Schwartz’s Top 5 Priorities: Acquisition Comes Last

Schwartz’s Top 5 Priorities: Acquisition Comes Last

Between the tanker wars, the battles over intelligence and space systems and the recent firefight between the service and OSD it’s hard to remember that the Air Force actually fights real wars. But the new Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, knows and, in the first major brief laying out his priorities, Schwartz puts nukes top of the list, then he cites improving joint cooperation.

As part of this, he wants to “aggressively adapt AF ways and means across the spectrum” (read better balance between special operations and conventional forces). And he defines the spectrum as including command and control, ISR and “non-traditional roles.”

Next on the list comes that old time religion — taking care of airmen. But this includes two warfighting goals that are pretty revealing. Schwartz says airmen must be “trained & ready for 21st Century challenges” (can you say next war-itis) and he admits the service needs to “Reinforce our Warfighting Ethos, expeditionary combat mindset.”

Fourth comes reset, or “Modernize our aging air & space inventories.” And, for better or for worse, acquisition comes dead last.

Let’s look at some of the details from the brief. We’ll skip nukes for now since that has been covered in some depth already. On improving the Air Force’s joint role, Schwartz’s time at Transportation Command seems to be shining through. He says that “a specific emphasis on air-ground integration and ISR” is needed, something sure to be music to the ears of the Army and Marines, as well as the space community. He addresses the fighter jock mafia head on: “Exquisite support of Joint partners does not diminish us.” And Schwartz calls for more work “advising foreign military and security forces and defense institutions.”

Under improving training and taking care of airmen, Schwartz offers a laundry list of goals under things he wants to “Come to closure on.” They are: nuclear organization; uniform; maintenance organization; ad campaign; air operation centers; cyber (I hear he has issued a memo putting a kibosh on the planned expansion of cyber command); end strength; and the “way ahead on production lines.”

Only one item really draws any interest under acquisition. Schwartz says they need to “Enforce stability in requirements, CONOPS, funding.” This is a Sisyphean task and we wish him the very best.

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Apparently Gen Schwartz recognizes something many leaders don’t; the biggest problem facing the acquisition community is the failure of the requirements “professionals” to make up their minds.

Requirements creep costs billions of dollars and years of schedule time. If the JCIDS process were enforced like the FAR, we’d all be better off for it!


But, the Acq Community must get the backbone to resist requirements creep. My experience says that once you layout the impacts of new requirements (in risks, costs, complexity, delivery dates, etc.) in concrete terms, Senior Operators shutdown the “Creep.”

True, Radarnav. Too often the acquisition community allows the requirements creep and fears going back to the users with a change to cost, schedule and performance baselines. I’ve seen PMs “hope” that they can achieve the users desired capabilities with the same amount of money and time.

Hope is not a risk mitigation strategy that I find to be particularly effective.

Maybe I am hopelessly naive. I would like to see the Air Force get back to its core values. Looking back on the last ten years, it seems like we really lost our way. There was so much focus on procurement and ‘helping out’ retired GO buddies. Can anybody name one procurement program that has gone well? T-3? KC-X? Even the C-17 has little resemblence to the original block model. Hard to believe the F-16 was purchased with a short RFP (what was it, three pages? Anybody know?).

The “Boeing Tanker Lease” fiasco from a couple years ago, our lobbying for more fighters for the next war, and a $50M Thunderbird Jumbotron–can’t we do anything right? If “Integrity First” was anything more than a buzz word, think of the money and embarassment we could have saved ourselves. If you worked for the wrong four-star, speaking truth to power could be a immediate career ender!

The focus of Air Force GOs seemed to be more about officer promotions. If you want to read some halarious e-mails, go to the electronic DOD IG reading room and read the “thunderbird jumbotron” report. A two-star got slammed for steering a $50M contract toward a retired four-star. Their superiors biggest concern about the affair was how they could weather the storm and get the two-star his third star. Wow. You have got to be (*&^% kidding me!

Ten years ago, we had a true leader, Gen Ron Fogleman. He lived the AF values. Nobody was going to get canned for telling the truth. Fast forward, we have had four-stars that were completely at the other end of the spectrum. One comes to mind–his biggest concern was staying current in the F-16 and making self-promotional TV commercials.

Will air superiority mean anything more in the next war mean anything more than it does in the current wars? Maybe the Air Force needs to be more a part of the ‘joint team’ and figure out what we can contribute to the current effort—before the other services figure out how they can do it without us. Could it be the future of the Air Force will be mainly airlift, ISR, Space, and Nuclear? It could be.

What ever the future holds, I hope that we have–and promote–leaders that live the Air Force values.

So the new Chief’s priorities include: “Fourth resetting, or Modernizing aging air & space inventories. And, for better or for worse, acquisition comes in dead last.” It won’t be long before yet another GAO report addresses failing to perform on number 4 because number 5 was placed last. Even if agreement is ever reached on what modernization entails for air and space, the failure to acquire as required (cost, schedule and performance) ensures that yet another leadership hierarchy will still be “stomping on ants while the elephants are running through the rose bushes.” Yes, halting requirements creep is important but it entails a lot more emphasis on acquisition than is implied by CSAF’s prioritization. It involves improved planning, training, organizational reform, contractor management oversight, the right engineering resources, etc. The list is longer than the above and acquisition reforms have been impotent in the past. In other words, AF needs effective acquisition reform. So, what’s going to make it happen? And yes, some of the higher priorities will be greatly affected by acquisition failures as well. Let’s hope a new administration come January can reshuffle and deal a playable hand.

Fogleman was probably the best AF Chief of Staff we’ve had in a long, long time. Too bad he served during the Clinton Administration and refused to kiss ass.

By the way, my vote for worse Chief would be McPeak.…who is now sucking up to Obama. It scares me Obama could make him the Secretary of Defense or NSA.

One of my favorite Chief of Staffs has been Schwartz. Nukes are top of list no doubt. Whether he means keeping them safe, making new ones, or decommissioning them he should clarify.

Thank you General Schwartz for the USAF does need a good cleaning out the trash. Joint OPS are the way to go, just make sure your pilots really, I mean REALLY know how to support ground forces, maybe a Security Forces tenure for pilots or Convoy Escort orientation 101. Boot camp warfighting skills need to extended to ALL existing AF personnel who have not done it along with adding a mini PJ school for new recruits. Ever though of an enlisted Pilot Program? Maybe some wings around the enlisted ranks will help you?

We have developed a deepwater “fence” that can protect oil and gas installations from terrorist attacks. It would also work for any high value target in the water. Is this something you would be interested in as a story?


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