From a message posted to Baen's Bar Snerkers Only dated July 9, 2005:

Technical improvements in the Talbott Cluster

    Now, all the reasons for not building major navy shipyards in these areas don't mean that the various arguments in favor of injecting advanced technology, training opportunities, modern industry, jobs (and tax revenues), etc., into the Talbott Cluster and Silesia aren't entirely valid. They are completely valid. This, however, is not properly a function of the Royal Manticoran Navy at this particular time. Major naval bases, especially those which are also major construction nodes, are properly built up in peacetime. They are the quintessential long lead capital investments of the navy building them. They must have the maximum protection, they must be located in the proper strategic places, and they must be properly thought out and supplied with the competent labor force and resource accessibility which they require. It took the Republic of Haven, and the People's Republic of Haven, before it, years to build up Bolthole. Exactly where it is, and exactly what they had to do to bring the shipyards there fully online, isn't something I'm prepared to discuss at this point, but, trust me, this was an enormous undertaking, one which was probably at least as great a strain for the People's Republic as moving their entire tank production east of the Ural Mountains was for the Soviet Union during World War II.

    If you have any choice at all, this isn't something you do in the midst of active combat operations. Had the Manties broken the security screen around Bolthole, the logical thing for them to do would have been to wait until Bolthole was almost ready to go online, or at least until Bolthole's defenses were almost up and running, and then trash the place. Let the Peeps make their investment, bury years worth of resources in the project, and then smash it before they saw any return off of their investment. Grendelsbane, on the other hand, grew up almost accidentally over the course of decades, as the result of a long period of effectively peacetime investment in a facility which Manticore knew it was going to need later. That's a very different proposition from trying to do the same thing deliberately in the middle of a war for your very survival. The Havenites pulled it off, but only sort of. Remember that there was a three-year period of civil war in the Republic of Haven following the Theisman coup. That additional period of time post Operation Buttercup was critical to getting Bolthole up and running without ONI tumbling to it and without the Manticoran Eighth Fleet coming to call.

    What Manticore does have to do is to encourage the maximum possible investment in civilian infrastructure in both Silesia and the Talbott Cluster. They have to raise the basic technical capabilities and industrial strength of the systems involved. They have to get the training of the people who live there up to the same standards -- or, at least, a heck of a lot closer to the same standards -- as those which obtain in the "Old Star Kingdom." Once they have all of those pieces of the industrial/technological mosaic in place, they can put in military shipyards much more rapidly, relying upon locally trained labor forces, and with all of the assets and resources necessary already in place. All they'd have to do would be to send in a cadre of designers, managers, and technicians versed in purely naval applications to give the necessary guidance and to set up the training programs required to transform yard dogs already qualified for work in civilian yards into a naval shipyard workforce.

    However, the fact that it would make it possible at a later date to build naval yards more efficiently is secondary to the real reasons Manticore should be -- and will be -- encouraging civilian infrastructure growth in these areas.

    Essentially, the view of Queen Elizabeth and her government is that these new planets represent an enormous potential for the future, an enormous challenge for the present, and an enormous security headache for the Navy.

    The population and future industrial capacity of these new planets will hugely increase the overall power of the Star Kingdom. To make use of them, however, they have to be modernized, much as Grayson was modernized. And the best way to do that is to encourage civilian investment which will promote the training of indigenous labor forces, pump more money into local economies, provide local member planets with a stronger tax base to support things like education, and generally prime the pump by bringing in as many jobs as possible and simultaneously transplanting as much technology as possible into the region.

    In addition to that pragmatic consideration of advantage, however, the Star Kingdom, by accepting the annexation requests of the people living in the star systems in question, simultaneously accepted a moral responsibility to protect and enhance the quality of their lives. That moral responsibility is just as binding on Elizabeth and Willie Alexander as their responsibility to do the same things for Manticore, Sphinx, and Gryphon. Encouraging Manticoran investment in Talbott and Silesia -- which is what Willie's tax break policy is designed to do -- is the best way to discharge that moral responsibility. Without the presence in their star systems of wormhole junctions like that of the Manticore system, none of these newly annexed star systems are ever going to have the fortuitous combination of "natural resources" which makes the enormously high per capita income of the "Old Star Kingdom" possible. That's a given. But the next best thing is to provide all of the star systems with vibrant, vital domestic economies. You may not be able to make them all as individually rich as citizens of the original Star Kingdom, but by encouraging investment as strongly as possible, you can make all of them individually far, far richer than they ever were before. The fact that doing this will simultaneously increase the overall strength of your star nation, and add enormously to the "depth" of your military power, is almost serendipitous. It is, if you'll pardon me for borrowing a phrase, a case of "doing well by doing good."

    And there is another, far less altruistic reason to encourage civilian infrastructure growth as the means to jumpstart the economies of the Talbott Cluster and Silesia: security. For the foreseeable future, the security arrangements -- and I'm speaking here of "security" in the counter-intelligence sense, not in the sense of fighting off hostile fleets -- in the Cluster and in Silesia are going to be causing lots and lots of ulcers down to ONI's home offices. In Silesia, you're dealing with the leftovers of a crony capitalism kleptocracy. There are going to be a great many people who feel no special sense of loyalty to the Star Kingdom, and who see an opportunity to get richer than Croesus by flogging Manticoran military technology to the Sollies (or, while hostilities are still underway, to Haven, for that matter). The same problems are going to apply in Talbott, where people like Tonkovic and her fellow oligarchs are going to see the same opportunities and face the same temptations. It's certainly fair to argue that there are people in the "Old Star Kingdom" who are as inherently dishonest as anyone in Talbott or Silesia. However, that overlooks the fact that both Talbott and Silesia are new to the Manticoran system, without the institutional framework of long-standing loyalty and patriotism and, at least as importantly, without the same degree of penetration and coverage by Manticoran security personnel and agencies who are intimately familiar with the players in the societies in question. Before the Star Kingdom can feel confident in its security in these newly acquired star systems, it's going to have to fully integrate the existing intelligence agencies in those star systems with its own pre-existing intelligence and security services. Until that happens, it would be criminally negligent for them to be building highly sensitive hardware in those areas.

    However, while there are undoubtedly aspects of civilian technology which would also be highly valuable to other people, very little of it would pose a direct military threat to Manticore or Manticoran national security. Which means that promoting civilian investment and development is the best way to upgrade the economies, standards of living, and basic technological training and education of the Cluster and Silesia's populations without running the risk of potentially dangerous security breaches. By the time the local infrastructure is built up to the point of being ready to support major shipyard activity without the wholesale importation of technicians and workers needed equally desperately back in the Home System's existing shipyard capacity, the necessary groundwork ought to have been completed with the security agencies in these new regions. In addition, there will have been time for the local populations to develop the habit of thinking of themselves as not simply Manticoran subjects but as Manticoran citizens with the concrete, tangible evidence of how their lives -- and the lives of their children -- have been improved through their membership in the Star Kingdom.

    So that's my thinking on the subject, and since I have just a teeny tiny bit of an inside track on how the Manticorans are thinking about it [;-)], I'll bet you that I'm pretty close to getting it right.