This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Comment

← Blinded and Blindsided:

All About Meme's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by All About Meme

I certainly side with Professor Krauss in this matter, but out of fairness here is an opposing view, although it’s not necessarily one I agree with.

I've worked in U.S. aerospace for many years. From my somewhat radical standpoint, it isn't Democrats or Republicans that are to blame in this instance. It is the lack of real motivation behind projects like the James Webb Space Telescope. And when I say "real motivation" I mean the kind that wins wars and sends astronauts to the moon.

Imagine reading the following headline in the newspaper:

Operation Neptune Over Budget; Normandy Invasions Cancelled

Sounds ridiculous, right?

Let’s cut directly to the chase. When large government-funded projects like the JWST are at or near completion, the previously rushing river of money flowing to the companies that are handling the engineering details of the project dries up rather quickly. Project at 100% = Money at 0%. This in itself doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, right? Seems like a moot point.

Wrong. When and where are these same companies that were previously flush with cash going to get the next big government contract? What if there is no big “next” project on the radar? What happens to the thousands of American families working for these aerospace companies? What happens to the hard-working moms and pops employed at these firms who are paying for their homes and two cars and three kids’ educations and especially, their own comfortable retirements?

Many of them will lose their jobs in a layoff. That’s what happens to these people. They might find themselves dumped unceremoniously into a sludge-like job economy.

So what is the natural response of employed humans (or dogs on a leash) when they are being led in a direction they don’t really want to go? SLOW DOWN. DRAG YOUR FEET. BECOME VERY HEAVY. Quite simply, completion of the project on-budget and on-schedule becomes the unhappy Hollywood ending that nobody really wants.

It’s just that simple. Nobody wants to lose their job. Even if it means ultimately sacrificing the project’s goals. Large government contractors use layoffs routinely to balance their own budgets, in order to keep themselves attractive to their stockholders, and to better position themselves to receive the next big government contract.

This is totally and utterly bass-ackwards. The primary goal for any government project should be TO GET IT DONE AND MAKE IT WORK – ASAP. But this isn’t the primary goal of any collection of human beings living in corporate America. Their goal is merely to stay employed. Who cares if the damn project is late and over-budget? "That's not my responsibility. Plus, that all-important paycheck is still arriving in my direct-deposit account." Completing a government project like JWST that is funding their family-oriented lifestyles becomes a SECONDARY GOAL. And who can really blame them for this kind of thinking?

In other words, it’s not about getting anything done. It’s about KEEPING A GOOD THING GOING. No real motivation exists for getting anything "done".

Tue, 26 Jul 2011 18:26:40 UTC | #854364