Because of a typographical error, a portion...


Because of a typographical error, a portion of one sentence was omitted from a letter to the editor from Sy Steinberg published yesterday. The sentence should have read: "This naive observation is illusory because the decision makers (those that oversee evaluation and decide what 'systems' are to be procured and fielded for use) mostly make their decisions based upon hardware reliability while omitting consideration of human performance reliability (HPR)simply because its realistic value is evasive."

The Sun regrets the errors.

'Human Failure' Is Really System Failure

The inexcusable but unintended downing of two U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters by two U.S. fighter jets over northern Iraq last April and the resulting loss of life is a tragedy that escapes description.

The findings of the Pentagon panel assigned to investigate this inexcusable accident are now a matter of record, but these findings were also predictable months ago.

The report indicates that a compounding of tragic "human error," committed mainly by the U.S. Air Force, was primarily due to incompetence and a lack of appropriate training being provided to a number of Air Force organizational elements.

Now the investigation is likely to continue with the search for and punishment of scapegoats. This type of reporting and follow-up behavior is typical, but likewise unfortunate.

I submit that there is a component of this investigation that has not been, nor ever will be, addressed by any committee investigating a similar type blunder. Let me explain.

Persons who are systems-oriented understand that the term "human error" is, many times, a misused, misunderstood, proliferation.

Why? Because humans are an essential component of the system, in that the system will not function reliably without proper human performance and interaction.

Yet the report states that all systems, including the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system, functioned properly.

This naive observation is illusory, because the decision makers (those who oversee evaluation and decide that systems are to be procured and fielded for use) mostly make their decisions based upon hardware reliability (HPR), simply because its realistic value is evasive. They reason that with seemingly thorough and proper training, the human component of reliability will approach that of the hardware.

Unfortunately, such reasoning is fallacious, because with complex systems such as is involved in the U.N.'s Operation Provide Comfort, the human component of reliability of the system becomes increasingly critical resulting in a significant increase in the probability of system failure.

The reports are now being sent to the respective commanders of those crews directly involved in the accident and Defense Secretary William J. Perry pledges to take action to both ensure full accountability and that this type of accident is never again repeated.

Mr. Perry has noble endeavors, but his words are emotional rhetoric as are those of Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I have no doubt that all operational personnel involved in the tragedy continue to suffer immeasurably and will for the rest of their lives.

I would like to ease their pain somewhat by stating emphatically that numerous others are perhaps more responsible for the tragedy than those who ultimately will be held accountable.

They include: the tacticians who devised the command, control and communications (C3) system; the system reliability statisticians; those responsible for the training plan and the trainers; the doctrine people, the scenario modelers, and computer simulations; and those responsible for operational test and evaluation.

Most of these people don't even realize that they have contributed significantly to the tragedy in a passive sense.

At the expense of being branded a cynic, I feel compelled to state that this type of tragedy will be repeated in the future unless we begin to take stock of our tendency to avoid dealing realistically with the human component combined with our desire to fragment ourselves into bureaucratic specialization groups that don't speak to each other.

Sy Steinberg


The writer is a retired systems/aerospace/human factors engineer.


Let's see if I understand the Baltimore City Council's African-American Coalition and council Vice President Vera P. Hall correctly:

The major qualification of Iris Reeves to be comptroller is that she is a black female and should be in office because "voters elected a black woman" originally.

This logic does not seem quite right to me. What happened to having the best person for the job? The person most qualified to help the city of Baltimore?

If, in fact, Jacqueline McLean won the election to become comptroller because she is a black female, something is wrong with the voters of Baltimore.

I do not care what color or sex the new comptroller is, but to say it has to be a certain color and sex without looking at someone's qualifications is wrong.

Does the next mayor have to be a black male?

I have to wonder what would have happened if a councilperson had made the statement, "The next comptroller has to be a white male." How quickly would that person be labeled racist?

Robert Lewis


Syria Today

Samuel Norman in his euphoric description of Syria (letter, July 8) apparently has been unwilling or unable to look behind the facade of Hafez el Assad's repressive dictatorship.

Similar approval was given by many visitors to pre-war Nazi Germany, particularly during the 1936 Olympics, where the true face of his brutal regime was hidden from the visiting public.

Certainly, the massacre of 20,000 Syrians at Hama by the present regime invites comparison with past atrocities of autocratic rulers.

More important, the 1993 report from the U.S. State Department, Patterns of Global Terrorism 1992, gives a more accurate view of the Syrian dictatorship:

"Syria continues to provide support and safe haven to a number of groups that engage in international terrorism . . . Several radical groups maintain training camps or other facilities on Syrian territory. Ahmad Jabril's PFLP-GC, for example, has its headquarters near Damascus.

"In addition, areas of Lebanon's Bekaa Valley under Syria's control provide sanctuary for a wide variety of groups engaged in terrorism, including the PFLP-GC, Hezballah, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Abu Nidal organization and the Japanese Red Army."

These are the groups that have been responsible for the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina with 29 dead and 242 wounded, for the massacre of our Marines in Beirut and the later bombing of our embassy there and for the holding and killing of hostages taken in Lebanon including our own Lt. Col. William R. Higgins.

The Abu Nidal organization alone has been the culprit in over 70 terrorist attacks carried out in 20 countries that killed or injured over 900 people.

Certainly, this is a record to be examined with care when one contemplates a visit to Syria.

The benign face of a dictatorship toward tourists should not be confused with the real intent of such regimes.

As a matter of principle, Americans remembering our dead in Lebanon and the possible involvement of these terrorist groups in the bombing of Pan-Am 103 should avoid Syria like the plague.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring

Class Videos

In reading how, as a part of a prospective teacher's requirement,there would be videos of their teaching, I have a question. If they are teaching one of my children, did I previously sign a release form to have my child filmed?

When I step inside a 7-Eleven or a bank, I assume that I am being filmed and also that this fact is posted for my knowledge. If the public school system is filming our children, should this activity be posted and/or should release forms be supplied?

I do not think I personally would care to be under the camera's eye without prior knowledge, especially without knowing how these films would be used and if they are in the public domain, etc.

I foresee us having the media tabloids privy to Johnny and Janey Candidates' nose-picking in elementary school, note-passing in middle school and sleeping through classes in high school, and I wonder if this is in fact legal usage of a security system?

athryn Schultz


Pets and Restraint

I just read Louise T. Keelty's July 18 letter about the death of her cat at the hands (jaws?) of a neighborhood dog.

As a dog owner who had to have one of our pets humanely destroyed because of disease and old age, I can sympathize with her feeling of loss and sorrow.

As a dog owner who always has our dogs in a fenced yard or on a leash, I have nothing good to say about anyone who allows their pet to roam freely.

Unfortunately, this includes Ms. Keelty. Unrestrained cats relieve themselves in other people's yards, stalk and kill birds at bird feeders and attack baby rabbits and other small animals.

All pets should be restrained, if only as a courtesy to others.

Dennis W. Ford


Louise T. Keelty's lettter stated that her cat only strayed "about 100 yards." How in the world does she know how far this cat roamed?

Obviously she was not paying attention or she would have been able to protect her cat from being harmed by the dog.

She asked her neighbors in Homeland to leash their dogs, but she should have taken every care possible to keep her cat in the house or on a long leash.

Why does she assume that cats can roam free while dogs should be leashed?

Most dogs where I live are on leashes or are walked with their owners. I can't say the same for the owners of cats.

JTC My bushes are ruined, the cat odor is repulsive and when they scream at night it is impossible to sleep.

Let's be fair: Dogs should be leashed and cleaned up after, but so should cats.

A cat owner should have no special privileges. If you live in a community where there are other homes, you are responsible for the actions of your animals. If something happens to that pet, the blame should be placed on the owner.

Having a pet takes a lot more attention that most people realize. It is a shame that so many pets today are bought but not cared for.

Linda M. Hess


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