Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Book Review: Simple Sabotage Field Manual #3 - Revisiting a WWII Classic

I have just done a temporary relocation from FEMA region III to FEMA region IV. Route 95 has well earned the nickname “the iron pipeline” from the sheer volume of traffic. It also provided an ample opportunity to mull over some topics that I might better develop in writing to interest you, the readership here at www.stopshouting.blogspot.com.

There is a worn path already on working within the “system”. Many of us realize that we are not “bugging out” anywhere for a variety of reasons. We also realize that we can at least exercise our inner sense of wit to maintain our human dignity. We understand that our mortal enemies (in whatever form they may take), in fighting against individual liberty and justice have taught us much of their craft by being so long at the task. I realize that it is at times not obvious, but it is nonetheless true. You may find some materials on this line of operation at Kit Lange's “Order of the White Rose” http://www.whiterose.us/
Long before most readers here were born, the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency was the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). They were a bit less constrained for a variety of reasons, but understand that they recruited some serious talent. One document that the OSS produced hit a chord with me, as you may see if you read YTZ4Mee's “Rules for Liberty Guerrillasand "Acts of Political Resistance". The document is none other than the classically irreverent and highly subversive “SIMPLE SABOTAGE FIELD MANUAL, Strategic Services FieldManual No.3” Little known within the liberty blogosphere, it is well worth your time to read its brevity.

I'd download a copy while you can. There may be a practical application test later, graded “pass/fail”.

Amazon Purchase Link for Simple Sabotage Field Manual: Office of Strategic Services,  17 January 1944

The manual is dated 17 January 1944, a time where the outcome of the war was a foregone conclusion to those in the inner circle of Washington. D-Day preparation and planning was underway, the Manhattan Project was in full swing. Production of war materiel had gone logarithmic. It was all a function of time.

The manual is interesting as a snapshot in time, but our world operates in many ways different than 1944. So, the meat of this document starts on page 28 and is titled “General Interference with Organizations and Production”. The authors must have had a sense to save the best for last. I say best for the following reason - bureaucratic friction scales well. Much like a written book scales in that the work is done once, and the sales are not dependent upon re-writing, just selling. That is what I mean by scaling, where x amount of input does not yield x for output, but every extra output gets progressively cheaper. The quaint mechanical destruction and sabotage is in many ways pointless, if not outright dangerous and I do not encourage it. Bureaucratic sluggishness is timeless, and no one can make a distinction between legitimate and subversive acts, so long as you are earnest in your enthusiasms.

Now that you are oriented on the subject matter that I find fascinating, let us look at a few examples and consider how this is any different than the actual functioning of any bureaucracy in your life. Some of the topics are antiquated or of little interest, so I present to you an abbreviated list and commentary of this brief yet momentous chapter of Manual No. 3:

Organizations & Conferences
1-Insist on doing everything through channels...
We all have worked for hyper efficient types, the “by the books” type of Officer or manager. The intent they have is clear, to avoid circumventing any part of the organizational line and block chart. Is their insistence efficiency and good stewardship, or are they secretly subverting the aims of the organization? I found myself asking that after reading manual No.3 and sitting in mandatory meetings of “all hands” on militarily useless topics.

2-Make “speeches”, fill silences with endless jibberish.
You may know the type. The flow of conversation disappears when they enter a room. It is as if they show dominance by blotting out all other competing sounds with what feels almost like a stream of consciousness of buzzwords and issues of the day. I have seen this several times, nothing productive ever comes of it. Again, are they sabouteurs, or mere self promoters? Perhaps both?

3-When possible, refer all matters to committees.
Look at your own organization or work situation. How many committees are there? What is it they do, exactly?

4-Bring up irrelevant issues frequently.
This is most any meeting, ever, in the Pentagon. Usually one per meeting, the guy seems to not have gotten the memo... or is he actively subverting the meeting? Time stands still for no one, least of all in meetings, as there is always another meeting to get to. This drives out the real purpose for at least a brief time.

5-Haggle over precise wording.
How many times have you seen this in practice? The end goal, from what I can tell, is for the lead person to send back text and comments for rework several times, finally accepting something that they can put someone else on the hook for. This is why you see so much vagueness emit from the Pentagon. It is preserving room for action/interpretation at the top.

6-Refer back to matters decided on, attempt to re open.
There always seems to be new information that compels this. This is always going on in contracting, and challenges to bids awarded. The average program now takes over 20 years from inception to fielding. Is this process, or subversion?

7-Advocate “caution”.
Seriously... this is the undercurrent of everything, from “wrap that rascal”, to wear your seatbelt, to snap breathalyzer tests and frisking for classified information. Think I'm kidding? That was the environment I left behind when I retired.

8-Be worried about the propriety of any decision.
This causes delay as common sense is derailed in favor of calling the Inspector General, the Judge Advocate or even a Congresscritter. If you are insufficiently cowed in this, you will see the spectacle of 1 star General Officers personally visiting you from the opposite coast over low field grade personnel issues. Think I'm kidding? I wish I was.

Managers & Supervisors

1-Demand written orders.
You go ahead and do that. See what you get when you ask them to put it in writing. You will see the truth of the matter. A stealth way to do this is to incrementally ask clarification on points as they emerge via email. If they answer verbally, reaffirm their advice/direction via another email.

2-Misunderstand orders, ask endless questions.
This is inevitable, even with high general technical (GT) score audiences. The convoluted nature of much of the work will necessitate it. 
9-When training new workers, give incomplete or misleading instruction
The practice of creating “desktop procedures”, a mini manual to do your job by is a constant companion with new billets. Read the outgoing officer's compiled notes (he did leave one, right?) and then start making a new version. Inevitably, job responsibilities change, programs and systems change. Again, did the outgoing guy leave you a notebook with all the hidden, trial and error stuff? Points of contact? No? Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

11-Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
Your weekly meeting is important...why?

12-Multiply paperwork in plausible ways, start duplicate files.
This is a no-brainer.

13-Multiply procedures and clearances involved in giving instructions.
This is especially the case in user manuals for complex end items like tactical aircraft, where lives are on the line. This is for good reason. When you look at the “chop chain” on a routing sheet for even innocuous paperwork, you will wonder if they are saboteurs, or merely stupid.

14-Apply all regulations to the last letter.
This rapidly becomes impractical for any organization. See the follies of the previous Secretary of State and classified emails. This is the perfect example of “all animals are equal, some are more equal than others”. Until you get the lateral “promotion” out of that job, applying all regulations to the last letter will go a long way to bringing any organization to a halt. It is far more deeply felt than any spanner in the works.

Office Workers

2-Prolong correspondence with government bureaus.
This technique is actually quite useful. While corresponding with government agencies is demeaning and time consuming, think of the success when they stop replying to you. Every reply they make costs them time and effort. Many such requests can occupy the entire mind and day of a bureaucrat. This is especially involved if you are a resident of a state that does not have an income tax and you are stationed in a place that does. Especially if they have a budget shortfall. Make them want you to go away, not the other way around. Stay obsequiously pleasant. Keep all correspondence for later.

3-Misfile essential documents.
This happens all the time now. Ask yourself if the “OPM Hack” by Chinese subcontractors was intentional, or unintentional. There is no real way to tell the difference anymore. 20 million or so full SF-86 records were compromised... no telling what the end game will be on that one. Consider as well the amount of personally identifiable information that Leviathan flat out loses of yours every year. Who is sabotaging whom?


1-Work slowly.
This is self explanatory. Government is full of civil servants. Have you known any to get fired for being slow? Are they sabotaging you in doing so, or just ensuring a fat retirement after a life of working as a slow motion automaton?

2-Contrive interruptions.
No need for this, as offices are designed for maximum interruption. You may even be asked by your manager to solve intractable personnel issues of which you have no training or statutory authority to fix. Written job description? Really?

4-Pretend instructions are hard to understand, ask for repetition.
No need. You will be asked to work on software or projects in a capacity that you have no training for, with nothing other than informal instruction. There is no budget to hire the right person, or to send you to school to learn from real instructors. No need to pretend at all.

General Devices for Lowering morale and Creating Confusion

1-Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.
The examples in life are too numerous to list. If you have more than a few years in any job, you will see this in action. Some people feel compelled to put forth a word salad, making up for incomprehensibility with sheer volume. Sometimes they mix it up by doing this AND speaking rapidly.

2-Report imaginary threats.
Consider what “see something, say something” actually means. I reported actual gunfire behind my house and was met with a mere “would you like an officer to speak with you?” after they asked how I knew it was REAL gunfire. Thanks, local police department. I am SO motivated to report anything to you, now.

4- Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting into trouble.
This technique is seen daily. This aggressive technique is a form of bullying, as people tend to not want to deal with them, AND it loads their work onto others.

5-Misunderstand all sorts of regulations.
I have seen this in action.  A good way to use admin judo against this tactic is to refer it up to the Inspector General for “clarification”. That slows the process down AND allows the admin judo artist to rely upon the infallible word and interpretation of the IG.

9-Cry and sob hysterically at every occasion when dealing with government clerks.
I like this one, but learned it too late. Maybe I should have taken drama in College.

10-Boycott anything connected to quisling authorities.
Really, your presence is a form of approval. Withhold your pure essence.

Amazon Purchase Link for Simple Sabotage Field Manual: Office of Strategic Services,  17 January 1944

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please keep doing these reviews. Still digesting Phantom Soldier.