“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised. ~~Chinua Achebe”
Finally, I am able to share some things that I had not been able to share earlier, or didn’t feel comfortable doing while employed with a defense contractor.
From 1986 until 1992, I worked for Raytheon, a defense contractor. At the time, they were known as E-Systems, Garland Division. When I left there I swore to myself never to return to defense contract work, especially in any capacity that required a secret clearance or above. There were no noble reasons behind it, I just didn’t like the hassle of the clearance and all that it entailed. The invasion of privacy, big brother and all that.
Flash forward to July 2008, 16 years outside of defense. I took another job as an employee of a government contractor. Never say never. I didn’t give it too much of a thought. I needed a job, so I went back in. It was the closest thing that I could get to home. Problem solved … at least for the first 10 months, or so. As part of the job, we had to pay a visit to an Air Force base in Jacksonville, Florida around the June timeframe, I think. Let’s call it June 2009. The four of us were looking forward to going and getting to see the aircraft where our software would be installed.
The first day was a travel day, nothing doing until the next morning. The next morning, we got up, met in the lobby, and ate breakfast together. A couple of our sponsors were there, so we ate with them. As we ate, somehow the conversation turned to work and the ‘hopes’ for the system. Talk turned to kill ratios, and effective kill zones, and the efficiency of killing. Talk continued about bad guys and how they deserved to be killed and that the system that we were working on would allow the Navy to have a lower cost per kill. Truthfully, I was speechless, almost tearful. I was embarrassed. I sat mute.
The rest of the stay was pretty gray for me. I was in the dumps, but didn’t share my opinions with anyone else. Everyone else, it seemed, was into it and proud of the system. I, on the other hand was seriously conflicted. I thought: I spend all of this time, after work, marveling at the wonder that life is and appreciating all living things, but by day, I lend my abilities to death and destruction. I am a willing participant.
I sat with these feelings for months and months and finally decided to have a discussion with my wife. She told me that if that was how I felt, and she understood, then I should just quit immediately and find a job back home. I started looking, but none were available. Obviously, I kept the job, but the wind had gone out of my sails. The project, though a demo, was a success and lauded by a great many. Certainly, had I not be there to do it, they would have gotten someone else to do it and it might well have been a success.
Eventually, I moved onto another project that was basically administrative in nature. It gathered data, but deep down, it gathered data for the purposes of staging attacks, etc. Sigh. When the the word came down that I had been let go, it was a disappointment in that my ego felt a bit bruised, after all, I had been doing a good job. Later, after a few days, I felt rather elated and didn’t know why. One morning, while meditating, the answer popped up. You are no longer in conflict about your job.
Looking back, I wish that I had had the ability to pull out right as the conflict hit, but as I’m learning, sometimes you just have to sit with things and they will resolve themselves for the betterment of everyone.