Premature Weapons Testing Drains Military Budget

Premature Weapons Testing Drains Military Budget

The U.S. Defense Department’s top weapons tester had plenty of bad news this week for some of the military’s most expensive weapons programs — from the F-35 fighter jet to the Littoral Combat Ship.

In his annual report to Congress, J. Michael Gilmore, director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation office, said the fifth-generation fighter has cracked during testing and isn’t ready for combat operations, and that the LCS has had problems with their guns, mine-countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare systems.

But perhaps even more troubling was his assertion that acquisition officials, in some cases, continue to approve programs that aren’t ready for operational testing — a practice that creates costlier problems down the road.


“While always important, it is especially important in the current fiscal climate that system reliability is emphasized early in the acquisition process. Reliable systems cost less overall (because they require less maintenance and fewer spare parts), are more likely to be available when called upon, and enable a longer system lifespan,” according to the report.

Gilmore has added a section to the report specifically to assess problems found too late in the process. The move was “based on concerns from Congress that significant problems in acquisition programs are being discovered during operational testing that arguably should have been discovered in developmental testing,” he writes.

In 2013, 44 programs had “significant” problems discovered during so-called initial operational test and evaluation, known in acquisition parlance as IOT&E, according to the report. Of these, a dozen had issues that surfaced for the first time and should have been found and fixed earlier.

Among these were the Army’s battlefield communications network called the Warfighter Information Network — Tactical, or WIN-T, being developed by General Dynamics Corp.; AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM, made by Raytheon Co.; and the Mk 54 Lightweight Torpedo, also made by Raytheon.

This isn’t a new problem.

Program managers have repeatedly defied his office’s recommendations and let weapons systems prematurely enter initial operational test — a phase when finding “significant issues” in a system should be rare.

Previously, for instance, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for developmental test and evaluation, a position now held by C. David Brown, determined that four of seven weapons programs should not enter operational testing, but they “proceeded anyway,” according to last year’s assessment. As expected, all but one program had “significant issues” during evaluation, including the Joint Tactical Radio System’s Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit program.

The latter is among 10 programs in this year’s assessment in which the problems identified in development testing resurfaced during operational testing.

The report strikes an optimistic note in that most program managers in recent years implemented fixes to problems that appeared during operational testing. “While significant issues are being discovered late in the acquisition cycle, most programs are addressing the discoveries and verifying fixes in follow-on operational testing.”

Overall, though, the trends are headed in the wrong direction, according to the document.

During the 17-year period from fiscal 1997 through fiscal 2013, 75 out of 135 weapons systems, or 56 percent, met or exceeded reliability threshold requirements during operational testing, it states. That’s down from almost 64 percent from the 12-year period from fiscal 1985 through fiscal 1996.

Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly linked to last year’s report. Also, it has been updated to include additional information from this year’s assessment.

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This is a little embarrassing, but the web link is going to the FY2012 Annual Report, not the current one. Recommend you all fix this.

As always, you can have any two: Cost, Quality or Schedule. Obviously the Program Managers opted for Cost and Schedule and skimped on Quality. Really not a surprise.

I believe while the link needs to be corrected, the article be updated to included both last year’s (2012) and this year’s (2013) reports for comparison.

This reminds of The Pentagon Wars — times 1,000. So check out the following links and see for yourselves. Hopefully all these will give you a wakeup call on what is really going on. Land of the Free, Land of the Brave, Land That Declares That We Have — The Constitution Of The United States Of America, really depends on You. It Is Up To You. All Of You.

SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND http://​www​.rightsofthepeople​.com/​f​r​e​e​d​o​m​_​d​o​c​u​m​ent

The general misconception is that any statute passed by legislators bearing the appearance of law constitutes the law of the land. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any statute, to be valid, must be in agreement. It is impossible for a law which violates the Constitution to be valid. This is succinctly stated as follows:
“All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void.“
—Marbury vs. Madison, 5 US (2 Cranch)
137, 174, 176, (1803)

“When rights secured by the Constitution are involved, there can be no rule making or legislation which would abrogate them.“
—Miranda vs. Arizona, 384 US 436 p. 491

The Pentagon Wars (1998) http://​www​.imdb​.com/​t​i​t​l​e​/​t​t​0​1​4​4​5​50/

Eisenhower warns us of the military industrial complex. http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​8​y​0​6​N​S​B​B​RtY

The Day Before 9/11 Rumsfeld Admits Pentagon Missing Astounding http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​N​m​n​O​f​4​y​S​hyA

2.3 TRillion Dollars Missing from DOD Day before 911 2001 http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​_​r​R​q​e​J​c​u​K-A

Pentagon Fraud? Is The Pentagon Guilty Of Billion Dollar Accounting http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​U​Z​1​h​8​8​F​m​4oM

I was wondering what pentagon office got destroyed on 911, so I just typed this (it’s after the 4 minute mark):
911 Pentagon Budget Analysts Office Destroyed 38+ killed at 4min00sec http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​J​C​I​A​W​r​f​k​j_s

9/11 Truth: What Happened to Building 7 http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​i​E​u​J​i​m​a​u​mW4

Architects & Engineers — Solving the Mystery of WTC 7 — AE911Truth http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​h​Z​E​v​A​8​B​C​oBw

9/11 Experiments: The Great Thermate Debate http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​5​d​5​i​I​o​C​i​I8g

Full Disclosure Is There A Connection Between Libor Scandal and http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​h​e​b​d​B​C​3​W​j-c

Unbelievable Rant on MSNBC! Reporter CRACKS & Spews TRUTH! http://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​M​1​l​J​d​2​e​L​G0M

Shows the bureaucracy in the Pentagon has thereon interest in mind not the solder sailor or airman in mind. A General wants the crappy pane known as the JSF in service ASAP so he doesn’t care if they crash and kill pilot he wants the plane. That’s the problem. Leave it to the scientist and the test pilots not the brass to when a plane goes into service. Need to find ways to get Pentagon out of testing and development maybe reverse the program the way it was 20 years ago..

For anyone following defense acquisition, I strongly recommend the Introduction sections of Gilmore’s annual reports. They make fascinating reading. He writes well, he knows what he’s talking about, and he doesn’t pull any punches.

This year’s report devotes more than 50 pages to the F-35 program. It makes it pretty clear that we have not yet produced any actual combat aircraft in that program — only test articles and trainers.

Government waste never gets old.

It would be senseless to go into production until after the test phase is completed. Any design flaws, performance shortcomings, etc. need to be addressed before production go ahead.

Now if we only had a SUPREME COURT that is in office to protect Our Constitution, instead of trying pacify their political partners that appointed the, we might get back on track about Our Constitution being the LAW OF THE LAND, instead of the Supreme Court thinking they are the law of the land.… It appears to me that is, our Supreme Court, and NOW the person currently in Our White House is doing the very same thing.…He NOW believes he is the LAW OF THE LAND.….

Sir,
Put down the bong and back away from the keyboard.

That makes absolutely no sense. Every advanced system (weapon or otherwise) is too complex to test every possible failure mode in every possible environment. If the system has a human operator, the complexity increases. Now factor in the fact that we tend to only buy new complex weapons when the existing ones won’t suffice, to including the inability to meet a new operational requirement. When the complex systems get into more operator hands, in new operational environments, the new capabilities allow operators to do new things which creates even more variables that may need to be added to the issue of complexity. You have to use a system operationally, before everything van become known, This is why people advise never buy a first-year car model. They may have run a million miles of road tests, but the consumer does the field research. The only difference is automakers don’t have a politically installed office of beancounters broadcasting engineering developments to people with no capability to understand what is being reported.

I heard about Gilmore’s comments from a colleague at work, read this thread, then read the report itself, swished it around in my mouth and —

DOT&E is a notorious Monday Morning quarterback, passing judgment on the work done by programs of record, but seldom, if ever, taking responsibility for failure. That said, there wasn’t anything technically wrong with Gilmore’s report — except that it emphasized the negative, without laying out a realistic and affordable plan to address the problems it identifies. Oh, yeah, if we expand the test budget, we’ll be able to broaden the test space — it ain’t trade space, honey, you are way to far downrange to redesign your system. Now, it would be nice — I’m only being mildly sarcastic here — if the requirements actually did specify the range of conditions appropriate to test. But Gilmore wants something even more difficult — did you catch the point about “single hypothesis testing” ? Now I humbly ask, pray tell, whether you do, no kidding and no shprt cuts, have the moxie to actually do multiple hypothesis testing, and if that is what you are doing, what does that look like. What Gilmore is saying is directly antithetical to the rah-rah, sys boom bah stuff you here from the AT&L side of the house, where the answer is to accelerate and front load the system life cycle. That said, the report is enlightening, in a maddening sort of way. I realize now, exactly why the T&E community thinks it can take its good ole time maturing the system’s simulations — irrespective of how the program used simulations for systems engineering and analysis — the comment in the report that the F-35 Verification Simulator still has yet to pass V&V — just says it all. Gilmore brags up and down about how many test hours they put in, and lays this on Congress, without a shred of guilt ? Amazing.

Some things have to be found before becoming operational. The F-35 for example, why were some of these structural issues found way before this? Let’s face it, computer programs can do a lot, but, eventually you have to fly it under adverse conditions. How long have they had test aircraft to “shake the bugs out” in real flight? One of those versions is supposed to land on a carrier deck! Now they find even before they even try it, they are getting cracks! What would happen if they even try an arrested landing, will it just disintegrate? Something very bad is going on. Someone is rushing these weapons into the field well before they are fully tested. I fear it has been done only to make the makers look like they got it out on schedule, regardless if it is dangerous to the operator or not. A company can not do business like this. Only in the military arena is this allowed with such freedom. Have you ever seen a car that starts developing cracks in the chassis after they start selling them to the public? Of course not! They would be forced to recall them AT THE MANUFACTURER’S EXPENSE! Yet here, they just do it and hope no one gets killed.

“Some things have to be found before becoming operational. The F-35 for example, why were[n’t] some of these structural issues found way before this?” Your question should have clued you in that you were missing information, before you formed an uninformed opinion.
The cracks found are on test articles undergoing load and durability testing on the ground, and is part of any program that eliminates cracks in the actual airplane later. Ask any structural engineer: cracks happen, they just must be managed. As to the question why not find them earlier, come up with a solution to doing it faster and the aerospace world will beat a path to your door. If this wasn’t done on a test article In a ground rig, you would have to fly one airplane every weekday, twice a day, 1.5 hours per flight for about 10 years and 3 months to get to the FIRST lifetime milestone. Many of these cracks are being found in the second and now third lifetime of testing on the F-35. NOW you can perhaps form an opinion worthy of sharing.

I’m not clear on what you think Gilmore should be taking responsibility for. DOT&E doesn’t develop systems — they just point out that the systems that were developed are (currently) useless crap, and explain (for the 713th time) to the services that it’s cheaper and faster in the long run to actually test as you go, rather than skipping all the tests (“They’re so expensive! They take so much time!”) and discovering that (a) nothing works, and (b) it’s going to be slow and expensive to redesign and then retrofit the fixes.

We agree that AT&L doesn’t get it — the only way to shorten the development cycle is to ASK FOR LESS. Less is easier to test, easier to develop, easier to integrate.

My point is that DOT&E does not win by how many scalps it puts up on the wall. It wins by how many problems it finds before a system gets to the field. Gilmore complains that problems that should have been detected in DT get found in OT. To some extent, that is a valid observation — but the point is that finding problems in test is a good thing, not a bad thing, and so people should be rewarded and not blamed for finding problems. This report says “We had to extend the test window to find and fix more problems than we expected”. No, that’s not a win. But I have to ask, was the problem with the design itself, with inadequate specification of the design, or the execution of the design ? Given DOT&E’s negative attitude towards actually using simulations — at ANY stage in the process, it is easy to understand why programs don’t understand their own designs well enough before getting in to OT — DOT&E incentivizes them to do the wrong thing, not the right thing. This just accelerates industry’s financial incentive to rush into LRIP, where the big money is made.

They did not rush F35 into the field… It is NOT IN THE FIELD. They have built test aircraft that are being tested. Now there are problems being found. These are problems in the test aircraft, not the final deployed aircraft. the final deplyed aircraft don’t exist.

The problem is that the services are confused by the two senses of the word ‘test’. They think of tests as pass/fail exams that let you graduate to the next stage, rather than thinking of them as diagnostics that tell you what’s wrong with you. This “success-oriented” mindset starts very early in the program. So they do the wrong tests, and learn only that the system doesn’t work, rather than doing the right tests and learning WHY the system doesn’t work.

Simulation is a red herring here — DOT&E does NOT discourage programs from using simulation modeling in development. They do refuse to let (generally poorly validated) simulation experiments substitute for actual testing of actual systems in their actual operational environments, though. That’s a good thing, especially for the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen that will end up using those systems in anger.

Incorrect — they have built dozens of production aircraft in addition to the prototypes and test articles. You’re right that these production aircraft are not fielded and are not combat capable — but that’s not by design, that’s because they went ahead into production before they knew how to build them. Now they will have to pay again to retrofit every one of those useless production aircraft to turn it into a usable production aircraft.

Just not true. Dozens of produciton aircraft built? Where are they? They have STARTED to build the early produciton lots (as has always been done on other aircraft ) but there are not parking lots filled with complete aircraft that are unused. The completed aircraftthus far are the test bird and a couple that the training commands are using to begin to set up the training squadrons.

If there are so many dozens of completed production aircraft, where are they?

Oh, and the comment that I responded to specifically said that the F35’s had been fielded. Make sure that you tell us all the specific squadrons and bases where the “fielded” F35’s are deployed.

Noted. I never maintained that you can dispense with live testing. But can you trade off testing in simulation for field testing — and what are the limits of this trade space ? We train in simulation, and the training community has accepted that they can, to some extent trade off operating costs associated with consumption of fuel, ammunition, and spare parts to get the same — or in many cases, better results. Not so the test community. No compromises, no way, no how. Expense be switched. If you are really serious about testing to learn, learn how to use simulations well as part of your community of practice.

You need to know your history better. The military has been killing test pilots since the beginning of military aircraft programs (Maj Bong, the leading US ace in WWII is my favorite example). Military leaders have always wanted the next weapon as soon as it can be ready, because they know the current weapons are not as good. Thus the temptation to rush.

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