Wednesday, 10 August 2016

1970 Case Study of the M-16

While I finish up work on my latest full post, just thought I'd share something with you which I found interesting (and which has contributed to the delay of my next post...)

The other day I came across a pdf version of an M-16 case study, written in 1970 by then retired Colonel Richard R. Hallock. The document is quite a detailed report of the history of the M-16 development with respects to the US army's perspective and represents a catalogue of failures and outright malicious attempts to kill the rifle off despite the strong evidence that developed to support it.

I find this document interesting because it shows the extent of just how resistant to change an organisation can be when it is stuck in its own way of doing things, and how easy it can be to subtley manipulate test data, impeding the progress of more advantageous solutions at the expense of the people at the business end who have to deal with such failures, in what amounts to nothing short of criminal negligence. 

It also highlights that while large defence contractors hardly have a saintly record of helping their end users acquire the correct systems at the correct price, sometimes the procurement wounds inflicted on military organisations are almost entirely self-inflicted, either for institutional reasons, or for the benefit of individuals personal careers. Even military officers with distinguished careers and a life time of service to a cause greater than themselves can be coaxed into making choices that are personal in nature, to the detriment of their service and their fellow professionals. 

There are two caveats that I will throw out though.

The first is that I can't find much about Col. Hallock's history, beyond a brief a biography. There doesn't seem to be any commercial connections to someone like Colt, or anyone else involved in the M-16 program, but you never know. I always find this an intersting starting point with a document like this, to figure out who the person writing it is and what connections they may or may not have to the subject matter. Secondly, for time reasons, I've not checked any of the reports and materials referenced in the document. It is taken as written that they say what Hallock says they do, which is always a somewhat risky thing to do. 

Just keep those two things in mind if you fancy a read. And if you do, the link is here.

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