DT obtained a series of after-action notes compiled by Air Force officials during the March 20 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Air Force programs in the fiscal 2008 budget request. They outline some tough choices on transport aircraft options, JSF buys and UAV plans...
Summary of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing 20 March
Note: This hearing summary contains paraphrased excerpts of statements, questions and answers.
CHAIRMAN LEVINS OPENING STATEMENT:
Noted that while the Air Force does not have many of the issues in optempo as the Army and Marines the Air Force does have some critical acquisition challenges. Space programs have cost growth and schedule delays. Congress did not allow B-52 retirements down to 56 in FY07 and still awaits the report on bomber requirements which is now not slated to be out until the end of FY07 and yet the Air Force is still requesting B-52 retirements this was not likely until FY08.
Concerns over the possible closing of the C-17 line while asking to retire C-5 aircraft.
Cost increases in the C-5 re-engining program.
Praised the transparency in the ongoing tanker acquisition process.
SENATOR WARNERS OPENING STATEMENT:
Commented that the Air Force should be given the flexibility to manage the fleet and recommended they meet quietly to resolve the acquisition and retirement issues. Questioned the JSF engine single-source decision.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Secretary Wynne indicated the supplemental did meet requirements, but if he had additional money he would spend it on C-130J and strategic deterrence (5th generation fighters and space). When asked why ten C-130Js are in the supplemental and yet only nine are in the normal FY08 budget, Secretary Wynne stated the C-130Es are excluded from support, C-130Hs are being flown double time and the C-130J has shown excellent capability for delivery within theater.
Senator Inhofe noted that the 5th generation fighter [JSF] is not in the supplemental and asked what happened. Secretary Wynne stated that for several years the strategic fighters have been the source of funding. In the supplemental there was a surge in ground forces that was not expected so the department stripped the fixed wing aircraft (to include JSF). He explained the rational for the request was reluctance to acquire new 4th generation aircraft.
Senator Levin wanted to know why the Air Force was asking for 17 C-130Js in the supplemental vice the regular budget. Secretary Wynne outlined the C-130 issues in theater and indicated the C-130Js have shown a dramatic affect within theater in reducing the need for convoys. The need for the mission is now.
Senator Levin asked about the C-17 and C-5 budget request and how they fit. He asked how do you reject C-5 re-engining option and put the focus on the C-17s in the unfunded priority list. General Moseley indicated with the increase in the Army and Marines the MCS does not adequately support the larger footprint. We are waiting for the land component numbers from the Army and Marines. We know there will be an increase in requirement for strategic lift. MCS saw a minimum of 300 airlift requirements. Need to retire 25-30 C-5s and work replacements.
Continue AMP on C-5s and RERP on C-5s with the most life. In a case where the land component is growing, strategic airlift is inventory static, C-5 hard to maintain and the C-17 line is about to shut down - we have to make some decisions.
Senator Inhofe asked how many C-17s it would take to keep the line open. Secretary Wynne said he has been pushing Boeing for that figure but still does not have it. His assessment, based on the F-16 line, is less than 1/month.
Senator Thune asked the Air Force to clarify their strategic airlift requirement and how they propose to meet them if authorized to retire C-5As. General Moseley responded we dont know what the growth of the Army and Marines will do to the airlift requirements. We do know that the MCS did not take into account this growth so we have an unknown. Do not believe the number of airlift assets would go down. Desire to take the worse actors of the C-5 fleet (25-30 aircraft.) and retire them which would provide some revenue to continue mods on the C-5s and possibly acquire more C-17s.
Secretary Wynne reiterated that the Air Force would like to retire 25-30 C-5s. Senator Chambliss expressed that it was not an either/or issue with the C-17 and C-5 but the aircraft complement each other. He then asked if we did cancel the C-5A RERP when would that yield savings. Secretary Wynne explained that if we were to cancel the program (a decision that has not been made) the bulk of the savings would be around 2014-2016. Some immediate savings would be from not having to maintain the aircraft we would retire.
Senator McCaskill asked if the Secretary has read the recent GAO report on airlift/tanker programs. She stated the MCS study is flawed yet the Air Force is basing their tanker acquisition on it. She also outlined the C-130 AMP overruns (+$700M) and reduction in the buy (435 down to 268). Secretary Wynne indicated he has not read the report in-depth. He further explained that while there is disagreement with how GAO sees these programs, the Air Force is complying with DOD-5000 regulations and the Air Force is making best judgments on programs.
Joint Cargo Aircraft
Senator Prior asked the status of the JCA. Secretary Wynne outlined the Army has the lead and the Air Force is working with them on requirements. He asked that a letter to foreign Air Chiefs and state governors asking for any requirements they may have be placed in the record.
JSF Alternate Engine
Senator Warner asked if it wouldnt be wiser to keep competition and two suppliers for the JSF engines because it is proven that competition reduces cost and improves quality. He later added, couldnt we just buy fewer JSF to pay for the alternate engine. He expressed concern about the additional thrust needed for the STOVL version. He stated we may need to buy fewer aircraft. General Moseley stated it is about $2B we dont have. He stated there is value in competition and additional sources, but the money is the issue. Senator Lieberman asked if Congress ordered the Air Force to have an alternate engine program where would the Air Force get the $2B. Secretary Wynne he didnt know how it would be funded and if it came out of the JSF budget it would have an impact, especially at very low rate production.
Senator Chambliss asked about status of the study that supports the F-22 multi-year decision Congress approved last year. Secretary Wynne indicate the study was on track and the FFRDCs and contractors are responsive and he felt the study will show we will achieve greater (or as a minimum the forecast) savings. He indicated he expects to award the multi-year procurement this year.
Senator Thune asked about the synthetic fuel test on the B-52. Secretary Wynne indicated the Air Force was pleased with the test and will now look at the engines to see if there is a life cycle benefit. Looking to qualify other aircraft and would like to have the Air Force fleet available for synthetic fuel, partnered with JP-8, by 2010.
Senator Clinton asked about the GAOs upholding a bid protest and Secretary Wynnes statement that he would like to stay with what we have got and get on and get this product going. Secretary Wynne explained the Air Force will work with the GAO and the competitors to make sure we are in a transparent and open method. We are working for a better read on the protest items and when we re-solicit it will be against the findings the GAO brought up. Senator Clinton asked if there was an AOA for the CSAR-X. General Moseley stated there was an AOA and it was forwarded through the joint system. He indicated there were a JROC, AOA, RFI and a RFP.
Senator Inhofe asked about the Army and Air Force UAV program. General Moseley believed there was a better way to field and fight with UAVs. He offered to provide a letter he had authored to explain his position.