Readers Sound Off on Recent Stories

Military Ethics

I just read, “Military Ethics: Is There a Crisis of Leadership” (April 2014, page 16) and the answer is clearly, yes. While most people confuse morals and ethics, and ethics with a code of conduct, there are many differences.

I earned a Ph.D. in Christian business ethics in 1997 and have been a practicing ethics consultant. When I worked for a well-known multinational corporation that is a leader in the defense/aerospace industry, my manager refused to teach the corporate ethics program to his staff. He asked me to do it because he felt that his management was very unethical and said he had no right teaching it. I did it for years.

While I specialize in ethics within a business, I can extend my model to any organization. In my model, the organization needs a strong mission statement — the “where we are today.” Next, the organization needs a vision statement — the “where we want to be.”

These are followed by the core values. The mission and vision statements are prepared and promulgated by senior executives, but the core values should be created by the employees. Core values in an organization are equivalent to morals in an individual. At one time in our great country, our morals were based on Biblical truths. For an organization, core values could include items such as honesty, integrity, citizenship or quality. These are what the organization would like its customers and clients to think about when they think about the organization.

I read an article last week that discussed sexual assaults in the military during 2012. Female war fighters reported 12,000 sexual assaults, while males reported 14,000 sexual assaults, mostly by males. The military needs adult supervision. There is a failure of leadership in the U.S. military.

If we go back to my comments about my manager feeling unable to teach ethics because his management chain was unethical, we might think that ethical behavior flows from the top. My research, teaching and consulting has led me to that conclusion. Just as little children try to mimic older siblings or parents, workers in any organization will mimic the ethical behavior of the supervisors and managers above them. When the CEO and his/her staff exhibit ethical behavior, the next level of managers will try to do the same; this continues all the way to the lowest level employee.

You are on the right track with this article. While we might have some differences in terminology, we are in synch on the concepts. Thank you for the reference to J. Phillip London’s book, Character: The Ultimate Success Factor, as I will have to get a copy.

Michael E. Harris,
aka The Ethics Doctor™

Acquisition Reform

Your article, “Congress Takes Another Stab at Fixing Pentagon Procurement” (National Defense blog, April 13) has raised again the obvious to many of us in the business.
Where are the folks who really understand what is driving costs? They, not Congress, procurement organizations, operations folks, the Pentagon, are the ones driving those costs. Those folks are the engineering, manufacturing, testing and procurement planning personnel of our industry.

Several years ago when Ashton Carter was in Frank Kendall’s chair as the undersecretary of defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics we had the pleasure of briefing some of his staff on procurement simulation models that we had developed and utilized to counsel our clients on what it would take to beat the competition at the price line. We have heard all the stories that price is only part of the equation, but once the basic product in its manufacturing configuration has been accepted by the buyer and the war fighter, the competition is price, price and price, just like it is in the commercial market.

This is particularly relevant in the disastrous environment we find our defense market in today, for all the obvious reasons. 

An outstanding example of how the engineering, manufacturing and management genius of U.S. industry operates is the Joint Direct Attack Munition, JDAM. Over the years, the contractor, Boeing McDonnell Douglas in St. Charles, Missouri, has built these precise weapons at continually lower prices. It is so well done that their efforts, always fixed-price, have preempted outside competition from entering the market. What they have done is to dissect the manufacturing and, equally important, the procurement process.

It is the guy on the manufacturing floor, the designing engineer, and all that contributed to that product reaching that stage, who impact the costs.  

At the end of the Cold War, then-Defense Secretary David Packard called a meeting of all of the CEOs in the business in order to urge them to merge to cope with the reduced spending expected in defense. That was the genesis of the Northrop Grumman, the Lockheed Martin, the Boeing McDonnell Douglas combines that had the net effect of reducing competition with the predictable results of excessive cost of products. Competition waned. 

My former boss and lifelong friend, Norm Augustine, now retired chairman of Martin Marietta, labeled the meeting “The Last Supper.” The impact of that unwise decision, in the view of many of us, has led to what we have today, which is a procurement disaster.

Dave Halloran,
CEO and Founder of ICON Associates

Navy Ship Controversy

Two articles in the April issue of National Defense, “Navy Ship Numbers for Asia-Pacific Shift Don’t Add Up” and “Littoral Combat Ship Faces Uncertain Future” complemented each other. Permit me to comment, as a Navy lay person from the Army branch of service, on the littoral combat ship.

I really appreciated retired Navy Capt. Wayne Hughes’ comments throughout the article on the Asia-Pacific shift discussion, especially about his comments on the LCS. But I question a lot of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s posturing. What the Navy wanted and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other critics perceive indicates to me that there is a meddling that interferes with the Navy’s overall strategy similar to the heckling from a back-seat driver.

Hagel’s regard for the LCS meeting of a “full spectrum of conflict” raises the question: Does the trucking industry have a universal tractor, or does it have hostler, short-haul and long-distance “condo-sleeper” equipped tractors? Why burden the LCS with excess requirements?

I need to differ with Brad Curran’s comment. I do not understand what he is referring to about the debate in Congress over the LCS. If the Arleigh Burke destroyer is superior to the LCS, then why isn’t the Navy saying the same?

We do need to contain expenditures, but let us not “throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Libris Fidelis,
NDIA life member

Topics: Defense Contracting, Defense Contracting, Defense Department, Procurement, Acquisition Reform, Defense Department, Shipbuilding, Surface Ships

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