Posts Tagged ‘Modernization’

Security Isn’t Cheap

Adam J. Hebert. Air Force Magazine, November, 2010.


…ill-advised calls to cut the Pentagon budget follow as predictably as the tides. Without credible analysis of strategy or requirements, critics are once again declaring defense spending to be out of control.

Editor’s Comment:

In his editorial Security Isn’t Cheap Adam J. Herbert cites the work of the Sustainable Defense Task Force as a case in point of critics of Pentagon spending recommending cuts “without credible analysis of strategy or requirements.” As a member of the task force I differ over the credibility of our analysis. But let me speak to where I agree with Mr. Herbert:

• “Security is not cheap.” In fact it is extremely expensive. When the country is hit with a financial disaster we owe it to the country and our military to reexamine our national security strategy and make sure priorities are clear and that our military investments are cost-effective. In the last twelve years of Pentagon budgets the planning has proceeded as though there is no resource constraint. Unfortunately, that is true of the last QDR as well. Those days are clearly over – Secretary Gates has said as much.

• “A well-trained, well-equipped, professional military is not cheap. If the nation wants it to cost less, the nation will probably have to ask it to do less.” Exactly. Since the end of the Cold War the U.S. military has steadily advanced its global reach and engagement. Missions have proliferated, including many that should be done by civilians in the State Department and other agencies. Significant numbers of U.S. troops still remain in Europe, even though there is no military threat to Europe that allies can’t handle. The most important take-away lesson from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that long low-intensity land wars are not cost-effective uses of U.S. military power and should be avoided whenever possible. Hopefully we can all agree there should never again be such a “war of choice.”

• “There are certainly ways to reduce defense spending…” Yes, and one that will save around $45 billion in Air Force modernization accounts is available in a choice about how to modernize the fighter fleet. The Air Force has decided to replace its aging F-16s with just about the most expensive new fighter one can dream up, the F-35. In today’s fiscal environment either the Air Force will end up with a lot fewer of these planes than planned, or they will choose to get ahead of the budget crunch and modernize with new block versions of the still best of class F-16s and limit the buy of F-35s this decade to a few squadrons for high-intensity air-superiority missions. If serious air competition emerges a decade from now we can then roll out production of F-35s (or perhaps a less costly follow-on to the F-16), planes presumably much improved with ten years or more of further fighter technology development.

Task force: Budget fix requires extreme cuts

Lance M. Bacon. Navy Times, 28 June 2010.


With an eye on diminishing budgets and rising tensions with Iran and North Korea, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead on June 24 called for continued international partnerships to hone a “just and sustainable international order.” He also continued his call for fiscal restraint, emphasizing that the Navy “cannot afford a tailor-made solution to every need that we have.” But the CNO still is adamant that a 313-ship Navy is needed to maintain maritime security.

Editor’s Comment:

Lance M Bacon quotes from a speech by Chief of Naval Operations Roughead at the Maritime Systems and Technology seminar on June 22nd. These quotes are misleading because Roughead is speaking not about reducing the national deficit, but rather about the Navy’s need to watch its spending in the context of growing fiscal pressures on service budgets.

Roughead remains committed to the goal of a 313 ship battle fleet. He also supports Secretary Gate’s initiative to save $105 billion within DoD accounts over the next five years. Gates’ savings will not contribute a penny to deficit reduction. He plans to plow all savings back into Pentagon programs and it is the Navy’s share of this money that Roughead wants to use to help grow the battle fleet to 313 ships.

Not only is Gates not offering to contribute to deficit reduction, but he is sticking to his goal of real growth of 1 to 2% a year for in Pentagon budgets. This will increase annual national deficits somewhere in the range of $6 to 12 billion.

Gates’ position is untenable and will not hold. If the nation is going to meet its deficit reduction commitments the Pentagon will have to contribute its share — which is at least 40% of the $230 billion a year increase in its base (non-war) budget during the last decade. This is the level of cuts the task force has suggested — it is not “extreme”, but rather responsible and realistic.

In the context of the coming national fiscal restraint, the worst thing the CNO can do is continue pushing to grow the Navy battle fleet to 313 ships. The more success he has in buying now what will prove to be unaffordable new ships, the further the fleet will have to shrink when austere budgeting arrives.

Far wiser is to start reconfiguring and trimming the fleet now and save procurement dollars for a more realistic set of priorities and a more restrained strategic posture. The task force has put forward one set of priorities for lean times. Let others suggest theirs.

Debt, Deficits, and Defense: A Way Forward

Report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force. 11 June 2010.
full report:
executive summary:


Putting America’s defense establishment on a more sustainable path may require curbing some of our commitments abroad, adopting more realistic military goals, or putting greater emphasis on more cost-effective instruments of power.

C-SPAN video of the report release briefing hosted by Rep. Barney Frank, U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, 11 June 2010.

Photos of the report release briefing, U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, 11 June 2010.

Army Budget Share Will Grow

Greg Grant. DoD Buzz, 09 April 2010.


In DOD’s funding forecasts, future costs to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are vastly understated as are personnel and healthcare costs. “Reset” costs for Army and Marine equipment returning from Iraq are also vastly understated, as all are new aircraft programs, e.g. F-35, tanker. The shipbuilding plan is also underfunded. Cost overruns in the F-35 and satellites continue due to immature technologies, the analysis says, and risks shifts to existing platforms.

The biggest future growth areas will be in networked communications and overhead surveillance, followed by repair, maintenance and training. The future requirements process will be driven more by combatant commanders than service bureaucracy, more joint and fewer overall contracts and programs. There will be further monopolization of large platform primes, e.g. one tank builder, one aircraft tanker builder and one shipbuilder.

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.

Get Serious About Reform: Budget Challenges Will Force Hard Choices

by Carl Conetta and Charles Knight. Defense News, 21 February 2010.

During the past decade, the U.S. Defense Department has enjoyed a rise in its budget unprecedented since the Korean War. With President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request, it is up nearly 100 percent in real terms from its post-Cold War low. But few observers believe that this level of spending can continue in light of the mounting national debt. So it is wise to think now about options for savings.

A way to begin is to ask, what has driven budgets so high? Obviously, the wars are part of the answer. But they account for only 20 percent of today’s expenditures. And they are the least likely targets for economizing.

It is more fruitful to reflect on the shortcomings in past efforts at defense reform. Can we do it better? It is also worth thinking about the practice of force modernization during the post-Cold War period, which has been distinctly undisciplined.

The end of the Cold War presented a unique opportunity – as well as a manifest need – for the structural reform of our defense posture. The force reductions of the 1990s necessarily risked decreased efficiency, due to the loss of economies of scale affecting support activities and equipment acquisition. The standard solution to such problems is to restructure as one gets smaller, matching reductions in size with a reduction in complexity – a practice the DoD did not, for the most part, follow.

Although smaller, DoD and the services have largely retained or even increased their complexity. For instance, there are today 50 major commands either one step above or below the service level – not much different from during the Cold War.

In our recent study of budget trends, we identify a dozen areas where significant changes had been proposed in the 1990s. These involved service roles and missions, consolidation of various support and training functions, and recentering budget and acquisition planning at the joint level.

In addition, the need to reform DoD’s acquisition, logistics and financial management systems has been evident for a long, long time. However, only two reform initiatives – competitive sourcing and military base closures – were pursued far enough to yield significant annual savings, and these have not amounted to more than 4 percent of the defense budget.

There also was hope in the mid-1990s that a “revolution in military affairs” might lead to new efficiencies. We would reap more bang for the buck by means of increased battlefield awareness, improved logistics, increased capacities for standoff precision attack, and the networking of units within and across services.

In some areas, such as precision attack, capability has dramatically increased. Theater logistics also have improved. But nowhere has the revolution in information technology led to manifest and substantial savings. Rather than supplant-ing legacy capabilities and platforms, the new technology has mostly just supplemented them.

In prospect, the evolution of net-centric warfare might reduce the need for redundant capabilities. But progress toward the services sharing a common nervous system has been slow and mostly involved special operations units and precision ground attack. Generally, net-centric capabilities exist as an anemic overlay to traditional service-centric structures and assets.

DoD and the services have faced little pressure to economize or transform during the past decade. This is also evident in equipment acquisition.

We can discern three distinct acquisition trends at work in recent decades. First, there are legacy programs that came forward from the Cold War period with considerable institutional momentum. Second, there are programs reflecting the revolutionary potential of new information technologies. Finally, there are adaptive programs, such as the recent mass purchase of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, that correspond to new mission requirements.

In an ideal world, the imperative to adapt to new missions and circumstances would draw on the revolutionary potential of new technologies to rewrite or supplant legacy programs. But this has not happened.

Too much of the $2.5 trillion in modernization funding since 1990 perpetuated the status quo circa 1990. Transformational acquisition was mostly restricted to producing supplements, such as Predator drones, to the legacy arsenal. And adaptive acquisition was largely delayed until field experiences forced a flurry of ad hoc efforts beginning six years ago.

The Pentagon’s central authorities have done too little, too late to compel the integration of modernization efforts along adaptive lines. Legacy, transformational and adaptive modernization have lurched forward together, but poorly integrated and competing for resources. And yet, even though modernization spending now surpasses that of the Reagan era, no one is happy with the result.

For 10 years, Congress and the White House have been permissive when it comes to defense spending; this has undercut any impetus for reform and prioritization. Obama’s decision to further boost the defense budget suggests that this dysfunction will persist for a while, but this, too, is a bubble that will burst. Preparing for that eventuality means revisiting options for structural reform and getting clearer on our strategic priorities.

Trillions to Burn? A Quick Guide to the Surge in Pentagon Spending

Carl Conetta. Project on Defense Alternatives, 05 February 2010.

Federal Debt as Percent of Gross Domestic Product


The most ready comparison to America’s current circumstance are the years of the Second World War. Back then, the level of debt rose higher than it has today, but the period during which the burden exceeded 100% of GDP lasted only 4 years. Today, by contrast, it looks as though the period during which debt will equal or exceed 100% of GDP will last for more than twice as long. If we think of the mid-1940s as representing “the Mount Everest” of US debt accumulation, then the period after 2008 should represent “the Tibetan plateau” (which is not as high as Everest, but far wider.)

Summary of the DoD Fiscal 2011 Budget Proposal

DoD summary prepared for press briefing, 01 February 2010. Hosted on the Commonwealth Institute website.