Jan 7, 2009

Foot-in-Mouth Classic...

I was at the meeting described below.

The Place: Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries, Pascagoula, Mississippi. Administration Building, Main Conference Room.
The Time: Approximately July, 1975
The Players: Admiral James W. Lisanby, U.S.Navy, Program Manager, LHA Program; Mr. Ned Marandino, President, Ingalls Shipbuilding

The Setup: LHA-1, an Amphibious Assault ship and the first of its class has been in fitting out since December, 1973. She is nearing commissioning. It is the first meeting of the Quarterly Program Review, a regularly-scheduled exchange of technical information between the shipyard and its Navy customer. The opening conversation went something like this...

Mr. Marandino: I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome all of our guests to Pascagoula in the hopes that we have a frank and open exchange of information. Without further delay, I'll turn the podium over to Admiral Lisanby, who has asked for the opportunity to present some opening comments.

Admiral Lisanby: Thank you, Ned. It's a pleasure to be here. The Navy also looks forward to an informative and productive exchange over the next couple of days. We appreciate the effort that your team has put into developing this magnificent ship and in particular the briefings to be presented this week. We are looking forward to the commissioning of LHA-1 and because the date of that event is so important to the Navy and the high-ranking Government officials who will be in attendance, I expect to be given a definitive commisioning date before this QPR is over.

Mr. Marandino: With all due respect, Admiral, I doubt if we'll be able to provide you with a specific commissioning date. There are still a lot of unknowns that will drive that date.

The Admiral: Perhaps I should make myself more clear, Ned. I'm not heading back to Washington until I have a specific commissioning date for the USS Tarawa. The Congressmen and their wives and Navy department officials will accept no less than a firm commissioning date.

After a couple more rounds of this verbal standoff, Mr. Marandino loses it: You want a f***ing date, Admiral? I'll give you a God**** date! How about December 25th? That's Christmas! How about July 17th? That's my f***ing birthday! I'll give you 365 God**** dates you can take back to Washington!

The assembled crowd was silent in disbelief. The meeting broke up almost immediately. The next day it was announced that Mr. Marandino was no longer the President of Ingalls Shipbuilding and would be acting as a manager of submarine overhauls on the East Bank (the old, small, overhaul yard).

It was a meeting not soon forgotten.

As a footnote: Admiral Lisanby and his wife retired to Pascagoula in 1987 and bought a gorgeous turn-of-the-century beachfront home. It was substantially destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Lisanbys have been engaged in an ongoing dispute (lawsuit) with one of their homeowners' insurance companies, USAA, over the award made in the significant loss of their home. There is an interesting article in another blog, "Slabbed," that is worth reading.

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