The General Dynamics Corp. has recently been in the limelight due to the gratuity and fraudulent accounting-practice charges that have been levied against it in the past four months. Whether these allegations are true or false is of no major concern to me, but, as an employee of General Dynamics, I have sensed that during these months, the general public perceives that all the employees of this supposedly “heinous” corporation participated in activities that were violations of the public interest.
I also have sensed that the public has lost patience with the defense industry, in general, due to the many and continuing stories of outrageously high-priced spare parts. These public sentiments are extremely troublesome to me and other employees in this industry.
We work for the defense of America and its allies. The work that we do is unlike any other in the country. The products that we design, test and eventually mass-produce must meet standards that no consumer product could ever hope of passing or maintaining. Those news articles of $700 hammers and $1,200 toilet seats infuriate the average American; they should. But the average American should also understand that products earmarked for use in the military must be qualified to stringent and rigorous specifications. This very qualification process, which is necessary to guarantee that the military obtains goods that have long service life without degradation of performance, is often costly in terms of time and money.
The majority of individuals that make up the work force in the defense industry include the finest and most dedicated scientists, technicians, engineers and machinists that this country can produce. Countless and often unpaid hours are devoted to designing, testing and retesting of products that are expected to have 100% performance with 100% reliability in environments that vary from frigid arctic cold to steamy tropical jungles for periods often exceeding 15 years. The attention to the details that we must pay each and every day to our work may someday mean the difference between a battle won and a battle lost.
So the next time that you read something “bad” about the defense industry, please try to remember that there are also a lot of good people and good work that’s going unwritten.