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History, References, and Research => Organizations, Vehicles, Equipment => Topic started by: bayonetbrant on March 10, 2020, 10:50:19 AM

Title: Don't Believe the Hype! (aka, military marketing)
Post by: bayonetbrant on March 10, 2020, 10:50:19 AM


Beware of minor word choices when interacting with representatives of the military-industrial complex. Syntax can shape or misshape deliberations about strategy, force design, or budgeteering. Something as simple as speaking about some potential future capability or widget in the present tense can mislead. Such phrasing implies that the capability or widget already exists, that engineers have vetted the technology under real-world circumstances, and that acquiring it involves little risk. The upshot: it constitutes a worthy investment of taxpayer dollars. QED.
Not so fast.

Here’s an everyday analogy. Astute car buyers know a wary attitude toward sales hype is best. Like spokesmen for defense firms, car salesmen invariably speak in the present tense. They inform you what capabilities you can purchase for X dollars and try to convince you to want these capabilities enough to pay for them. But there’s a difference. While bestriding the car lot, it’s safe to assume that Toyota or Ford specialists drew up a concept; built a prototype; put the prototype through extreme testing on the road and track; and tweaked the design based on the test results in order to ameliorate lingering flaws. Only then did management order the vehicle into mass production. Furthermore, shoppers rest assured that reputable builders make incremental upgrades each model year as feedback comes in. It’s reasonably safe to bet on the quality of that car sitting on the lot.

Automotive companies, in other words, aren’t marketing an abstract idea. They’re marketing an idea that engineers have bent into steel, subjected to field trials under realistic operating conditions, and revised to preserve its best features while correcting or offsetting shortcomings. No sane manufacturer puts a concept car into production—let alone expects motorists to buy it—without road testing and refinement. A firm that skips field trials soon finds itself out of business.

Like shoppers prowling the local dealership, lawmakers and military folk should cultivate a skeptical attitude toward hype. Hype tries to bypass skepticism and doubt, the core of scientific inquiry. Inaccurate language encourages customers—customers being the armed services and Congress—to set aside doubt, and thus to overlook the vetting process for some idea before them. That would be a grave error. Scientific Method 101 teaches that hypotheses have to be tested through experimentation. Experiments are central to scientific-technical enterprises. Dreaming up a hypothesis about a weapon system represents just the first step toward handing a proven capability to the fighting forces. Intellectual work is necessary but far from sufficient.

Take it from Nobel-winning physicist Richard Feynman. Feynman warns scientists that they can conceive of the most beautiful idea in the world. But, he adds, if experiments contradict the hypothesis, “it’s wrong.” Fail.

To be fair, the problem isn’t confined to General Atomics or the U.S. Air Force. The U.S. Navy has endured more than its share of woes over the years. Short-circuiting the process of building a little, testing a little, and learning a lot is what gave us the littoral combat ship, the next-generation aircraft carrier USS Ford, and the stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt. In each case uniformed military folk, their civilian masters, and defense manufacturers formulated golly-gee concepts that hinged on combining untried technologies in large numbers. Naval overseers ordered these nautical equivalents of a concept car into serial production.

plenty more to read - it's a good article