Defense contracting is deeply weird

A $0.5bn golden goodbye is nice to have for anyone.

Business Insider's Walter Hickey does a weekly round-up of things the American Department of Defence has purchased, and this week's contains a line item which basically sums up defence spending.

This is what the contract press release says:

The Boeing Co., Long Beach, Calif., is being awarded a $500,000,000 firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the C-17 transition to post production, which will provide for orderly transfer of C-17 production assets. The location of the performance is Long Beach, Calif. Work is to be completed by July 5, 2022. ASC/WLMK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8614-12-D-2049, Order 0001).

Hickey translates from DoD-ese:

The Department of Defense decided that they're probably not going to need too many more of Boeing's C-17 jets. So to make sure that the transition from "making C-17s" to "not making C-17s" goes as smoothly as possible, they awarded Boeing a half-billion dollar contract. The production facility in Long Beach California will likely have to have some changes, and Boeing is likely still responsible for parts, maintenance, and upkeep of the C-17 fleet for a while. Still, that's a heck of a severance package.

This is how military contracting works. You get paid to make something, you get paid to stop making things. You get paid if you deliver, you get paid if you don't deliver. You get paid while your things are used, and then you get paid when they stop being used. Generally speaking, you're going to get paid.

A Boeing C-17 jet lands. Photograph: Boeing

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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My time as an old woman with a £4,000 prosthetic face, working for the Daily Mail

On the Tube, a man offered me his seat. “I’m not an old woman,” I told him. “I’m a Daily Mail features writer wearing a prosthetic face.” He moved away.

I was, for a time, a Daily Mail features writer. My job was to sanctify and incite the prejudices of its editorial staff and readers – ideally while wearing fancy dress, because that is more palatable and moronic.

I have been, at various times and for money, a Saxon peasant, a Restoration hussy, the back half of a cow, a devout Muslim, an ice dancer and a man. It quite often went wrong.

I was, for instance, asked to dress up as an old woman, in order to find out what it was like to be an old woman. Any newspaper that was not institutionally insane would have simply asked an old woman what it was like to be an old woman but, since the Mail thinks in fantastical stereotypes, that would never happen. The results would be too shocking.

I was given a £4,000 prosthetic face. I went to the East End because that, according to the Daily Mail, is where poor people live. I was supposed to get mugged, so I walked around with £50 notes falling out of my pockets. A boy came up to me, handed me the £50 note I had dropped and said: “You want to watch your money. You’ll get mugged.”

Editorial was disappointed. Perhaps I should try again in Kensington? This was considered unsuitable (nice people live in Kensington), so I went to Tramp nightclub.

“My grandson comes here,” I said to the woman on the door, in my old woman’s voice. “What tabloid newspaper or TV reality show are you from?” she asked. (She was obviously a Daily Mail reader.) On the Tube, a man offered me his seat. “I’m not an old woman,” I told him. “I’m a Daily Mail features writer wearing a prosthetic face.” He moved away.

I was asked to wear a burqa for a week. A black burqa was no good for the photographs – the Mail hates black clothing, even to illustrate a story about black clothing – so I hired a golden one from Angels, the costumiers. I later saw a photograph of myself in that burqa, illustrating an actual news story in the Evening Standard.

In the US, a woman passed herself off as a man, convincingly, for a year. I was asked to do the same, although the budget would not run to a year. Even so, the idea that the Daily Mail would pay a female journalist to pretend to be a man permanently is not, if you know the paper, that weird.

I went to the BBC costume department and was given a fat suit and a wig. I was a very ugly man. As I left the BBC – my instructions were, among other things, to chat up women – a woman said to me, “You’re not a man, you’re a lesbian.” I hid in a pub and engaged in a telephone stand-off with editorial. I explained that I did not want to leave the pub because I didn’t look like a man at all but a very creepy woman, which is exactly what I was.

Suzanne Moore is away

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State