Tuesday, September 13, 2011

DefenseTech Challenge Thread

Updated and Bumped!
(warning: what follows will be dry as dust unless you enjoy logic and tautology.)

I had a somewhat whimsical response to my challenge from a ‘JoeC’:
It's bad management because it's not on time or on budget and, so far, it doesn't work! I'm not sure what else you need in order to be convinced.
Of which, given the ground rules were clearly stated, prompted my reply:
Invalid Claim! [;-) (and you provide no definition of, much less evidence supporting 'doesn't work')
Then Joe C. responded with:
"Doesn't work" meaning it was banned from flying until recently. That fits my definition of "doesn't work"! :)

I work in software, so I'm well aware of how people tend to underestimate the time it takes to get things done. We're all very optimistic creatures at heart, I guess. I think some of that is what's going on in the F-35 program. It's also a result, as I've said before, of our Pentagon always wanting the newest, shiniest, most advanced toy instead of being satisfied with an incremental upgrade.
Since under the conditions I laid down in the challenge were not met, I could have just let Joe C’s wistful comment (including the outrageous unsupported claim concerning 'shiniest' jab) lay where it was, but I sensed this person was new to the discussion (i.e. probably not even a past lurker) and seemed somewhat na├»ve on the subjects of advanced technology and acquisition thereof. So I gave him some prompting so he would possibly go try to disprove, discover, or perhaps reply with more detailed questions, with a little hint as to the difference between aerospace and ‘other’ software development (my typos corrected):
Do you know what TRLs are? I ask because buying a weapon system isn't like buying a commercial product. EVERY weapon system sufficiently advanced to be worth developing and fielding with an expected operational life of 20-30-40 years requires the same effort and hits pretty much the same kinds of hurdles (depending on technologies involved). The F-35 program is actually doing better than a lot of its 'successful' predecessors, especially since it is really delivering 3 weapon systems in one. The only difference here is F-35 brand sausage is being made under a spotlight and rice bowls are threatened. The decision to first launch and then develop a new weapon system has been most definitely "requirements-pull" since the end of the Cold War so if an 'incremental' advancement was all that was needed, that is all that is pursued. Biggest problem with the incremental over existing is that on the modern battlefield, if you aren't low observable and connected, you are dead. As to 'software development' if we developed software like the commercial sector, we'd only need half the airbases - because most planes would just make smoking holes enroute to the next base. Kind’a hard on the Beta testers.

Thus I’d call the response to my challenge to this point ‘tepid’ at best. But shortly thereafter it got somewhat more interesting. A commenter after my reply, one ‘halcyon_ 33p’, decides to add two comments [I assume the DT space limitations probably drove the breaking of ‘one’ into ’two’ ]

SMSgt Mac,

So are you stating that because the F-35 is doing better than a lot of it's 'successful' predecessors there is no problem here? I notice you put successful in quotes as if you don't believe these unnamed predecessors were successful. If they weren't successful than even if the F-35 is better how does that serve as an argument that everything is fine with the F-35. Sounds like you are making the argument that because bad isn't worst, than it is good. If they were successful during deployment does that justify all the problems in development? Is it possible for a bad process to still produce viable results? I think all of this "history as a standard" and "Not worst, therefore good" argument stuff fails to take into account that the political climate is completely different today and that is the real deciding factor in this projects survival.

SMSgt Mac,

Your pro-F-35 arguments suffer from the following fallacies. I've included single line summaries of many of your arguments. IF you feel I am unfairly summing up your arguments please direct me to evidence that I am not being fair to you.

Appeal to Tradition - this is the way military projects always work http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-tradition.html

Biased Sample - Because the F-35 program isn't as bad as these projects it is great http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/biased-sample.html Appeal to novelty -- The F-35 is the greatest best thing therefore it must continue

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-novelty.html

Burden of Proof -- Detractors must prove the F-35 is not the best plane in the world for it's job http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/burden-of-proof.html
I responded:
Given the space limitations on DT, I will Fisk your post at my place and let you know when it happens here (No earlier than Sunday- late). It would be earlier, but I have other pressing commitments this weekend. Kudos for the attempt and willingness to be specific and avoid logical fallacies, but unfortunately you employed several above. As a prequel -- think about the phrase 'it does not follow' as it may apply to what you've posted.
I will deal with halcyon’s comments above by repeating below with my response/observations inserted in [bold blue brackets]. But first I note that I came back last night to find that ‘halcyon’ had decided to add (in split posts):
Thanks for the reply, and I have great respect for your service, however since I am only summarizing your arguments and asking you to clarify I think you will have a very difficult time proving that my logic is not sound. Asking you to clarify your position and pointing out your logical fallacies can only be right or wrong, not a logical fallacy. I haven't even started to argue against your points. Only point out that many of your arguments don't hold up to the standard you have selected. The only point I have made here that might be considered an argument is that you are not taking into account the current political climate which is very different from 20-30 years ago. There is no logical fallacy there-- I haven't even asserted my own opinion. In fact logic will not help you in understanding the current political climate.
  ….
By the way in your post can you please answer my challenge that if I have misrepresented your position you provide evidence to show this. I am a clarity over agreement kind of guy. I don't care if we agree but I really don't want to slime you.
I will deal with the remains of this last response after I have dealt with ‘halcyon’s first assertions.

Note: for clarity I refer to the first two of 'halcyon’s' posts above as Part 1, and this last bit above as Part 2. I am completing this response before revisiting the original thread lest ‘halcyon’ added more that I would need to add below.

Ready? As promised, let the Fisking begin!

Responses to Part 1:

SMSgt Mac,
So are you stating that because the F-35 is doing better than a lot of it's 'successful' predecessors there is no problem here? [No, I am saying that not only do the challenges that the F-35 program has encountered to-date NOT rise to the level sufficient to label the F-35 as ‘failed’ , ‘doomed’ or any other of a number of terminal adjectives in criticisms of the program so carelessly slung about in the comments (and some articles) in Military.com, but that the technical and programmatic challenges to date are not even unique AND that the difficulties to date are not even remarkable for an advanced high performance fighter aircraft, and less than what many might consider ‘successful’ predecessors] I notice you put successful in quotes as if you don't believe these unnamed predecessors were successful [No, it was in quotes because ‘successful’ without explanation is a fairly abstract concept that may mean different things to different people]. If they weren't successful than even if the F-35 is better how does that serve as an argument that everything is fine with the F-35. Sounds like you are making the argument that because bad isn't worst, than it is good. If they were successful during deployment does that justify all the problems in development? Is it possible for a bad process to still produce viable results? [You thus begin down a slippery slope to create a ‘strawman’ argument as a prop in an attempt to make an argumentative point in what will follow. Read on.] I think all of this "history as a standard" and "Not worst, therefore good" argument stuff fails to take into account that the political climate is completely different today and that is the real deciding factor in this projects survival. [I wouldn’t know, I have never used this argument. If you are implying that I am using this argument, I would only point out that that if I am asserting the F-35 is doing better than many of its ‘successful’ predecessors, that “it does not follow” that I am claiming anything more, including anything to do with your ‘strawman’. (However I will note that as far as political climate goes: what is old is new again.)]

SMSgt Mac,
Your pro-F-35 arguments suffer from the following fallacies. I've included single line summaries [Strawmen Alert! Read on.] of many of your arguments. IF you feel I am unfairly summing up your arguments please direct me to evidence [Weak and transparent attempt to shift the Burden of Proof – more on this topic below] that I am not being fair to you.

Appeal to Tradition - this is the way military projects always work http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-tradition.html

[Strawman!--Perhaps based upon an ‘It does not follow’ assumption that because I note the programmatic and technical challenges are met as well or better as successful programs?
In any case, considering my long-running and public beef with programmatic problems are with the status quo in how programs are funded and fiddled with and micromanaged by forces outside the program proper, I am hardly ‘appealing to tradition’ in that case.

Considering I do not comment on programmatic decisions unrelated to external forces (very few exist) that I am not in an informed position to question or comment or have public domain information in hand, call me ‘neutral’ in that respect.

Considering that my comments on technical challenges merely note they always occur in developing advanced systems is based upon the usually self-evident point that if they are ‘advanced’ they will have unknowns, many unknowable-beforehand elements involved, and that these challenges are to be expected as unavoidable. 

Remarkably, no one has ever questioned this point online before. Perhaps an excerpt of a paper and presentation I gave at a symposium about two years ago on the subject of conceiving, developing and implementing a Failure Modes and Effects Test (FMET) program for an advanced development program will help:

It does not require much imagination to perceive that perhaps complexity in any one of the three software, hardware, and operational/environment factors have the potential to fuel the complexity of the other two, and that this often results in an even more rapid increase in complexity of the overall system. Given that the overall complexity of modern systems already preclude the possibility of ever having enough time or money, even with automation, to test for 100% coverage 1 , the importance of bounding the scope and effort of an FMET test program will only become more important as systems become even more complex.  
1 Automated Software Testing, Dustan Rashka & Paul, 1999, pp.35-36, Addison-Wesley ]

Biased Sample - Because the F-35 program isn't as bad as these projects it is great http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/biased-sample.html

[You’ve created another ‘Strawman’ based upon an ‘it does not follow’. I refute the assertion that F-35 is as its critics claim, ‘failed’ (or other euphemism for same). You take what is essentially my pointing to evidence to the contrary, including noting its successes and comparative relationships to past successful programs , and substitute (quoting the Nizkor page here) “a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version” of my position or substitute with an assertion that I say “that it is ‘great’”.]

Appeal to novelty -- The F-35 is the greatest best thing therefore it must continue http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-novelty.html

[And you create yet ANOTHER ‘Strawman’. This time, I can only suspect it is based upon my consistently noting that the F-35 has the critical technologies (as identified by the users- the Services) of low observability and connectivity among other things, that existing aircraft and potential competitors do not, or similar supported assertion, and convert it into “a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented” (this time an ‘overly simplistic’) “version” of my position.]

Burden of Proof -- Detractors must prove the F-35 is not the best plane in the world for it's job http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/burden-of-proof.html

[Well, you ALMOST got this one right. Instead of employing the ‘best plane in the world’ Strawman , had you typed: “Detractors have the burden of proof and must prove fielding the F-35, as the current program of record, is not the best solution for its missions”. You would have accurately described my position on 'burden of proof'.

Now, let us address whether or not is it reasonable for me to require the critics to satisfy the burden of proof. Using Nizkor as our guide: 

In many situations, one side has the burden of proof resting on it. This side is obligated to provide evidence for its position. The claim of the other side, the one that does not bear the burden of proof, is assumed to be true unless proven otherwise. The difficulty in such cases is determining which side, if any, the burden of proof rests on. In many cases, settling this issue can be a matter of significant debate. In some cases the burden of proof is set by the situation. For example, in American law a person is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty (hence the burden of proof is on the prosecution). As another example, in debate the burden of proof is placed on the affirmative team.
By either standard, the “Burden of Proof” in my challenge is on the CRITICS of the F-35 (plane and program).

The legal standard would have to be applied metaphorically: Is the F-35 ‘guilty’ or ‘innocent’ of (fill-in-the-blank)? Since on the Military.com boards I never see anyone viewing F-35 as ‘succeeding’ and ‘guilty’, the burden of proof would have to be on those who see the F-35 as ‘failing’ and ‘guilty’.

By the more appropriate ‘debate’ standard (for that is what we are engaged in - albeit too often poorly), when I posited the question: “How about one of you (or all of you) working from the philosophical position that the F-35 suffers from 'bad management' actually cite an example of same?” I am CORRECTLY placing the “burden of proof” on those who "affirm" that the F-35 suffers from same.

I dissect and dismiss criticisms of the F-35 with reasoning (why the criticisms are lacking), or I make assertions supported by fact (burden of proof!). If what I type does not fall into either of those categories, you will see caveats, such as ‘I believe’, ‘as far as is known’, ‘I’m fairly certain’ etc. Barring copy-paste errors or typos, and with the possible exception of the occasional hyperbole for shock value, you will NEVER see an assertion made by me that cannot be backed up by a hard fact or verified by a reader themselves if they are willing to do the research.]

Responses to Part 2:

Thanks for the reply, and I have great respect for your service, [I’m wondering now how new you are to these boards. My active duty service is FAR in the past and other than the core program management experience and initial knowledge concerning advanced weapon system development it gave me, not very relevant to the discussion at hand] however since I am only summarizing your arguments and asking you to clarify I think you will have a very difficult time proving that my logic is not sound [Hopefully, not true by now.]  Asking you to clarify your position and pointing out your logical fallacies can only be right or wrong, not a logical fallacy [Sure, if only you could have succeeded AND avoided employing logical fallacies in attempting doing so.] I haven't even started to argue against your points. [re-read this post again if you still believe what you typed afterwards. Repeat as necessary] Only [attempted, and failed to] point out that many of your arguments don't hold up to the standard you have selected. The only point I have made here that might be considered an argument is that you are not taking into account the current political climate which is very different from 20-30 years ago. There is no logical fallacy there-- I haven't even asserted my own opinion. [You just did, I am almost curious. Were you around 20-30 years ago?] In fact logic will not help you in understanding the current political climate [Another opinion, unsupported by fact- I’ll let it go] .…. By the way in your post can you please answer my challenge that if I have misrepresented your position you provide evidence to show this [See all of above]. I am clarity over agreement kind of guy. [We should get along swimmingly then] I don't care if we agree but I really don't want to slime you. [I am kind to those who are kind].

Any bets on whether or not we will be entering the realm of
Argumetum ad nauseum very soon? I won't go there, as alas I have bigger fish to fry...and that work pays much better returns.




---------------------------------Original Post Below this Point------------------------------------------------


There's a post up at DefenseTech calling for opinions as to whether or not the F-35 can be 'turned around'. This an obvious case of working from the philosophical position that the F-35 NEEDS turning around (begging the question). I laid down a gauntlet that I doubt will be picked up by very many, but it could prove interesting if my challenge is accepted instead of subjected to the usual furious 'thumbing down' given comments that do not follow a certain 'groupthink' guide. I wrote:   
A modest proposal. How about one of you (or all of you) working from the philosophical position that the F-35 suffers from 'bad management' actually cite an example of same?
Please post as a separate post instead of a reply. It is a long weekend and if the F-35 is as poorly managed as those asserting it is, we should be able to run up the count to a new DT record for our hosts!
There are only three criteria for a claim to warrant a response other than "Invalid Claim!":
1. Single sentence description of the "bad management" decision/action.
2. Identification of those responsible (names are best) for the "bad management" to at least a) the Government (DoD office or equivalent and higher) or Corporate/Industry leadership level responsible--for 'actors' OUTSIDE the program, and/or b) Identification of those responsible (position or name) WITHIN the program.
3. Single sentence description of WHY it was a bad management event/action.          


Valid claims will be evaluated/critiqued using only three sources: RAND's "Sources of Weapon Systems Cost Growth", DAU's Defense Acquisition Review Journal peer-reviewed papers, and the NIzkor Project Logical Fallacies website.


Enjoy!

We'll see if anyone takes up the challenge.

BTW: Contrast the DT piece with Dave Majumdar's facts-only story on an F-35 structure fix at
Defense News with what will no doubt soon be breathlessly announced with Wagnerian 'doom' music in the background at AvWeek, Military.com, and elsewhere.

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