The Pentagon's top weapons buyer said industry and taxpayers should expect more independent cost scrubs like the one recently done on the Joint Strike Fighter.
Ash Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, made it clear there is more blood to be squeezed from the acquisition stone at a lunch put on by the National Aeronautics Association. "There are too many programs that resemble the Joint Strike Fighter in the sense that they are not performing the way we expect them to," he said. Asked which programs he would identify as ripe for closer looks, Carter declined to name any programs, but he said he's got lots to choose from: "I don't know where to start. There are so many."
Overly optimistic cost and schedule estimates from the JSF program office have clearly left Carter, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others with some lasting scars. Carter said he didn't "like to find things out the way the way I found them out with JSF," noting what he called a "huge gulf" between what the PEO and the contractor were telling senior OSD leadership and what they were hearing from the Joint Estimating Team.
Program managers must be watching all this with bug eyes given what happened to the leader of the Pentagon's top program, the JSF. Maj. Gen. David Heinz was, as everyone learned on budget day, canned. And the climate of fear engendered by that action is unlikely to change any time soon. I hear a senior Air Force general was recently threatened with firing if he pressed hard for a course of action he thought best. Let's hope enough acquisition and operations officers have the courage to stand up and deliver honest opinions based on their best military advice when needed.