Washington Watch

Oct. 1, 2005

Gordon R. England, the prospective deputy secretary of defense, has launched a study aimed at further slashing the future size of the US military’s fighter fleet. The terms of the study indicate a clear intent to make deeper cuts in the already truncated F/A-22 and F-35 programs to reduce defense spending.

In an Aug. 4 memo to the service Secretaries, England said he had commissioned a study headed by the firm of Whitney, Bradley, & Brown, Inc., to “facilitate greater optimization of tactical aircraft.” The goal of the study, England said, will be to “identify capabilities and efficiencies” resulting from rationalizing “Air Force, Navy, Marine, National Guard, and Reserve TACAIR.” The company will have support from the vice chiefs of staff of the services and report directly to England and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

As Navy Secretary, England commissioned a similar study—from the same company—regarding optimization of Marine and Navy fighter aviation. The result was the merger of the two air arms and a reduction of more than 400 aircraft from the Navy’s planned inventory of the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter.

The “terms of reference” for the TACAIR review specify that the study will consider the organization and numbers of tactical aircraft in light of a number of factors, including: results from the ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review; the increased capabilities of new aircraft compared to older ones; the “evolving threat” to US interests; “budgetary considerations and implications”; service and other studies of TACAIR requirements; and the results of a recent joint air dominance study.

This latter analysis, which was to be incorporated in the QDR, has been carried out by the Pentagon’s Program Analysis and Evaluation shop. It was set in motion by Program Budget Decision 753, the infamous last-minute December budget cut that hacked the F/A-22 program down from 270 aircraft to just 180 without any supporting analysis. The Air Force’s stated requirement remains 381 Raptors.

A senior Air Force official said the service “has expressed some concern” about the new study, especially since so many TACAIR reviews are already pending.

“To come in at this late stage in the QDR and gin up another one, we’re concerned that there will not be time for sufficient analysis to inform decisions,” he said. “And the last thing we want is another PBD 753 drill, where you’re jumping to conclusions, without the benefit of informed analysis,” leading to “a lot of unintended consequences.”

The WBB study will work from a new series of assumptions, England said in his memo. Among those assumptions: The services will need fewer new aircraft because the aircraft will be more capable and reliable than older ones; and “TACAIR optimization may result in less overall capacity while maintaining required capabilities.”

In addition, the WBB analysts may assume that future capabilities—such as the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System—“will perform to the values stated in existing requirements documents.” In other words, future systems will be judged based on optimistic expectations of what they’ll be able to do, and this will be compared with “actual performance data” from aircraft of today.

Two assumptions possibly offsetting cuts are that “current forward based TACAIR assets will remain forward based” under existing treaties and agreements. Further, in an apparent nod to the Air Force’s Air and Space Expeditionary Force, “peacetime operational employment concepts, to include forward basing and rotational requirements, will be taken into account.”

Also to be considered is “basing flexibility,” including operations from the sea, from expeditionary bases, and from main operating bases. It wasn’t clear from the memo whether this meant that aircraft able to operate from aircraft carriers would be given a preference.

Besides the F/A-22 and F-35, England wants to “optimize” other programs, such as the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the J-UCAS.

Lest there be any mistake, however, the study assumptions also spelled out that savings will be achieved even if it means altering current strategy.

The study “may identify changes to joint and service operating concepts needed to effect recommended optimization,” stated the memo.

England decreed that WBB will have access to all previous studies and data on the topic, as well as special access, or top-secret, programs “that have implications for US TACAIR assets.”

Helicopters and tilt-rotors won’t be part of the study “but could be the subject of follow-on work.” However, electronic attack aircraft, tankers, surveillance and patrol aircraft, long-range strike and other assets, while not part of the study, “will be considered in the evaluation of TACAIR.”

The study is to look at the period from 2006 to 2025, which will capture all programs now in production as well as a planned 25 percent cut of the USAF fighter force as the service sheds its older airframes.

Plans called for England this month to take a quick-turn briefing on the issue, with a written report to come later. Phase II is to be ready by March and be used to influence Congress’ deliberations on the Fiscal 2007 budget and six-year plan. The final report is to be completed next August.

Rumsfeld Throws Wet Blanket on F/A-22 “Hopes”

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld thinks the F/A-22 is a good product, but he held out little hope that cuts to the program will be reversed anytime soon.

Appearing on the cable TV show of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), in an interview recorded in July, Rumsfeld called the F/A-22 “a fine airplane,” but said it will have to compete with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35, while stealthy, was designed for a different role.

Asked if the Air Force could expect to receive more than 180 F/A-22s, Rumsfeld said that the President and Congress decree how much money is available for defense, “and then we have to make choices between the various hopes and expectations and aspirations that the services have and we believe are needed.” Rumsfeld did not clarify his answer, but it seemed to add up to “no.”

Chambliss has a strong interest in the F/A-22, because final assembly of the aircraft takes place in Marietta, Ga.

Rumsfeld was much more laudatory of the C-130J, also built by Lockheed Martin in Marietta. Rumsfeld said older versions of the aircraft have been doing “a terrific job in Iraq and Afghanistan” and that the Pentagon is looking forward to deploying more of the brand-new C-130Js in theater.

Rumsfeld has reversed his stance on the C-130J, which he had planned to terminate only a few months ago. He changed his mind when it became apparent that buying out the existing contract for some 60 aircraft would cost billions less than terminating it at the government’s pleasure. The Air Force has since altered the contract, making the C-130J more of a straight military procurement than an off-the-shelf product, which involves different rules and oversight.

Beyond Goldwater-Nichols (Yet Again)

The Defense Department needs to do a better job at coordinating with other national security agencies and should also reform its acquisition system, giving program management back to the service Chiefs, according to an independent study.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, in the second phase of its “Beyond Goldwater-Nichols” study, said the Pentagon has done a great job pulling together the disparate expertise of various federal agencies in fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but must formalize these relationships for the long term.

“While such ad hoc processes are agile, they are neither coherent nor durable,” the CSIS team wrote. “Since there is no reason to believe that today’s crisis will be the last, it makes sense to plan for the next one … by institutionalizing strategic planning” across departments.

The study was launched three years ago and was conducted with the full cooperation and regular feedback of DOD. It was intended to make a status check on progress since the Goldwater-Nichols reforms of 1986. It is expected that the Pentagon will implement most of the BGN recommendations.

In the second phase of the BGN review, the team suggested that there be a pan-agency Quadrennial National Security Review, enlarging on the already mandated Quadrennial Defense Review that by law is to be completed by the fall of the first year of every administration. This broader review would help the agencies involved—State Department, CIA, NSA, and others—get their act together and best plan for a united effort to address security issues.

The team also suggested that the various agencies develop “a common US government template” for dividing responsibility for various areas of the world, so that agency and department experts know who their counterparts are and can more readily work together.

There also should be incentives for career national security specialists “to seek out interagency experience, education, and training.”

The BGN team focused much of its effort on acquisition reform, saying that top managers have gotten too weighed down with management of yesterday’s programs and don’t have the time to think enough about long-term capabilities.

The study team suggested that setting requirements should rest with the combatant commands (such as US European Command, US Central Command, etc.), reasoning that, since they will have to do the fighting, they know what is needed. A new planning group consisting of the combatant commander deputies would replace the current Joint Requirements Oversight Committee, comprising the four service vice chiefs.

At the same time, management of the programs would be given back to the service Chiefs, who have demonstrated an ability to run them efficiently. This also would be in keeping with their legal charge to carry out Title 10 duties to organize, train, and equip the armed forces. All this would free up senior leadership to think more about what to buy in the future, rather than how to do it.

Another step would be to elevate the director of defense research and engineering to be the deputy to the newly refocused undersecretary of defense for technology, logistics, and acquisition policy. Past DDR&Es, before the job was relegated to a third-tier Pentagon post, did a great job identifying nascent technologies with huge potential payoffs, the study team said. The job attracted highly talented people—such as Harold Brown, Vannevar Bush, William J. Perry, and John Foster—who pushed the state of the art to DOD’s advantage. But when the post was “subsumed” under the deputy for acquisition, technology, and logistics, “the office quickly lost cachet and influence.”

Re-elevating the post would make the incumbent the “strategic architect” of the Pentagon’s future technology and ensure that future dominance doesn’t get sidetracked by interservice squabbling or short-term concerns.

The team also recommended that DOD create an undersecretary for management to deal with the agencies that are more like businesses, such as the supply organizations. This would further free senior leaders to worry first and foremost about future capabilities rather than immediate management issues.

Finally, the team said there should be a serviceswide US Logistics Command to oversee resupply of all forces. It would encompass the existing US Transportation Command as well as some other logistics-oriented agencies.

NRO Job Taken From Air Force

Ronald M. Sega has been sworn in as the new undersecretary of the Air Force. Compared to his predecessor, though, his portfolio is missing one important title—director of the National Reconnaissance Office.

In early July, after discussions among Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone, and the newly minted Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, Rumsfeld appointed a new NRO director whose sole responsibility would be the management of that organization.

On July 22, Rumsfeld named Donald M. Kerr to the job. Kerr had been the CIA’s director for science and technology. He will report directly to Rumsfeld.

The move was surprising because the merger in 2001 of the Air Force Undersecretary position with that of NRO director was one of the changes recommended by the Space Commission, chaired by Rumsfeld himself before becoming the Defense Secretary nominee.

Peter B. Teets, who served in the three-job USAF undersecretary position—his third was DOD executive for space—argued strongly before his retirement to keep the jobs together.

He wasn’t the only one who thought it should be that way. Shortly after Kerr got the job, Reps. Terry Everett (R-Ala.) and Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), the chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services strategic forces panel, wrote a letter to Rumsfeld questioning whether there would be adequate cooperation between USAF and NRO, whose spy satellite functions are closely aligned. The Air Force provides nearly 50 percent of the NRO’s personnel. They worried that USAF, if cut out of the NRO loop, would stop providing adequate numbers of high-quality people to NRO.

The two also questioned whether the Air Force would have a sufficient role in decisions made about NRO resources and activities.

“Unless this relationship remains strong,” they warned, the NRO’s acquisition effort, which is battling to overcome long-standing cost overruns and delays in many programs, will struggle along with “a shrinking workforce with diminishing skills.”

The given reason for subtracting the NRO job from the undersecretary’s purview was that the NRO needed a boss who could concentrate full-time on its programs and operations. Teets had many other areas of responsibility, having to do with missiles, rockets, and aircraft. However, it was this visibility across the spectrum of intelligence-gathering technologies that Teets said gave him a better feel for making decisions for the NRO.

Gen. John P. Jumper, who stepped down as USAF Chief of Staff Sept. 2, said in an interview with Air Force Magazine in August that the chain of command for the NRO is not nearly as important as the relationship between NRO and the Air Force.

“The real thing that we need to focus on … is that solid black line that goes to the uniformed military,” Jumper said. “I am concerned that we work out properly the way … to keep the NRO strongly connected to the uniformed military in ways [that make them] responsive to the combatant commander.”

Jumper asserted that “space has … got to have its foot increasingly into the real-time fight.” He added, “Nobody knows this better than Don Kerr, by the way. He’s been a special friend to the Air Force in our attempts to do the integration of ‘black’ and ‘white’ space,” a reference to secret and open satellite programs.

“He as well as anybody understands what has to be done,” which Jumper said was to make “absolutely sure … [that] the coordination with the uniformed [military] stays formal and required and within that solid black line.”

Officials at the NRO said in August there was word that Kerr may even be given some kind of Air Force title, perhaps assistant secretary, that would formalize his relationship with the service and put him in the USAF Secretary’s chain of command. In the meantime, Kerr’s deputy, Dennis D. Fitzgerald, bears the newly created title of deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space matters.