Be vigorous in negotiating contracts, keep pushing for acquisition improvements and, above all, remember that "every dollar is an Air Force dollar, every dollar is a taxpayer dollar" Air Force Secretary Mike Donley told several thousand attendees at the annual Air Force Association conference.
"As we continue to strengthen our acquisition workforce, our on-going tasks are to be better negotiators, to know our internal business imperatives, to understand our contracts, to know our industrial base, and to respect that every dollar is an Air Force dollar, every dollar is a taxpayer dollar," Donley said.
The secretary offered a bit more granularity in his speech about one of the most important acquisition efforts of the next 20 years -- long range strike. LRS will not be focused, as it has been in the past, on being able to deliver nuclear weapons. And it will not be a high-tech, push-the-envelope system like the B-2.
"This time around, while recognizing the continued need for the nuclear mission, we’re approaching LRS capabilities mainly from conventional perspectives, where they are most likely to be used. And we’re focused on developing a higher confidence acquisition strategy with known technologies, a fleet size large enough that we can flexibly operate and sustain it over a 30-year life span, but not so large that we cannot afford it, and with unit cost as a key factor. And this time around, we also recognize the value of other, complimentary capabilities in the LRS family of systems and the need to prioritize and synchronize our investments," Donley said.
He said the service would be "cautious not to repeat the painful experience of previous Air Force bomber programs: narrowly focused capabilities, high risk technologies, and high costs contributing to affordability problems, leading to program cancellations, or low inventories."
Donley also offered several examples of ways the service has brought new capabilities to the field without the usual 12 to 15 years.
"Our Rapid Capabilities Office, established in 2003, is carrying forward a legacy of streamlined acquisition approaches used idn the development of the F-117 and other classified efforts of the past, now adapted to 21st century technology and organizational constructs.
"Finally, the Operationally Responsive Space office, established less than three years ago, is developing both satellite and launch capabilities specifically focused on rapid augmentation and reconstitution of space based capabilities in support of Combatant Commanders at the speed of need," he said.
He also offered some examples of how airmen have come up with quick-fix acquisition solutions:
- At Mildenhall’s 100th Maintenance Squadron, maintainers purchased commercially available, off-the-shelf ‘cherry pickers’ called Work Assist Vehicles to use in place of the bulky B-4 stands typically used for aircraft inspections. These vehicles are less than half the cost of the B-4 and save an estimated 30-40% in time.
- At Cannon, the 27th Special Operations Wing is modifying MC-130W’s with a Precision Strike Package, referred to as “Dragon Spear” bringing not only mobility, but integrated ISR, armed overwatch, and close air support for SOF teams. The first aircraft delivered in 10-months, the fleet of 12 will be delivered by the end of next calendar year. The acquisition methodology yielded an 85% savings from the initial estimated costs.
- At Whiteman, communicators developed in-house an Adaptable Communications Suite for B-2s. With a sensible use of internal and external resources, the ACS is taking half the time to field at less than 20% the cost of the initial contractor estimate.