Karl Gallagher (selenite) wrote,
Karl Gallagher

  • Mood:

Blowing on a Dog Whistle

I heard a bit on NPR about a whistleblower who'd been driven to put his revelations on YouTube after being blown off. He'd gone to Lockheed Martin management, the Coast Guard, Homeland Security's inspector general, and Congress without getting anyone to take action on his complaints. So I got curious and watched his video.

He struck me as a little out of it from the beginning when he talked about how amazing it was that Lockheed Martin could have an ethical violaton. What planet has he been on?

The first complaint was that the automated cameras for providing perimeter security while the ship was docked had gaps in their coverage. Yeah, they could fix that by adding more cameras. But taking advantage of that gap would require coming in a straight line at the correct angle from the horizon to the ship. That's pretty damn tough if you're maneuvering through a harbor (or walking on the dock) to get to the thing. So I'm not shocked that the Coast Guard decided they could live with that coverage.

The second was that after the Lockheed team he led finished the design of the new sensor gear the Coast Guard gave them the environmental for what the equipment was supposed to be able to endure. Lo and behold, the spec called for handling negative 40 degrees Farenheit, while the hardware they'd already bought could only stand negative 5. Options: 1. Toss all of the paid-for work and design a new system. 2. Decide negative 5 is acceptable and move on. Response of the government: 2.

I only got halfway through his ten-minute video. It's clear that this guy is one of a type of engineer who annoys me: the "cost doesn't matter" engineer. I had a professor in an aerospace engineering class once say that "Cost is not something we normally think of as an engineering parameter." In the real world you can't make everything perfect. Often it's better to have ten slightly flawed boats instead of one perfect one. That's part of the design process if you're trying to meet the customer's true needs, instead of creating a work of art.

I was still curious enough to research it a little more and found an article on Defense News about it. Now I really understand why he was totally blown off. Adding new electronics wasn't the only part of the contract. The patrol boats were being lengthened from 110 to 123 feet. Which didn't work out so well: "structural flaws found in the converted boats caused the Coast Guard to scuttle the program after eight conversions." [of 49 planned] When they're dealing with cracks in the hull tempermental IR gear isn't going to be the biggest worry. And if they've already cancelled the contract there's not much to be gained from examining the other problems. Mr. Whistleblower needs to get his priorities straight, even if from now on he'll be balancing taking the fries out of the oil against providing drink refills.
Tags: engineering, projects
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.