Here we attempt to unpack the positions, perspectives, and motivations of the different players in this case. This approach is somewhat like what philosophers call stakeholder analysis. But stakeholder analysis includes a party because they have an interest in a decision that someone might make. Socio-technical analysis includes a party because they are part of a system that influences the actions involved. Thus, stakeholder analysis would be unlikely to include the Personnel Department of Hughes when analyzing Goodearl's decision to blow the whistle. They are not directly affected by her decision. But we must do so here, because Personnel was one of the main players in convincing Goodearl that she had no real options for internal complaint.
Margaret Goodearl and Ruth Ibarra are the main actors in this case, and their decision to blow the whistle on Hughes' fraud is the reason the case is of interest. Goodearl was a newly-appointed supervisor of the testing room for hybrid microchips at Hughes. Ibarra was an employee in Quality control. They describe their motives as ones of concern for military personnel whose lives will depend on the chips they are testing. It became clear in the criminal trial that there was a good deal of tension between Goodearl and her co-supervisor, Donald LaRue, whom she accused of committing the fraud. LaRue's defense made good mileage of this tension, and regularly implied that Goodearl and Ibarra were "out to get" LaRue. In part, the bad relationship may have been a motivation, but as Goodearl and Ibarra tell the story, the bad relationship began when they started reporting that LaRue was skipping tests.
In addition, the structure of a qui tam lawsuit (see US Whistleblower Law) meant that Goodearl and Ibarra were likely to gain a great deal if they won the lawsuit. These lawsuits allow a person to sue a government contractor on the behalf of the US government and to keep some of the money if the suit is successful. In their defense in the criminal trial, Hughes attempted to discredit them by regularly referring to the monetary gain that Goodearl and Ibarra might receive. If Hughes was found guilty in the criminal trial, the civil qui tam lawsuit was likely to go against Hughes also -- and in favor of Goodearl and Ibarra.
Still, there seems little reason to believe that Goodearl and Ibarra were merely "gold-diggers." There is clear evidence that both Goodearl and Ibarra were worried about their jobs. And rightly so, since they were eventually both forced to leave -- Goodearl upon being fired and Ibarra upon being moved to a position with no responsibility. They tried several times to resolve the matter internally. And they paid a great price over the ten years it took to finally reach a settlement.
Upper management of Hughes
Here we are referring to anyone in management at Hughes who was not directly on the manufacturing or testing floor. This includes the reporting hierarchy from Division Manager down to Frank Saia, the assistant manager for hybrid production. Hughes Aircraft (and thus all management) had a large stake in keeping the production and shipping of hybrid microchips at peak performance.
A primary problem for them was the 10% failure rate when chips were tested. This was a dramatic loss of money and time. Reducing this loss was important to Hughes, as was maintaining its pace of production. Changing production to produce chips that failed less often would reduce its pace. But "baby-sitting" the chips through the testing procedure to make sure they passed the tests (if at all possible) was a relatively easy way to reduce the loss from failed chips, particularly chips that were needed immediately by customers. Thus was started the process to declaring some chips "hot parts" that were to be rushed through testing as quickly (and with as low a failure rate) as possible.
One other important level of upper management was the personnel office. On more than one occasion, Goodearl spoke with people in the personnel office about her concerns and about the harassment she thought she was receiving because of her complaints about test skipping. But personnel did not have any independent way to investigate these incidents. Instead, on one occasion Goodearl saw the personnel officer walk directly from meeting her into office of Frank Saia, the manager of her division. Saia was one of the people she had complained to personnel about, and he was almost immediately notified of the complaint and almost as quickly summoned her to his office to shout at her. Thus personnel saw itself as on the side of upper management against workers who complained.
Ruth Ibarra (who's later married name was Aldred) was the primary Quality control employee with responsibility to oversee the testing environment for strict adherence to the testing rules. But there is nothing in the extensive legal documentation in the case that suggests she had an independent way to enforce her oversight. Time and again, we find that when she sees a problem, she has to report it to Goodearl or LaRue. Thus, Hughes did not really have an independent Quality control office, but instead required these individuals to report to people in charge of the testing of the product.
Supervisors of testing
Both Goodearl and LaRue were floor supervisors on the testing area. Goodearl reported to LaRue and was designated to replace him when he retired. LaRue, however, was the one with the close relationship to the next level up of management, Frank Saia. And it was LaRue's agreement with Saia (based on pressure from upper management) to "baby-sit" parts that opened the door to begin skipping tests systematically.
The move to "baby-sitting" chips through the tests made it easy to take the additional step of skipping tests in the name of speed and efficiency. The pressure from upper management was relentless to ship the "hot parts," and middle management (in the persons of Frank Saia and Donald LaRue) were left to sort things out as best they could. This became a prime breeding ground for fraud done by middle management as a way to achieve objectives set by upper management.
Goodearl, however, was relatively new on the job and did not have the commitment to management values that LaRue did. This made it (somewhat) easier for her to question the skipping of tests and to take action by making internal complaints. When it became clear that her internal complaints were being ignored and that her job was threatened, she took the risk of blowing the whistle by reporting the incidents to the Defense Department Inspector General's fraud hotline.
United States Government
The various agencies of the US government involved in this case include congress (via defense appropriations and law passed regarding whistleblowing protection), the Defense department (both as a customer to Hughes and as a watchdog over Hughes in the form of the Inspector General) and the Department of Justice (who joined the qui tam civil suit late in the game).
Certainly one interested party in this case is the United States citizenry. Their taxes were being used to fund the programs that Hughes was contracted to fulfill. In addition, if some of the military equipment using the chips malfunctioned, citizens might also be endangered. But the public are more a passive recipient of (potentially fatal) influence in the socio-technical system and not active participants.
Members of the armed forces
Like the public, members of the armed forces are more passive recipients of influence from this socio-technical system. But they are more likely to suffer fatal consequences.