What is a program? And how does fighting giant monsters in Pacific Rim help us understand this?

Image source: Guys Film Quest
Image source: Guys Film Quest

“To fight monsters, we created monsters of our own. The Jaeger program was born.” – Raleigh Becket, Pacific Rim

Everybody knows someone who isn’t into Science Fiction or Fantasy or Sports genres — so much that they can’t tell the core tenants apart. Even the Pacific Rim Wiki site has trouble making the determination despite it being in one of the first lines of the movie. A project and a program can be different in measures of scope, scale and context. A project is defined as a temporary task, with associated and related tasks, that has defined start and end dates. A program is comprised of two or more related projects in order to improve organizational efficiency.

Pacific Rim Wiki
Image source: Pacific Rim Wiki*

The Jaeger Program in Pacific Rim is very clearly a program encompassing several different, but related, projects under its umbrella. The highlight of the program is obviously the 300ft (90m) tall robots that fight the equally sized monsters called Kaiju; but there were several other related projects which ranged across construction, scientific, education, and medical.

Pacific Rim Poster
Image source: wallpaper404. Copyright to the respective owner.

Accounting for the expanded universe from the novelization of the movie, several tenants hold firm which allow us to quickly identify the Jaeger Program as a formal program rather than a project. The Jaegers themselves are the most emblematic, and coolest, product of the program. Breaking down the work that the program had to coordinate as component pieces can help us get to the details of what the projects would be responsible for as well as what part the program would have played.

Pacific Rim Construction 1
Image source: Pacific Rim Wiki
Pacific Rim Construction 2
Image source: Pacific Rim Wiki

1. Construction: Perhaps the most obvious project; this part of the program would focus on the fabrication and testing of the physical form. Potentially this project could have been broken down into several sub-projects where teams would focus on legs, torso, arms, and head components. This project would need nothing short of a small army of construction specialists to conduct the fabrication and the assembly of the physical form.

The Program would have engaged with this project to understand things like limitations on weapons that could fit into the finite space of the Jaeger, or what the timelines were to repair damaged Jaegers. Without the program coordination, we would have seen giant robots that perhaps were controlled with a remote — but that would be the movie Real Steel, wouldn’t it?

Pacific Rim Science
Image source: Pacific Rim Wiki

2. Scientific: Equally acclaimed as a critical success was the neuroscience behind “The Drift” which enabled two pilots to collaborate in a scientifically induced mental telepathy. This project would engage scientific minds who would define the parameters to make it possible to have a link.

The Jaeger program would coordinate this project and the technology project to ensure that the science and technology could align correctly and have a stable “Drift” as well as the equipment necessary for Ops Tendo Choi to monitor the condition of pilots in the drift.

Pacific Rim Education
Image source: pacificrimmovies

3. Education: One of the projects that is not highlighted in the movie is the training and instruction that the Jaeger program would have needed to provide to the members of the support crews of each of the Jaegers. Things as basic as safety courses, rules and regulations of the program, and when you got to eat all the way up through specialized bo-staff training and how to operate the Jaeger would have needed to be covered. Even the history courses which covered the past attacks by Kaiju, and coursework which explained what technology was available and unavailable across the different iterations of the Jaegers.

Likely this project would be a precursor for volunteers and enlisted personnel in the Jaeger Program, until the recruit went into their specialty area — similar to an orientation training.

Pacific Rim Technology 1
Image source: Pacific Rim Wiki
Pacific Rim Technology 2
Image source: Chatterbot Collection

4. Technology: Specifically on weaponry, there would have to be development, testing, and deployment to install systems like missile launchers out of the chest, or chain swords that come out of the forearms, or the different blade or energy weapons that come out of the hands of the different Jaegers. This project would focus more on the destructive power and force that could be applied into a Jaeger frame. Very specific research would also be required to understand what kind of alloys could be developed to ensure that a direct impact to the Jaeger would not set off internal explosions of the ordinance the Jaeger was carrying.

Perhaps most easily understood would be the need for technology to communicate with the construction project through the program to ensure that the designs were being built correctly and installed so that the pilots knew how to access them.

Pacific Rim Medical 1
Image source: Pacific Rim Wiki
Pacific Rim Medical 2
Image source: Pacific Rim Wiki

5. Medical: Obviously the health of the two pilots would be a main concern in the world of Pacific Rim, but not much focus is spent on this topic. Building a project to specifically address the health and well-being of the Jaeger pilots would have been essential. One of the products of this project would have been the small mints that Stacker Pentecost consumes in order to stop his nose-bleeds. The medical project would likely have also been responsible for the systems that monitored the health of the pilots while in combat.

The medical project would need to coordinate with the technology project to ensure that the medical equipment was able to read the vital signs of the pilots in the same real-time fashion as they could see the weapon system information. The Program would coordinate with the construction project to allow the medical and technology project team members to go test the systems before sending Jaegers into combat.

As covered in the post How TV shows and movies like Transformers, X-Men, Community, Star Trek, Walking Dead, and Justified all help us answer: “What is a project?”, a project is a temporary with a unique product or service output from those efforts. These projects would have occurred only once to produce the results as described, but then turned over to those who would run and maintain the systems continuously. The Program overall would have ensured communication between these projects to maintain proper expectations such as schedule. The technology project team would not be able to test the upgraded energy weapon until the construction team actually finished building it. The construction project wouldn’t have been able to execute the fabrication and assembly without receiving the design plans from the technology, medical, and scientific project teams.

Pacific Rim Shatterdome
Image source: Pacific Rim Wiki

Lastly, the Program level would have had to manage the organizational matters of the Jaeger program. As each of the project would have been focused on having their particular project being successful, the resource allocation of work-hours, able bodies, and funds received from the United Nations would need to be administered through the Program itself. Envisioning that each Jaeger costs $100 Million to make the math easy, how much money would be allocated to the material costs versus the labor costs to which of each of the projects? The Program level would also be responsible for making appeals to the United Nations for support in the first place — which at the beginning of the movie is cut in favor of the Anti-Kaiju Wall Program.

The Jaeger Program, like all other programs, is the management of several related projects to ensure operational efficiency. The program level result was a functioning Mark 1 Jaeger within 18 months, able to fight off the Kaiju. Without programmatic level coordination and communication, we may have come up with 5 or 6 ineffective ways to kill the Kaiju instead of the 1 way that worked. Or worse, a Jaeger that didn’t have an elbow rocket and sword.

* Special thanks on this one goes out to the men and women who are supporting and building and maintaining the Pacific Rim Wiki site. There are only top quality notes, quotes, and images on that thing and I leveraged it heavily to bring you this post.

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