Washington Watch

July 1, 2005

BRAC Signals Cuts in Force Structure

The Pentagon’s proposed base closings list, released in May, was not nearly as extensive as had been expected, but it highlighted significant cuts to the size of the Air Force aircraft fleet and big shifts in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command support structure. The Air Force intends to consolidate aircraft into fewer, but more capable, units.

The Pentagon forwarded its recommendations to the independent Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission on May 13, calling for the closure of 33 of 318 major installations in the continental US but realigning—making additions and subtractions to—more than 700 others.

The closures added up to about nine percent of the domestic base structure, although a cut of 20 percent had been forecast. The Pentagon believes that it will save a net $48.8 billion over the next 20 years by making the changes. The net is the anticipated savings after one factors out the costs to close facilities, move people and equipment, and carry out required environmental cleanup.

Michael W. Wynne, acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said at a Pentagon press briefing that it will cost $24 billion to make the changes, “so we’re netting about $2 … for every dollar invested” in the closure process.

Air Force bases on the closure list were Ellsworth AFB, S.D., which operates B-1B bombers; Onizuka AFS, Calif., which supports space activities; and Cannon AFB, N.M., which is an F-16 base. Otis ANGB, Mass., was also recommended for closure.

However, many other USAF bases and facilities will be radically realigned, giving up significant numbers of fighters and tankers to retirement. Downsized bases will send some of their aircraft to other bases, resulting in fewer, but fully equipped, flying units, while the older aircraft will be decommissioned.

Many Guard and Reserve sites were affected, and members of the BRAC commission, questioning Pentagon officials at a public hearing, wondered whether it would hurt reserve component recruiting if participants had to travel farther to participate in drills.

All of the actions on the list are to begin within two years and be completed within six, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment Philip W. Grone said.

Not part of the BRAC process, but directly affecting its recommendations, is the Air Force plan to reduce its ranks by 10,000 people over the next six years and retire more than 300 aircraft. Those include 12 A-10s, 193 F-16s, three F-15s, 55 C-130s, and 56 KC-135s. During the same period, it plans to buy about 100 F/A-22 fighters.

Fewer than anticipated bases were closed because large numbers of troops and their families will be brought home from overseas, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said prior to release of the BRAC list. However, the process of selecting overseas bases for closure and realignment—“global posturing” in Pentagon parlance—was not yet complete, defense officials said.

Representatives and Senators whose districts were hit by a closure recommendation complained that the BRAC process can’t be evaluated properly until the Pentagon makes its overseas basing plans known.

New capabilities also showed up in the announcements. Wynne said that Eglin AFB, Fla., will become the joint service training base for the F-35 fighter. Plans to conduct F-35 training at Luke AFB, Ariz., Sheppard AFB, Tex., and NAS Corpus Christi, Tex., were dropped.

The BRAC Commission will evaluate the list, make visits to affected regions, and forward a revised list to President Bush, who can either approve it in its entirety or reject it. If Bush accepts the commission’s final list, it will go to Congress, which then has 45 days to block the whole package; lawmakers may not change anything in it. If Congress does not move to block the package, the closures and realignments will automatically begin.

The chairman of the BRAC Commission, Anthony J. Principi, said it was virtually certain that the commission will make some alterations to the plan after reviewing its impacts and visiting the areas affected. He pledged that the commission would not be “a rubber stamp” of the Pentagon’s plan. However, about 85 percent of previous original BRAC proposals have been implemented, and the commission must demonstrate that the Pentagon deviated “substantially” from its selection guidelines in order to change a recommendation.

The Defense Department has established a Web site to track and explain the BRAC process. It can be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/brac. Air Force Magazine will report on the details of the final BRAC changes in the December issue.

Rumsfeld Retreats From C-130J Termination Plans

Rumsfeld has retreated from the abrupt decision to terminate procurement of the C-130J, after lawmakers demonstrated that the aircraft are not only needed but that it would cost more to terminate the contract than simply buy the airplanes.

Rumsfeld wrote a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, dated May 10, in which he said that “new information” had come to light on the C-130J termination, and based on this, “we believe it is in the best interests of the department to complete the multiyear contract.”

The decision will reinstate a plan to build about 12 C-130Js a year from 2005 through 2009.

Members of Congress had pointed out that more than $2 billion in termination costs would attend stopping the C-130J line and produce no further aircraft, which the Air Force and Marine Corps urgently need to replace 40-year-old C-130E-series transports. In his letter, Rumsfeld said he had been unaware of the full extent of the termination costs. It would have cost more to buy no airplanes than to finish out the contract for a further 62.

Rumsfeld wrote that no changes to the Fiscal 2006 budget are needed to continue the program and that offsets to pay for it from elsewhere in the budget will be found in Fiscal 2007 and 2008.

The C-130J termination was part of the notorious Program Budget Decision 753, the late December 2004 cut of various defense projects to find an additional $30 billion in “savings” from the Pentagon budget. The cuts were made with no apparent analysis of their impact on national strategy; the C-130J reversal indicates there was little financial scrutiny of the cuts, either.

The chief victim of PBD 753 was the F/A-22, which was targeted for a cut of $10.5 billion. USAF leaders have said that the F/A-22 cut was handed down with no analysis of whether the aircraft are needed, versus other programs. Rumsfeld said subsequently that the F/A-22 decision would be reviewed as part of the Quadrennial Defense Review now under way.

Responding to Rumsfeld’s letter, SASC Chairman Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) said the C-130J restoration would be factored into the 2006 budget and that, in the absence of a Pentagon plan as to what types of C-130 variants should be bought, Congress will develop its own preferred mix.

The Air Force uses C-130s in a variety of roles, from tactical transports to gunships, electronic warfare, and “hurricane hunters.” The Marine Corps and USAF both use C-130s as aerial tankers, and the aircraft is used by the Coast Guard and reserve components as well.

The C-130J contract has until recently been pursued as a “commercial off-the-shelf” program, an approach that has invited scrutiny and disapproval from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). The Air Force recently shifted gears and changed the procurement to a straight military buy, which allows more Congressional oversight and involvement.

Rocket Makers Unite

Faced with insufficient work to keep two launch vehicle companies profitable, Boeing and Lockheed Martin announced in May that they would merge their rocket businesses, a move that met with approval and a sigh of relief from the Pentagon.

The deal will lower the cost of launch services while still preserving two distinct families of launch vehicles. The companies will share ground infrastructure and personnel costs wherever possible, rather than maintain two different but largely redundant capabilities. The joint venture is expected to save $100 million to $150 million a year, the companies said.

The new joint venture will be called United Launch Alliance and will have leadership drawn from each company. The deal will also signal the end of litigation between Boeing and Lockheed Martin over Boeing’s use of Lockheed proprietary rocket data in winning a share of earlier launch service contracts. Boeing was suspended by the Air Force from launch services for nearly two years and stripped of $1 billion in work as a result.

In its national space strategy, issued a few months ago, the Bush Administration said it needed to preserve two different launch vehicle companies. It doesn’t want to repeat the situation that followed the 1986 space shuttle disaster, wherein large military payloads had to wait two years for a trip to orbit because there was no alternative launch vehicle. The Administration also wants a healthy rocket industrial base to support plans for a return to the moon and a mission to Mars.

Under the new joint venture, Boeing and Lockheed Martin will continue to build Delta and Atlas Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles, respectively. However, production work largely will be located at Boeing facilities in Alabama, while engineering and management tasks will be done at Lockheed Martin offices in Colorado.

The EELV program was initially structured to provide the opportunity for competitive buys from two companies because, in the early 1990s, it seemed that there would be more than enough business; commercial satellite launch services was expected to be a booming market. When the market didn’t materialize, the Pentagon and the two rocket makers were left with too much infrastructure to efficiently support the lower level of launches. Air Force leaders have openly worried since that one of the companies might decide to leave the business, leaving the nation with a sole launch services provider and the risk of a “single point failure” problem that could ground the US space program.

Then-Air Force Secretary James G. Roche suggested last fall that some sort of cooperative effort between the two companies would make the most sense for the near term. However, both Boeing and Lockheed Martin said as recently as early spring that they were not interested in such an arrangement.

The new merged effort mirrors one already in place in which the two companies jointly support space shuttle operations.

The joint venture proposal, which still has to clear federal regulators, got a warm reception on Capitol Hill. The deal conceivably leaves open the possibility that the two companies could again split up and compete for space work if the launch market heats up again.

Close the Druyun Barn Door, Says DSB

A scandal on the order of the Darleen A. Druyun affair—in which the senior civilian acquisition official in the Air Force was able to steer billions of dollars’ worth of contracts unfairly to a contractor—could still happen, and safeguards to prevent such an event must be put in place, said a Pentagon task force.

A Defense Science Board panel determined that, while it is “unlikely” that Druyun-like abuse could occur again, “there are currently no structural or policy mandates in place” to prevent it, wrote DSB Chairman William Schneider Jr. in a memo on the task force findings. Even though the Air Force has abolished the position held by Druyun, the task force found no rules have been changed to keep a similar problem from occurring.

Druyun often sat at “the apex” of both the career acquisition system and the politically appointed acquisition leadership of the Air Force, the task force found. This system was not duplicated in the other services, but it was “often praised as representing a better, more streamlined way of doing business.”

The result was that too much power gravitated to Druyun, who, having mastered the system over many years, was able to exploit its weaknesses. The DSB’s “overarching” recommendation was that so much power—with no checks and balances—should never again reside in a single individual. While many in the acquisition system could say “no” to a program, only a very few could say “yes”—and this concentration of authority laid the foundation for Druyun’s abuses.

The DSB believes that for every source selection, there should be an advisory group that presents written recommendations. The source selection authority—the official making a final choice of a contract winner—should have to document his choice and explain why he agrees or disagrees with the advisory panel. Choosing a different contractor than that recommended by the advisory group should raise procedural red flags and require extraordinary justifications.

The panel also said the Pentagon should “explicitly” set out its rules regarding ethics in the acquisition process to ensure there are no gray areas and no chance for misinterpretation of conflict-of-interest rules. Specifically, there should be new disclosure rules about the employment of the adult children of senior acquisition officials by parties with an interest in pending contracts. Part of Druyun’s motivation in helping Boeing win contracts was that the company employed her daughter and son-in-law.

A further recommendation was to keep civilian career people moving around every five years to new assignments, so they can’t create bureaucratic empires where they alone have all the authority. To ensure that there is always an appointed, noncareer official making final decisions, the task force recommended that the Office of the Secretary of Defense always move swiftly to fill vacancies and streamline the process of getting them filled. One of the reasons Druyun was able to exploit the system was that she was often the default decision-maker when the acquisition posts above her were unfilled.

The task force determined that OSD needs an official set of rules designating a line of succession such that, when there are vacancies, there is no question as to who is next in line to make source selections.

In the past few months, the Office of the Secretary of Defense took over the direct supervision of many Air Force acquisition programs, since the positions of service Secretary, undersecretary, and assistant secretary for acquisition were all vacant, leaving the Air Force with no senior appointed leadership for major contracting. By late May, the Bush Administration had yet to name any nominees for these posts, and Rumsfeld confessed that he had no one in mind to fill them.