Well, the recent post about $3000 laptops caused quite a stir with the overwhelming response being that I have no idea what I’m talking about and $3000 laptops are not only justified but probably a bargain to boot.
You know, I not only post to educate and entertain readers but occasionally to learn something myself. Maybe this is one of those cases. Honestly, I had no idea such a laptop existed. If they are fully justified then I stand educated.
However, I'm disappointed to see the widespread, almost kneejerk reaction to any hint of cost awareness. On a larger scale, this is what leads to $14B carriers or $200M F-35s.
Maybe every one of those 2600 laptops has to be absolute, top of the line, throw it in lava and have it still work. On the other hand, I note that the contract only calls for 450 carrying cases which suggests that most of the computers are not going to be slung around and dropped from airplanes at 30,000 ft but, rather, wind up sitting undisturbed in an office or sheltered area. It's possible, just barely, faintly possible, that those office laptops could be Dells or even the CF-21 for half the cost.
I also note that the contract calls for a couple hundred spare hard drives. Assuming they're for failures, that's a 10% failure rate from a $3000 laptop that everyone seems to claim can never fail. Dell laptops don't have a 10% failure rate within a reasonable lifetime (about three years). Thus, I see a contract that is paying for a never, ever, under any circumstance, fail, computer that includes a built in 10% failure rate. So, the common argument from readers that the military can’t afford to allow laptops to fail seems contradicted by the contract, itself. If 10% are going to fail, anyway, then why not use $300 Dells?
I don’t know enough to argue this further (and neither do any of you) but I can analyze the contract announcement and draw a reasonable conclusion that we might, just might, be over-spec’ing and overpaying. If not, then great but it’s the failure to ask these kinds of questions that leads to F-35s, LCS’s, and Fords.
Those of you who didn’t at least briefly entertain the possibility that we might have overpaid are either subject matter experts on this (and none of you identified yourself as such) who already know the answer or you are thinking non-critically. There’s nothing wrong with asking the question – are we over-spec’ing and overpaying – and, based on verifiable evidence, concluding that we aren’t. There is, however, something wrong with refusing to ask the question.