“… the final theme present… throughout the armed forces today is KAFCA, pronounced Kafca (since this is a military book I have made up an acronym.) KAFCA is Keeping the Able From Contributing to the Action. Inside the armed services, this problem is more politely referred to as “personnel mismanagement.”Arthur T. Hadley in The Straw Giant

I recollected reading that book and nodding in sober agreement when it first came out, A lot of what Mr. Hadley wrote in it was congruent to what I experienced as a member of the military, beginning in the mid-1970s, when the military was just beginning to recover from the demoralization of the Vietnam era. I was reminded, though, of that particular expression upon reading these two links, posted at Bayou Renaissance Man; the first which outlined what happens when the competent operators at any given company or organization decide to walk away, and the second outlining how the unending quest for a properly diverse workforce at the expense of competence, task knowledge and skill.

“…The combination of new employees hired for diversity, not competence, and the declining engagement of the highly competent sets the stage for failures of increasing frequency and magnitude … In straightforward work, declining competency means that things happen more slowly, and products are lower quality or more expensive. In complex systems, declining competency results in catastrophic failures.”

We have just had a demonstration over these few days of what can happen when exciting, politically-correct diversity in employees is prized by management over competence, unsparing attention to detail and professional expertise. It appears that the missing submersible on a deep dive with a cargo of wealthy spectators down to take a first-hand look at the wreck of the RMS Titanic imploded, instantly killing all aboard it, just as the fired marine expert, one David Lochridge feared that it would, and for the reasons that he specified. But the CEO of OceanGate Expeditions wanted to go for more diverse, younger experts in deep-dive marine cutting-edge technology … well, at least, he put himself and his money where his mouth was, in his own submersible unit. Comment as you wish … do you think that after this widely publicized disaster (and others, like the meltdown of Tranhauser-Busch) will cause the soberer members among our corporate overlords to think twice before embracing diversity and mediocrity?)

19 thoughts on “KAFCA”

  1. Short form in answer to your concluding question, no.

    1) Prove the actual existence of reality based, soberer members of our corporate overlords. Show your work.

    2) The vast majority of said overlords would not dream of putting themselves personally in the equivalent position that the CEO of OceanGate did; or even in the position of anyone below him in the chain of command that has to put up with and try to function with the decrees that come down from that lofty level.

    3) The vast majority of said overlords have never been in the position of those trying to make things function at any point in their career.

    4) Any contact with reality, or recognition that it exists, will get said overlords declared anathema by those who they value more than any customers or any of those affected by their work.

    5) I do not claim credit for this, having found it over at INSTAPUNDIT this morning. But it seems to have a bearing on our situation:

    “Characteristic of the late republic [he is speaking of Rome] is less the widening of ideological divides often envisaged, as much as the exponential rise in ‘rule-breaking’ among members of the elite. In practical terms, systems operate regardless of personal preferences and personal discretion. Rather, persons adapt to systems until such time as they choose not to, and then the systems fall apart.”

    6) I leave to others the applications to our current armed forces and government systems.

    Subotai Bahadur

  2. Requiring those who propose something be placed in the forefront of what they propose might reduce the number of idiotic proposals. More likely, we would get an increase of bad ideas coming from brave and bold idiots. The comment about Rome reminds me of a science fiction story where someone successfully impersonated a hermit Overlord and crashed an Overlord meeting. When first walking in, using the hermit’s speech pattern and characteristics, the impersonator said something like “What a freak show. No wonder we’re getting our behinds kicked.”

  3. At least the man who chose diversity over experience was willing to take the risks involved. So many will dictate processes for others but choose another path for themselves. I wonder if Nancy Pelosi uses Obamacare for her health providers ?

  4. “In practical terms, systems operate regardless of personal preferences and personal discretion. Rather, persons adapt to systems until such time as they choose not to, and then the systems fall apart. ”

    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

  5. Cemeteries are full of people too stupid to realize they were committing suicide and the people stupid enough to follow them. Skin in the game only works if the skin belongs to someone with a competent opinion.

  6. Oh Dear God!

    That’s exactly what I’m witnessing in the nuclear power industry.

    It starts at the top. Check the resumes of the five Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners. At the top is a guy with a duel degree in forestry and divinity. Three are poli-sci majors. Only one was a nuclear energy degree and she was once at a utility before becoming a congressional staffer like her four colleagues.

  7. The recently deceased CEO agreed that his product was akin to the original Titanic, with every expectation that is would be a total success… and chuckled at the comparison.
    Given the casual disregard for actually testing, and ignoring some test results that did not agree with expectations, and then continuing to use the vehicle seems to me to be thumbing his nose at reality. Maybe he was more woke than realized.
    Will others in similar conditions learn from his ‘experience’? I doubt it, as they will likely follow his example and disdain the expected checks and inspections that are usual for new products or new applications of new products, especially in an area of actual danger. Memory says that one of Bert Rutans creations/designs suffered a catastrophic failure also, and I cannot remember if he took it as a sign that he was on the bleeding edge rather than the cutting edge.
    Most in government employ receive no visceral feedback when they choose unwisely. Many have no feedback that make them less enthusiastic to bring about the changes that are their personal pet projects. Without negative feedback and a bit of pain, they can continue and will likely do so. Note the competition to Inbev have brought out campaigns and sponsorships that seem to echo the failed Light trans sponsorship. Do they all belong to the same country club or did they previously decide their pecking order, and the customer revolt so far has upset that calculation, and they must fall upon their own swords to get things back to ‘correct’ order?
    I don’t care, I drive a 1985 Ranger as my daily. I have painted it a few times, last time using a brush.(a roller didn’t work so well) The Jonses that I am supposed to keep up with left me in the dust 30 years ago, and it’s too late for me to change my stripes, so to say.

  8. Our supposed betters seem to operate on the principal that rules don’t apply to them, for various reasons. Sometimes they’re too politically connected, sometimes too rich, sometimes they’ll just have the corporation they control write a big check and make the problem go away. But at the end of the day there isn’t too much they can’t get away with.

    I have to wonder if when the CEO of OceanGate Expeditions was told (for example) that the viewport was only rated for 4000 feet his reaction wasn’t OMG we’ve got to get that replaced right away it was so what I’ll just pay the fine.

    Unfortunately for him, the laws of physics aren’t as easy to ignore as the laws of men.

  9. Honestly, Xennady, I wonder the same. I also wonder if David Lochridge was fired because he didn’t tell the CFO what the CFO wanted to hear about the safety of his expensive little toy. It’s almost as if he expected reality to go away, if he ignored it long enough … or fired everyone who told him about reality…

  10. The recently deceased CEO agreed that his product was akin to the original Titanic, with every expectation that is would be a total success… and chuckled at the comparison.
    Given the casual disregard for actually testing, and ignoring some test results that did not agree with expectations, and then continuing to use the vehicle seems to me to be thumbing his nose at reality.

    Sadly, his consequences involved only him and a few paying customers. We currently have a regime that is focused on climate change, what ever that is, rather than reality. All of us are in the same boat headed for the falls as the reality of energy supply, including the laws of physics, come closer and closer.

  11. What a plan! Use the military as a dumping ground for mentally ill trannies, undisciplined children and untrainable minorities. It is a welfare replacement that might provide some useful service to the government. After all, the Leftists believe that anyone can learn anything. In the military, the untrainable “defectives” can learn to be useful to the “Party”. They didn’t learn nuffin in school while they misbehaved, but a uniform will “cure” all that. “Diversity” will make them strong. Sure!

  12. To return to OceanGate, First, we have the deaths of five people. Unfortunate as that is, they had all said repeatedly that they understood they were undertaking a dangerous excursion and accepted it. That is where it should probably end in terms of legal and moral terms. Most especially, this should not be an excuse for some law.

    I had resisted the temptation to look at all the various pieces professing to tell why this happened on the assumption that it was unlikely that the authors could add anything but more speculation. This has been reinforced by things appearing on sites that I know from past experience are basically BS.

    I succumbed to temptation where I hadn’t gone before and found what I consider a decent presentation of some of the issues from someone that seems to have experience and knowledge I lack. He does some digging and presents some videos taken from OceanGate’s site that does show some very questionable practices. It does get a little technical and he mentions a couple of issues without going into enough detail for non engineers to understand easily but only takes 21 minutes to cover a lot of ground.

    I’m sure I have missed other worthy discussions, as I said, it’s hard to tell the informative wheat from the exploitative chaff.

  13. Legal Insurrection has a post from a long-term submariner. I have problems with video so can’t compare it to the Youtube one, but the LI post’s statements ring true. (My engineering background is in electronics, but I did survive a fair amount of mechanical engineering coursework.)

  14. @Subotai
    Currently reading a collection of unit histories of Roman legions. Basically they had a 600 year civil war. 100 years in Late Republic and the whole Western Empire up to the fall of Rome. Periodically, someone would win and establish stability. Then they would die, occasionally from natural causes, and the war would start up again.

  15. And looking up rather than down into the bubbly deeps where people sink themselves on purpose in fervent hopes of reversing the process: See Boeing, among their many examples of slow substellar and dangerous performance being the 737MAX, Starliner, and KC-46 programs.

    If you invented time-travel-texting and texted someone at AvLeak in the 80’s with the AWST headlines showing Boeing blowing a civilian airliner upgrade program (with multiple airliners lost), an aerial refueling program (centering on the boom, which Boeing invented), and a space capsule program for low orbit (during the era of Shuttle that would get some head scratches: “a capsule?”) you would never be believed. Boeing? Making massive engineering failures that cost lives? Hah!

  16. I came across this demonstration of how carbon fiber composite fails in compression loading.

    Notice two things: This was posted 11 months ago. This guy has a million subscribers. The rest of the video is a good illustration of the ways a short column can fail.

    The important thing to notice is that it’s the epoxy bonding the carbon fibers that fails rather than the carbon fibers. The epoxy is much weaker than the carbon fiber and while the carbon fiber is, in reality, just as strong in compression as it is in tension, the fact that is in the form of long, exceedingly slender fibers means that once the epoxy bond to the other fibers fails, the resistance of the whole structure is essentially zero. The reason why this is less than ideal for a pressure hull, I’ll leave to your imagination.

    I’ve been involved in a couple of projects that revolved around the strength of epoxy bonds to different materials. All of the details of preparation, and curing become hugely important because the the only way to really be sure that the bond is good is to destroy it. You can test samples and so on all you want, but one tiny error in cleanliness, lay up, mixing, curing is all it takes to screw things up with very little way to verify it nondestructively. Even proof testing, where you load something to a point above its maximum service load but below what is supposed to be the failure load is fraught since, especially with composite materials, small flaws can be generated that will grow over time. This has been one of the issues with introducing composites into structural components in aviation with a number of fatal failures along the way.

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