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DIVAD Versus 60 Minutes

bob7947

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Yesterday, Don Mansfield posted an article entitled Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession. After reading the digest of the article and bristling at some of the jargon used, I can report on what was written in simple language. It is: under some circumstances Army officers can accept a lie as truth. Why single out Army officers? I won't. The truth is that humans can accept a lie as truth. I've written about that before.

The article made me remember an episode of 60 Minutes from the early to mid-1980s, possibly 1985. For some reason, the Army had agreed to a television test of the Division Air Defense Gun System (DIVAD). DIVAD's mission was to guard tanks on the battlefield from hostile fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and lightly armored ground vehicles. Yes, this is the legendary system that was claimed to have identified a latrine fan as an enemy. However, this blog entry is not about the system nor is it about the Army. It's about us. I have been unable to obtain a tape of the program from 60 Minutes so I will explain what I remember.

The show began and DIVAD's representative (an Army officer) explained what was going to happen. There would be two types of tests--one stationary and several drones. Off in the distance was a white object--the apparent stationary target. DIVAD's turret whirred back and forth, locked onto the target, and began firing its cannons in anger. After the cloud of dust cleared, the target appeared--unharmed. Next was the drone test. From the left side of the television screen a slow moving aircraft appeared. DIVAD gave it a taste of shock and awe with its cannon and the drone disappeared to the right of the screen--unharmed. A second drone appeared on the left side of the screen. Once again, DIVAD's cannon unleashed a merciless barrage but the drone flew off--unharmed. Finally, a third drone appeared from the left of the screen and DIVAD gave it everything it had. I saw a slight hit on the wing of the drone as it flew off to the right of the screen. Shortly after the drone disappeared from view, there was an explosion. (Later it was reported that the third drone was detonated by a self-destruct device.)

Now it was time to hear from DIVAD's representative about the test. I was young and naïve back then so I felt bad for the guy and wouldn't have blamed him a bit if he ran off and disappeared to the right of the television screen too. The person from 60 Minutes sheepishly approached the DIVAD guy not knowing what to say. However, the DIVAD guy jovially declared success for DIVAD. What did I miss? What did the entire audience miss? I don't know if the Secretary of Defense was watching but he cancelled the system after this episode of 60 minutes aired. Maybe the DIVAD representative had his fingers and toes crossed. Maybe he was conditioned to view the test as a success. All I know is I sat in front of the television stunned.

What's the moral of the story? Again it's simple: As humans, we all can lie. We even will lie about a lie. It isn't restricted to any organization nor is it restricted to any national border. Its universal. Try this. If you're going to a business meeting today, tell your boss that his/her stupid idea is stupid. Maybe you're going to a party this weekend. Tell everyone what you really think about them and see how that works for you. Remember those little white lies our Mothers told us about after we told a whopper. An online dictionary defines them as: an often trivial, diplomatic or well-intentioned untruth. It's not a lie; its an untruth. Maybe that is a fib. One of my most used lines when I was a kid was: she did it! She being my sister. We all can lie--we're human! We may call it a social grace, more than likely, its a survival tactic. Just don't be surprised if the person on the other side of the negotiation table is telling you an untruth. Its part of our life experience. Besides, I'd never lie to you. :o



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Bob,

All good and valid points. But it seems to me that the story is not about lying, it's about a profession that publicly declares its adherence to values such as honor and integrity. It's about a group of leaders trained not to lie, cheat or steal, or to tolerate those who do. It's about apparent hypocrisy.

H2H

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You are correct. In my first paragraph, I added that the study finding was about Army officers. Then I move to my bottom line--humans. I understand Army officers' adherence to values such as honor and integrity and I believe that all military officers adhere to these values nearly all the time over the course of their careers. However, even Army officers can be placed into positions where a lie is acceptable. The study found that. All military officers, whether Army, Navy and Marine, or Air Force, are human and they will act as humans. I wouldn't be surprised if it was found that a general had a mistress, discussed classified information with her, and then lied about it to the FBI. There is no magic wand that can be waved to prevent our human flaws regardless of the profession.

Non-military members of professions adhere to their own standards of integrity too. However, they also can be backed into a position where they face alternatives that result in them committing a lie. Read the book: Truth, Lies, and O-Rings by Allan J. McDonald with James R. Hansen. Note the tests of the O-rings. Pay special attention to the meeting the night before the launch of the Challenger. Watch our men and women walk off proudly into that space ship. How was that allowed to happen?

So, I started with Don's posting and the executive summary of the limited report; quickly moved to my bottom line; remembered a system's televised failure and a program manager's televised response to it; and preached about one human flaw. For my entire adult life, I've believed that humans are the most important part of any endeavor. Unfortunately, we all have some common flaws. I've spent a lifetime trying to overcome mine but given the right situation one or more of them pops up.

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The purpose of the report, as I remember it, was that the Army itself had a problem of a culture where success can only be achieved by compromising the truth. I would rather condemn the Army culture as an institution than the Army officers as individuals. I was glad to read the report, because I was actually reading some honesty in an official Army publication.

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