Archive for the ‘Guest Posts’ Category

Continuing and sometimes deteriorating nature of the delays at Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 production facility

Winslow Wheeler. Straus Military Reform Project, 24 February 2010.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Straus Military Reform Project has obtained almost two years of monthly reports from the Defense Contract Management Agency on Lockheed-Martin’s production of the F-35 “Joint Strike Fighter.” The most recent of those reports show deterioration from previous reports in several respects.

The Defense Contract Management Agency’s (DCMA) most recent reports cover the months July through November, 2009. These will soon be available at the Straus Military Reform Project website.

Major elements of the July through November reports can be summarized as follows:

The F-35 assembly line at Forth worth is being cannibalized for parts to support flight testing. This may be the first time an assembly line has been cannibalized for parts for such a tiny number of flight test aircraft as Lockheed-Martin has been able to get into the air. See summary of August report below.

Continuing and sometimes deteriorating nature of the delays at Lockheed-Martin’s (L-M) Fort Worth plant refutes the L-M contention that things are getting better and that the F-35 program learned from the past and with new design techniques is avoiding the kinds of problems experienced by “legacy” aircraft programs.

The cause, nature and implications of the “stand down” mentioned in the November report could well be important, but details are redacted in the DCMA reports and the press is yet to uncover the nature of the “stand down.” It is a matter looking for an explanation.

Some details from the reports follow:

July Report: Page 4 talks about a new DCMA estimate to complete System Design and Development, but the numbers are redacted. DCMA calls the L-M estimate “inadequate.” This DCMA estimate is before the Pentagon’s second independent Joint Estimating Team (JET II) estimate was finished and available, and is presumably independent. Most importantly, it clearly was available for SecDef Gates Forth Worth visit in August. Was it briefed to him? If so, why was Gates so positive about the program at that visit; if it was not, is that an example of why the F-35 program manager, General Heinz, was fired: i.e. that troubling information was not getting to Gates on this high visibility program.

Page 4 also mentions without further discussion a “BF-4 STOVL Upper Lift Fan Door incident.” The context is the rising costs of the overall system, but there are no details. Given that the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) F-35B is on a short schedule to deployment, is this a problem that will further complicate the schedule for the F-35B?

Page 4 identifies a “Corrective Action Plan” to address “EVMS,” “Earned Value Management system” or the system that LM uses to measure and report execution of the program and its budget. I understand it to be the core method DOD uses to monitor and manage the program. Results of the plan are due to DCMA in August. (The October Report states that the plan was submitted, but no specifics are reported. It is only stated that “a more focused Review will occur in three to five months by the DCMA….” [Page 4 of October Report.]). There has been some reporting on the failure to meet EVMS criteria in the press. The threat to L-M is that it will have to maintain its “certification” to perform EVMS calculations—if it is lost, L-M could end up not legally eligible to be a contractor to the federal government.

August Report: L-M is cannibalizing the production line to provide spare parts for the flight test program (pp. 3 & 4). These cannibalizations are “causing significant workload to supply chain personnel and are disrupting the production line.” There is no further discussion or explanation. This may be the first time a development aircraft’s production line was cannibalized for spares.

September Report: “Execution of the Flight Test Schedule continues to be a significant Program concern.” (Page 3.)

“The volume of major CR’s [Change Requests] is projected to continue.” “…the number of major changes has exceeded projections. Additionally, the impact of timing these changes and the disruption to the floor were not anticipated.” (Page 3.) This would seem to be exactly the kind of thing that L-M promised would not happen: i.e. that they had learned from previous programs and with the benefits of advanced computer design, the F-35 would not have the kinds of design disruptions so common with “legacy” aircraft.

Page 4 addresses another delay issue: ”Wing-at-Mate” problems. These, I understand, have to do with the decision to mate the wing to the fuselage before the wing is “stuffed”. The plan was to mate the completed wing to the fuselage. But, because of delays, L-M decided to add wing components after mating, which – being inefficient — slows things down more.

“Composite production is not meeting the demands of the production operations – composites for the AFT and Empennage assemblies are paced by the availability and quality of composites.” (Page 4.) Again, the modern design feature of composites, said to not just reduce weight (of the over weight aircraft) but to facilitate design and fabrication is proving to be a source of delay and complication.

October Report: Flight test schedule still “a significant Program concern.” “AF-1 continues to be in a maintenance period as of this report, progressing towards taxi tests and first flight.” (Page 3.) This is an example of a problem addressed in earlier DCMA reports: aircraft coming off the production line incomplete and incapable of flight. They are sent to adjacent hangars for post-production production. This pre-first flight “maintenance” would seem to be a misleading misnomer.

Mentions that the program is about to get its “sixth schedule revision.” (Page 3.)

More on the “Wing-at-Mate overlap” which appears to be improving. (Page 3.)

November Report: Due to the need for the sixth schedule revision — coming in early 2010 — “Recent Program summary charts, scorecards, and management briefings do not consistently depict performance to the master schedule baseline.” (Page 3.)

The graph on page 6 shows Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) aircraft delivery rate is on average 80 days late. The rate significantly deteriorated in April and stayed at that deteriorated rate. Individual aircraft deliveries are significantly above that: AF-6 will be 92 days late; AF-7 will be 142 days late. A sentence presumably explaining the increased delay was redacted. (Page 6.) This category is rated “red” by DCMA. On the other hand, DCMA confirms public reports that while LRIP 1 & 2 aircraft are months late, the “risk” that LRIP 3 aircraft will be late is rated as “low.”

Suppliers’ Delivery Rate (Page 8.) is also getting worse, now down to about 75% on-time. This category is also rated “red” by DCMA.

The Management Reserve of money is gone, “further straining the financial management of the Program.” Amounts are redacted. Given USATL Carter’s decision to used LRIP production money for SDD, how much of that will go to L-M’s management reserve slush fund, rather than directly to SDD activities?

A section is titled “Maintenance and Quality Verification Stand-Down” immediately followed by several redacted lines. Later the section states “This incident triggered a maintenance and quality verification stand-down to determine systemic root causes for increasing aircraft impoundment and suspension of operations incidents to date.” And later, “The focus areas are Software, Rework/Repairs, System Check Out Procedures (SCOPs) and Aerospace Equipment Instructions (AEIs).” (page 4.) The discussion in the section titled “Improve Software Productivity” refers to “F-35 stand-down events” and explains that a “Joint Process Review” effort to address software issues was “postponed until further notice as it was overcome by F-35 stand down events that took precedence.” (Page 18.)

This “stand down” would appear to have some significance, but has not been reported to the public by L-M or DOD.

Note: for links to the DCMA reports cited here see Winslow Wheeler, Pentagon Reports Document Continuing Lockheed-Martin Failures, Center for Defense Information, 24 February 2010.

The U.S. Defense Budget

Cindy Williams. statement before the Committee on the Budget, U.S. Senate, 23 February 2010. Hosted on the Commonwealth Institute website.


O&M spending does seem to rise and fall in loose concert with total defense budgets-an indication that some of the seemingly avoidable rise in O&M spending is a consequence of budget largesse as much as a cause of it.

One thing is certain: assuming that O&M costs face an unavoidable rise simply because they rose in the past is the surest way to make it so. Several past efforts to bring O&M costs under control have been successful. Assuming based on past trends that it cannot be done is an invitation to waste. The better strategy is to put O&M on a diet and challenge the services to bring the costs of operation and upkeep under control.

Todd Fine responds to the Mello-Knight exchange

Todd Fine organized and developed the Global Zero campaign for the elimination of nuclear weapons as a program officer at the World Security Institute. He is currently working to establish the Iran Data Portal at Princeton University. He responded on 18 February 2010 to the Knight-Mello exchange of views on nuclear disarmament and the Obama administration.



President Obama’s exceedingly generous budget request for the nuclear weapons labs has boiled long-simmering anxieties about the concrete policy impact of his frequently expressed “vision” for “a world without nuclear weapons.” Aligning with the prominent series of op-eds in The Wall Street Journal, Obama repeated this earnest aspiration consistently throughout the campaign for the presidency, and in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and April 2009 policy speech in Prague.

Given the ambition of this vision in practical terms, and, of course, the now apparent serious interest in its achievement by predecessor Ronald Reagan, it is not surprising that long-time advocates have expected policy proposals that would explicitly move in this direction. Yet, these budgeting numbers signal an overall regression. They will further institutionalize the development of new weapons and will make restructuring the labs toward other functions more difficult.

The failure to assure advocates began at the rhetoric’s root. Despite the welcome credibility they have given the anti-nuclear cause, the op-ed authors – George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and William Perry – had a burden to consider how other countries perceive the size and activities of our weapons laboratories. At the same time in 2007 that American anti-nuclear lobbyists and activists were feverishly working to block funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) in Congress, Kissinger forwarded an analysis by Shultz and Hoover fellow Sidney Drell to Sen. Pete Domenici supporting investments in the program. And although Nunn declared that he was opposed to the RRW, he signaled his acceptance for large-scale increases in lab funding in the foursome’s third op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on January 19, 2010. Unlike the previous op-eds, which were enthusiastically endorsed by others and received with much fanfare by the press, this one seemed clinically designed to give their reputational blessing to the upcoming budget numbers.

Chief nuclear negotiator under President Reagan, Max Kampelman, who has claimed that he originally prompted George Shultz to return to the question of elimination, has advocated a bold path to zero using multilateral processes in the United Nations. Indeed, outlining the divisions among the foreign policy elite, the Global Zero campaign was initiated by a number of attendees of the Shultz-led Hoover Institution meetings who were dissatisfied with the extreme focus on short-term “steps” instead of the explicit practicalities of achieving the ultimate goal. And following that, the policy program of Global Zero itself has revealed a split between the advocates of immediate multilateralization of the strategic arms control process and others who propose that a decades-long series of U.S.-Russia agreements expand into a multilateral process.

These assorted divisions among the elite may come to the fore at the May NPT Review Conference as other nations test the United States’ new-found commitment to the treaty’s stated objective of disarmament. Given the current crises involving Iran and North Korea and the shortening window of Obama’s dynamism on the world stage, if the President fails to inspire others to adopt his “vision” and work toward elimination concretely, he may miss a singular opportunity. If CTBT, which is symbolic despite its limitations, is not ratified by the conference date, these budget requests alone may devastate U.S. credibility. And as Greg Mello’s logic indicates, other nations are unlikely to be impressed with the scale of the START follow-on treaty, and there are not yet any indications that the posture review language on “the role” of nuclear weapons will be that momentous in terms of practical implications.

In order to blunt these concerns and sincerely recommit to the vision, there are a number of policy proposals the Obama administration could potentially advocate going into the review conference:

    1. A funded international program that would initiate cooperative research into verification technologies and enforcement strategies that would be required in a world of “global zero.”

    2. The initiation of an international audit of all existing nuclear weapons and material.

    3. Sponsorship of initial discussions on a timeline for negotiations and targets involved in the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.

However, as Charles Knight mentioned with respect to international concerns about the United States’ superiority in conventional weapons, these actions would only be a start. Given the terrifying overall budget projections and the abject failure of our military contracting and procurement processes, the United States needs to reformulate its entire defense posture and budget. In order to convince states like Russia and China to approach low numbers of nuclear weapons, it might even be necessary to consider multilateral treaty restrictions on general conventional forces and on specific advanced weapons systems like Prompt Global Strike. If the elimination aspiration is sincere, then these concerns are unavoidable and should be seriously studied and contemplated.

Max Kampelman, the symbolic initiator of the present return to abolitionism, has spoken powerfully of what real leadership by an American president, especially when morally confident and unabashed, can accomplish. President Obama’s rhetoric on the elimination of nuclear weapons apparently inspired some enough to award him the Nobel Peace Prize; if he is sincere, he owes it to the younger generation to present a clear path to elimination, if not in his lifetime, then in ours.

Jonathan Granoff responds to the Mello-Knight exchange

Jonathan Granoff is president of the Global Security Institute. He responded on 15 February 2010 to the Mello-Knight exchange of views on nuclear disarmament and the Obama administration.
Jonathan Granoff is the author of Memo to Obama: Nuclear Weapons, which appeared in Tikkun Magazine, January-February 2009.


Jonathan Granoff:

Was President Obama outplayed by DOD and DOE? They have posed a very clever analysis. If progress is to be had on nonproliferation, such as support for a test ban, then modernization and the ability to strengthen the capacity to improve the arsenal seems to be the cost. Does this still allows them to say that the modernization “might require testing someday?” This will be an enormous benefit for those who want to stop the test ban. Will it not be like the Clinton administration’s deal with Stockpile Stewardship where he thought funding it would generate their support for the test ban but did not gain the full out support of DOE?

I am consistently surprised by how naive politicians appear when challenged by strategic military planners. So, I state this as an example where it appears that President Obama really wants to make progress (not necessarily on disarmament, but certainly on nonproliferation) and even here he is getting cul de sacked.

Or, is he fully aware of the strategy being played out. Does Mr. Mello think he was being deceptive in the Prague speech, or just a bit cute?

Regardless, the current programs being funded that Mr. Mello highlights will certainly make achieving any strengthening of the nonproliferation aspirations of the Administration at the upcoming NPT very difficult. They certainly do not seem to be consistent with a commitment to disarmament.

I sincerely hope I am wrong and look forward to hearing from some of the people in the current Administration whom I respect very much, such as Ambassador Rice and Assistant Secretary of State Gottemoeller.

Greg Mello responds to Jonathan Granoff:

Among your other interesting points, you raise this question: “Does Mr. Mello think he [Obama] was being deceptive in the Prague speech, or just a bit cute?” I would say neither. The substitution of an aspiration for a commitment or promise is a rhetorical device so normal these questions don’t arise. Both the speaker and the audience expect some sort of ritual acknowledgment of our common aspirations. The gap between those aspirations and our actual practice is fairly embarrassing; many members of the audience are looking for some sort of fantasy bridge between the two. They don’t want bad news, they want “hope.”

Somehow we have gone from “I will put a chicken in every pot” to “I will seek to put a chicken in every pot.” There is less accountability in the second formulation, which may be especially helpful in a time of contracting national prospects — in which contraction, the increased nuclear military spending I am criticizing plays a central symbolic role. Our hopes are greater than the realities available to service them. We, and our donors and supporters, want Santa Claus.

Paul Ingram responds to Mello-Knight exchange

Paul Ingram is the executive director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC). He responded on 15 February 2010 to the Mello-Knight exchange of views on nuclear disarmament and the Obama administration.


Everyone knows that in this tough world of realist nuclear politics it does not pay to be naïve. What is less frequently recognised is that in a world of global threat it can be equally dangerous to play an extreme game of zero trust.

So we have to go through this strange and difficult world navigating a constant and complex series of considered calculations, making judgments based upon evidence and previous experience, what we can trust and what we cannot. That goes as much for those of us trying to influence decision-makers as much as for officials making decisions over foreign policy.

So when a President gets up and makes a speech that contains within it commitments to a world free of nuclear weapons, proposing a number of initiatives, and looking forward to concrete commitments in the near term, it pays to be hopeful, but not gullible. And we have the first test of this hope in the very near future when the President comes to publish a version of his long awaited Nuclear Posture Review.

Let me say at the outset that I am not intimately familiar with the inner workings of the Obama Adminsitration’s game plan, with the NPR, the START follow-on negotiations, these investments. I don’t like these investments in the infrastructure [weapons complex] any more than Greg. I think they are a waste of US taxpayer’s resources, and America and the world would be better off without them, with existing budgets devoted to further winding down the infrastructure, clean-up and the like.

But there remain several reasons for treating Obama’s nuclear diplomacy, and these investments, seriously:

1) It is a new departure. Now, bask in that fact, but I agree with Greg, this is hardly a cause for great celebration.

2) There are no obvious electoral benefits in this for Obama beyond the concrete international results that pertain. Few Americans will vote differently on this, unless President Obama actually delivers upon this agenda and appears come the next election as a President that delivers on the international scene. In actual fact, if the agenda were a cynical one, he will more likely end up seen as a President big on promises and weak on delivery – whether he is genuine or not, this is a likely and very depressing outcome.

3) The view that is being taken by the Administration over the need for this level of extra investment may be misguided, but it does hold a certain level of internal consistency. Let’s be honest, few things in politics are pure and simple, black and white. Even the JASON report, when pointing out that the warheads were in good shape, said that the infrastructure itself was under severe strain through lack of investment and the challenge of attracting talent into the profession. The belief that we need to reduce slowly and multilaterally whilst maintaining a nuclear force well into the future may be frustrating to many of us, and highlight the fact that we still live in a world where governments have not yet understood the need for more radical shifts in their postures, but it does not contradict the vision. And let’s be clear here, commitment to the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, whilst only the first step, is an important one nevertheless. And if you were based in France, you’d know what a big step it was.

4) Perhaps most important, the Obama Administration, and we ourselves, need to consider strategically how we can realistically bring the majority of Americans, Russians, and God knows, the Indians, Pakistanis and Israelis along with us (everyone these days focuses on the Iranians but trust me, they are easy in comparison). It is not effective simply to state positions and push through initiatives against majority opposition, even when you are the most powerful man in the world. You still have to convince Congress, the Americans people, and then colleagues abroad, in a huge complex web of inter-relationships that are not conducive to rational debate, let alone instruction. It takes gentle engagement, openness to others’ perspectives, appreciation of diversity, team work and many other cooperative skills beyond policy work to build the process necessary for disarmament. And that takes building confidence. And that probably requires the sort of investment we are witnessing today.

Bill Hartung responds to Mello-Knight exchange

William D. Hartung is Director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation. He responded on 15 February 2010 to the Mello-Knight exchange of views on nuclear disarmament and the Obama administration.



Obama’s aspirations go beyond just his statement at Prague. He is in the midst of negotiating a new nuclear arms
reduction treaty with Russia, with a possible follow-on seeking deeper cuts; he has committed himself publicly to pursuing ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a treaty banning the production of bomb-making materials
(the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty); he is hosting a nuclear security summit of scores of nations to work on plans to secure or destroy “loose nukes” and bomb-making materials; and he hosted a meeting of the UN Security Council (the first U.S. president to do so) to reinforce disarmament pledges of numerous key players.

Some of these changes can occur without major restructuring of U.S. conventional forces (new reductions with Russia and new nuclear security measures, for example).

Everything beyond that will require substantial changes first, as Charles suggests, not only in U.S conventional forces and posture but in regional politics in security dynamics in South Asia (India and Pakistan) and the Middle East (Israel, Iran, and host of related questions, including an Israeli-Palestinian setttlement). And current actions such as boosting spending on the nuclear weapons complex need to be reversed.

Many of these factors are rarely or not fully discussed by many — but not all — of the advocates of “getting to zero.”

So, I guess I agree with many of the points made by Charles and Greg, but I’m not ready to give up on the prospect of some significant changes in nuclear policies and postures. My sense is that we should applaud Obama’s commitments and then hold him to his word, not presume that progress is impossible.

Total U.S. Security Budget – FY’10 and FY’11

Winslow T. Wheeler. Straus Military Reform Project, Center for Defense Information, 01 February 2010.

Total US Security Spending

The 150/050 Balance: Budgeting for National Security

Gordon Adams. American University and the Stimson Center, 16 December 2009. PowerPoint presentation hosted on the Commonwealth Institute website.