Washington Watch

Feb. 1, 2004

For F/A-22, On to Plan B

The Air Force and DOD are again trying to decide how USAF can obtain a sufficient number of F/A-22 Raptors, the service’s top procurement priority. Recent Congressional action has thwarted a plan to increase the size of the Raptor purchase and sent the Air Force and the Pentagon back to the budgetary drawing board.

Congress cut $161 million from the program as a result of “cost savings,” according to a Senate Armed Services Committee summary of the final 2004 Defense Authorization Bill. In other words, the service didn’t need all the money it asked for to buy 20 F/A-22s.

In practical terms, however, this meant USAF would be able to buy two fewer Raptors.

Last year, the Pentagon and the Air Force agreed that, given the costs projected at that time, the service would be able to buy 277 Raptors and still remain within a $43 billion cost cap imposed by Congress. However, since 277 is far short of the number of F/A-22s that the Air Force maintains it needs, service leaders exacted an important concession from DOD. If USAF could get the price down through more efficient production, it could use the savings to buy more of the airplanes.

The idea, which was christened “buy-to-budget” by Air Force Secretary James G. Roche, was endorsed by the Defense Department and seemed to have backing on Capitol Hill. The Air Force believed that, with production efficiencies, it could build a fleet of 339 Raptors without breaking the cost cap.

Taking the savings away from the program in the authorization bill, however, “effectively means that buy-to-budget is DOA [dead on arrival] on the Hill,” a senior Air Force official said. “We will have to come up with something new, because … if we’re held to 277 airplanes … that is clearly not even close to what we need.”

The Pentagon agrees. Defense Department comptroller Dov S. Zakheim told reporters in December that buy-to-budget was an innovative approach to a thorny problem but that Congress might come around if the idea is presented differently.

“I don’t think it was wishful thinking” to assume that Congress would go along with the scheme, Zakheim said. “From a managerial point of view, Roche made a lot of sense. … Certainly, there was a lot of merit to what he proposed and what we supported.” However, he admitted, “it is not the way Congress tends to look at programs, there ’s no question about it.”

Zakheim suggested, though, that the idea might be tried again.

“There have been a lot of ideas that have been DOA on the Hill, and then, every once in a while, they turn up again,” said Zakheim. As to whether buy to budget will be resubmitted, Zakheim hedged, “We’re looking at a host of different things,” but he suggested the answer would be found in the Fiscal 2005 budget, due out this month.

Mother of All Concepts

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in December signed new guidance laying the groundwork for all transformation projects in the US military. Called simply “Joint Operations Concepts,” it now stands as the overarching document that will guide everything from development of exercises to the purchase of equipment among all the services.

The guidance provides the framework for shifting from a scenario-based planning approach to the capabilities-based approach set forth in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, stated Rumsfeld in the foreword of the new document.

“This approach focuses more on how the United States can defeat a broad array of capabilities that any adversary may employ rather than who the adversaries are and where they may threaten joint forces or US interest,” Rumsfeld said. “The joint force will have attributes to make it fully integrated, expeditionary in nature, networked, decentralized, adaptable, able to achieve decision superiority, and lethal. ”

The Joint Operations Concept “will act as the genesis for new ideas and concepts,” Rumsfeld said. It lays down guidance on “how the joint force will operate in a complex environment within the next 15 to 20 years.” The concept document will be updated every two years.

The US will act pre-emptively “in self-defense against emerging threats before they can be applied against vital national interests,” according to the concept document. The document restates the previously announced defense policy goals of assuring allies and dissuading, deterring, and defeating adversaries.

The concept paper reiterated that the US must achieve “full spectrum dominance”—the ability to control any situation or win any fight “across the full range of military operations.” To do it, the US military must have “fused” intelligence at all levels to achieve “decision superiority”—the ability to make decisions and act faster than the adversary.

The military must embrace “a joint and expeditionary ‘mind-set,’ which reflects a greater level of deployability and versatility,” according to the document. However, it must also be able to sustain operations “for a specified time without requiring an operational pause.” To do that, integrated logistics systems will be pursued.

The military is to have standing or rotation-based forces on hand that can immediately deploy to any hot spot. These as well as fast-reaction forces launched from the continental United States, plus space-based assets, “provide the initial engagement capabilities and facilitate introduction of follow-on forces. ”

The Joint Operations Concept seeks to do away with set-piece military operations and emphasizes adaptability “in scope, scale, and method” to keep up with fluid situations.

The new military will apply “effects-based” thinking to its operations and will create new tools that will allow commanders to anticipate what effects—intended and unintended—may result from applying certain types of force. This “systems visualization” will provide a “shared understanding of causal relationships” and “essential political, military, economic, social, infrastructure, and information systems within an area of interest. ”

The new concept document went into effect with Rumsfeld’s signature. It will be used to guide defense budgets from Fiscal 2005 onward.

Britain Overhauls Defense

“Effects-Based Operations,” the conceptual framework pioneered by USAF to achieve combat goals more rapidly and logically has now also been adopted by British defense forces. In addition, interoperability with the US will be of prime importance in an overhauled British military.

EBO is “a new phrase, but it describes an approach to the use of force that is well-established—that military force exists to serve political or strategic ends,” said Geoffrey W. Hoon, Britain’s minister of defense, in the latest ministry white paper, released in December.

The white paper sets out the conceptual underpinnings of defense strategy and budgets for the UK. In many ways, it mirrors the realignment and transformation of the US military since the end of the Cold War.

“We have begun to develop our military capabilities so that we can provide as wide as possible a range of options to fulfill operational objectives without necessarily resorting to traditional attritional warfare,” Hoon wrote.

The white paper outlines a planned large-scale shift in the shape, size, and focus of British forces, to adapt to a changed world in which there no longer is a “large-scale conventional threat” to the United Kingdom or NATO, calling it a “rebalancing” of British military capabilities.

The UK military will size itself to be able to handle three medium-size operations, one of which will be a peacekeeping mission, Hoon said. He added that the UK will have to focus more on special operations forces to combat terrorism and counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Britain will no longer try to maintain a capability to fight large, nation-on-nation wars by itself. It will fight such a war only in partnership with the US, according to the white paper.

“The most demanding expeditionary operations, including intervention against state adversaries, can only be plausibly conducted if US forces are engaged, either leading a coalition or in NATO,” it said. However, Hoon said the UK must provide enough value in these joint operations to enable Britain “to influence political and military decision-making.” In other words, London wants to have military credibility and a say in the war and in its aftermath.

To meet new threats, Britain will reduce its numbers of heavy fighting forces, such as armored divisions, and increase its light divisions to emphasize speed, lethality, and mobility. Hoon said it would be “quite wrong to retain systems, within a finite budget, which we know are no longer effective.”

The strategy echoes USAF’s emphasis on gaining access where an adversary may try to deny it.

New threats “require a clear focus on projecting force, further afield and even more quickly than has previously been the case,” Hoon wrote. “This places a premium on deployability and sustainability of our forces, sometimes in circumstances where access, basing, and overflight cannot be guaranteed. ”

There will be a new emphasis on “jointery”—joint forces and joint task forces drawn from all the UK military branches.

In aviation, Hoon reported that the Typhoon and Joint Strike Fighter will be so much more advanced than previous aircraft that Britain will be able to field fewer fighters without sacrificing any combat capability. Although the white paper continues to list a requirement for 232 Typhoons, the Royal Air Force announced last fall its intention to only buy 143 airplanes. The white paper maintains a requirement for 150 Joint Strike Fighters, which are being developed in conjunction with the US.

In deciding where it will commit its forces, Hoon said, “We will, as a force, focus on those areas where we have strong historical ties and responsibilities. ”

The Prescription for Aerospace

President Bush and Congress have the prescription in hand for reinvigorating the American aerospace industry, but, according to a blue-ribbon panel, they aren’t following doctor’s orders closely enough.

Reflecting, in December, on the progress made since the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry released its final report one year before, commission members said some of their recommendations have been taken to heart and are helping, but others are being ignored at the nation’s peril.

In its 2002 report, the commission recommended:

  • Creating a national aerospace policy.
  • Making a government commitment to ensure US primacy in aerospace technology and industrial capacity.
  • Transforming the US air transport system.
  • Setting new goals for space exploration.
  • Creating executive and legislative coordination offices for aerospace.
  • Overhauling US export control laws.
  • Reforming tax laws regarding investment in aerospace.
  • Boosting, substantially, federal investment in basic aerospace technology research.
  • Making a government commitment to combat the aging of the industry workforce by creating incentives for young people to seek aerospace careers at all levels.

Export controls have not been relaxed and continue to be a major drag on the industry, commissioners said. Items with potential dual use for civilian and military purposes are subject to an onerous and lengthy process of export approvals, whereas comparable items can be readily obtained from other countries with no delay. This puts American products at a disadvantage.

The commissioners reiterated their plea for an overhaul of the export control system—a step that requires coordinated effort by the executive and legislative branches.

John W. Douglass, commission member and president of the Aerospace Industries Association, described the export process as not only “byzantine” but way out of date with regard to the globalization of the industry.

The commissioners also repeated their call for the government to create a new aerospace agenda, setting goals in space exploration, air transport efficiency, air traffic management, and military aircraft performance and cost—and providing the funds to accomplish those goals.

In addition, the panelists said there’s still no comprehensive plan to confront the “graying” of the aerospace industry, in which most of the workers are over 40. They want government to create educational incentives to pursue a career in aerospace. Besides grants and scholarships, they said, a focused government initiative in air and space will inspire a new generation of fliers, engineers, scientists, and aerospace workers.

On the upside, the panelists were heartened by the bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. It includes language creating a joint planning office for the national air transport system. This office will bring together NASA, the FAA, and Defense Department officials to plan ways to keep the US aerospace industry competitive with that of other countries.

Panel chairman Robert S. Walker also praised NASA’s effort to develop an Orbital Spaceplane to ferry space station crews back and forth from orbit and the Pentagon’s effort to streamline the DOD acquisition system.

The Cost of Access to Space

The Defense Department wants to keep two launch vehicle contractors in business to compete for its medium and heavy space launch program, even though it will cost considerably more money than it would to sustain just one. Cost, according to DOD, is not the only or primary consideration. Top priority is ensured access to space.

In a program decision memorandum signed in early December, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, said the Air Force will try to keep both Boeing and Lockheed Martin as suppliers for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.

Wolfowitz made the decision over the objection of the Pentagon’s Program Analysis and Evaluation office. PA&E analysts said the limited number of launches anticipated for the next decade or so made it cheaper to downsize to just one launch provider.

However, Pentagon officials said that Wolfowitz decided it was prudent to keep two suppliers in business to avoid being stuck with no access to space if the selected provider’s family of rockets was grounded.

Peter B. Teets, Air Force undersecretary and DOD executive agent for space, told Congress in November that keeping two rocket builders in business would cost 20 to 50 percent more than keeping just one. He qualified that, though, by saying that space access is too important for the Pentagon to rely on a single contractor.

The cost of keeping two companies in the business is estimated at about $50 million a year.

The decision means that USAF must continue working with Boeing, which was censured by the Air Force last summer for ethics problems surrounding launch vehicle contract negotiations in 1998. At the start of this year, Boeing remained barred from competing for more space launch work. USAF penalized the company about $1 billion in launch services work and required it to show progress in improving the ethical behavior of its personnel. (See “Washington Watch: The Boeing Case,” September 2003, p. 12.)