RUNNING CRITICAL: The Silent War, Rickover, and General Dynamics by Patrick Tyler

RUNNING CRITICAL: The Silent War, Rickover, and General Dynamics

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A Byzantine account of how the US Navy and General Dynamics (its ranking supplier) launched a nuclear submarine program that, among other calamities, produced one of the largest cost overruns on record. Newsman Tyler focuses on three leading characters: the late Adm. Hyman Rickover; David Lewis, former CEO of General Dynamics; and P. Takis Veliotis, general manager from 1977 to 1982 of GD's Electric Boat Division, which builds most of the Navy's subs. The author (byliner on the 1979 story that prompted Mobil Oil's William Tavoulareas and his son, Peter, to file a still-unresolved libel suit against The Washington Post) had exclusive interviews with all of the principals; he also gained access to prime sources of inside information, including tapes, diaries, and SEC documents. Marshalling his material in impressive fashion, Tyler creates a gripping narrative. He begins with the late 1960's when still-secret intelligence on Russia's underseas capabilities convinced Rickover that the US required a new class of subs built to his design. GD won the contract. The company had, however, bought in with the expectation of recovering learning-curve outlays down the line; in the interim, its problems were aggravated by Rickover's exacting de. rounds. Lewis, a stock-conscious aerospace man, recruited Veliotis to square things away. Soon realizing he had been assigned to a mission impossible, Veliotis began keeping logs and taping his phone calls. Eventually, the three became reluctant allies in a scheme to secure $1 billion in relief from the Navy. In time, the scandalous cover-up was exposed, leading to outcomes that shattered the lives of the leading players. Rickover was summarily retired by the Reagan Administration, while Lewis was effectively forced to resign. The past also caught up with Veliotis (who took big-money bribes while running another GD shipyard), and he fled to his native Greece, where he remains a fugitive. In brief, both a dismaying exposÉ of the military/industrial complex at its venal worst and a character-is-fate morality play.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1986
Publisher: Harper & Row