It is not just big weapons that attract the vigilance of the Pentagon's bureaucracy. Consider MIL-W-1053F, otherwise known as a plastic whistle.
For contractors eager to supply whistles to the drill instructors and military police of the U.S. war machine, the Defense Logistics Agency provides 16 pages of single-spaced instructions.
The specifications dictate everything from the size of the little cork ball inside the whistle ("spherical in shape with a diameter of 0.510 plus or minus 0.015 inch") to the authorized tissue wrapping paper ("conforming to type I, class 1 or 2 of UU-P-553").
Page 5, Section 3.8, for example, offers this prescription for performance:
The whistle shall be capable of emitting an audible characteristic sound when blown by the mouth with medium or high breath pressure. The center line of the air passage shall be tangent to the 13/32 inch radius for the solid construction whistle and to the 7/16 inch radius for the split construction whistle of the inner chamber so that when the whistle is overblown, the ball shall continue to rotate and the whistle shall show no reduction or cessation in sound or marked change in pitch.
Note: Overblown is defined as when the breath pressure is increased to maximum, as under excitement, so as to produce a higher pitch than the fundamental tone.
Brig. Gen. Chuck Adsit, chief of staff for the logistics agency, said the Defense Department seeks to keep specifications simple. But because the government normally must award contracts to the lowest bidder, he said, requirements have to be clearly spelled out.
"You have to have something that defines what you want, otherwise you get junk," Adsit added. "You're kind of bound to have a document that you can hold a guy to."
Page 3, Section 3.1.3, prescribes this for the whistle string, known to the Pentagon as a lanyard:
The lanyard shall be made from cotton tubular braid conforming to type IV, class 1 of MIL-B-371 except that the braid shall meet the requirements and be tested for breaking strength and good fastness to wet crocking and laundering (three cycles) only. The color of the braid shall approximate Black 174. The braid shall be not less than 37 inches long. The ends shall be either resin dipped or tipped a minimum of 1/2 inch to prevent fraying. When the ends are tipped, the tips shall be dark gray or black.
The whistle specifications have been overhauled twice since 1966, with the most recent revision reducing the document from 17 pages to 16 in 1979. Since 1982, Pentagon whistles, which cost about 35 cents each, have been made by blind workers under a government program that sets aside certain contracts for the physically or mentally handicapped. The most recent purchase was in December 1983 for 294,000 whistles.
Col. Robert J. O'Brien, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, said the whistle specifications were particularly explicit because the blind workers "need a lot more detailed specifications to make anything." But other officials said the specifications pre-date the contract.
Page 12, section 126.96.36.199, explains that after wrapping each whistle in tissue, the manufacturer must see to the "intermediate packing":
Twenty-five whistles of one type only shall be packed in a folding paperboard box conforming to variety 1, style III, type G, class i, sub-class 1, of PPP-B-566, or in a setup paperboard box conforming to type I, variety 1, class A, style 4 of PPP-B-676.
Unit pack shall be arranged five in length, five in width and one in depth within an intermediate box. Inside dimensions of each paperboard box shall approximate 12 1/2 inches in length, 6 1/4 inches in width and 1 inch in depth. The box closure shall be secured with 2-inch minimum width gummed paper tape conforming to type III, grade B of PPP-T-45 applied at the center of the length opening and extending along the bottom and up each side at least 1/2 inch.
Finally, ever eager to improve, the U.S. Army Natick Research and Development Command in Massachusetts includes a note soliciting "beneficial comments (recommendations, additions, deletions)." Any suggestions, of course, should use Standarization Document Improvement Proposal (DD Form 1426).