AFA: ‘Ruthless discipline’ needed for modernization efforts

AFA: ‘Ruthless discipline’ needed for modernization efforts

ORLANDO — Tightening budgets during a time that will see increased demand for Air Force capabilities means that the service and defense industry must work together with ‘ruthless discipline’ to ensure deliveries of high priority weapons like the F-35 Join Strike Fighter and the KC-46A tanker, said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz Thursday.

“As we make key decisions through low-rate initial production lots of F-35 and KC-46, our top acquisition priorities, we cannot afford any splintering of our unity and in effect, undermining our shared effort to deliver the centerpieces of future tactical air combat and strategic airlift capabilities as part of an appropriately balanced force structure,” said Schwartz during a speech at an Air Force Association-sponsored conference here.

“Now more than ever, on any number of wide-ranging issues, this is the time for harmonized voices and close partnerships. We may not agree with complete unanimity on how to compose a smaller force in every single detail but we can all agree that we must avoid a lesser force.”


He went on to warn industry to work with government to “relentlessly keep costs down” with affordability designed into new weapons buys and built into contracts. He also admitted that the air service must stabilize requirements by matching “ambition with actual operational needs.”

Still, industry must deliver capabilities on cost and on time, Schwartz warned.

“Responsible stewardship of precious taxpayer dollars demands that we avoid procuring unnecessary for the government or dispensing handsome financial bonuses to industry for unmet milestones and cost creep,” he added what may have been a thinly veiled reference to the F-35 which has continued to suffer from production delays and cost growth.

All of this comes at a time when the Pentagon is in the midst of a budget cut that will see the Air Force retiring 286 fighter, UAVs and cargo haulers in the coming years — a move expected to save the service $8.7 billion. This is being done to free up cash for investment in next generation weapons like the JSF, KC-46 tanker, a new long-range bomber, UAVs and satellites.

All of these new weapons are needed to counter 21st Century threats with an Air Force that is the smallest it has ever been, said Schwartz.

“We face a readiness conundrum, the Air Force will get smaller due to reduced budgets but we will also become more valued due to the current and anticipated security environment as described by the new defense strategic guidance,” said Schwartz. “This strategy emphasizes Air Force capabilities as fundamental to its major priorities such as deterring and defeating aggression, projecting power in anti-access and area denial environments, preventing the spread of [WMD] conducting space and cyber operations and maintaining the preponderance of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.”

This smaller Air Force will also work even closer with the Navy as the Pentagon shifts its focus from land toward air and sea warfare, he added.

“A broader strategic partnership between the air and sea services, as articulated in the air-sea battle concept, will be ever more important to ensure our access to the global commons and freedom of action wherever we have national interests,” said the general.

The service must work with all the other military services to come up with “highly integrated and tightly coordinated operations” to defeat future enemies, he added.

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Along with that “discipline”, perhaps a little accountability? I note that they are going to buy all the C-27s that they are contractually obliged to procure and then…park them in the desert! Why not sell via FMS or transfer to USCG? At least let the taxpayer get some kind of return on this investment.

How about cancelling the F-35B and F-35C to get the program actually going somewhere. The Super Hornet is better suited for the needs of the USMC and USN anyway and with the International Road Map upgrades it’s almost just as good in terms of performance and at a fraction of the price. We should only sell the F-35A to our international customers.

Also serious accountability is needed, but what I think is ultimately needed is for some generals and some admirals that do not have good and productive ideas to be booted out of the loop of defense programs instead of always being treated like royalty. Accountability starts at the top and we need more creative and more effective thinking generals and admirals. The LCS and several other programs were for the most part huge mistakes that began and are still going simply because they were started by a certain admiral or general that flattens anyone who disagree with them. I want generals and admirals that are open to the harshest productive criticism and will adapt to it.

Better yet, let the branch that was going to buy them in the first place (the Army) get them.

“He went on to warn industry to work with government to “relentlessly keep costs down” with affordability designed into new weapons buys and built into contracts.” But they will never ever consider cutting off the defense contractor gravy train of paying them $1.10 for every $1.00 they spend. Hell no, why ever stop doing that? I mean, if someone offered me $1.10 for every dollar I could spend, I know I’d be all about spending less, how about you? Just because we have “an Air Force that is the smallest it has ever been,” doesn’t mean we have to do anything radical like stop giving contractors an profit incentive to screw the US taxpayer.

It might be helpful if the service could actually predict future budgets with some accuracy.

For the FY2009 budget, USAF predicted that each F-35 purchased that year (we will use weapons system cost) would be $226M. Then, USAF predicted it would pay $100M for each F-35 in FY2013.

The recently released USAF budget prediction shows that for FY2013, the service expects to pay $181M for each F-35. A cost rise of $81M each from the FY2009 prediction.

In FY2009, the USAF expected to pay $172 billion for 1763 F-35s. For FY2013, the USAF predicts that 1763 F-35s will cost $212B; $40B over the FY2009 prediction.

In FY2009, USAF predicted the average cost of each aircraft would be $90M over the span of the total buy of 1763 aircraft. For FY2013, the USAF expects to pay $120M as an average cost of each F-35 for the programs buy of 1763 aircraft. This rise of 30% in just 4 years spells trouble.

If the USAF wants to stay on budget in relation to its FY2009 prediction, it would have to cut 529 aircraft; leaving 1234 F-35s for the USAFs total program buy.

Where will we be in another 4 years? What will future USAF leaders think of their predecessors when having to budget for a significant tac-air short-fall?

With the way things are going on Capital Hill he is having dreams. Sadly NO WAY will the military be cost efficient on buys never has probably never will, Its the Government.

Lockheed has a really strong incentive to hold those production costs down because the USAF has already guaranteed them they’ll get $1.10 for every $1.00 the airplane costs. Now a thinking person might look at that and call it a profit incentive to jack recurring costs through the roof, but we can trust the Air Force to get tough on program costs.

It’s this very incessant circular logic being communicated by AF CoS Gen. Schwartz that is a substantial hindrance to a prudent acquisition process and viable strategic planning going forward. ie, This view that “…as we make key decisions through low-rate initial production lots of F-35…” our discipline must therefore be most ruthless to make it happen.

But wait just a second, back up for a moment… the question should be: is the current stay the course F-35 Program in fact sustainable in the first place and is it the most reliable and cost-effective option right now as we admittedly head into austere budget environments at the same time we have a geriatric and rapidly becoming obsolete Tacair!?!

Sure, 5–8 years ago most of the conventional assumptions in policy making circles expected an F-16 priced F-35 to be coming off the line in massive quantities by middle of the decade under endlessly increasing Defense appropriations and be IOC by as early as 2012!

And the point that the F-35’s original business model requires it to be produced at around 200 jet per year and a total production of 3,000+ jets in order the the Program to be sustainable in the first place, simply runs counter in every respect to the multiple restructurings, likely massive downsizing and continued delays for a highly uncertain Fighter acquisition program, all while NO STOPGAP plan to supplement the widening capability and required deterrence holes exist!

Sir, with all respect, this Process and Program is unsustainable and incredibly risky!

What needs to be united behind now is a fundamental strategic paradigm shift in planning and policy making!

God speed USAF.

I like you. That is the funniest thing I have read in a long time.

…“but we can trust the Air Force to get tough on program costs.”

It is so sad, you have to laugh!

Good ideas, Black Owl, we can start by cutting the flag staff by 25% That’s be one step toward ensuring that the other 75% actually do something productive.

In the Navy we are so top heavy that we have a flag for every ship (just like a third world Navy). Perhaps it’s the same with the Army, a general for every brigade, or the Air Force a general for every squadron.

Never laugh at sad situations. Better to throw investment at it to turn out new innovations, systems, subsystems. They will have learned.

Here Am I.

I’ve got an idea. How about we man the squadrons to 100% with the required bodies, give them the necessary training and then let them focus on their jobs. Too many additional duties and “Extra-Curricular” crap is leaving the dedicated few holding the mission by mere threads. Training is lacking to say the least and non-existent for some. OJT within the units is a joke. Every guy out there is being thrown into a trial by fire because too many people are out volunteering, bowling, taking comp time, etc. tighten up the ship and the fleet will be fine. Organizational structure for countless units needs squaring away too. years of cuts have left units to man functions out of hide. E.g. Squadron Orderly Rooms vanished, but Deployment managers and training managers and Quality assurance types are still needed to ensure smooth ops. Why not give them the bodies they need so they can actually do their jobs. And, I havent even mentioned deployments.…

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