Tuesday, April 9, 2013

F-35: CNO and USMC Commandant express support for F-35 but say procurement system is broken

I don't think this comes as a surprise to anyone:
The top officers in the Navy and Marine Corps defended their most expensive program, Lockheed Martin's troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, while acknowledging the way the Pentagon buys such weapons is not merely broken but "constipated."
General Amos said of the F-35B:
"There's no alternative for the United States Marine Corps to the F-35B," Commandant Gen. James Amos said at the opening session of the Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space conference. "I want to make that crystal clear to everybody in the audience." All the great aircraft of the past have gone through teething troubles in development, said Amos, a pilot himself. 
His last statement seems to be lost on certain critics who almost seem to be gleeful anytime the program encounters problems.

Adm. Greenert said:
"Speaking for the Navy," added the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, "I need the fifth-generation fighter, and that [F-35] provides it, so we're all in -- but it has to perform. It has problems; it is making progress." 
The article goes on to say Greenert has "damned" the JSF in the past with "faint praise". I'm not sure what passes for solid praise in the author's world, but "we're all in" does so in most other people's. And the caveat "it has to perform" is an obvious one which clearly is true. All indications are the F-35 will do just fine.

The procurement process, however, is another matter.  Here in a nutshell is a description of the problem:
After years of acquisition "reforms" that have empowered the civilian Department of Defense bureaucracy at the expense of the uniformed services, "the service chiefs need to get back in," said Amos. "Congress doesn't give the program manager a dime, they give the service chiefs the money... It's our money, these are our programs."

Agreed Greenert, "I as a service chief would like to have more authority and more accountability in acquisitions." There are far too many different bureaucratic entities with input into the "requirements" for new systems, but none of them is held accountable for the delay and expense produced by the waffling back and forth over an ever-longer wish list. The buck should stop with service chiefs like himself and Amos, Greenert argued -- which may well require Congress to reexamine the landmark 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act "and consider altering it."
Give the responsibility and accountability to the service chiefs and let them handle the programs.  That would eliminate the ability of "different bureaucratic entities" from inserting requirements into the system that the services don't want and aren't demanding.  That would also help cut the time necessary to field new weapons.


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