With the US Congress back from recess this week, Senator John McCain [R-AZ] released selected quotes from the CEOs of the major primes pointing to the uncertainty and disruption associated with sequestration. Meanwhile the OMB is past its deadline on the report Congress mandated them to produce on the effect of sequestration on readiness.
The Pentagon told Congress back in May that corrosion costs the Department almost $21B a year, according to an assessment of that report by the GAO that otherwise finds it lacking. (The DoD FY13 corrosion report itself does not seem to be publicly available). The Senate Armed Services Committee voiced similar concerns earlier this year in its report 112-173.
The Partnership for Public Service nonprofit and the Washington Post published a fawning profile of Elliott Branch, the US Navy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for acquisition. Pointing to LCS as a program where the Navy excelled in finding savings is, uh, bold.
The Congressional Research Service updated their report [PDF] on international conventional weapon sales with 2011 data. Agreements for new sales from the US to developing nations boomed above $56B or a close to 80% market share, leaving #2 Russia far behind. The mega deal with Saudi Arabia was the biggest contributor to that surge in demand for American armament. Deliveries during 2011 were less lopsided but the US still led with close to 38% of the total in value.
The RAND Corporation looked into the reasons behind high cost increases in the Army Excalibur artillery round and the Navy’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) programs. In the case of Excalibur, smaller ordered quantities was the primary driver for its Nunn-McCurdy cost breach. Looking for a deeper root cause, that reduction was triggered by the increased precision of modern artillery. Meanwhile the Navy ERP started with an optimistic baseline, as happens very often with software implementation projects.
We welcome the Department’s better performance in controlling project-level cost increases, but remain concerned that total costs of the top 15 projects continue to rise for other reasons each year. Projects approved since 2002 have shown significantly lower overall cost growth than those approved before this date and since 2008 there has been no overall cost increase from project-specific technical issues. However, in 2010-11 the forecast costs to complete the 15 largest defence projects still increased by £466 million overall [DID: about $735M], and the Department continues to struggle to live within its means.
A note on variables that a Department cannot control: macro-economic factors such as exchange rate changes accounted for 38% of the 2010-2011 increase. Meanwhile the National Audit Office (NAO) reviewed the way the Ministry of Defence is handling reductions in the size of its workforce.
In October 2011, Data Solutions & Technology in Lanham, MD received a $9.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for Anti-Armor Analysis Program (AAAP) Services Support from the US Army. AAAP’s goal is to analyze current and historical data on enemy attacks against US vehicles, in order to draw conclusions about protection. DSTI personnel will deploy in mobile teams of at least 2, equipped with specialized tools to survey armor vehicles as well as the surrounding scene, photograph damaged vehicles, inspect and document findings, and review and conduct analysis of maintenance/supply documentation.
The firm has done this work before; indeed, Betty Tingle was promoted to VP Business Development in February 2011, after playing what was described as “a key role in the company’s contract regarding the National Ground Intelligence Center’s Anti-Armor Analysis Program (AAAP) in the U.S. and abroad.” Work will be performed in Charlottesville, VA; Afghanistan; and other contingency locations overseas as necessary; with an estimated completion date of Sept 29/12. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 1 bid received by the US Army Intelligence and Security Command in Charlottesville, VA (W911W5-11-C-0016). See also FBO.gov.
Latest updates: With SUGV pending wind-down, early materials order for SUGV sets 2-3.
BCTM B-Kit in Hummer
Concerns about cost overruns, vehicle design, and contract structure prompted the Pentagon to cancel the US Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) program in June 2009.
Instead of a single FCS contract, the Pentagon directed the Army to set up a number of separate programs to undertake parts of the FCS program. One of those programs is the Brigade Combat Team Modernization (BCTM) Increment 1. The BCTM Increment 1 capabilities – which include ground robots, UAVs, ground sensors, and vehicle (B-Kit) network integration kits – were planned to be fielded to up to 9 Infantry Brigade Combat Teams beginning in 2011. Now it’s more like 2015 for the 1st brigade, and it will happen without most of the original components.
In his final budget testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates addresses the planned reductions in the size of the ground forces, reforms to the Tricare program and saving targets laid out by President Obama.
The UK Ministry of Defence denies reports in The Telegraph newspaper that it has finalized a $34 million deal to sell its Harrier jump-jets to the United States Marine Corps for spare parts.
Saab announces the publication of its Gripen Czech Offset Program annual performance report. The company reveals that it has delivered offset transactions worth almost $1.5 billion to the year ending 2010.
Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn thanks the Czech Republic for increasing their commitment in Afghanistan just as the United States abandons its plans to deploy a missile early warning center on Czech soil.
The Aerospace Industries Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) announces [PDF] the appointment of James Quick as the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer.
In 1998, Boeing began a revolutionary development program: create an unmanned aircraft that was about the size of the USAF’s F-117 stealth fighter, with similar performance, better stealth, and better range. DARPA’s J-UCAS program launched Boeing’s X-45A and Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs), which went on to perform tests that included multiple UCAV flights, bomb drops, and other aviation firsts.
J-UCAS was effectively killed in 2006, though it went on to spawn the Navy’s UCAS-D competition. NGC’s X-47B Pegasus won, but the Pentagon’s back-and-forth over the USAF’s Next-Generation Bomber program gave Boeing an incentive to remain active. The bomber program will either create a big opening for UCAVs, or allow Boeing to lever any new advances in stealthy UCAV design for its bomber bid. Not so coincidentally, Boeing is using company funds to put its X-45C back on track, as the “Phantom Ray”.
The USA’s aging aircraft problem spans a number of fleets, from aerial tankers, to fighters, to tactical transports. One may argue, however, that its most severe problem lies with its fleet of Lockheed Martin P-3 maritime patrol aircraft. Not only was the global P-3 fleet produced between 1962-1990, the aircraft have often been flown at low altitudes in a salt-spray environment. This is not a recipe for aircraft health.
Rear Adm. Holmes’ 2005 interview confirmed the seriousness of the situation. The US Navy keeps retiring aircraft, and is trying to hang on until its P-8A Poseidon/ BAMS UAV successors are fielded. That is proving to be difficult, to the point that Boeing is reportedly being asked to speed up P-8 production and fielding. Meanwhile, the P-3 Recovery Plan is part of a range of efforts designed to keep the P-3s in the air. Contracts continue, including outer wing replacements and other deep structural maintenance efforts.
In 2005, the Canadian Department of National Defence awarded a 22-year, $1.77-billion (USD $1.5 billion) contract to an “Allied Wings” team lead by Kelowna Flightcraft Ltd. of Kelowna, British Columbia, who beat out a competing group led by Bombardier’s military training division in Mirabel, Quebec. The long-term contract will provide primary flight training training and support services to the Canadian Forces and international allies. These services will be provided out of the “Canada Wings Aviation Training Centre” in the Southport Aerospace Centre near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
This is not the first time the Canadian government has chosen a public/private approach to aviation training. Bombardier was already managing the Contracted Flying Training and Support (CFTS) program, and the public-private NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) program has been running since 1997. In some ways, however, the new “Allied Wings” contract was a logical next step aimed at solidifying Canada’s traditional advantages, as Canada attempts to make itself an international center of excellence for foreign military aviator training:
NATO Flying Training in Canada
Primary Training: Competition for CFTS [updated]
The Big Picture: International Flight Training in Canada [updated]