I wasn’t trying to cause any trouble when I named my classified Department of Energy program “Backfire” — honestly, I wasn’t! But in the end, it rather seemed like I somehow doomed the project to destruction by naming it so. My naming convention thought process went like this: the project was to evaluate three private-sector technologies that claimed they could trace the trajectory of small arms and mortar fire back to the point of origin: an evolution of the counter-battery or counter-mortar radar technology.

So, tracing the FIRE BACK to where it came from — BACKFIRE!

In the day, there was also the Boomerang system, which was an acoustic system for tracing back sniper fire to its origin. It was explained to me thusly: the “problem” with Boomerang was that you already had one man dead in order to trace back the trajectory. I defined it not as a “problem” but a fact of life — you weren’t ever going to trace back a bullet that hasn’t been fired yet unless you factor in the Minority Report concept.

“Backfire,” one of my peers remarked one day, “yeah, I don’t like that sound of that!”

“Yeah? Well, how about I give YOU this project, and then you can change the name to flowers and kittens?”

“Oh… nooooo… no, no, no, no, no, no — NOOO!”

“I’ll take that as a ‘no’?”

How I Ended Up With the Project

The way I ended up with the project is interesting. I was added to its staff of managers because of my experience with the weapons involved: the Auvtomat Kalishnakova 1947 (AK-47): I had dumped thousands of rounds of ammunition from the platform in both love and hate — I loved shooting the weapon and hated to turn back in ammunition.