Raptor Ready for Prime Time
At a March 22 review of the F/A-22 program, the Defense Acquisition Board found no reason that USAF should not proceed with initial operational test and evaluation (IOT &E) for its new stealthy fighter.
The DAB, which is chaired by acting Pentagon acquisition, technology, and logistics chief Michael W. Wynne, appeared satisfied with the aircraft’s progress despite earlier claims by some members that the Air Force was moving too quickly into IOT&E.
The board met to review whether the F/A-22’s avionics had met the level of stability that was mandated for entry into IOT&E. The Air Force was required to demonstrate that the avionics suite could sustain a five-hour-mean-time-between-failure rate for critical elements. (See “The F/A-22 Force Forms Up,” April, p. 34.)
The day after the DAB meeting, Marvin R. Sambur, USAF’s top acquisition official, told lawmakers that Wynne had said he was “very encouraged by the program’s progress” and saw “no impediment to entering IOT&E in the April time frame.”
Sambur also told a House subcommittee that, although the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center had “not formally completed” its analysis, the AFOTEC commander found the F/A-22’s performance “very impressive.” That constituted a rave review, according to Sambur.
“I have never heard an AFOTEC commander ... use anything better than, ‘It is OK’ ” when describing a weapon system, said Sambur.
At the same hearing, Lt. Gen. Ronald E. Keys, USAF’s deputy chief of staff for air and space operations, responded to a question about a mock dogfight in which eight F-15Cs engaged four F/A-22s. He said the Eagles “all died.” Keys added that most of the F-15s never even got off a shot against the F/A-22s.
The thumbs up by the DAB and the upbeat testimony by Air Force officials was in sharp contrast to a March 15 General Accounting Office report. The Congressional watchdog agency had reported that the F/A-22 was still struggling to meet avionics requirements. (See below.)
However, Keys told the lawmakers that the GAO report was simply out of date. “This is a moving target,” he said.
Sambur emphasized that the F/A-22 program “is now at 6.1 [hours] vs. the five-hour metric.”
GAO Seeks New F/A-22 “Business Case”
The GAO charged, in its report and testimony, that the Pentagon had failed to provide sufficient information to Congress to justify the number of F/A-22s USAF plans to buy or its modernization investment plans for the new stealthy fighter.
The GAO said DOD “did not address key business case questions such as how many F/A-22s are needed, how many are affordable, and if alternatives to planned investments increasing the F/A-22 air-to-ground capabilities exist.”
The business case that DOD did provide to Congress said it “planned to buy 277 F/A-22s based on a ‘buy-to-budget’ concept,” according to the GAO. The GAO said that DOD, if held to the $36.8 billion production cost cap imposed by Congress in 1998, could only buy about 218 F/A-22s.
The higher number is based on the Pentagon’s production cost cap of $42.2 billion, which several lawmakers at the April hearing said violated the Congressional mandate. DOD and Air Force acquisition leaders stated at the hearing that the Pentagon planned to ask for relief from the statutory cost cap.
Sambur on April 11 told lawmakers that the Air Force was “not happy” with either number. He said the service maintains it needs “something in the order of 381.” (See “Editorial: The Raptor Review,” April, p. 2.)
GAO claimed that USAF had included $3.5 billion for addition of improved ground-attack capabilities through 2009 but that the service would actually need $11.7 billion.Air Force Secretary James G. Roche said he finds it hard to grasp the $8 billion difference.
“The biggest change is the radar,” Roche said at a Defense Writers Group meeting in mid-March. “In changing the radar, the price of the radar falls 40 percent. So it doesn’t go up; it goes down.”
Roche said the “second biggest change” is inclusion of the small diameter bomb, but the small diameter bomb is going to go on lots of things.” He added, “I don’t know what got included in the costs of air-to-ground.”
Taking Sides on Tacair
The mostly favorable news on the F/A-22 impressed many members of Congress, most of whom said the F/A-22 is on firmer ground. However, they noted that tactical aviation as a whole is facing stiff problems.
Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, on March 25 claimed that, despite his support for the F/A-22, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and the Navy’s F/A-18E/F, the long-anticipated procurement “train wreck”—too many programs and not enough money to fund them all—is approaching.
He said that the defense budget can’t sustain three Tacair programs along with other top defense needs.
“Something has to give,” Weldon said. It may be this year or the next several years, he said, but Congress is going to “have to be able to make some extremely difficult and tough decisions.”
Weldon pointed out that a year ago no one expected the Army to kill its Comanche scout helicopter program and said that he didn’t want to go any further with the three fighter programs if they aren’t all affordable.
The mounting pressure on Tacair programs was evident in other Congressional sessions, as well. However, support for the F/A-22 seemed solid, at least for the moment.
In a March 24 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, chairman Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said he is committed to the Raptor. “This committee did save the C-17,” said Stevens. “We saved the Predator. We saved the B-2. And, as far as I’m concerned, we’re going to save the F/A-22.”
One former foe of the F/A-22, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, who dealt the program some significant delays and funding cuts in 1999, told Congressional Quarterly that he had turned around on the Raptor.
“Our members have come a long way down the path of believing that the F/A-22 is an asset that we cannot afford to do without,” said Lewis.
Weldon said he couldn’t see the F/A-22 being terminated, however, because it, like the F/A-18, is already in production. In his view, not being in production makes the F-35 vulnerable.
The F-35, on the other hand, he said, is “just a viewgraph” not a real airplane yet, and that could lead some to make it a target.
Weldon emphasized that the Pentagon does not have the “political clout to support something that is, maybe, three years from now vs. what is here—and that is a practical reality we have to deal with.”
However, Weldon pressed the services to “make the case” for the F-35 primarily because canceling the program would leave the Marine Corps “in a bind.”
New Study To Address Airlift Shortfall
Gen. John W. Handy, commander of US Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command, told lawmakers in March that the Defense Department will soon begin a new mobility capabilities study (MCS). It is long overdue, he said, because current airlift is about 18 percent short of the now obsolete airlift goals set by a study concluded nearly four years ago.
The earlier study, Mobility Requirements Study 2005, dubbed MRS-05, was released in January 2001. Since then, worldwide operations in support of the war on terrorism have caused airlift demands to surge. “The requirements in our business have gone up dramatically compared to what MRS-05 thought they would be,” Handy told the House Armed Services Committee.
He said that the new MCS would be an all encompassing mobility review—air, land, and sea. However, he emphasized that the airlift portion would see the most “dramatic impact.”
Handy said TRANSCOM’S No. 1 shortfall is its “aging and numerically inadequate strategic airlift fleet.”
The current strategic airlift shortfall of 9.8 million ton-miles per day (MTM/D) is based on the MRS-05 goal of 54.5 MTM/D. The true airlift shortfall is almost certainly greater than MRS-05 indicates.
Handy said that the Pentagon was to begin the new review by June and would issue a report by spring 2005. He noted that the 10-month timeline “presents an ambitious challenge.”
The TRANSCOM head also told lawmakers that to meet future air mobility challenges, the Air Force will need “high speed, low observable, multimission strategic mobility aircraft with short takeoff and landing as well as autonomous approach capabilities.”
An independent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies says that while DOD has made great strides in jointness and rationalizing its structure over the last 20 years, it is still wasting money and stifling innovation with unnecessary red tape and layers of bureaucracy.
Phase 1 of the CSIS report, titled “Beyond Goldwater-Nichols: Defense Reform for a New Strategic Era,” reviews and builds on the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols reforms, considered the most comprehensive defense reorganization effort since the 1947 National Security Act. The 1986 reforms enhanced civilian control of the department, secured the role of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the principal military advisor, and strengthened the authority of combatant commanders—all changes that were intended to speed development of jointness among the services.
The center prepared the study that led to the Goldwater-Nichols legislation, prompting many defense analysts to suggest the new report may serve as a blueprint for a major restructuring of the Pentagon.
CSIS officials said the Beyond Goldwater-Nichols (BGN) team has regularly briefed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and USAF Gen. Richard B. Meyers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, on the study.
John J. Hamre, president of CSIS and former deputy defense secretary, said he expects the Pentagon to implement the findings “almost to the degree of the Space Commission” report, issued in January 2001. Rumsfeld originally chaired the Space Commission and acted on its findings when he became Secretary.
In Phase 1 of Beyond Goldwater-Nichols, CSIS recommends eliminating entire layers of staff for the senior levels of the department to promote faster decision-making, shorter system development time, and greater accountability all around.
CSIS said the Office of the Secretary of Defense should “focus on policy formation and oversight, resist the temptation to manage programs, and consolidate housekeeping functions under an assistant secretary.”
Two of the senior layers targeted in the BGN report are the separate staffs maintained by each branch of the armed forces to support a service’s two most senior civilian and military leaders. For the Air Force, that would lead to the merger of the Secretariat and Air Staffs. CSIS believes this change within each service would “reduce friction,” foster better coordination, and “increase the coherency of service positions.”
Another recommendation would expand the undersecretary of intelligence position to include command, control, and communications. The BGN team indicated that such a move would improve the Pentagon’s ability to acquire and field joint interoperable command and control capabilities, an endeavor it is currently “failing.”
CSIS recommends that DOD eliminate competing sources of advice about personnel matters by combining elements of manpower and personnel on the Joint Staff with similar functions on Rumsfeld’s staff under a military deputy to the undersecretary of personnel and readiness.
For the logistics arena, the BGN team believes that both the Defense Secretary and JCS Chairman need stronger support. To achieve that, they would integrate much of the Joint Staff’s logistics function with the deputy undersecretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness and place the new entity under a three-star military deputy to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. That would be “a major step in ensuring sufficient OSD attention to this critical function,” stated the report.
Other logistics recommendations include making a two-star deputy to the Joint Staff’s head of operations responsible for operational logistics planning and moving the Joint Logistics Operations Center under the J-3 (operations) umbrella.
The BGN group believes that Rumsfeld has made some progress toward enhancing joint focus in the resource allocation process, but they recommend more emphasis. Specifically, they want to give the combatant commanders a stronger role.
CSIS suggests the Pentagon must strengthen the defense civilian force, including creating a new Defense Professionals Corps “to attract the best and brightest ... and provide greatly expanded opportunities for professional development.”
At least three proposals are beyond the scope of the Pentagon but would significantly impact its operations. CSIS calls for the President to appoint a new Presidential assistant on the National Security Council staff to coordinate action between federal departments involved in operations abroad and create a new NSC Office of Stability Operations. In line with that move, CSIS said Congress should create an independent Agency for Stability Operations that contains a Civilian Stability Operations Corps that would organize, train, equip, and deploy a civilian force for post-military operations.
Additionally, the Beyond Goldwater-Nichols report suggests that Congress “reform itself” with an eye toward “reinvigorating Congressional oversight of DOD.” CSIS suggests that armed services committees should focus on macro strategy, policy, and organizational issues. The report also suggests Congress should sharply reduce the size of its authorizing committees and limit claims of jurisdiction over DOD operations.
Since Congress usually doesn’t give up power voluntarily, the authors asked Congress to establish a method similar to the base realignment and closure process to accomplish this task of assessing “current committee membership, structures, and jurisdictions and make recommendations on how to enhance Congressional oversight.”A second phase of the report, due to be completed early next year, will examine how DOD organizes for “new missions and new domains of warfare,” the acquisition process, defense agencies, and joint professional military education, among other topics.
Long-Range Strike Takes Steps Forward
The Air Force is speeding up its plans to acquire a new long-range strike capability by about a decade. Two new service offices—one at Air Combat Command and one at Air Force Materiel Command—have been set up to help quicken the pace toward finding a successor for today’s bombers.
The offices will develop an analysis of alternatives and manage acquisition of a future long-range strike capability, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, USAF vice chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee in March. He said that the Air Force planned to have a new system in service by 2025.
That is more than a decade sooner than USAF’s previous plan, which called for a bomber replacement to come online around 2037.
The two offices were funded out of the $100 million Congress inserted in the Fiscal 2004 defense authorization bill specifically to begin work on a successor to USAF’s bomber fleet. (See “Washington Watch: On to the Next Bomber,” January, p. 8.) Congress was concerned that USAF was not moving fast enough.
Moseley did not limit the new long-range strike system to a specific platform; instead he said USAF was considering a “portfolio of options that includes manned and unmanned systems, air breathing and space systems, and a wide mix of munitions connected to a network backbone of command and control that facilitates global strike.”
However, he noted that the service is still thinking about a “bridge capability” to provide more deep strike choices while the new system is developed.
To form this bridge, the Air Force is considering an F/A-22 variant, called an FB-22, to serve as a “regional” bomber, in the words of Secretary Roche. It would have a theater capability but not global reach. The FB-22 would have a range of about 1,800 miles, with a payload of up to 30 small diameter bombs. The aircraft would not have all the maneuvering capability of the F/A-22, but would retain stealth and high speed.
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.
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