The Value of Congressional Influence

Upon reporting to the Boston Naval Shipyard on 3 August 1954 I was assigned as one of the five Assistant Planning and Estimating Superintendents who performed liaison between the yard and its customers regarding funding, work authorizations, and the issuance of job orders prepared by civilian planners and estimators. The other assistants had cognizance of important-sounding categories such as the construction and conversion of ships or the overhaul of cruisers, destroyers, and auxiliary ships.

As the newcomer, the category assigned to me included every odd thing that was not in the aforementioned categories. Perhaps because I had to deal with a multiplicity of odd projects I interacted with more of the civilian planners and estimators, mostly Boston Irish, and their extraordinary boss who was absolutely Boston Irish. Further, my insight was honed because I car pooled with one of the best of them.

As events disclosed in early 1955 the Commander of the Boston Naval Shipyard wasn’t in on the secret. If the Planning Officer knew that the civilian side of the yard’s dual-management hierarchy regularly maintained the 40-foot cabin cruiser that belonged to the local sea-scout unit of the Boy Scouts of America, he wouldn’t admit it. The cost of such work was buried in charges for overhauls of Navy warships.

The services included winter storage. Every year the boat was lifted out of the water and berthed on blocks at an inconspicuous site in the Yard’s South Boston Annex. When the neophyte sailors sunk their boat alongside the dam that is located where the Charles River meets Boston Harbor, a Navy tug and floating crane were sent to salvage it. According to the financial records, no such work was ever performed. In Navy parlance all was cumshawed.

On what turned out to be a fateful day Congresswoman Edith Norse Rogers sat next to the scout leader during a commemorative dinner of some kind. After a bit of make-conversation chitchat, Miss Rogers asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Suddenly overwhelmed by what powerful political representation could achieve beyond the benefits already being received, the scout leader must have had a vision of his unit’s cabin cruiser being converted into a palatial yacht at the Navy’s expense. He asked that the member of Congress put in a good word for the sea scouts with the Shipyard Commander. In Boston at that time, a good word from the right politician normally achieved wonders.

As an assistant planning and estimating superintendent my mixed bag of responsibilities included insuring that certain prerequisites were in place when other than Navy organizations requested shipyard services. Thus when the congresswoman put in a good word for the sea scouts its impact trickled down to me. Forewarned, I grabbed a copy of the pertinent Chief of Naval Operations instruction before accompanying the Planning Officer to meet with the Shipyard Commander. The latter’s demeanor was that of an executive who was tackling his most-important challenge. He wanted to know what regulations applied.

On cue I advised that according to the instruction the Shipyard should not accept such work if it could be performed by local commercial yards. Concern registered on the Shipyard Commander’s face, but since the scouts had Miss Rogers’ blessing he decided that he had better overlook that requirement.

I then said that the instruction required the Yard to estimate the work and obtain a certified check for the estimated amount from a prospective customer before work started. I also advised that during the progression of work, if the charges threatened to exceed the estimate, the instruction required that the work be suspended until the customer provided a supplemental certified check to cover the revised estimate.


The Shipyard Commander then advised that he wanted to be informed whenever the sea scouts requested assistance. In a manner that indicated that he expected the congresswoman to be especially pleased, he added that he wanted to personally insure expeditious estimating and, upon receipt of each certified check, issue of job orders, and work progress.

Thus, for the first time in the history of the Boston Naval Shipyard, because of congressional influence the sea scouts were required to pay for work performed on their boat.


Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo

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