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Running Critical: The Silent War, Rickover, and General Dynamics Paperback – October, 1987

4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tyler, a Washington Post reporter, has written a stunning account of the motivations, strategies and tactics in a multibillion-dollar defense procurement that ran aground. Admiral Hyman Rickover, father of the nuclear navy, David Lewis, chairman of General Dynamics, and P. Takis Veliotis, general manager of the Electric Boat Division, were at the center of the industrial effort to catch up with Soviet advances in submarine deployment. Following a series of escalating crises, all three fell humiliatingly from graceRickover and Lewis forced into retirement and Veliotis into exile to escape criminal prosecution. The narrative revolves around tape-recordings Veliotis made of his phone conversations with Rickover and Lewis, conversations that began with tentative thrusts and parries and led to the open attacks and counterattacks that brought all three down. The book is an impressive journalistic achievement and a powerful indictment of the defense procurement system. 50,000 first printing; 60,000 ad/promo; author tour. (October 29
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Harpercollins (October 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060914416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060914417
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,388,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Patrick Tyler was born in 1951 in St. Louis, Missouri, but grew up in Texas where he attended Ross Sterling High School in Baytown, and attended the University of Texas at Austin for one year (in Physics) before moving to South Carolina, where he graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1974 with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. He edited two weekly newspapers in rural South Carolina (1974), before spending a year at The Charlotte (N.C.) News. In 1976, he joined The St. Petersburg Times. In 1978-79, he produced and hosted a PBS Network series, Congressional Outlook, and the next year joined The Washington Post, where he worked for 12 years covering defense, intelligence and national policy issues. From 1986-89 he was Middle East Bureau Chief for The Post. He resigned in 1990 to join The New York Times in Washington as military analyst, then resumed his career as a foreign correspondent based first in Beijing, then Moscow, Baghdad and London, from where he resigned in 2004. His books include a history of the nuclear attack submarine program under Admiral Hyman G. Rickover ("Running Critical," Harper & Row, 1986), a history of American relations with China ("A Great Wall," PublicAffairs, 1999) and a history of American presidents and the Middle East ("A World of Trouble," Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009). He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Linda, an author and teacher. His home page is: www.patricktyler.org

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a comprehensive account of the contentious genesis of the Los Angeles Class attack sub, a warship normally described as one of the most advanced in the world, but under suspicion here. Though this story will most likely appeal to those familiar with the terminology and technology of military submarines, it also has much to offer for those studying the military acquisitions process.
The Los Angeles class attack sub was borne of attempts to combat two implacable enemies - the Soviet Navy and America's own Hyman Rickover, the so-called father of the nuclear navy. Facing the combined soviet threats of submarine launched anti-ship missiles (previous Russian subs could only fire their missiles only after an elaborate process while on the surface where they were visible and vulnerable) and faster submarines equipped with more powerful reactors, American planners now find themselves desperate to reclaim an edge on speed. (Though setting the benchmark with the Skipjack class, progressive gains in the size and weight of latter subs using the same powerplant eroded this advantage). The switch to a newer reactor (actually one redesigned after use on the USS Long Beach, one of the world's first nuclear-powered surface ships) wasn't enough, and submarine vets had no choice but to make compromises, like reducing hull thickness and conseuqently reducing maximum safe operating depth. Conflict with the headstrong Admiral Rickover occurs when the winning design for the new sub is chosen by a firm other than General Dynamics, the established industry leader. Also complicating things is Takis Veliotis, a wily genius who is the only man who can stand up to greedy corporate reps eager to cut any corner and Rickover himself.
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Format: Hardcover
Author P. Tyler is very fair to all parties concerned. Excellent historical content, and thoroughness of research is evident in context. Historical accuracy is also excellent (I checked). Should be required reading for Political Science students and/or Military History buffs. This is one of the handfull of books that I've immediatly re-read after I finished it just to make sure I interpretted everything correctly. Content is very educational about mid to late US "cold war" policies. 5 stars.
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Format: Hardcover
Excellent narrative illustrating the complex nature of the Cold War era military industrial complex. Fascinating struggle between two strong leaders: Adm Hyman Rickover and Takis Veliotis of General Dynamics. Watch the action and the gamesmanship with billions of dollars at stake and watch how each combatant exposes the others weaknesses and see how the interests of the US people get lost in the battle.
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Format: Paperback
First of all, there is an incredible amount of inside information in this book. I cannot imagine how he was able to get the principals to sit down and give their stories. If I am a General Dynamics exec, Rickover, SecNav Hidalgo, or anyone else besides now-exiled Veliotis, I have absolutely zero to gain by doing it. The story is just too embarrassing.

I agree with the other reviews so far, but will add just one deficiency that has not been mentioned so far.

There is information at the beginning about how GD Chairmen Lewis pushes down EB cost estimator Barton's 688 bid with the expectation of making up the delta between the underbid by asking the government to cover its costs later under the guise of change requests. At the time, the loss per boat was pretty minimal, so it was not a hard gamble to swallow.

However, the 688 cost begins to snowball under the original EB General Manager and seems to get even worse under the GD CFO turned EB General Manager MacDonnell before the overruns seem to moderate in the 1980s under Veliotis. For whatever reason, the ship yard practices that caused these overruns are glossed over in the book.

The EB management all-along keeps up the charge that its the government's fault due to some ~30,000 change requests. But the author seems to follow Rickover's reasoning that these changes were too small to motivate a $1billion overrun. However, he doesn't go into what exactly was causing the overruns. Lazy or incompetent yard-staff? Material shortages? Too many people tossed on one boat getting into each others' way and ruining per-worker productivity?

Or was even Barton's disregarded estimate too low? In any case, that information is missing. If anyone here can point me to the answer, I'd be very curious...
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Format: Hardcover
This book chronicles the political and corporate history of the 688 class nuclear attack submarine. There is much insight into the methods and manner of Admiral Rickover and also a lot of material on the corporate goings-on at Electric Boat during the construction of these boats. At the same time the Trident program was starting so it was a hectic era of sub construction in the USA.

The small amount of operational history is very interesting, such as the ruse which allowed the US Navy to estimate the top speed of mid-1960s Russian nuclear subs. Really the whole book is well written but a complaint at Sub-Log was the limited amount of design, technical and operational information. Much of the book is taken up with following the business and political leaders involved in these huge defense projects.

Very well done, insightful and recommended for anyone considering a career in management at a large defense contractor. An important book in how it documents one slice of American Cold War defense procurement.

Category: corporate and political narrative and intrigue

Heroes: ?? Electric Boat rank and file?

Boats: 688 class

Rating: 4 conference rooms (out of a total of five)
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