The Air Force generally does a rotten job of managing and budgeting for space programs. That was the strongest message sent today by John Young, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, as he discussed the 2010 budget and acquisition in general during a wide-ranging discussion with reporters yesterday.
Although Young said he didnt want to single out the service, thats just what he did repeatedly during the almost two-hour session.
Based on the 2010 POM they are not performing well, Young said, who separately described the interference and gaming of the services during the budget as a cancer. It began with a discussion of the Transformational Satellite program, T-Sat. Young said there are camps in the Pentagon that have consistently wanted to club the T-Sat for more reason than its a very expensive program. The camps identity became clear a few second later when Young noted that the Air Force underfunded T-Sat in the 2009 budget.
Then Young listed a litany of space programs the Air Force had either mismanaged or underfunded. Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) is still emerging from a Nunn-McCurdy breach and apparently has not solved a software problem that has bedeviled it for more than a year. Ground terminals needed for the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) werent built in time to receive data from the satellites. And the Air Force goofed and didnt budget to ensure the Wideband Gapfiller System would continue to provide data to 27 weapon systems. Its beyond me, Young said in exasperation with the MUOS oversight, adding that the Pentagon had found money to keep the data flowing.
I asked Young if he would move the executive agent for space, currently vested in Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, to a joint or OSD perch. The executive agent oversees all military space programs. Young made clear he did not think the Air Force was the right place: I would never put it there. He indicated that Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England is being given analytic data to move the executive agent to a joint perch. One likely candidate for the job: Josh Hartman, currently director for space and intelligence capabilities in Youngs office.
In other acquisition news:
MRAP Light: Young said the Pentagon is moving ahead on just how to meet the need for well protected vehicles that can handle the rugged terrain of Afghanistan, saying the upcoming supplemental may have room for additional vehicles for Afghanistan. Young was very careful to avoid saying there is an actual program here yet, but they are clearly headed that way. One of the possibilities being discussed is grabbing the nascent Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program and getting it to Afghanistan as quickly as possible. Young was very cautious not to say that JLTV was the solution, but he did say it was being discussed as a possible part of the solution.
In a conference call with reporters this morning, the BAE Systems JLTV program lead told me that most of the subsystems on the JLTV prototype are at TRL 7 (Technology Readiness Level), the first level at which a system could be considered ready to undergo operational test and evaluation. When I told Young this, he laughed and said he bet that BAE Systems would sell their system for $1.98 a copy. Then he added, with a very big smile, that he appreciated BAEs input.
-- Colin Clark