Friday, June 1, 2012

A Quick Study Of The Study Study

It's been said that you can prove anything with statistics--68% of the population knows that. The same can also be said for government studies.  Every time you turn on the news, you're seconds away from hearing a story beginning with the sentence, "A government study shows that..."  With the massive national debt and general economic chaos around the world, spending money on all these studies seems like a terrible idea.

Worse yet, the sheer quantity and inconsistency of these studies means that they're constantly contradicting other studies.  One week, dark chocolate is health food; the next, it's the leading cause of obesity in children.  Red wine, consumed in moderation, may help prevent heart disease.  Red wine, in any quantity, contributes to cancer.  Global warming is the single greatest threat to the existence of mankind...or it might be pure fiction, invented by left-wing hippies.  If you tried to follow the advice in all these studies, your head would explode...or, according to a different study, it might implode...

 Good, evil, or both?

Apparently someone in the government decided enough was enough, and it was time to cut back on this type of reckless government spending.  The problem was, no one could quantify the number of studies that had been commissioned or their true cost.  So former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the Pentagon to take action.  The result was a study, the focus of which was past Pentagon studies.  (It's rumored that the person who cam up with this idea once tried to eat his way out of a weight problem).

 Needs more studying...

Once the Pentagon competed the study of its studies, Congress decided to study that study, and it encouraged the U.S. General Accountability Office to study the study as well.  The GAO produced a 32-page report on its study of the Pentagon study (you can find it here), which found that the Pentagon's study only covered nine of its past studies, which cost roughly $3 million in total.

The whole reason the study-spiral started was to gain a better understanding of the cost of all these studies, yet the GAO failed to report how much it cost the Pentagon to produce it's multi-year meta-study.  If this is getting confusing, that's understandable.  To put this in finance terms, if you tried to map this all out in Excel, you'd get a big circular reference.  I could go on, but I'm getting a headache just thinking about it.  I learned everything I needed to know on this subject in elementary school: studying is always bad. Period.  End of story.
Here's a video clip with the hilarious news coverage of the study study:

As a taxpayer, if you were cringing as you read this and watched the video clip, don't hit the panic button just yet.  The Pentagon agreed with portions of the GAO's study and publicly stated that it will work to improve its processes.  With this type of convincing rhetoric, it's clear this whole national debt thing should be cleared up in a few weeks.  If you're still worrying, well...get over it, and quick--according to a government study, stress is a leading cause of depression.  Just sit back and smile at the number of times I've managed to use some form of the word "study" in this blog post.

If you're not annoyed yet, here are some links to the stories:

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