Three Men and Baby Formula (Advising the Nation)

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I know Advising the Nation sounds pompous, but it is a tag line for the National Academies.

The National Academy of Sciences was founded in 1863 (approved by Abraham Lincoln). On its one hundredth year anniversary, it was suggested that Engineering was not only important, but that it is what made America great, and John F. Kennedy signed off on it (in 1963). Some time later, the Institute of Medicine got rolled up. Today, we have NASEM, National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, to, yes, advise the nation:

The US National Academy of Sciences was created by an Act of Incorporation dated March 3, 1863, which was signed by then President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The Act stated that “… the Academy shall, whenever called upon by any department of the Government, investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art…

I frequently get contacted on many matters of national importance (recall The God Committee.). Like this afternoon.

The title of this post is obviously based on:

Three Men and a Baby is a 1987 American comedy film directed by Leonard Nimoy. The script was based on the 1985 French film Trois hommes et un couffin (Three Men and a Cradle). The film was the biggest American box office hit of that year, surpassing Fatal Attraction. It grossed $240 million on a budget of $11 million.

Can you guess how this post is triggered by this email:


Thank you so much for speaking with us on such short notice.  It was extremely helpful!  This is an exceptionally challenging and impactful issue and we really appreciate your willingness to share your expertise.  We will be sure to reach out with any additional questions.

Have a nice weekend.

What is so urgent that requires my kind of expertise?

Let me annoy you by delaying the answer (like Ryan Seacrest would do in American Idol, a show I enjoyed in its early years, and, thanks to NetJets, of which I was a customer while CEO of SmartOps, had  back-stage passes to meet the Idols when they toured, and so I have met many of them, like the picture above from 2009, although I enjoyed meeting the Idols of years 2006 and 2007 better) by this email:

Dear Dr. Tayur:

On behalf of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, I am pleased to transmit a PDF of the published proceedings-in-brief, SUSTAINABLE AND RESILIENT SUPPLY CHAINS USING EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES: POLICY OPTIONS.

I want especially to thank you for serving as an external reviewer of the draft manuscript. The review process plays a critical role in assuring that every Academies product will be as accurate, effective, and credible as possible, and we could not maintain these high standards without the willingness of experts like you to assist us.

I will not annoy you more with another email about another NASEM publication (co-authored by my PhD student Pinar Keskinocak, past president of INFORMS, and among others, fellow NAE member, Wally Hopp) that I was an overseer of (and recruited Steve Graves, also an NAE member, to help out):


So, have you guessed by now who and why emailed me to thank me at the beginning of the post?

This email came to Willem van Hoeve (my colleague and co-author, in OR, now Senior Associate Dean of Education at Tepper, from an MBA alum), who forwarded it to me and Alan Scheller-Wolf in OM (“Three Men from Tepper”), and I jumped on it:

I am working on a fairly urgent and high-profile issue that I was hoping you could help me with. I am an executive at the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and one of the 7 programs I oversee is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (also known as the WIC Program).  This critical program provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, breastfeeding support, and counseling to over 6 million participants nationwide and serves almost half of all infants in the US. The WIC program also provides infant formula to these infants and accounts for over half of the infant formula sold in the US.

As I’m sure you’re aware, a variety of factors have created a rather severe infant formula shortage in the US and in some international markets and my colleagues and I in the Federal government have been working for months on a variety of solutions.  I’ll be working on this and other related issues through the weekend with a special White House team. Would you possibly have time to….












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