* The Obama administration is considering with increased interest the option of leaving no American troops in Afghanistan after 2014, according to the New York Times. With presidential elections coming in Afghanistan next year, one has to wonder how a reportedly tense conference call between Obama and Karzai can justify suddenly favoring such a momentous decision.
* US Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall published a performance assessment [PDF] of the defense acquisition system that is more analytical and data-based than most Pentagon documents published lately. One chart stands out by brutally outlining the burst of Army programs cancelled during the past decade with very little to show for their sunk R&D costs. Here is a brief abstract, but you’ll want to read the report:
“Performance across all MDAPs at the program level is highly skewed, with a few outliers with extremely high cost growth, a large population with moderate cost growth, and a small number with negative or negligible cost growth. Over the last 10 years analyzed, median program RDT&E cost growths have ranged from 5 percent to 18 percent (inflation adjusted), while median quantity-adjusted program unit costs have ranged from 3 percent to 9 percent (inflation adjusted), measured against original Milestone B baselines. While unacceptable, problems on some programs such as the F-35 mask the fact that some DoD programs perform relatively well, raising the question of how the Department can be more consistent in its performance.”
* Japan released its 2013 whitepaper. Ahead of its publication China objected last week to statements of plain truth:
“China is strongly expected to recognize its responsibility as a major power, accept and stick to the international norms, and play a more active and cooperative role in regional and global issues. On the other hand, there have been disputes with other countries on issues relating to trade imbalances, currency rates, and human rights. In regard to the issues on conflicting interests with its surrounding countries, including Japan, China has attempted to change the status quo by force based on its own assertion which is incompatible with the existing order of international law. The attempts have been criticized as assertive and include risky behaviors that could cause contingencies. Thus, there is a concern over its future direction.”
* Japan may build 2 more Aegis missile defense destroyers, as part of new defense guidelines scheduled by the end of 2013. Their 4 Kongo Class destroyers are all BMD-capable, and their 2 newer Atago Class destroyers will be refitted.
* The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated in a report that the US Air Force did not, but should, evaluate a pilot program that moved funding for Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) acquisition civilian personnel from its 1-year Operation and Maintenance (O&M) appropriation to its 2-year Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) appropriation. Such “color of money” matters influence whether funding is more or less likely to be maintained in times of budget reductions.
* Here’s a batch of recent decisions by the GAO on award protests in the defense sector: Global Defense Solutions/USAF (denied) | Marine Design Dynamics / USN (partially granted) | Agile Defense / DISA (denied).
* A German team from Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is developing a prototype marine propulsion system that borrows from octopuses and nautiloids. This sort of system is likely to propel certain kinds of USV/UUV craft long before it sees use on manned vessels, but it’s a good example of new ideas that leverage additive manufacturing/ 3D printing technologies.
* Northrop Grumman’s James Zortman [PDF] talks about how product design decisions affect logistics affordability down the line, in the video below: