Posts Tagged ‘Acquisition’

It pains me to read articles like The budget crisis should usher in a new era of innovation in defense.  Why?  Because of trite and vacuous phrases like “no more blank checks from the American taxpayer.”  This article is a perfect example of why we should let a budget crisis go to waste.

The linked article asserts, among other things, “If you ask soldiers on the ground in Anbar province, not one of them will demand an advanced nuclear submarine or a hundred-million dollar fighter aircraft.”  While that may be true at a particular point in time, if those soldiers have to fight Iran, North Korea, or China, they might change their story.  In fact, having those things might even keep them from ever having to fight in the first place: it’s called deterrence.  Has the author ever heard of the idea of using the right tool for the job?

So the point should not be a forehead slapper like “DoD needs to be made more effective,” but rather to first address more profound issues like what exactly are our vital national interests?  Are they humanitarian, regime change, stabilization, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, near-peer or what; that is, what is the need being met and what is the requirement?  The author himself points this out but then seems to miss the bigger point:

In Afghanistan, for example, perhaps the most obvious job to be done is to destroy enemy forces at will, even in hard-to-pinpoint and hard-to-reach locations. The correct business model would align the resources, processes and technologies that are needed to produce a small, relatively inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicle capable of reconnaissance and attack, which soldiers can load into their backpacks – next year. Not ten years from now.

The problems within this block quote are legion.  Will a backpack UAV be able to discern between civilians and combatants?  Will it somehow laser paint the bad guys, help minimize collateral damage, and be compliant with the laws of war such as proportionality?  The point is this: there are many precursor steps before “destroying enemy forces at will” including having the mission to do so. 

Insurgencies and terrorism are terrible things but they pale in comparison to the events which can ruin our nation, economy, and way of life such as nuclear war or full-on conventional conflict.  Our existing conflicts (they aren’t even called war any more, nor are they declared although of course, they are still war) are really on the margins of the national security need the United States must address so here it is again: what does the nation need the military to do?  Once we know that, we can press ahead with more efficient and effective ways of meeting that need.

And while we’re at it, since the U.S. foots about three-fourths of the funding for NATO, it’s fair to ask if we reap three-fourths of the security benefit of the alliance.  If we do, it seems to be an equitable or even beneficial arrangement.  If not, the free (or nearly free) riders profit to our budgetary and policy detriment.

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Defense News has a suggestion from John Young designed to help make the Department of Defense a more efficient organization: use more multiyear procurement contracts (MYPs).

Why multiyear contracts?  To save money.  Why aren’t more MYPs used already?  For one reason: they don’t align well with the DoD and Congressional funding cycles.

Given the DoD war on overhead, additional MYPs should be pursued with full vigor.

Why yes, the F-35 is a rock star

Having one contractor to meet all your needs has a certain appeal.  Generally the implied appeal is “to avoid waste.”

But is it possible that a second contractor, competing with the first, creates an incentive for both to avoid waste?

The problem with sole-sourcing almost anything is that it kills competition.  Without competition, cost concerns…aren’t such a big deal.

So in summary, let’s be blunt: competition is good.

John Lehman makes a compelling case for competition and says the Pentagon has the F-35 engine fight all wrong and that Congress has it right.

Using historical facts (wow, what a concept!  Proposing to use fact-based decision-making!), Lehman demonstrates the inherent goodness of competition as relates to the big three of acquisition programs, performance, cost, and schedule.

“Lockheed Martin expects a multibillion-dollar production order from the U.S. government in 2012 for a next-generation satellite system,” reports Space News.

The order in question–perhaps the two ‘exquisite’ satellites flagged in this post from October 2009?

DoD Industrial Affairs Chief Brett Lambert

Like a zombie, cost cutting in DoD is one of those back-to-the-future efforts that never really dies.

That’s not to say cost cutting is a poor goal; far from it.  In fact, bravo…bravo as a goal.

The challenge is cost-cutting is simply a goal and lacks a strategy to achieve the goal.

The traditional government method is to add oversight and inspections.

That won’t cut costs.  In fact with history as a guide, it will raise them.

Small wonder there is massive scepticism regarding new DoD cost cutting efforts.

The answer to the headline is yes, DoD can cuts costs.  The real question is what will DoD do differently to cut costs.

Round one (aka tanker lease): epic fail based on USAF/Boeing procurement integrity problems.

Round two: Boeing competes against Northrup Grumman/EADS team. Boeing loses.  Boeing protests.  Protest upheld.

Round three: the procurement process, to say nothing of future air-refueling capabilities, hangs in the balance.

After all this, Boeing is almost certain to win the $50 billion deal.

There are way too many zeros being tossed about…

From the 10 July 2009 Washington Post regarding the F-22 cancellation:

After deciding to cancel the program, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called the $65 billion fleet a “niche silver-bullet solution” to a major aerial war threat that remains distant.

187 F-22s for $65 billion.  Cost per unit about $348 million each.

Here’s what DoD Buzz says about the F-35 as of 1 June 2010:

The price tag of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the military’s largest weapons program, has jumped once again and is now projected to cost $382 billion.

At 2443 planes, that’s a bit over $156 million each, and not the $112 million listed in the headline.  I guess the F-35 the non-niche, lead-bullet solution? Is it possible to make shipbuilding and space look like a bargain?

So if flying hour costs are about the same and assuming the F-22 is twice as capable (however that might be defined) as an F-35, it’s pretty much a wash, right?

Still, once flying hour costs are figured in, is is possible these planes will bankrupt the Air Force?