Not Invented Here - Program History

Not Invented Here by David I ShapiroAs they finished their Boodles, Linda said, “That was a success story. Before we talk about your “impressive win record,” how about your disappointments? Any projects you bombed out on?”

He decided to tell her about the Army smoke grenade and Russian hydrofoil failures. The smoke grenade systems that he worked up with one of the retired Army General Officer types he inherited from the corporate offices as a consultant. Pegasus and the other defense contractors were expected to hire their required yearly quota of retiring flags – Generals and Admirals. The Corporate offices hired them and the Divisions were ordered to find work for them. This was the way the Military/Industrial Complex game was played.

Ben started the story with, “I deserved that hit about my win record. Should have known you would sneak it in. Yes, there have been disappointments. Again, more than my share, and certainly more disappointments than wins. The Pegasus Solid Rocket Division had come up with a proprietary and patented method of mixing the chemicals for the propellant called Quick Mix, which improved the specific impulse performance of rocket motors.”

Linda interrupted with, “What’s a specific impulse?”
“Dah’lin, without going into a long technical three year course, let’s just say it is a measure of how much weight can be lifted and how fast rocket motors can go. It’s like the horsepower rating of your automobile.

“We didn’t win the ICBM motor development program we were competing for because it wasn’t our turn, so we put the technology on the shelf. I was with my inherited consultant, retired General O’Brien, at an Army Weapons Command function during the height of the Vietnam War. The cocktail talks with one of our hosts, the Army Chief of the Munitions Command, a friend of O’Brien’s, outlined the problems the Army was having with smoke grenades in Nam. These grenades were used for a variety of missions, different colored smoke for different – missions, ranging from rescuing downed fliers to marking targets. The Army was getting an unacceptable amount of duds as well as bad color resolution in the field. The bad color presented improper and unclear information, and the duds no info at all.”

“This was especially dangerous for friendly vs. unfriendly fire calls – particularly if you were a downed US flier. If you were shot down awaiting rescue and the color of the day was green smoke for pickup and amber for target marking – and the smoke grenade put out either the wrong color, or no color at all, bingo! Bad press – along with a friendly fire hit.”

“We had inherited operations of a GOCO munitions plant from an oil company that took a flyer on a government chemical warfare project, and as a result lost interest in government work. Pegasus took over operations of the plant when they replaced the oil company after they defaulted. We were to make solid rocket motors for an air-to-air missile that was in production. The motors in those birds used a tried and true process that had been working for several years. Nobody was about to screw with success and try the new technology that was on the shelf. I investigated this with the techies and found out that this new Pegasus propellant mixing process would cure the smoke grenade problems.”

“What’s a GOCO? How did you find out about the Quick Mix on the shelf?”

“The answer to your question about GOCO’s is they are Government-Owned-Contractor-Operated industrial plants or other facilities that the government builds and pays a contractor to operate and maintain. Like a munitions factory or most of the aircraft manufacturing plants and shipyards around the country. There were many of these built during WWII to produce the war materials we needed. This was the way the government recruited and provided incentives to commercial manufacturers of products that could be converted to war material. They also used this funding to expand the aerospace and shipbuilding companies facilities to produce the weapons and things we needed for the war.”

“So how did you find out about Quick Mix? It wasn’t a McAlester project.”

“You sure are paying attention by remembering Quick Mix! I discovered it by looking for ideas for our Division’s Independent Research and Development (IR&D) programs that other Divisions had in their IR&D brochures at the corporate offices. The IR&D funds generated by the brochure were used for what the contractors called slush fund dollars – McAlester needed a slush fund too. Pegasus had invented this process using the Government/Contractor jointly funded – 75% government/25% contractor – IR&D Program. These IR&D programs are Military Appropriations budget line items awarded to each contractor based on their submitted IR&D Brochure -Proposal – for the year and level of government sales revenue.”

“That sounds like the taxpayers pick up the tab for aerospace research and development. And, what’s a line item? I don’t understand the government budget process.”

“Well you are right on the first point, and a line item in the budget is an item that is identified by name. But in the case of IR&D, only the sum of the aggregate of all contractors is identified, and then only as aircraft, weapons, or ships R&D. As for not understanding the government budget – welcome to the club. Nuff said! It’s all too complex and political to go into for our first date. But, as a potential CPA, you would be interested in the nitty gritty financial side of the aerospace industry. Who knows, you might go to work for one of these big hitters. Maybe even Pegasus – oops! CMX!”

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