Despite its staid sounding name, The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC has been anything but staid and diplomatic in its recent series of reports on America’s defense procurement plans. “ABANDON SHIPS: The Costly Illusion of Unaffordable Transformation” was indeed a shot across the bow. Lest anyone think that assessment was an aberration, CSIS has now followed it up with its look at the US Air Force: “America’s Self-Destroying Air Power – Becoming Your Own Peer Threat” [Summary | Full report, PDF format]:
“[The] new Burke Chair report… examines the impact of a crisis in aircraft procurement on tactical, strategic, and enabling capabilities of US air power. It draws on recent government and other reports to describe the problems in US aircraft procurement and their impact on US air power and the challenges the next administration will face in force planning and budgeting.
…The problems described in this report must be kept in context. Every service has, to some extent, mortgaged its future by failing to contain equipment costs, and by trading existing equipment and force elements for developing new systems that it may never be able to procure in the numbers planned… US aircraft procurements are no exception. The problems are so severe that the US risks becoming its own peer threat to US airpower… These problems are compounded by the fact that there now are fewer program alternatives if any key aircraft program runs into trouble. They are also compounded by the systematic underestimation of technology risk, growth in performance requirements, the use of failed methods of cost analysis, and the pressure to “sell” programs by understating cost and risk. All have combined to push air modernization to the crisis point.”
On Oct 14/08, India’s Election Commission announced dates for assembly polls in 5 key batleground states of Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram. The announcement begins the countdown to national Parliamentary elections in 2009, and political positioning has begun. One offshoot of that has hit the defense sector, as DNAIndia reports a new order that changes the status of Israeli firms IAI and RAFAEL within India.
Recent months had seen important progress in India for the 2 Israeli defense firms. In February 2008, RAFAEL signed a long-term joint venture contract with Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) in Bangalore. In August 2008, India’s MoD got fresh “vigilance clearance” to go ahead with the Barak-derived medium-range naval defense missile and land-based MR-SAM program, despite ongoing political allegations and a CBI investigation asking if bribery was involved in the original 1999-2000 Barak missile deal. Meanwhile, the short range IAI/RAFAEL Barak anti-air missile system now equips a number of Indian Navy ships, and the Navy is looking to replenish its stocks. Earlier in October, India’s government had also contracted to buy Spyder air defense systems for the Indian Air Force.
No indictments have been issued in these matters; nevertheless, under the new government guidance, DNA India reports that the Indian Navy may not purchase additional Barak missiles for the fleet until the new guidance is repealed. The effect on the Spyder deal is less certain, but it is also likely to remain in limbo until the political situation in India sorts itself out after the 2009 elections. Beyond that, the new guidelines specify that neither RAFAEL nor IAI can receive single-vendor RFPs until the cabinet committee on security takes a final decision. Multi-vendor competitions can still issue RFPs to these firms, but eligibility would be withdrawn if the CBI files a chargesheet showing “incriminating evidence” against the companies in the Barak case. A fresh “vigilance approval” will also be required if IAI and/or RAFAEL should win a multi-vendor competition. Existing contracts like MR-SAM will continue, but with their status under periodic review for cancellation if the CBI investigation bears fruit.
On April 1/07 the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) and the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) merged to form Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), with a GBP 16 billion annual budget. Beginning at 10:30 AM GMT on Nov 18/08, Britain’s Defence Committee will be taking industry input into its examination of the UK MoD’s progress in improving the way it procures and supports defence equipment, the state of key future equipment programs like the A400M aircraft and FRES armored vehicles, and progress and issues associated with Britain’s Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS).
The Committee would welcome attendance or written submissions to the inquiry. Those wishing to attend the meetings should check the exact venue by contacting the House of Commons Public Information Office on 020 7219 4272 on the day before the hearing. Written evidence should be sent to the Clerk of the Defence Committee by Friday Nov 7/08, via to defcom@ within the UK parliament’s domain. Submission should be in .DOC or .RTF format, with numbered paragraphs and an executive summary if the submission is long. The email sending it in must make the submission’s origins and organization behind it clear, and include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. For further details, see the committee’s release.