The Battle of Fort Worth continues: Lockheed strikes back

For calling out Lockheed Martin’s production workers in Fort Worth as rampant “slackers”, Fort Worth Star-Telegram community columnist E.R. Bills could surely expect a strong response. 

But Lockheed’s follow-up letter to the editor in the Star-Telegram today instead seems a model of restraint. The company, of course, defends its workforce as “highly skilled, innovative and productive”, notes that an Ethics Help Line allows employees to report abuses without fear of reprisal and mentions several manufacturing awards, including, ahem, one received from Flight International.

Lockheed’s letter goes on to mildly correct Bills’ flawed calculations about the share of national spending allocated to defense. The letter avoids biting on any of Bills’ specific, although unsubstantiated, allegations, but leaves the door open to investigating any facts Bills can provide.


The activities Mr. Bills described as taking place on company timeare unacceptable in our company, as they would be in any company.

However, our employees are entitled to break and lunch periods during which relaxing is expected.

We wonder if Mr. Bills might have observed employees during thesetimes. If Mr. Bills is willing to provide any details to a companyrepresentative, we are eager to investigate.

For a more emotionally-charged version of the Fort Worth rhetorical battle, read the 42 comments posted on the Star-Telegram’s opinion page about the article. Or read a few of the more polite emails in my inbox yesterday, where Lockheed employees at Fort Worth defend their colleagues from the Bills attack. Some of these same workers leave a “trail of blood” into and out of the Lockheed factory, and “miss family meals, work overtime, miss  ballgames and our kids’ after school activities” to meet deadlines.

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15 Responses to The Battle of Fort Worth continues: Lockheed strikes back

  1. Horde 25 March, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

    To get to the bottom of all of this would be fairly simple….

    Just get the GAO to do an on-site audit of the LM Ft Worth facility.

    After all, these are really management issues, not worker ones. You can’t do the work if the work is not there!

    These are also tax payer funds that are being talked about, here, and a whole bunch of them.

    While they are at it, you might want to ask the GAO to look into why large parts of the LM Ft Worth facility are now on ‘mandatory overtime’ and have been for a little while now?

    Given all the press releases say the JSF Program is “meeting performance requirements and on schedule”, there can’t be a backlog of work to clear that needs such extensive ‘mandatory over time’.

    Also, am led to understand the work through-put has been tapering off lately, due to a whole bunch of things including the domino effect of delayed deliveries in work packages, documentation and parts.

    Meanwhile, a big program payment is coming up which senior executives are hoping will include an similarly big ‘performance bonus’.

    The expenditure of Labor Force Manhours would be part of the criteria of the process that determines the the size of the payment as well as the granting and size of any such ‘performance bonus’.

    So, it would seem appropriate to ask, “What’s up?” and ask the GAO to do what it is they do to ensure the spectre of ‘fraud, waste and abuse’ is not eating into the already dwindled coffers of tax payer funds – dwindled by none other than ‘fraud, waste and abuse’…..

  2. SMSgt Mac 26 March, 2009 at 3:30 am #

    “Call in the GAO”? ROFALMAO!!!!

    I find three VERY large problems with that approach.

    1. The GAO’s involvement in ANY DoD activity is perhaps the largest waste of taxpayer dollars in existence.EVER. Why? Because the entire organization could be replaced with a form that any Congressman could write in a Yes/No question about some DoD activity he/she wants looked into or evaluated at the top of the form and then select the only checkbox available at the bottom of the form signifying the answer to be ‘YES”.
    Seriously. After having to read literally hundreds of GAO reports over the years and ‘hosting’ their inquisitions more than once, I have yet to hear of or see ANY GAO report that did not ‘confirm’ some Congressfolk’s suspicions or aspersions (and the stretch of the imagination or gullibility required to accept their logic at times is often a daunting task). Perhaps the GAO is the best thing since sliced bread when it comes to keeping the rest of government on the straight and narrow, but as far as defense goes they are a total waste. I invite ANYONE to scour GAO’s records for ANY DoD-focused reports that EVER told the Congressional sponsor that they couldn’t find what the Congressional sponsor was looking for. I’m sure there just has to be at least a couple SOMEWHERE, but I’ve issued this challenge before and have never got a rise on it (I REALLYwould like to find an exception to the rule).

    2. There are already Gov’t overseers from various DoD and National Security organizations in situ at all large defense facilities. While the casual observer might view the LM AEROFW plant as a Lockheed Facility, they are in fact a long term tenant of Air Force Plant 4.
    Unless one is of the same ilk as the guy who goes running to the big boss with complaints about every trivial matter while repeatedly bypassing everyone in the chain of command, then calling Congress in on the basis of two-year old aspersions from an uninformed outside observer SHOULD seem to be a teensey bit of an overreaction shouldn’t it?

    3. If the brouhaha gets enough press to leverage some good old-fashioned “William J. LePetomaine- grade” harrumphing, then there is CERTAIN to be some self-important Congresscritter with a motive completely unrelated to the issue who will use the issue for their own agenda. We won’t have to ‘call’ anyone.

    BTW. Locally we tend to refer to the newspaper in question as the Fort Worth ‘Startle’gram.

  3. Horde 26 March, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    So, Senior Master Sargeant, you’re OK with the mandatory overtime for the sake of overtime? Why do you think this is, anyway?

    Are you also OK with the delays in deliveries of work packages, parts, ECNs, Production Waivers and Concessions, and other documentation holding up the work?

  4. SMSgt Mac 26 March, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    “mandatory overtime for the sake of overtime?”

    There is no such thing. Now, modify the last bit to read ‘seems to be only for the sake of overtime’ and that ‘seems’ part disappears when you get high enough in the chain to see that the Earned Value for a work package is behind both in hours expended AND percent complete or some other EV impact some manager is trying to mitigate to balance schedule and cost.

    “delays in deliveries of work packages, parts, ECNs,
    Production Waivers and Concessions, and other documentation holding up the work?”

    Name a program where there aren’t delays. Schedules are built assuming you know everything there is to know about what can affect them, knowing there are always things that you cannot know beforehand (unknown-unknowns).
    Not sure what you mean by ‘delays’ in regards to Waivers and Concessions. Any deviations from any spec or other requirement is done via a process approved by the Customer, and in some cases with the specific approval of the Customer for every occurance as part of the approved process.

    The important thing isn’t that there are difficulties executing a program. The important things about the difficulties are why are they happening and what can be done about it.

    Running to the GAO based upon the ignorant perceptions of a building construction laborer or hearsay from other quarters is over the top. If your sources suspect that they see problems related to Fraud, Waste, and Abuse, tell them to call the hotline.

    Having said all that, IMHO the only way that LM AEROFW will EVER cure itself of the toxic managment-labor relationship will be to shut it down, bring in another company’s managment team and work rules and have everyone reapply for their old jobs. Honestly, from what I’ve seen, the only people more aghast by the situation than outsiders looking in, are LM employees who transferred in from elsewhere. All good people-but a toxic environment (and from what I was told by an old GD employee it dates back to the Convair days).

    Probably a good labor relations history paper in there somewhere.

  5. Horde 26 March, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    I hear ya, Senior Master Sargeant….

    After all, these are really management issues, not worker ones. You can’t do the work if the work is not there!

    Mitigating impacts on EV is a management issue but, given the nature/type of contract, so is ensuring payment of performance bonus.

    What do you reckon calling the ‘hotline’ will achieve?

  6. Horde 27 March, 2009 at 2:46 am #

    …..folks have called the ‘hotline’ as you suggested.

    They just keep getting a message saying the hotline is busy and to leave you name and a contact phone number.

    What next?

  7. SMSgt Mac 27 March, 2009 at 3:42 am #

    If they have to leave a message, leave a message. If they don’t care enough to leave a message, that’s their call.

    Before they do anything, they should review their company policies and procedures and follow them.

    If they have no faith in their company process, or do not get satisfaction, then they should go to the DoD homepage for FW&A ( http://www.dodig.osd.mil/HOTLINE/index.html) and review the DoD policy and procedures and then follow them. The process protects those who follow it

    Reminder! — Accountability cuts both ways. False filings also have consequences.

  8. Horde 27 March, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

    Senior Master Sargeant,

    Yep, mutual colleagues from DoD contracting days and time with KBR over in the sand pit have said you are a firm believer in the system and its processes.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, that is a good thing.

    But……

    What does one do when the process is broken?

    Isn’t Mandatory overtime for, as you say, the sake of meeting EV targets a sure sign of a broken process?

    Claims that all is well when the data and the facts show this will require waivers of the Laws of Physics and Laws of Commerce, let alone Common Sense.

    Now, brevity precludes providing examples, so I hope you know about what I am writing about here. If not, come back and I will be more than happy to expand on this with examples in such areas of affodability, lethality, survivability and sustainability.

    These are a sure signs that the process is broken, don’t you think?

    If so, then what do honest folk with integrity who care for their countries and about the legacies to be left for future generations do?

    Does the dilemma they face simply boil down to –

    “It is hard to get someone to understand something when their livelihood depends on them not understanding it”

  9. SMSgt Mac 28 March, 2009 at 4:00 am #

    I believe in making a system work instead of idly carping about problems or blindly running off the reservation. This belief has served me well.

    RE: Isn’t Mandatory overtime for, as you say, the sake of meeting EV targets a sure sign of a broken process?

    No. That is what EV is all about. Earned Value management is about getting a $ worth of product out of a $ worth of labor. You turn on (or turn off) overtime to try to get a product out to meet schedule AND a budget.
    Are there variations and deviations? Of course. Because the schedule and budget are laid out as estimates of the future. If you are just producing a new lot of piece parts that are just like the last batch and you are using the same people, processes and equipment, the estimates should be very close. If you are doing something that has never been done before, then managers have a wild ride ahead of them because future costs are knowable only to a rather broad range of possibilities. This is why we tend to not enter into funding programs unless they are really needed in the first place. Get a copy of RANDs Sources of Weapon System Cost Growth (http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG670/) if you want to see where budgets REALLY get busted.

    RE: Claims that all is well when the data and the facts show this will require waivers of the Laws of Physics and Laws of Commerce, let alone Common Sense….affodability [sic], lethality, survivability and sustainability

    Well I can’t respond to vague innuendo and I won’t assume to know exactly what you are talking about. Please provide examples if you can. Note that nowhere do I claim that “all is well”. Come to think of it, not even the Gov’t will claim that until the program is over. Until then all is ‘doable’ or all is ‘not doable’.

    Everything you wrote after the last bit was pure gobbledygook. Congratulations. You lasted longer than most, and longer than I expected. Thanks for playing. If I ever need another foil feel free to jump in.

    BTW: it is ‘Sergeant’ not ‘Sargeant’. Once, its a typo (and I make enough of those to not go nit-picking on others), But three times? Nyekulturny!

    (And why do I find myself wondering if I should be pointing out the only thing keeping Anarchists alive is the respect most people have for law and order?)

  10. Horde 28 March, 2009 at 10:52 pm #

    My humblest, Senior Master Sergeant Mac,

    I, too, hate to see such things in writings – mainly because it detracts from the message. Just goes to show how reliant one becomes on technology.

    Maybe Steve could get his IT people to set up a spell checker? Only kidding!! We just need to be more diligent.

    Anyways, I will compile a bunch of examples for you but will have to come back to you on these.

    Have to update an analysis on the STOVL bird since they are now doing hover pit testing. Our previous analyses showed a rather high likelihood of some rather serious ‘disconnects’ in the transmission gear box of the Lift Fan System, particularly in the areas of ‘lock up’ and ‘thermal management’ considerations. There are indications things have not improved, may be worse.

    In the meantime, take a look at the last post at :
    http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2009/03/video-usmc-pilot-likes-his-bad.html

    The terms “wicked roll rate” and “b** a** maneuvring” are pure, unadulterated sophistry and spin.

    The good Major was clearly on an adrenalin high having just completed his first flight in the jet and relieved he had not screwed the pooch. I know I would be. However, rather silly to claim such things. Even more so when the video data does not support such claims.

    Finally, it is disappointing you refer to my honest and openly stated concerns as “gobbledegook”……..I only hope that one day, and soon, good folks like yourself will stop drinking the bathwater that others are p*ss*ng in.

  11. Horde 30 March, 2009 at 1:15 am #

    Senior Master Sergeant Mac,

    As promised, here are some examples of risks identified earlier, before 2005, that have materialised and are generally known:

    1. Electrical Power Generation and Distribution System.

    2. Environmental Cooling and Heating under the generic heading of ‘Thermal Management’.

    3. The use of Electro Hydrostatic Actuators and Electrical Actuators for driving control surfaces and things that open and shut.

    4. Cockpit and Ejection System Integration, particularly the limited volume that was made available and the location relative to the nose wheel well.

    5. Weapon Bays and the unique nature of design – canted stores carriage, large doors angled to the airstream and highly likely limitations on weapon clearances, even if aero acoustic shaping techniques are employed.

    Some others may be found here –

    http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-NOTAM-290309-1.html

    Particularly –

    10. Compromised ‘stealth’ shaping design optimised for ‘X’ and ‘Ku’ frequency bands with resulting high dependency on material technologies in the form of RAM and coatings.

    11. Influences and limitations of the STOVL requirements and resulting solution on the overall ‘family of aircraft’ design.

    12 The STOVL approach adopted for the F-35B with the earlier identified risks and inherent challenges seemingly treated with total indifference, as portrayed by the rather serious ‘disconnects’ observed in the installed Lift Fan power transmission clutch/gear box arrangement. During ‘hover pit’ testing, these will become particularly prominent in the areas of ‘lock up’ and ‘thermal management’, being integrated into an aircraft that, by design, is already significantly challenged in the ‘thermal management’ department.

    Hope this helps….. and I look forward to your views on these along with your take on the “mandatory overtime” that appears to be targeted at spending the program’s risk margin; for what reasonable or appropriate purpose it is hard to fathom.

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