CRESCENT CITY, CA — The Department of Defense has confirmed accusations that a $179 million military training program for mountain gorillas was created based on a spelling error in an email between two high ranking Army officers, according to official sources. The admission follows over a year of denials, which were originally sparked by a leaked copy of the email from an anonymous whistleblower.
"As these large wars end and we refocus on the possibility of proxy wars with China over resources and influence in the Pacific, South America, and Africa, we need to think about putting a small scale Green Beret-like capability in at least a few of our regular infantry battalions," the email begins.
"This is partly just a recruiting ploy to put in the commercials, but it would also identify local talent that we could pull out of gen pop and send to Camp Mackall or the Rangers. God bless the SEALs and Marines, but they're the only things standing between the goddamn Navy and total irrelevancy. Screw [the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986], we need more special forces and shock troops to price them out of the market. To stand up that kind of capability, we'll need to budget for a new gorilla [sic] warfare program."
The email soon came to the attention of Admiral William McRaven, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Unfortunately, the email seems to have only been forwarded in part, and McRaven saw just the final three sentences, which he forwarded to Chief of Naval Operations ADM Jonathan Greenert. A week later, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, accompanied by ADM Greenert and caged silverback mountain gorilla Ojore, publicly announced that the Navy's Marine Mammal Program would, "like the Navy SEALs and Marines, now expand to cover threats on sea, air, and land, and in any clime and place," a statement now believed to have been intended to provoke the Army based on Mabus' mistaken impression of the email.
Despite originally having no interest in actual gorillas, the Army complained that the Navy had no business in what was logically an Army mission, since there was nothing aquatic about gorillas. The Navy, concerned that they might be completely shut out of the military gorilla field, responded that 'marine mammal' was a description of the animals' training, not their natural habitat, and threatened to press for takeover of the Army's working dog program since the Army routinely teaches their dogs how to swim. Following a period of bitter bureaucratic infighting, the Army grudgingly backed down and created their own gorilla program with a similar level of funding.
A compromise between the two services was negotiated soon after by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) of the House Ways and Means Committee, an Army veteran and a "strong believer in the military gorilla concept." Thompson's compromise produced the Joint Military Gorilla Program (JMGP), which combined the Army and Navy's gorilla programs in a single $100M facility headquartered outside Crescent City, CA, and also created a prestigious liaison billet for an Air Force officer.
The location of the facility in what was then Thompson's home district led to allegations of corruption and pork-barrel spending, at which point WikiLeaks received and published the original email along with several hundred related emails from later in the project's development. The scandal died down when JMGP spokesman and head primatologist Dr. Warren Reed explained that California's 1st District contained one of only a few cloud forest habitats in the U.S., which was vital for proper gorilla research, and that this, combined with factors such as proximity to the ocean and other regional military facilities, made it the only possible choice.
The story then faded until a sharp-eyed reader, outspoken military reformer Colonel Roy Casey, USAF (Ret.), looked at the initial email, realized the misunderstanding, and posted the entire story on his blog, which was soon picked up by both WIRED and Foreign Policy. Interest in the story immediately revived, and the Department of Defense's denials began.
"I think this tells you a lot about the culture of the DoD," said Casey. "There was no reality check anywhere in the chain that offered even a single question about this, even as simple a question as 'sir, did you mean guerrilla warfare?,' nevermind questions about the number of gorillas left in the world, the difficulty of teaching military science to animals only capable of sign language, or the dangers of handling even a single wild fucking gorilla, much less how those dangers might be compounded if you gathered a large group of gorillas in one place, armed them, and then trained them how to operate as a military unit. People were either too afraid or too stupid to ask their bosses hard questions. This is even worse than the Bradley."
By 'worse than the Bradley', Casey is referring to problems of corruption and incompetence that plagued the development of the Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and which were exposed by his fellow military reformer Col. James Burton in the book The Pentagon Wars.
Sgt. Ojore, shortly after learning to stand upright.
However, Dr. Reed is pleased with the program's results. "The critics can say whatever they want, but we're seeing real progress. The mountain gorilla social hierarchy maps perfectly onto a military hierarchy, and these guys have a passion for learning. It took very little time to get them up to reading children's books, and after only a few months they'd moved on to history. And as soon as Petty Officer Ojore reads a book, he hands it off to his Army counterpart, Sergeant Munyiga, then on down the line until they've all finished it. One week it will be The Spartacus War. The next week it will be Mutiny on the Amistad. Sure, sometimes they get confused, like when Ojore signed that he wanted a copy of Alberto Bayo's 150 Questions for a Guerrilla, but he played it off and made a big show of reading it cover to cover anyway."
"As far as Col Casey, his claims are ridiculous," said Reed. "The truth is, we have no problem admitting when we make mistakes or have setbacks. For instance, while the subjects have picked up reading very quickly, we've been disappointed with their sign language. During the day, they seem able to sign normally, but at night their signs to each other are nonsense, just hours of back and forth nonsense."
Colonel Casey remains unconvinced.
"What's worse than this error making it so long without getting caught is that, even when the error finally came to light, they chose to double down on the mistake instead of correcting it. It's like the F-35. 'Hey, we're so delusional that we believe even our complete fuck-ups are somehow accidentally brilliant.' Don't get me wrong...screw WikiLeaks, fuck that twerp Assange, and Manning should get ten lashes on the National Mall. But the fact is that this shows the DoD still has brain cancer. Until they institutionalize reform processes instead of sending their white blood cells after anyone who tries to handle reform in-house, they'll need someone outside getting in their soup to keep them honest. Looking at this mess, you've got to wonder just how badly things would have to go wrong before they'd admit they screwed up."
Meanwhile, outside Crescent City, CA, the program continues.
When questioned about a second WikiLeaks document which claimed that, following a month long cultural awareness course, the twelve silverbacks' behavior appeared to indicate that they had adopted a particularly radical type of Salafi Islam, the DoD refused to comment, except to vow that they would prosecute all involved in leaking the document.