The Death Star Gets Audited: “What A Piece of Junk”

Even institutions as large as the Galactic Empire from the Star Wars universe must have oversight boards to make sure budgets are set and spending stays in line. Michael Peck drafted a letter for Foreign Policy addressed to “Lord Vader” and the “Imperial Navy” from the “Imperial Government Accountability Office” concerning the lack of project management and oversight surrounding the Death Star. The audit was performed at the request of Emperor Palpatine and was compiled from research from “numerous interviews with Imperial Navy leaders as well as Imperial Ministry of War senior executives.”

The letter has some concerns, and some recommendations, excerpted below.

Frequent Turnover in Senior Personnel Hampers Continuity. Competent management is key to a project as large as the construction of a moon-sized warship. Yet the unfortunate deaths of the last five Imperial admirals in charge of the Death Star project have contributed to a lack of continuity and institutional memory. We estimate that repeated asphyxiation of project managers has set back construction of the PCS by 16 months. Senior Imperial Navy leadership informs us that there have been difficulties in recruitment of qualified candidates, with several promising officers suddenly requesting early retirement when queried about becoming project leaders. Recommendation: Motivating project leaders through incentives such as cash bonuses, slaves, and land grants on habitable worlds. A reduction in the use of strangulation as a motivational tool.”

Inadequate Reactor Shielding Has Not Been Mitigated. The Death Star is sufficiently armored to withstand repeated hits from the full Rebel battle fleet. However, the thermal exhaust port of the PCS’s main reactor is not armored, and the shaft to the reactor is not compartmentalized to deflect blast effects. During our interviews with experienced TIE fighter pilots, they unanimously agreed that the port is so narrow that no fighter—not even one flying down the approach trench—could obtain a sufficient firing angle, especially when attacking craft would be under continuous fire from shipboard weapons and interceptors. The prime contractor, Darkside Technologies, also assures us that the reactor is sufficiently shielded to withstand a hit from a proton torpedo. We reiterate the concerns stated in our previous report regarding the validity of the contractor’s testing of reactor protection, and we remain concerned that penetration of the port could result in a catastrophic explosion of the main reactor. Recommendation: A permeable barrier over the port to allow heat to escape while deflecting projectiles, as well as compartmentalization to channel blast effects. Independent third-party validation of Darkside Technologies’ testing of reactor shielding.

Inadequate Marksmanship Training Has Not Been Addressed. Stormtrooper Command (STORMCOM) requires all troops to receive extensive blaster training. Yet our audit of their marksmanship tests finds that 70 percent of stormtroopers cannot hit a large stationary object, such as a ship, at a distance of 10 feet. This calls into question the ability of the Death Star crew to repel boarders. Recommendation: More rigorous marksmanship training. Increased use of guard bots.

Insufficient Analysis of Alternatives to Death Star. While tests indicate that the Death Star can vaporize planets and thus encourage loyalty to beneficial Imperial rule, the Imperial Navy has not demonstrated that a fleet of Star Destroyers cannot effectively accomplish the same mission through devastation of a planet’s surface at far less cost. Recommendation: Further modeling and simulation is needed to determine whether conventional ships can perform the same Imperial loyalty mission as the Death Star.

Lord Vader responded to the audit in simple Vader style: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”


Read the full letter on Foreign Policy

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