Now senior UK Ministry of Defence officials have confirmed to The Sunday Times of London that Britain is considering its options and contemplating a pullout from the multinational, multi-billion dollar JSF program. According to these officials, instructions have been given for alternative strategies for projects affected by American technology-transfer problems – and JSF was included in that list. It was time, one said, to “think the unthinkable.”
Vision Technology, Inc. subsidiary VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, MS received a $28.9 million firm-fixed-price contract for functional design of the Egyptian Navy’s Fast Missile Craft (FMC) under the Foreign Military Sales Program.
The vessels will be approximately 203 ft. (62 m) in length and will incorporate ship signature control technology. High speed and maneuverability will be two of their primary assets, and the vessels will also incorporate numerous combat system assets and electronic sensors that give them capabilities in anti-aircraft, anti-surface, and electronic warfare. They would appear to be envisioned as peers with Israel’s Saar 5 Class corvettes. Efforts required under the contract include…
Over at National Defense Magazine, US National Defense Industry Association (NDIA) President Lawrence P. Farrell Jr. talks about the Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment (DAPA) reform project, which DID has covered. Despite the improvements made over the last 20 years – and there have been many of them – this was certainly a sobering set of statistics:
“Currently, more than 80 new major weapon systems are under development, with a combined cost growth of $300 billion and total acquisition cost of nearly $1.5 trillion. A recent Government Accountability Office study of 26 major acquisition programs suggests the top five programs have nearly doubled in cost during the last four years – in fact, skyrocketing from $281 billion to $521 billion. The trend is not abating – estimates of cost growth and development time of these same five programs grew 14.3 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively, in the past year alone, according to GAO. After more than 20 years of numerous attempts to improve the acquisition system, the perception is that no reforms have addressed systemic weaknesses in structure, process and governance of major weapon systems development.”
Reading that, it’s hard to disagree. Some of Farrell’s thoughts include:
The program that once hoped to produce 32 ships will now spend a significant percentage of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget on a class that is slated to include only 8 ships according to the new Destroyer Acquisition Decision Memorandum, and may well go as low as 5 ships if further cost slippages occur. Based on the memo and the amount left for system development & design, the DD (X) program can be expected to spend about $30 billion more if it remains within budget. This figure would not include operations and maintenance costs.
In a previous article, DID dissected “The Kerfuffle Around the Shuffle.” We covered the 3 different US reconnaissance aircraft that the $8 billion Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) spy plane program would replace, and went over the ACS’s bidding history. Then DID looked at various players and possible strategies at work as the program hit a major roadblock, and the “winner” Lockheed faced a possible air platform change. As DID noted at the time, all options presented serious risks and headaches for Lockheed – even as Northrop-Grumman pushed for a reopening of the bid process.
While no official change has been made, reports in the Wall St. Journal, ABC News, and CNN are noting that an air platform change is indeed in the works; it just wasn’t the one most people were expecting. As DID noted, Lockheed’s original choice seemed to involve a switch from the Embraer ERJ-145 to the much larger ERJ-190 regional jet. Instead, however, Lockheed has chosen an even more expensive Canadian option. Bombardier’s Global Express long range business jet isn’t as large as the ERJ-190, but offers much longer range and station time – and an additional benefit as well. It may seem like a strange choice, especially since it seems to give ammunition to Northrop-Grumman and General Dynamics to push for a rebid. Yet there is a logic to it…
The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) has responded to a Public Accounts Committee report that was highly critical of MoD’s performance and execution under Britain’s “Smart Acquisition” guidelines. The 20 largest projects currently in development are a total of GBP 5.9 billion over the originally approved targets, claims the report, and months behind schedule.
The MoD responded, of course, citing numerous improvements over the past year. It also released a new procurement handbook that offers the broad thrust of their future procurement practices.
The Public Accounts Committee recommendations included:
Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee Chairman John McCain [R-AZ] has arguably been the bane of the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) program. He’s the most influential critic of its previous procurement relationship with Boeing and of the program’s escalating costs. Now he’s in the unusual position of vowing to fight language in the Senate’s $445.5 billion fiscal 2006 Defense appropriations bill, in order to protect the integrity and intent of the FCS program.
Since the late 1980s, the U.S. Air Force has pursued the F/A-22 Raptor supersonic stealth fighter that incorporated numerous breakthrough technologies, while the US Navy developed the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet based on the existing F/A-18. Unsurprisingly, the F/A-22 program has experienced significant cost growth and schedule delays and is still in the testing stage. In contrast, the Super Hornet completed its development on cost and without significant delays, and has already been used in combat.
RAND’s Project Air Force looked at both programs with the intent of understanding how each project’s history turned out the way it did, what underlying factors might be at work, and what lessons might be learned.
Air Force Chief Michael Moseley told CongressDaily that over-budget programs and ones far behind schedule could find themselves at risk not just from Congress, but also from his own office.
“I don’t believe Congress will be sending unsolicited pots of gold to the Department of Defense,” Moseley said in reference to the notion that the Air Force would be able to replace its aging F-15s on a one-for-one basis with the F/A-22.
With procurement officers increasingly over-stretched, the Missile Defense Agency’s Contracting Directorate awarded a $7.7 million deal to CACI Dynamic Systems of Arlington, VA to help take the load off of its own acquisition, contracting and support functions. The deal will run for a year. (HQ0006-05-C-0027)