A true story, recounted from personal experience by our own Snoofle.

Many decades ago, DefCon Inc, a defense contractor working for the US military was attempting to get awarded a new contract to build some widget needed for combat. As part of their proposal, they wished to demonstrate that they had the available staff to dedicate to the project. Toward this end, they hired more than 1,000 assorted programmers, project leads, managers and so forth. The military folks that were evaluating the various proposals saw a slew of new employees that were completely unfamiliar with the relevant processes, procedures and requirements, and awarded the contract to another firm. In response, the contractor laid off all 1,000 folks.

A few months later, another such contract came up for grabs. Again, they hired 1,000 folks to show that they had the staff. A few months later, that contract was also awarded to another contractor, and again, all 1,000 folks were laid off.

A map showing the routes between Newark Airport and LAX

This repeated a few times over two years.

After all of this, the base of available employees was wise to the very short repeating hire/fire cycle, and the contractor was unable to attract anyone beyond folks fresh out of school. Finally, some C-level executive realized that all of these people just out of school were far cheaper than the experienced developers that were on staff and those that they had previously hired and fired for the potential projects, and so issued an edict that all in-house senior staff was to be cycled into cheap young employees. It took two years, but it happened.

Now that their payroll was drastically reduced, and they had royally pissed off the potential pool of experienced developers, they could increase their permanent headcount without increasing their long term payroll costs - by hiring only young, inexperienced developers - which enabled them to finally get awarded a contract.

Unfortunately, all those junior developers had very little experience, and there was nobody at the firm who had been through the war to guide them. As a result, their two year contract yielded a flaky project that frequently crashed, acted unpredictably and could not be modified. When you're dealing with a system that can shoot at and blow things up, these are not desirable or tolerable attributes.

At some point, some high level exec realized what had happened, and forced the company to stick a crowbar into its pocket and hire some highly paid consultants. Unfortunately, the HPCs remembered the hire/fire cycle and wanted nothing to do with the place. After some time, this led to substantial sweetening of the pot until a few experienced folks finally agreed to come on board as full time employees. This happened in New Jersey.

After management got the new folks up to speed on the project, the new folks said Hold on; there's a gaping hole in the middle of this project! Management replied that this part of the project was classified and could only be viewed by folks with secret clearances, and from the facility in California. OK, so relevant clearances were applied for and granted, and the senior folks were assigned to go to the CA facility for two weeks.

Before agreeing to go, the developers wanted some information as to how they'd be able to access this stuff after being familiarized with it since it could only be accessed from CA, and they all lived and worked in NJ. They were told that they'd be advised of the details when they got to CA.

OK, they all fly to the Left Coast, get settled in their hotels and go to the office.

At this point, they were informed about all of the problems that had to be fixed. On Thursday of the second week, it was determined that there was about two years of work to do all of the retrofitting that needed to be done. Again, the developers all asked How will we access this stuff from NJ? The managers replied that it had to be done locally, and that they would all be located locally for the next two years. Starting Monday.

Wait; they don't get the opportunity to discuss it with their spouses? How it might affect the kids to have one parent away 90+% of the time? Would they be willing to live in hotels and airports for two years? Why the F*** didn't they just hire talent at the CA location instead of NJ?

It turns out that because the contractor is based in NJ, the personnel they hired needed to be based there as well. Of course, had any of this been mentioned before people were hired, most (if not all) of the folks they hired wouldn't have accepted the jobs. If they had known, none of the folks would have even gotten on the plane to go for the briefing and ramp-up required to familiarize themselves with the project.

Needless to say, Thursday afternoon was spent with managers barking demands about sacrificing for the company, and developers saying WTF?! Thursday evening was spent with countless phone calls home. Friday morning was spent with everyone resigning and heading for the airport to go home.

The representatives of the military acted as decent folks and were very understanding as to why people wouldn't just leave their homes and families for two years. They were far less sensitive when it came to holding the contractor to their promise of an on-site experienced staff to do the work.

In the end, the contractor was fired and a new one was hired to clean up the mess.

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