Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tales from some Old Dusty Papers

The anniversary of my Dad's passing is almost upon me.  Actually, I go through it twice annually, once for the Gregorian calendar and the other for the Hebrew calendar.

I have been going through his papers, organizing them, putting them into electronic format (usually PDF).  I go through periods where I make lots of headway, and then go for a few weeks or months with no activity.  The process is slow, and it has a heavy emotional element to it.  There are documents in the trove that reflect matters Dad had discussed with me, and then, there are papers that tell stories I have never heard before.  There is no doubt in my mind that Dad intended me to eventually see those papers, put two and two together, make some inferences from my knowledge of the way the Department of Defense worked, and thereby receive the oral history he could not directly impart to me for reasons of confidentiality and security.

During my days with the Department of Defense 30 +/- years ago, I had occasion to encounter more than a handful of people, in and out of uniform, both Government and Contractor side of the table, who had occasion to personally work with Dad, and a few more who had never met him personally but had seen his name in various contexts.

Dad was strongly principled, but I never really viewed him as being an outspoken activist of my own stripe; he certainly was more reserved than I am and didn't like to make too many waves.  But, as I learned during the past 48 hours, he was quite capable of causing consternation and agita to government contractors and high-level bureaucrats.  Perhaps his recessive gene for that trait has expressed itself in me (his own father, my grandfather, was notorious for speaking his mind and irritating polite society when necessary).

Looking at my calendar and seeing that the anniversary date is imminent, I once again started looking through Dad's papers.  This is not the venue to go into details of my latest findings, but it will suffice to say that Dad was instrumental in getting a certain government contract canceled when he was in Uncle Sam's employ.  The contract was for certain aircraft components which, in following the laws of physics, invoked the law of unintended consequences, thereby causing other systems of the aircraft in which they were installed to malfunction.  Dad wrote memos, backed by scientific data and drawings, to explain the situation and go above the head of the particular bureaucrat who thought that the aircraft flew just fine.

It is clear that the bug in the system posed a real danger to the military personnel who flew in the aircraft (and, of course, to any bystander who might happen to be proximate to the point of impact in the event of a crash).

Many years ago I had heard Dad discuss this matter, very circumspectly, with some of his technical / scientific / engineering friends.

Perhaps the reason Dad was successful in averting the potential damage was that not only did he rationally and convincingly describe and analyze the problem, but he also proposed a few solutions to it.  The implementation of those solutions was apparently not well received by several in the offices of certain private sector contractors, nor by certain higher level bureaucrats within the government.

Shortly thereafter, Dad received a promotion to a higher civil service grade.  He was only a year and a half out of college.  It would take me almost five years into my own government career to cause perturbations of a similar magnitude.

Rest in Peace, Dad.

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