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Solving the Great Air Force Systems Irony


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#1    schadeaux

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Posted 17 May 2004 - 03:05 PM

QUOTE
Editorial Abstract: Why has the Air Force lost the lead in technology development that it held over industry in the 1950s and 1960s? Colonel Suddarth believes we can find the answer in the shift in emphasis from product to process management that began in the early 1960s. Since that time, the Air Force has moved from the simple management of complex systems to the complex management of simple systems- and has gained little in the process.


Aerospace Power Journal

A very interesting article, and one that maybe promotes the ascertain that “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Over the past century our “discoveries” had outpaced our technology, forcing us into a state of design obsolescence.  Our newest products were made instantly obsolete by adaptation of the products to the newest discoveries.  Are we perhaps reaching a steady-state, where products must now wait for a new discovery before they can improve?

Edited by schadeaux, 18 May 2004 - 01:33 PM.

"To study and not think is a waste.
To think and not study is dangerous."
Confucius

#2    The Gryphon

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Posted 18 May 2004 - 02:44 AM

Quite possible. A lot of our focus and drive has disappeared with the Soviets, after all nothing like a military arms race to spur invention. I had the pleasure to talk to a lot of old Boeing employees. Often time the creation was ahead of the technology.
"Let's build a plane out of titanium!"
Ok, so how do we cut and shape it with carbide tools?
"Let's make a tool to cut titanium!"
Ok, none of the metals we tried work what now?
"Let's make a new metal!!"
That's pretty much how the SR-71 got built!

"when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever
remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
-- Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four

#3    schadeaux

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Posted 18 May 2004 - 01:47 PM

This is what reall caught my attention:

QUOTE
One can explain the slowdown in technological development in many ways. The great discoveries in modern physics and the industrial boom of the early twentieth century preceded the aerospace-technology boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Some people argue that we don’t have the confluence of discovery and technology now to sustain the rate of progress that we previously knew... 

Indeed, our situation has changed, but it is difficult to blame our lack of innovation on the waning Cold War, particularly with so many new and unpredictable military challenges today.

The past two decades have seen unprecedented growth in information technology, an area in which the military once led but now barely follows. Biotechnology is rapidly growing and becoming increasingly relevant to the military, yet it can do little to catch up. The confluence of aerospace technologies and high-technology information systems allows for entirely new ways of fighting- advanced small, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles; laser weapons; and direct links from sensors to shooters. The military pursues all of these but with disappointing progress. Why is it so far behind industry and academe in areas so critical to its “revolution in military affairs”? Bureaucracy has grown, and the military seems to have lost focus on how to do this essential task. In fact, the seeds for this slowdown in military capability were planted long ago and have taken root for over 35 years. Thus began the slow move from the simple management of complex systems to the complex management of simple ones.


Another way I see it is gov't employees may be acting out of job security, what with the US base closures, downsizing the military, lucrative early retirement incentives.  In the days of the Cold War, when technology was a race, information (at least among the engineering communities) was flowing without censure.  Great things were discovered and developed.  Now, it seems like everybody holds on to their little piece of the puzzle, knowing that if they are the only one that has that piece, their job is justified.  I have run into a wall many times where one person had the information I need, but was unwilling to pass it along because it was THEIR information.  Sorta like Gollum and the ring.  I don't know how many time I have heard (after it was too late, of course) that old excuse, "Nobody asked me."

New gov't credo - "Don't Volunteer Anything."

"To study and not think is a waste.
To think and not study is dangerous."
Confucius

#4    The Gryphon

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Posted 18 May 2004 - 03:39 PM

I've seen that too but I tend to contribute it more to our selfish society. People don't seem to understand teamwork. It used to be that there was one or selfish a-holes per group that wanted to claim all the credit, now we're surrounded by them. On the other hand I think the downsizing of the service and reliance on outside vendors has hurt the military alot. Too many programs that were R&D based got cut.

"when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever
remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
-- Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four




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