Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Military purchasing - Death Star edition

I'm highly amused to discover an article in the September-October 2011 edition of Defense Acquisition University's magazine (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format). Lt.-Col. Dan Ward, USAF, writes about defense acquisition strategies in the light of the Death Star from the Star Wars movie franchise. It's a hoot! Here's an excerpt.

After watching the climactic battle scene in Return of the Jedi for the first time, my 8-year-old daughter said, “They shouldn’t build those Death Stars anymore. They keep getting blown up.” She may be a little short for a stormtrooper, but the kid’s got a point.

Yes, the Empire should stop building Death Stars. It turns out the DoD shouldn’t build them either, metaphorically speaking. What sort of system fits into this category? I’ll resist the urge to give specific examples and instead will simply point out that any enormous project that is brain-meltingly complex, ravenously consumes resources, and aims to deliver an Undefeatable Ultimate Weapon is well on its way to becoming a Death Star, and that’s not a good thing.

. . .

The Death Star’s lackluster contribution to the fight is reason enough not to build one, but serious problems emerged long before it was declared operational. In Return of the Jedi, viewers gain a fascinating insight into the programmatics of Empire acquisitions. In the single most realistic scene in the whole double-trilogy, Darth Vader complains that the second Death Star construction project is … behind schedule. In fact, much of the drama in Episode VI revolves around this delay.

Consider the implications of pop culture’s most notorious schedule overrun. In the Star Wars universe, robots are self-aware, every ship has its own gravity, Jedi Knights use the Force, tiny green Muppets are formidable warriors and a piece of junk like the Millennium Falcon can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. But even the florid imagination of George Lucas could not envision a project like the Death Star coming in on time, on budget. He knew it would take a Jedi mind trick beyond the skill of Master Yoda to make an audience suspend that much disbelief.

Even worse, it turns out getting a moon-sized project back on track requires the personal presence of a Sith Lord. Let me assure you, if your project’s success depends on hiring someone whose first name is Darth, you’ve got a problem. Not just because Sith Lords are make-believe, but also because they’re evil.

There's more at the link. Entertaining and highly recommended.

While on the subject of the Death Star, did you ever wonder how much it cost? Fear not - Gizmodo has the numbers!

The total: $15,602,022,489,829,821,422,840,226.94.

Yes, that's a whooping 1.4 trillion times the current US Debt. Or a sightly more meaningful number: 124 trillion years of war in Iraq.

Again, more at the link.

There, that's your dose of nerd news and geek grok for the day!



trailbee said...


USSHelm said...

Brings to mind the F-35 and the LCS.