Bringing Back the Bones
The good news is that the Air Force is getting 23 more bombers in its inventory. The bad news is that the Air Force is getting 23 more bombers in its inventory.
The Fiscal 2004 defense authorization bill includes a provision requiring USAF to bring back into service 23 of the 32 B-1Bs it recently retired as a cost-saving, fleet-enhancing measure. Lawmakers provided $20.3 million to accomplish the reconstitution, but Air Force officials estimate the cost actually will be at least $1 billion.
The $980 million gap will have to be made up by reductions elsewhere in the USAF program, and the service says it just doesn’t have the money to spare.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who introduced the measure to restore the Bones, justified the reconstitution on the grounds that the B-1B fleet reduction decision was made before the 9/11 attacks and that, since then, bombers have shown their worth in recent combat operations.
South Dakota is one of the two states—Texas is the other—that still have B-1B units. The states that lost B-1Bs were Georgia, Idaho, and Kansas. When USAF announced the retirement plan in June 2001, lawmakers in Georgia and Kansas, whose Air National Guard B-1B units would have been left without a mission, accused the Bush Administration of playing politics because the proposal placed all remaining B-1Bs in the President’s and then-majority leader Daschle’s home states. The Air Force promised to create new missions for the ANG units, and Congress approved the plan, although it delayed funds for it until 2002.
The service completed its B-1B relocation and retirement plan last fall even as it attempted to fend off the fresh Congressional effort to restore the Bones.
Air Force officials maintain that the service needs to stand by its 2001 decision to cut the B-1B force. Within available dollars, USAF would rather have 60 fully upgraded bombers—well-maintained and ready for war—than maintain 90-plus airplanes that were all deficient in some way.
In a letter sent to Capitol Hill last July, reported Inside the Air Force, the Defense Department said that a larger fleet would be “increasingly unsupportable.” The letter continued, “The smaller, modernized [fleet] ... will be more effective, survivable, and supportable.” It argued that the bring-back plan will suck $1.1 billion out of the Air Force’s future years defense plan and put “at risk” improvements planned for the 60-aircraft B-1B force.
The service said that, since USAF began retiring the 32 B-1Bs, the bomber’s readiness rate has increased and accidents have declined.
Air Force officials have not yet decided what the service must cut to be able to finance the return to service of the 23 B-1Bs, a service spokeswoman said.
The returning bombers are to get the Block E upgrade, which adds new weapons and defensive equipment, such as the ALE-50 towed decoy system, and updates older avionics systems. Lawmakers added $5 million to the Air Force’s Fiscal 2004 request of $92 million for B-1B upgrades to cover the cost of upgrades for the additional aircraft.
Daschle’s original amendment contained a provision for the Air Force to explain how much money is really needed to restore the full fleet to combat status. That requirement was dropped in conference. As a result, there’s no provision within the framework of the bill for the Air Force to make its case for adequate funding of the Lancer fleet.
On to the Next Bomber
Lawmakers also authorized $100 million for the Air Force to begin the search for a next generation bomber. The Administration had not requested any funds for such an effort in the Fiscal 2004 defense budget.
House and Senate authorizers took exception to the Air Force plan to wait another decade before starting research and development on the next manned strike platform. They believe USAF must have a fast, stealthy replacement for the aging B-52 sooner rather than later.
The conference report said: “The bulk of the Air Force bomber fleet consists of 94 B-52s, which will be 50 years old by the year 2012. The conferees believe this is insufficient to meet ongoing requirements. ”
EW Plans Not a Priority
Despite a stinging criticism from a Congressional caucus, the Pentagon was not prompted to accelerate its efforts to produce a comprehensive, joint service plan for electronic warfare.
The 23-member Electronic Warfare Working Group fired off a letter to DOD, charging the Pentagon with “chronic neglect” of EW and requesting a meeting with top acquisition and intelligence officials to discuss the issue. Electronic warfare systems, the working group said, don’t get the funding or attention they need, and the group complained that a comprehensive, joint service plan has been shuffled around for several years without reaching closure.
The lawmakers said DOD “needs to have a coherent plan for preserving and advancing its electronic warfare capabilities, one that reflects the high priority of spectrum dominance. ”
The letter was addressed to Michael W. Wynne, acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, and Stephen A. Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence. It was signed by the four co-chairs of the EWWG: Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.), Rep. Mark S. Kirk (R-Ill.), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), and Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-Pa.).
Cambone, speaking with reporters in mid-November, admitted that there’s been no rush to construct a plan such as the one the EWWG advocates.
“The question is, is EW No. 1 on everybody’s list? And it would probably be fair to say, ‘No,’ ” admitted Cambone. He added that “there are a number of programs that are of interest to my office. ... As you get into the period of time over the winter and spring, people will have had a chance to look at it [EW] in the way the members asked that we do.”
Cambone said that the policy, acquisition, and intelligence shops, as well as the Joint Staff, “are going to be working under a sort of roadmap arrangement to sort of think our way through all those elements of the information operations world. ... That process has just gotten started.” He predicted that the process “will pick up a lot of momentum over the course of the coming year.”
The last major effort toward creating a master plan for electronic warfare culminated in 2001, when a two-year analysis of alternatives was concluded. The AOA determined that the services need a cooperative and coherent EW master plan but suggested service-unique approaches for dealing with the problem. It was so geared toward platform approaches and estimating the cost of each one that Edward C. Aldridge, then the Pentagon acquisition chief, threw it back to the services for more work.
Since then, the Navy has selected the E-18G Growler—a variant of the F/A-18F two-seat fighter—as its preferred approach to performing the airborne electronic attack mission. The Growler will replace the EA-6B Prowler, now being flown by joint service crews. The Air Force surrendered its own EF-111 jamming aircraft in the 1990s in a round of budget cuts. The consolation prize was that USAF would get to fly the EA-6B, too.
The EWWG, however, takes pains to point out that airborne electronic attack is but one facet of the electronic warfare mission. Besides jamming, the field also includes systems that gather electronic and signals intelligence, such as the Air Force’s RC-135 Rivet Joint and U-2, the Navy’s EP-3, and the Army’s RC-12 Guardrail. The group believes that these systems are underfunded and need to be brought to the forefront of Pentagon war planning.
The Air Force has said it is considering putting electronic warfare gear on B-52s, as the bombers offer a persistent-presence capability over a given area of the battlefield vs. shorter-dwell-time drones or fighter-type aircraft. However, it is also reviewing its options with regard to emerging unmanned vehicles technology and alternative approaches to combat EW and suppression of enemy air defenses.
China Warns Taiwan
If Taiwan takes any further steps toward formal independence—say, if the Taiwan president, Chen Shui-bian, moves to put the issue up to a referendum—the use of force by China against the breakaway island “may become unavoidable,” according to a Chinese official.
In fact, “Taiwan independence means war,” according to Maj. Gen. Wang Zaixi, vice minister of mainland China’s Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. Wang made his comments in mid-November, and they were featured prominently by the state-run China Daily, meaning they were meant by the Chinese government to be interpreted as official policy.
The remarks were the first such threats in three years by the Communist mainland state. Wang softened his remarks somewhat by saying that China feels kinship to the citizens of Taiwan and that it does not want its two peoples to “meet at the battleground.”
However, Wang was firm in saying that if the Taiwan government “openly” joins forces with the pro-independence movement and formally challenges the one-China concept, then mainland China would have no choice but to attack.
Chen planned to put the issue to a vote in a March 20 referendum.
Both Beijing and Taiwan claim to be the true government of China, and both say that, eventually, they hope the two will be reunited through peaceful negotiations. The two governments have managed to avoid war since the Nationalist Chinese government set up shop on Taiwan in 1949.
However, relations between the two have always been tense, and China’s new threat was aimed directly at Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian. Chen, who is in a re-election campaign, has said that Taiwan’s constitution should be amended, declaring the country an independent state, free of any claim by mainland China.
For its part, the US has warned Taiwan not to press the sovereignty issue. During a December visit to Washington by China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, President Bush said the US opposes any change in the status quo, and chided Chen for “unilaterally” moving to do so.
There was shock in Taiwan that Bush seemed to side with Beijing, and Chen told CNN in an interview that he believes the US will ultimately support “the public opinion of Taiwan’s 23 million people” and their pursuit of “deeper democracy and peace.”
Rand Applauds Jumper Approach
The Air Force Chief of Staff has focused the service’s transformation efforts on concepts of operations rather than platforms to achieve operational capabilities and that, according to a recent Rand report, could be a model for the entire Defense Department.
In “A Framework for Modernization Within the United States Air Force,” authors Glenn A. Kent and David A. Ochmanek praise Gen. John P. Jumper’s logical and innovative approach to transformation and suggest ways to codify his methods.
Jumper has “invigorated” the process of modernization, the authors wrote, by stressing that concepts of operation must be developed before even thinking about the hardware needed to accomplish a given mission. Jumper himself has said that sometimes, merely making an organizational change can eliminate the need to develop a new and costly machine.
In Kent and Ochmanek’s view, Jumper is on the right track in designating officers to serve as what Jumper terms “champions” for new concepts and technologies. The Rand analysts said the framework or model they present in their report “builds on the approach promoted by Gen. John Jumper.”
They identified “seven principal actors” who they say are “involved in the modernization process within a service.” The actors are:
The Definer, who frames a “finite set of high-priority operational challenges.”
The Conceivers, who “formulate, define, and, when appropriate, demonstrate new concepts of execution.”
The Proponents, who “define new concepts of employment ... to achieve a particular operational objective.”
The Independent Evaluators, who advise service leaders on the “merit of any proposed new concepts.”
The Programmers, who “estimate the cost ... and suggest ways for balancing resources.”
The Providers, who “provide capabilities (not forces) to combatant commanders” and acquire the new systems.
The Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff, who “preside over” the process and “render decisions at key points.”
The authors condemned the initial capabilities document (ICD) and the mission needs statement—two of today’s major “gates” to enter concept and technology development—as being so entwined with legalistic acquisition requirements that the Defense Department “has inhibited innovation by compelling would-be innovators to engage in a mystifying array of ‘filling squares’ prior to engaging in exploration of new concepts.” They note that before there can even be an ICD, the service must present an “analysis of capability solution sets” or, in other words, the likely answers to the requirement.
The Rand analysts suggested overhauling the Pentagon’s 5000-series acquisition laws toward making the system more open to “innovation and timely progress.” Despite nearly two decades of attempts to streamline it, the system is too cumbersome.
The authors’ method would emphasize the distinctions “between concept development, which plays the central role in determining what systems to pursue, and acquisition, which is properly focused on how to develop and procure such systems.”
The goal, they said, would be to “minimize the constraint and strictures placed upon those charged with generating innovation and to create a more level playing field on which new concepts can compete for resources.”
Kent and Ochmanek suggested shifting the system toward the people involved, rather than checklists of documents. Within their model, the actors listed above would be focused on how to achieve effects at the operational and tactical levels instead of at the campaign level or above.
“The model ignores any supposed requirement to ask ‘May I?’ from some higher authority” before delving into the “art and science of exploring new concepts.” It sets objectives and tasks in the context of joint service efforts.
Finally, the process would have “a rigorous lexicon,” or definitions of terms. This is “not a trivial virtue,” given the “proliferation of undisciplined vernacular and confusing slogans” that sound alike but mean different things within the defense community.
The analysts suggested building a template of how innovative ideas can be nursed from concepts through demonstrations free of the sluggish effects of the current process. Such a template will be useful “when there is no obvious model to follow or, if one exists, it lacks coherence and logic.”
They added that trying to change “flawed models within a large bureaucracy is generally a lost cause.”
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag