Official Short-sightedness - a philosophical question

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by FlagWagger, Dec 13, 2006.

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  1. FlagWagger

    FlagWagger Book Reviewer

    Reading the reports on the BBC News web-site, and other on-line UK press sites, about the apparent overstretch of the UK military (Troops shortage a clear danger) and the MoD's party line that the current situation is sustainable I cannot fail to see a parallel between the current situation and the NASA cock-up over Challenger.

    As is well known, Challenger suffered a catstrophic failure shortly after launch - in the investigation it was revealed that the root cause of the explosion was an O-Ring seal which had failed due to the low temperatures encountered. While engineers suspected a high likelihood of failure, NASA management had brushed off their concerns and were much more optimistic. A good commentary on the different viewpoints can be found in the commentary on the official report by Richard Feynman, a Nobel prize winning physicist who worked on the Manhattan project and bongo player.

    Quoting from the introduction of this section:

    It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could put a Shuttle up each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask "What is the cause of management's fantastic faith in the machinery?"

    The parallel between the Mod saying "we can do it" in the face of comments from people like Gen Dannatt, Gen Jackson, the Commons Defence Committee, unnamed serving officers, etc. is striking.

    In the his conclusions, Feynmann identifies that time and cost constraints condemned the engineers to flying the shuttle with reduced safety margins, however, these reductions wer recognised and understood at the engineering level. He then goes on to conclude that:

    Official management, on the other hand, claims to believe the probability of failure is a thousand times less. One reason for this may be an attempt to assure the government of NASA perfection and success in order to ensure the supply of funds. The other may be that they sincerely believed it to be true, demonstrating an almost incredible lack of communication between themselves and their working engineers.

    The cost of the NASA management's short-sightedness was 7 astronauts (who all knew the risk of spaceflight) and a costly remediation programme. The cost to the MOD in terms of lives in Afghanistan and Iraq is already far greater than this. How much longer will the mandarins of the MOD delude themselves that the current situation is sustainable?
  2. They will continue deluding themselves that it's sutainable until, to use your own example, the shuttle blows up. If by some stroke of luck the explosion doesn't occur, they'll justify their delusions by pointing to this as proof.

    Remember, the definition of the term "more efficient" when applied to the Armed Services is vastly different, depending on whether or not you're a serviceman or an accountant.
  3. The fact those in charge do seem to believe their own spin and propaganda is very scary, and yes I forsee some significant catastrophy before the next election, in some ways the present situation in Afghanistan is a precursor.

    In reality a good accountant and a service man could agree on more efficient, it is just that the treasury are not actualy interested in ifficiency or effectiveness, just money, and the less of it they can give you the better.

    The reality is that the country can't afford both Tones adventurism and Godons generosity, but neither of them will give in.
  4. They are all Muppets and I don't mean MW!!
  5. Comparing NASA's engineering risk management of the space shuttle project with a government's management of a county's combined foreign, defence and financial policy is streatching it a bit?!! :?

    How about comparing the shortsightedness of the architects of the SS Titanic with, say, the US vietnam policies of the 1960's?! :)
  6. FlagWagger

    FlagWagger Book Reviewer

    Both short-sighted and over-optimistic, just like NASA management and the UK MoD. I accept that there's a huge difference in scale, however, I believe that there are parallels between the MOD's behaviour and that of NASA.
  7. Had previously attempted to post eloquent reply but lost it somehow so resorted to "Muppets"!

    When will Tony and his cronies realise that:

    Someone considered to be a good CDS took early retirement because he was fed up with banging his head agaist the bulkhead!

    The new CGS is uncomfortable with the overstretch!

    And the last guy in the job thinks they are muppets!

    These men could bite their tounges no longer and said it how it was, I salute their moral bravery. Tony and Gordon don't understand the concept, just trying to cement their entry in the history books as leaders on a world stage. I hope that I am correct in my belief that they will be viewed as morally bankrupt and incompetent!

    Get rid of these numpties, RR for PM!!

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