Augustine’s Laws

Last summer I read a book, a classic: “Augustine’s Laws” by Norman Augustine. Norman served in many positions both in the Administration (Under Secretary of the Army) and in the Aerospace & Defence industry (CEO of Lockheed Martin). Lately he lead the Committee that was reviewing the US Human Space Flight Plans.

I first learnt about this book from a teacher in Seville in 2006. He used a couple of his graphics in the course. One was plotting the trend of fighter aircraft acquisition costs per unit. I remember that the extrapolation of the trend pointed that somewhere in 2054 the whole DoD budget would allow to procure one single aircraft, that would have to be shared by US Air Force and Navy, with the 29th February of the leap years availabe for the US Marines.

Since that moment I wanted to read it, and it was only 3 years later that I had the opportunity to do so. The book reviews A&D programs, especially their mismanagement and failures from the Wright brothers times till the early 80’s, when the book was written. The book is hilarious. Really. Let me show you this by concatenating some of its “findings”:

  • The first one was commented above: aircraft are more and more costly with time.
  • At the same time aircraft developments turn in aircraft always becoming heavier than initially designed, producing more capable and heavier aircraft.
  • Another trend points out that avionics and electronic components are of greater importance in the aircraft of today. Wright brothers didn’t make use of avionics or electronics, however in the 80’s the percentage of OEW dedicated to them was around 20%, and increasing.
  • We also find that electronic components themselves become smaller and cheaper with time (just think of room-size computers of decades ago compared to today’s smart phones).

Thus we find ourselves in front of a paradox: Aircraft that will be heavier and more expensive, but that a certain point will be entirely made of avionics and electronic components which are lighter and cheaper with time! How can this be? As Augustine points out: engineers came to the rescue, they came up with “something” that it’s very expensive, doesn’t add weight and helps to solve the paradox without violating 2nd law of Thermodynamics. They came up with software. Neverending of lines of software… which also contribute to delay developments.

Here you may read the different laws, I’ll just copy the ones I like the most:

  • Law Number V: One-tenth of the participants produce over one-third of the output. Increasing the number of participants merely reduces the average output.
  • Law Number VII: Decreased business base increases overhead. So does increased business base.
  • Law Number XIII: There are many highly successful businesses in the United States. There are also many highly paid executives. The policy is not to intermingle the two.
  • Law Number XXVI: If a sufficient number of management layers are superimposed on each other, it can be assured that disaster is not left to chance.
  • Law Number XXXII: Hiring consultants to conduct studies can be an excellent means of turning problems into gold, your problems into their gold.
  • Law Number XXXVII: Ninety percent of the time things will turn out worse than you expect. The other 10 percent of the time you had no right to expect so much.
  • Law Number XLIV: Aircraft flight in the 21st century will always be in a westerly direction, preferably supersonic, crossing time zones to provide the additional hours needed to fix the broken electronics.
  • Law Number LI: By the time of the United States Tricentennial, there will be more government workers than there are workers.

Clearly this is not something I learnt today, but then, last summer I didn’t have a blog to comment on this. Enjoy the book.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence, Books

4 responses to “Augustine’s Laws

  1. Pingback: Nimrod: endless development, never delivering « The Blog by Javier

  2. Pingback: After the year 2015, there will be no airplane crashes « The Blog by Javier

  3. Pingback: Augustine’s Laws and the future long-range bomber | The Blog by Javier

  4. Pingback: “Lessons from a Career of Trying to Defy the Law (of Gravity)”, lecture by Norman Augustine | The Blog by Javier

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