Satellites Were Boring But It Was Something To Do

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We Worked Satellites For The Last Ten Years

I had been around satellites for years but never worked directly on one. Rockwell had the first GPS satellites and made then so well they lasted years and years longer that the contract required.   Sue was the GPS Ground Segment Program Manager for our GPS efforts in Seal Beach.

The Satellite Business Was Just Getting Started So I Was Asked To Join Seal Beach

Bob M Glaysher asked me to come down and be is "Chief Of Staff: Bob was the Vice President and Program Manager, Orbiter Operations Support for the Space Transportation System Division, Rockwell International, based in Downey, California. An interesting job as that was the time Boeing bought out Rockwell. It was a pure circus trying to talk to people who had a different language. We went from a tightly managed operation almost into a free for all. The business management line of authority with Rockwell were clear and crisp. Boeing had an amazing collection of terms translating to "no one knew who ran anything!". Bad times for all!

We Won A LARGE Classified Project And We Were Asked To Join It

Sue came in to try and get the Ground Segment of the new program under control as it was a dismal mess.  She used her integrated technical and program management skills to put some controls and planning into the activity.

Paul was asked to do a "general domo" job of running the IT activities, fixing data management and configuration management, get facilities up and running and put some rigor in the overall processes. Gawd what a mess... The budget in the IT department was one programmer who never worked on a program and forced to us antiquated software.

I spent eight years watching the most amazing case of mismanagement I had ever seen in my life. Maybe any one company could have done it but we had Rockwell, McDonald-Douglas, and Boeing all trying to make the program work. New inexperienced managers and a customer that was borderline criminal in their ineptitude! NASA were pros in the good old days but these new "customers" didn't have a clue. Add to that the governments "Procurement Modernization" and you had a receipt for disaster. In fact, this was what drove Sue and I out of the company before our planned retirement time. It was too frustrating to try and do a job with no leadership and the Boeing poor management structure!

Time to leave... we did!

A quote from the New York Times may underline ny concerns:

From The New York Times: Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) was a program to design a new generation of optical and radar imaging US reconnaissance satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). In 2005 NRO director Donald Kerr recommended the project's termination, and the optical component of the program was finally cancelled in September 2005 by Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte. FIA has been called by The New York Times "perhaps the most spectacular and expensive failure in the 50-year history of American spy satellite projects.

We agree and we saw the problem from the contractors side... We had amateurs who did not understand the basics like dicipline and top down management. We had "Integrated Product Teams" which is a flawed concept when there is weak management at the top!