Augustine's laws

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Augustine's laws were a series of tongue in cheek aphorisms put forth by Norman Ralph Augustine, an American aerospace businessman who served as Under Secretary of the Army from 1975 to 1977. In 1984 he published his laws.[1] The book and several of the laws were the topic of an article in Sound and Vibration magazine in March 2012.[2]


  1. The best way to make a silk purse from a sow's ear is to begin with a silk sow. The same is true of money.
  2. If today were half as good as tomorrow is supposed to be, it would probably be twice as good as yesterday was.
  3. There are no lazy veteran lion hunters.
  4. If you can afford to advertise, you don't need to.
  5. One-tenth of the participants produce over one-third of the output. Increasing the number of participants merely reduces the average output.
  6. A hungry dog hunts best. A hungrier dog hunts even better.
  7. Decreased business base increases overhead. So does increased business base.
  8. The most unsuccessful four years in the education of a cost-estimator is fifth grade arithmetic.
  9. Acronyms and abbreviations should be used to the maximum extent possible to make trivial ideas profound...Q.E.D.
  10. Bulls do not win bullfights; people do. People do not win people fights; lawyers do.
  11. If the Earth could be made to rotate twice as fast, managers would get twice as much done. If the Earth could be made to rotate twenty times as fast, everyone else would get twice as much done since all the managers would fly off.
  12. It costs a lot to build bad products.
  13. There are many highly successful businesses in the United States. There are also many highly paid executives. The policy is not to intermingle the two.
  14. After the year 2015, there will be no airplane crashes. There will be no takeoffs either, because electronics will occupy 100 percent of every airplane's weight.
  15. The last 10 percent of performance generates one-third of the cost and two-thirds of the problems.
  16. In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3-1/2 days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.
  17. Software is like entropy. It is difficult to grasp, weighs nothing, and obeys the Second Law of Thermodynamics; i.e., it always increases.
  18. It is very expensive to achieve high unreliability. It is not uncommon to increase the cost of an item by a factor of ten for each factor of ten degradation accomplished.
  19. Although most products will soon be too costly to purchase, there will be a thriving market in the sale of books on how to fix them.
  20. In any given year, Congress will appropriate the amount of funding approved the prior year plus three-fourths of whatever change the administration requests, minus 4-percent tax.
  21. It's easy to get a loan unless you need it.
  22. If stock market experts were so expert, they would be buying stock, not selling advice.
  23. Any task can be completed in only one-third more time than is currently estimated.
  24. The only thing more costly than stretching the schedule of an established project is accelerating it, which is itself the most costly action known to man.
  25. A revised schedule is to business what a new season is to an athlete or a new canvas to an artist.
  26. If a sufficient number of management layers are superimposed on each other, it can be assured that disaster is not left to chance.
  27. Rank does not intimidate hardware. Neither does the lack of rank.
  28. It is better to be the reorganizer than the reorganizee.
  29. Executives who do not produce successful results hold on to their jobs only about five years. Those who produce effective results hang on about half a decade.
  30. By the time the people asking the questions are ready for the answers, the people doing the work have lost track of the questions.
  31. The optimum committee has no members.
  32. Hiring consultants to conduct studies can be an excellent means of turning problems into gold, your problems into their gold.
  33. Fools rush in where incumbents fear to tread.
  34. The process of competitively selecting contractors to perform work is based on a system of rewards and penalties, all distributed randomly.
  35. The weaker the data available upon which to base one's conclusion, the greater the precision which should be quoted in order to give the data authenticity.
  36. The thickness of the proposal required to win a multimillion dollar contract is about one millimeter per million dollars. If all the proposals conforming to this standard were piled on top of each other at the bottom of the Grand Canyon it would probably be a good idea.
  37. Ninety percent of the time things will turn out worse than you expect. The other 10 percent of the time you had no right to expect so much.
  38. The early bird gets the worm. The early worm...gets eaten.
  39. Never promise to complete any project within six months of the end of the year, in either direction.
  40. Most projects start out slowly, and then sort of taper off.
  41. The more one produces, the less one gets.
  42. Simple systems are not feasible because they require infinite testing.
  43. Hardware works best when it matters the least.
  44. Aircraft flight in the 21st century will always be in a westerly direction, preferably supersonic, crossing time zones to provide the additional hours needed to fix the broken electronics.
  45. One should expect that the expected can be prevented, but the unexpected should have been expected.
  46. A billion saved is a billion earned.
  47. Two-thirds of the Earth's surface is covered with water. The other third is covered with auditors from headquarters.
  48. The more time you spend talking about what you have been doing, the less time you have to spend doing what you have been talking about. Eventually, you spend more and more time talking about less and less until finally you spend all your time talking about nothing.
  49. Regulations grow at the same rate as weeds.
  50. The average regulation has a life span one-fifth as long as a chimpanzee's and one-tenth as long as a human's, but four times as long as the official's who created it.
  51. By the time of the United States Tricentennial, there will be more government workers than there are workers.
  52. People working in the private sector should try to save money. There remains the possibility that it may someday be valuable again.

Law 16[edit]

Exponential growth of aircraft cost.

His most cited law is number 16, which shows that defense budgets grow linearly but the unit cost of a new military aircraft grows exponentially:

In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one tactical aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3½ days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day."[3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Augustine Laws". United Press International. May 24, 1986. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  2. ^ David O. Smallwood (March 2012). "Augustine Laws Revisited" (PDF). Sound & Vibration Magazine. Retrieved 2012-09-02.
  3. ^ Norman Ralph Augustine (1984). Augustine's Laws. ISBN 978-1-56347-240-4. In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one tactical aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3½ days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.
  4. ^ "Defense spending in a time of austerity". The Economist. August 26, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-31. In a book published in 1983, Norman Augustine, a luminary of the aerospace industry, drafted a series of lighthearted 'laws'. In one aphorism, he plotted the exponential growth of unit cost for fighter aircraft since 1910, and extrapolated it to its absurd conclusion ... Nearly three decades on, Mr Augustine says, "we are right on target.