the military is the wrong choice for determining how to spend their money because they are not directly accountable to the electorate(indirectly, they are). Yet you say that the electorate has no clue about the subject and that we can't be trusted to make decisions on these expenditures. Which is it?

overlandsailor

NOt sure how I missed your response, (this has happened alot to me lately hmmm.gif ) but I found it now, so here it goes.

QUOTE(Just Leave me Alone! @ Apr 24 2005, 09:35 PM)
whistling.gif OLS.  "Trust me man, I know from experience" with anectdotal stories that can't be researched is not a very convincing argument.


Your choice to take advantage of the first hand experience of others or not is simply that, your choice to make. I do know that you will hear about similar issues from ANY member of the US Military that you talk to. I would think that when a problem is that pervasive, that it would be considered legitimate.

QUOTE(Just Leave me Alone!)
The hammer thing was a good point though.  Perhaps the Pentagon came up with the $500 hammer etc to fund the secret programs that you spoke of earlier. 


Actually, the hammer is an example of bureaucrats going completely out of control (in this case military versions). The most interesting part of the story is that the manufacturer, awarded the contract DID NOT over charge the government.

The reason for the high price was that military bureaucrats decided that they could not give their guys just any hammer. They wanted the perfect one. So the commissioned a group to effectively re-invent the hammer (the cost of which is NOT reflected in the price of the hammer). The design that resulted varied from the standards with a quarter ounce added here, 1/8th inch added there, a 1 degree angle change, etc. As a result, when it was time to seek a manufacturer for this hammer, the extra costs for these changes had to be included.

Those costs were actually massive. The manufacturer had to shut down his/her production like for 3 months to re-tool to produce this new design. Then run the line to exclusively produce these "perfect" hammers, then finally shut down for three months the re-tool to be able to make normal everyday hammers again.

The bulk of the cost of that hammer came from that (roughly) year of downtime when the manufacturer could produce nothing else.

Add to that the percentage most government suppliers add to the price to make waiting the insanely long time it takes to get paid by the government worth bothering to do business with them.

Now, in the military's defense, sometimes these high priced items are expensive for a reason. That reason usually involves hardening something to withstand combat, or improving some everyday item to lesson the risks that item presents in combat.

For example, the Navy's once famous 200.00 ashtray (can't remember the exact price anymore, it has been awhile). That ashtray was expensive because it was designed, like safety glass, to break with dull edges and minimal small pieces. This addressed the issue of how that ashtray could harm someone in combat.

You might think that a plastic ashtray would make more sense. Well first, plastic ashtray break as well, and also produce sharp edges. Secondly, and most likely the core reason, after the Falkland Islands War, the Navy initiated a service wide effort to remove as much plastic from the ships as possible. This was because, though English Frigates took minimal damage in that conflict, the fires that damage started, though easily manageable by normal damage control techniques, quickly spread out of control because men fell not to the flames, but to the toxic fumes of burning plastics. As a result from that lesson, the US Navy took steps to lesson the likely hood of this happening on American ships.

QUOTE(Just Leave me Alone!)
You say that the military is the wrong choice for determining how to spend their money because they are not directly accountable to the electorate(indirectly, they are).  Yet you say that the electorate has no clue about the subject and that we can't be trusted to make decisions on these expenditures.  Which is it?
*



It's both. Individuals in the military have their own agendas, individuals in congress have their own agendas, the people of the US, on average do not have a full understanding of the needs of the military, and the military has a need to keep some budget items secret.

What we need a budget drafted by the department of defense, that is reviewed by a committee made up of both congress members, and military flag officers with the power to draft a second budget that includes recommended changes. The Military personnel being there to help keep a check on the flights of fancy and the pork barrelling of congress and the congress being there to help keep a check on the conservatism and favoritism of the military leadership. Another check on the process being the presidential veto power, and a final check on the process being the ability of the people to vote against those politicians who supported items in the military budget that seemed out of line.

Another check that might help ALL budget processes in the US Government is to change the system. Rather than one gigantic budget, we should require that each department of the government (State, Defense, Interior, etc) has their budget voted on separately. This would give everyone a better opportunity to review spending in these different areas, and make it harder to hide inappropriate appropriations. wink.gif
Just Leave me Alone!
QUOTE(Just Leave me Alone! @ Apr 22 2005, 11:27 AM)
Let the Pentagon and the Secretary of Defense create a budget, have it reviewed by a panel of experts chosen by the President and approved by the Senate, and then have Congress vote on the proposed budget in it's entirety.
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QUOTE(overlandsailor @ Apr 30 2005, 08:46 AM)
What we need a budget drafted by the department of defense, that is reviewed by a committee made up of both congress members, and military flag officers with the power to draft a second budget that includes recommended changes.†  The Military personnel being there to help keep a check on the flights of fancy and the pork barrelling of congress and the congress being there to help keep a check on the conservatism and favoritism of the military leadership.†  Another check on the process being the presidential veto power, and a final check on the process being the ability of the people to vote against those politicians who supported items in the military budget that seemed out of line.† 

Another check that might help ALL budget processes in the US Government is to change the system.† Rather than one gigantic budget, we should require that each department of the government (State, Defense, Interior, etc) has their budget voted on separately.† This would give everyone a better opportunity to review spending in these different areas, and make it harder to hide inappropriate appropriations.†  wink.gif
*


rolleyes.gif Well there we go OLS. I don't believe that these two ideas are too far apart. You have a panel including Congress members and I have a panel approved by Congress members. We both have the military taking the first crack at it though. Now if the two of us can just get a meeting with Frist, Hastert, Rummy, and GW together, we'll be set.
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