Showing posts with label F106. Show all posts
Showing posts with label F106. Show all posts

Friday, November 11, 2016

Does the Pentagon Need an Acquisition Chief??

Title of an article in Aviation Week.  They have one now.  The incumbent, Frank Kendall, claims that cost overruns were 51% before his time and he has reduced them to 5%.  His job is on the line, latest Senate defense authorization bill would remove it and replace it with two lower ranking slots, one for R&D and one for "management and support"  what ever that might be.  Pure paperwork perhaps?
  Acquisition is a serious problem at the Pentagon.  Look at the F35 program, a decade late and zillions over budget.  There was a new Marine One helicopter program that got so far out of line that Obama had it canceled.  The KC-46 tanker is years late and under attack by nit pickers.  I don't follow the new programs as closely as I used to back when I was a serving Air Force officer.  So there has got to be more grief out there.
   Success or failure (cost overruns and delays) rest with program management.  Take F-35 for example.  It's problems can be laid at the feet of F35 program management.  Extra layers of Pentagon paper pushers have nothing to do with it.  
   Every military officer in program management needs to know that his Officer Efficiency Report (his future promotion chances)  rest upon program success.  Bring the program in on time and under budget and you get ranked at the top.  If the program is late or overbudget, you get ranked at the bottom.
   Program management needs to have input to the specification writing.  Many program disasters result from ridiculous specifications, spec that called for unobtainium, or faster than light, or other things impossible to actually make.  Or, gold plating the project with nice-to-have but not really necessary expensive gadgets.  I'm thinking of the Tactical Situation Display in the old F106.  It never worked, and the plane flew and fought successfully without it. Or the C-5 program which sank under the weight of impossible to make requirements.  Or the F35 burdened with an airborne digital networking system, and Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) systems neither of which are needed in a fighter.  Fighter planes are expensive and should concentrate on air superiority, shooting down enemy aircraft and attacking enemy ground troops.  We have recon aircraft, drones, and satellites for ISR.
   Then program management has to iron out the myriad boggles and whoopsies that come up during the program. Specifications almost but not quite met.  Subsystems that just don't work.  Program management must be prepared to accept small shortcomings when the cost of fixing them is high.  And be prepared to just dump subsystems that aren't working.  And accept cost reduction suggestions from the contractor. 
    Trump needs a good, intelligent defense secretary to sort this stuff out.  The current secdef, Ash Carter isn't bad.  John McCain would be good, he at least knows the issues and knows which end is up. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Maybe we issue too many secret clearances?

The Washington Navy Yard massacre was perpetrated by a contractor holding a secret clearance.  Such clearances are supposed to be issued only to people worthy of holding positions of great trust for the United States.  Clearly a homicidal maniac is not such a person.  Within a few days the news media turned up derogatory information that should have disqualified him from a security clearance, and in fact for holding any kind of defense related job.  Obviously the security vetting  failed in Aaron Alexis' case. 
    It probably comes down to too many clearances to be processed with too little time and too little manpower.  Because today, everything is classified and every one needs a clearance just to go to work.  And work backs up if the clearances aren't granted.  In sort, rampant over classification of everything, means nothing is protected.  If everything is classified, then nothing gets extra protection.
   Many years ago I was an avionics maintenance officer on America's newest hottest jet fighter.  In those days, only a few things that would assist an enemy in jamming the fighter's radar were classified.  Everything thing else, fire control, IFF, guided missiles, radar, IR, electronic navigation, data link, gyros, you name it, was unclassified.  The enlisted men who repaired and overhauled the aircraft systems didn't need clearances.  The technical orders (aircraft manuals) were unclassified, the troops could carry them around, out to the flight line, to the chow hall, where ever, without keeping them under lock and key. 
  Years later I was working on the Common Missile Warning System (CMWS), a clever arrangement of cameras and computers that could spot the launch of anti aircraft missiles and warn the pilot.  The computer would get on the aircraft intercom and cry "Missile, Missile, Missile" into the crew's earphones.  On the Common Missile Warning System EVERYTHING was classified.  All the technicians needed a Secret clearance just to enter the building.  The guys that swept the floor needed clearances.  All the manuals were classified and kept in safes.  Guys worked on the equipment from memory, since the manuals were too highly classified to be allowed out on the workbench.   New guys couldn't start work until their clearances came thru.  Which could take months and months.  We always had half a dozen new guys just sitting around waiting for clearances so we could put them to work. 
    In actual fact there was nothing in the CMWS   shops that would have done the enemy any good if he had gotten to it.  The system worked off the light given off by the rocket motor,  there is nothing you can do to change that.  The electronic boxes were all programmable logic arrays and microprocessors.  You need the source code in order to figure out how they worked, to either duplicate them or figure out how to fool them.  There was no source code in our shops, we couldn't read it, and didn't need it.  New boxes coming off the line were bench tested.  If they failed bench test we changed chips until they worked.  No source code needed. 
   If CMWS classification been reduced to the level we had on the F106 fighter program, it would have reduced the number of clearances a lot.  If we looked thruout the defense department, we could find a LOT of overly classified programs.  We could save money and tighten security all in one simple reform,
  "He who defends everything defends nothing".  Old military aphorism probably from Frederick the Great.  "He who classifies everything defends nothing".  New military aphorism from yours truly. 
   If we had fewer clearances to process, perhaps we could take the time to investigate each case and deny clearances to homicidal maniacs.