1. #1
    erco415's Avatar Senior Member
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    Was out in LA, and had the pleasure of having dinner with my software-writing cousin and his lovely wife. After dinner conversation turned to work, and I discovered that his team of 6 people is assigned 8 government overseers, inspectors, auditors, etc- this is the cost of doing business with the DOD.

    This brings to mind a biography of Kelly Johnson, the famed Lockheed aero-engineer, in which he pointed out that the Skunk Works, without any oversight whatsoever, turned out the U-2 early and under budget; with some government oversight, the SR-71 on time and on budget; and with a great deal of oversight, the F-117 over cost and late.

    People who think government oversight makes everything better, have never worked under government oversight.
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  2. #2
    Sometimes there is a reason for this. I have a relative who is a compliance officer for a defense contractor that does R&D for the government. His job is to see that all internal security protocols are followed to prevent sensitive materials from leaving the site in whatever form. He was telling me about how lax and forgetful the employees are sometimes. For instance, he asked an employee about the current status on some sensitive material that he was responsible for, and the person said that he couldn't account for it, but most likely threw it away in the trash the week before by accident. So the real question is, was it thrown away by accident or intentionally taken offsite? For example, consider the potential of someone who is privy to information and is at the same time having financial difficulties might be willing to part with that info for a price. Apparently the government takes it seriously enough about tech info security that one of the requirements and responsibility of the contractor is that the employees are watched if they, being U.S. citizens take too many trips outside the U.S., also now have to hand over their foreign passports if they have dual citizenship, and are required to report if they are going into bankruptcy or are about to have their property reposessed. This sort of stuff isn't just a result of paranoia:

    http://www.wftv.com/news/5193822/detail.html

    Anyway erco, I figure that you already know about the sensitive tech info that has already leaked out or has been stolen or sold over the years from reading or hearing about it in the news, but there is only so much that anyone can do, especially since it appears that the real weakness sometimes are the very people who work on and are responsible for the secrecy of their projects. I think the difference between 40-50 years ago and now could be that back then folks had more of a patriotic and loyal viewpoint, versus what nowadays at times seems to be a tendency of every man for himself. Also consider that there are a lot of foreign nationals who work in sensitive areas of R&D, etc. who potentially may be acting as a conduit for that info to their respective countries, which did not exist as much way back then. Another thing is that international communications are easier with the internet, cell phones, flash drives, etc which weren't available when the U2 and SR71 were developed and built, thus making it easier to carry everything needed on one small flash drive stuck inside they shoe, or taking a bunch of pictures on the cell phone that gets mailed to wherever outside the country for example.
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  3. #3
    AndyJWest's Avatar Senior Member
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    ...the Skunk Works, without any oversight whatsoever, turned out the U-2 early and under budget; with some government oversight, the SR-71 on time and on budget; and with a great deal of oversight, the F-117 over cost and late.
    Without going too deeply into the politics of this, can I just point out that the U-2 was designed with a clear purpose. The F-117 seems to have been built to fight an imaginary war against an enemy with advanced radar, but no nuclear capability - run 'stealth' missions to disable the enemy, then hope he decides not to escalate...

    I'd say the 'oversight' was needed in the planning stage. Mostly, oversight over the cosy relationship between the military and defence contractors.
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  4. #4
    GoToAway's Avatar Senior Member
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    Originally posted by erco415:
    People who think government oversight makes everything better, have never worked under government oversight.
    And you've clearly never written a line of code.

    Writing code isn't like writing a book. A large, complex project can be very difficult for a third party to decipher even if it is well documented, commented, and there is access to the person who originally wrote it. I know, because I've been down that road.

    For an organization like the DoD, it really isn't surprising that they take something like this seriously. They'd certainly want to understand it in case anything needs to be done in-house, they'll certainly want to ensure that it conforms to whatever standards they employ, and I would hope they'd want to verify that it's secure.

    I don't think the question here is why they have so many people attached to something like this, but why they've even moved something like this out of house to begin with.
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  5. #5
    Zeus-cat's Avatar Senior Member
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    I don't think the question here is why they have so many people attached to something like this, but why they've even moved something like this out of house to begin with.
    What do you mean moved it out of house? The military doesn't have people who know how to do this kind of stuff. When I was in the military we had contractors doing all the "work". Military officers and senior enlisted people just monitored the contractors and reported on their performance. None of the military people I worked with could have done their job. Besides, there is no way for military people to do this kind of work as you only stay in a job for a few years and then you move on to a new assignment.
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  6. #6
    GoToAway's Avatar Senior Member
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    Originally posted by Zeus-cat:
    What do you mean moved it out of house? The military doesn't have people who know how to do this kind of stuff.
    Firstly, DoD != military. The DoD employs 700,000 civilians (in addition to 1.4 million military,) so the software engineering capabilities of the military are pretty irrelevant in this case. The DoD isn't the military, it's the bureaucracy that oversees it.

    Secondly, doing something like this in-house would save money, improve efficiency, and heighten security.

    I appreciate that the military may not have the resources needed to create its own software, but the DoD most certainly does. They're two completely different things.
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  7. #7
    AndyJWest's Avatar Senior Member
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    The military doesn't have people who know how to do this kind of stuff.
    Perhaps they could recruit some? But if they did, someone would complain that there were too many 'back room boys' and not enough front-line troops.

    The whole question has little to do with 'regulation', and everything to do with not having defined objectives. Of course, if they defined the objectives, it would often become apparent that the military 'solution' wasn't. Regardless of how well you do it, a waste of time and money is always a waste of time and money - unless it is somebody else's money. Just out of curiosity, how much profit did the contractors make on (a) the U-2, (b) the SR-71, and (c) the F-117? Maybe Lockheed actually found 'oversight' profitable?
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  8. #8
    WTE_Galway's Avatar Senior Member
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    Government oversight is annoying and inefficient but the big corporations brought it on themselves.

    Have a look at NG's recent track history as an example:


    http://www.crocodyl.org/wiki/northrop_grumman

    The first major scandals in Northrop Grumman’s history came in the early 1970s, when the company, then known as Northrop Corp., was embroiled in controversies over illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign by company chairman Thomas Jones as well as some $30 million in bribes paid to foreign governments to win orders for fighter jets. A few years later, there were revelations that the company regularly entertained Pentagon officials and members of Congress at a hunting lodge on the eastern shore of Maryland. During the 1980s, Northrop was the subject of numerous investigations relating to alleged mismanagement during its work on the MX Missile and the B-2 Stealth bomber.

    In 1989, Northrop was indicted on criminal charges of falsifying test results on cruise missiles for the Air Force and Harrier jets for the Marine Corps. Just as the trial in the case was about to begin in 1990, the company agreed to plead guilty to 34 fraud charges and pay a fine of $17 million. Under the plea agreement, federal prosecutors agreed to end the investigations relating to the MX and the B-2. However, the company agreed in 1992 to pay $4.2 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit—brought without the involvement of the Justice Department—alleging that the company padded its invoices on MX missile guidance system work.

    Grumman Corp., acquired by Northrop in 1994, brought with it a history of controversies on issues such as cost overruns in the production of F-14 Tomcat fighters for the Navy, production of defective municipal buses by its Flxible division (sold in 1983) and a bribery scandal involving Iran and Japan.

    In 2000 Northrop Grumman paid $1.4 million to settle a whistleblower case alleging that the company overcharged the Air Force for B-2 bomber instruction and repair manuals. In a case inherited through the acquisition of TRW, Northrop Grumman agreed in 2003 to pay $111 million to settle claims that TRW overcharged the Pentagon for work on several space electronics programs in the early 1990s. Also in 2003, Northrop Grumman agreed to pay a total of $80 million to settle two False Claims Act cases, one involving work by Newport News Shipbuilding before Northrop acquired it in 2001 and the other involving the delivery of allegedly defective aerial target drones.

    In 2004, Northrop settled for $1.8 million the remaining individual whistleblower case from the late 1980s involving cruise missiles. The following year it paid $62 million to settle the remaining claims relating to overcharging on the B-2 bomber program.

    The false claims allegations continue. In March 2008 a whistleblower brought a lawsuit charging that Northrop Grumman’s Melbourne division with hundreds of millions of dollars of overcharges relating to the Joint STARS radar aircraft program.

    Not all of Northrop’s performance problems have been related to overcharging. Soon after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the company’s Vinnell Corp. subsidiary (acquired as part of the purchase of TRW in 2002) was awarded a $48 million contract “to train the nucleus of a new Iraqi army.” It botched the job so badly that the Jordanian Army had to be brought in to take over.

    ...

    In 2007 it was reported that guest workers from India employed by Signal International, a Northrop Grumman subcontractor in Pascagoula, were being held against their will.

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  9. #9
    GoToAway's Avatar Senior Member
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    Originally posted by WTE_Galway:
    Government oversight is annoying and inefficient but the big corporations brought it on themselves.
    And I think that is the crux of the matter.

    I really don't understand how anyone can complain about oversight in a world where corporate greed just caused a global recession.
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  10. #10
    I'd like to know what this obsession with regulation is. After all everybody is under government regulation. It's called law, enacted by the police. Take that away and see how society acts.

    It seriously does not work much different with business.
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