From a post to davidweber.net on April 13, 2010

The impact of Oyster Bay on Manticoran and Grayson industry

        First of all, I'm not going to paint myself into any corners. I mean, give me a break, guys! Mission has just been through the final copy edit/page proof process, and I haven't even started on the sequel yet, so while I have the basics pretty well nailed down, I reserve the right to make any changes I decide I need to make as I go along with the story.

        Having said that, let's see if I understand the question. Apparently people are beginning to think that "Oyster Bay was merely a setback" because of all of the enormous Allied support potentially present. Odd, I hadn't noticed a great deal of that lying around.

        As I understand it, some people have asked about Klaus Hauptman's Unicorn Belt facilities. First, the Unicorn Belt facilities in question were virtually all extraction processes, not fabricating or manufacturing processes, and if the reader will recall, when assessing the results of Oyster Bay for Queen Elizabeth in Mission, someone (I believe it was Hamish Alexander-Harrington) pointed out that the extractive facilities in the main system hadn't been damaged. If, on the other hand, the suggestion being made is that Hauptman has/had manufacturing facilities available in the Gryphon/Manticore B vicinity and that these are still in existence and available to take up the slack, again, no joy. The manufacturing capacity -- Hauptman's or anybody else's -- associated with Gryphon was also associated with the major space station which was destroyed. Any "dispersed yard" capability, whether it was being used to build warships or freighters, received the same attention as any other dispersed yard, whether it belonged officially to the government or to one of the civilian cartels.

        The notion that Grayson will "just reload" because of the orbital civilian works/yards close to the planet, while attractive, would depend on certain facts which, unfortunately, just ain't so. The orbital shipyards Grayson possessed prior to joining the Manticoran Alliance were of severely limited capacity. Remember how tiny their fleet was. The workforce was large compared to a Manticoran workforce of the same level of productivity, which did give them a significant base of trained manpower to retrain onto the new technology, and most of the initial infusion of Manticoran tech support did go into the existing yards. However, the actual facilities themselves were sadly obsolescent. Indeed, they were so obsolescent that "upgrading them" would have amounted to a complete rebuild, which was the primary reason Grayson began using dispersed yard technology in the first place rather than copying Manticoran practice. When the Blackbird Yard was established, it was put where it was specifically to locate it closer to the asteroid belt extractive industries for greater efficiency. A secondary consideration, however, was that putting the primary industrial node -- and especially the primary naval shipbuilding node -- well away from Grayson would separate it from the orbital habitats as a safety measure in case an attack did get through to the system infrastructure. (Remember what happened in Flag in Exile. The Graysons have a tendency to actually learn from experience.) Once Honor and Hauptman invested in building the initial core for the Blackbird Yard, it became a natural magnet and most of the advanced "heavy industry" of the star system moved out to Blackbird. Therefore, when Blackbird got hammered, so did most of Grayson's military industrial complex. They have a little bit more left closer to Grayson that may be convertible to military purposes, but the combined total capacity of Grayson's close planetary industry probably doesn't exceed what's already available to the Star Empire from its own mobile repair and support ships.

        Sidemore Station may be of some minor assistance, but it's not going to provide any kind of major infusion of advanced technological capability. Neither is the Manticoran portion of the Silesian Confederacy. Sidemore doesn't have the size/capacity to be of any significant assistance to something as far away as the Manticore Binary System. Remember that they were basically starting from scratch following Honor Among Enemies and that the last time we checked in on them they certainly weren't going to be building any superdreadnoughts for anyone. They were beginning to build freighters and light and medium combatants, not ships-of-the-wall. For that matter, they don't have first-line Manticoran technological capacity to begin with. Their tech base is a lot higher than it used to be, and they do have the base servicing facilities that Manticore put in when they were using the system as a naval base, but that doesn't begin to equate to the ability to manufacture sophisticated components -- and/or especially Apollo control missiles -- at Sidemore. And what they don't have the capacity to build there, they don't have the capacity to help rebuild elsewhere.

        The last point that you mentioned in your letter to Gena was the Talbott system, about which you said "supposedly they'll cheerfully sign up now that Manticore and Haven are buddies." I'm assuming that what you actually meant in this instance was Erewhon.

        Erewhon is in a sort of technological no man's land between what Manticore had at the beginning of the current war and what Haven currently has. If you go back and look at what Erewhon is building for our friends in the Maya Sector, you'll see that they are still some distance away from being able to produce the current Manticoran technology, and their overall industrial capacity was very, very limited compared to that of the Star Empire. The capacity that they've been establishing in their home system in cahoots with Governor Barregos and Luiz Rozsak has required enormous investment, isn't very mobile, is still in the process of being put together, depends on a gradually expanding force of trained workers, and is intended to produce ships and weapons in Erewhon, not to help rebuild a shattered industrial infrastructure as far away as Manticore. Essentially, Erewhon can build additional ships; it's not going to be in any position to start building advanced munitions (that is, "advanced" by Manticoran standards) anytime soon. What Erewhon has available in terms of mobile repair ships and that sort of thing is very, very, very limited compared to what a major naval and commercial power like Manticore already has available out of its own internal resources, and what isn't mobile is going to be stuck in Erewhon.

        From the way you phrased your note, it sounds to me as if people are looking in some of the wrong places in terms of what they believe is going to be necessary to get Manticore back to where it was before Oyster Bay.

        Oyster Bay destroyed two basic areas of Manticoran capability. (1) The physical plant in which the necessary components, structural units, electronic systems, and munitions were produced and (2) the workforce which did the producing.

        Taking those two points in order, starting with (1).

        The physical plant in question was the most advanced in the galaxy. Think of it as having the best automation, the best cybernetic support, the best nanotech, etc. Nobody else, with the near exception of Grayson, had that level of sheer physical productivity. The best historical example I could come up with, I suppose, would be the difference between British industry and US industry in the period of World War II and the immediate postwar era. Going into World War I, one could certainly argue that the British industrial sector was the most advanced and productive in the entire world -- or, for that matter, in the entire history of mankind to that point. As the effective home of the Industrial Revolution, at the outbreak of World War I Britain's only real rival for productivity was probably Germany, and even Germany simply could not match the speed at which Britain could do things like building warships. It wasn't just the competing expense of the Army which prevented the Imperial German Navy from being as large as the Royal Navy; it was also the difference in building times.

        However, Britain's World War I industrial plant represented mature levels of the technology available at the time. In fact, it was already becoming obsolescent, and in the aftermath of the war, the combination of emerging competing industries in other nations and the economic conditions of the 1920s and 1930s prevented significant modernization. Then along came World War II. In the course of World War II, US industry enormously expanded its capacity in a fashion Britain was simply unable to match, and that held true both in terms of sheer scale of industrial plant and the modernity of the technology itself. That didn't mean Britain was "scientifically" lagging behind the United States or that Britain had suddenly become backward. It simply meant that with the stimulus of World War II under its belt, the US had established a new benchmark in industrial power. Arguably, the US has been coping with some of the same problems Britain faced in the period after World War I in that other nations have been coming up with better ways to do things than those in which the United States has invested so much money and time since World War II.

        The situation vis-à-vis Manticoran industry isn't an exact fit for the above analogy, of course. In particular, during the interwar years, World War II, and the immediate post-World War II era, both Britain and the United States were basically talking about "smokestack" industries. Heavy industry, steel production, shipbuilding, etc. The traditional sinews of industry, if you will. Sixty or seventy years later, we're looking at an entirely different and still rapidly changing industrial "paradigm." (I hate the word "paradigm" and how it's been overused, but in this case I think it's the best word available. Rats.)

        Manticore started the run up to the Havenite wars with technology that was as good as that of anyone else in the galaxy and a heck of a lot of money. What was destroyed in Oyster Bay represented, effectively, something like six decades of infrastructure development and improvement. It wasn't just the scale of Manticoran industry that put it ahead of everyone else; it was also the superiority of technique, of methodology, and of general tech level. The only other star nation in the galaxy whose physical plant included the very best of Manticoran practice and technology was Grayson, which had taken the best Manticore had to offer at the time it joined the Alliance, had participated fully in Manticoran R&D from that point on, and had brought its own innovations to the table (many of which had been adopted by their Manticoran "mentors," thus producing a synergistic effect for both star nations).

        Now, assuming the "blueprints" are still available, it doesn't necessarily require Manticoran or Grayson hardware to build (or rebuild) the Manticoran or Grayson hardware destroyed in Oyster Bay. The Manties and the Graysons built what they've lost from a significantly lower starting point themselves, after all. However, to replicate what Manticore and Grayson have lost will require a step beyond the "smokestack industries" the rest of the explored galaxy has brought to a high level of perfection into that "next paradigm" which Manticore and Grayson enshrined prior to Oyster Bay. Moreover, some of the capabilities Manticore and Grayson possessed depended as much on the quality of the societies involved as on any physical plant. It depended on societies which rewarded innovation, which placed an extraordinarily high value on constantly looking for and finding new and better ways to do things, and which were highly motivated for very lengthy periods of time (decades for the Manties; centuries for the Graysons) by external threats.

        Which brings us to point (2) about what Oyster Bay destroyed.

        It destroyed the Manticoran and Grayson workforces. We're not just talking about welders or riveters or machinists. We're talking about cyberneticists, nano technicians, and managerial personnel. We're talking about efficiency engineers. We're talking about trained supervisors. We're talking about the "geeks" as well as the sweaty, musclebound construction gangs. And we're talking about the only people in the entire galaxy who understood how to rebuild and replace everything that was just destroyed. We're talking about the people who were there as hands-on participants in the 60-year-long development and building process which took Manticore and Grayson to the level they had attained. It's as if instead of destroying obsolete battleships at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese had somehow managed to blow up every manufacturing plant in the continental United States and kill the entire workforce from every one of those plants. The steel mills are still there. The coal mines and the oil wells, the iron mines and the farms, but Ford, GM, the New York Navy Yard, Bethlehem Steel's shipbuilding facilities, Northrop, Grumman, North American, Boeing -- all of them and their competitors -- and everyone who worked in their plants are simply… gone. And the only way to reconstitute the capacity that's been lost is to regenerate the slaughtered workforce as well as the physical plant.

        Obviously, some of that workforce can be regenerated internally, but does anyone really think the replacement personnel are going to be anywhere near as experienced and qualified as people (don't forget that they're prolong recipients) who have spent as much as a half-century (or more) learning to do what they did better than anyone else in the world? And to continue with our Japan/US model from above, any assistance the US may receive has to cross either the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean… in an era before transatlantic flight became possible.

        I'm not saying Manticore can't rebuild. I'm not saying Manticore may not discover that some of its basic assumptions were unduly pessimistic. I am saying that Manticore faces a horrendous task and that the ability of Sidemore, Grayson, Haven, Erewhon, or the Andermani to ship in the kind of trained workers and physical hardware to make it into "only a setback" is minute.