For the Pentagon, reducing the cost of big systems will be only half the battle.
In technology, as in air-to-air combat, speed can be everything. Yet even as fifth-generation fighters such as the F-22 push the aeronautical envelope, America’s military is struggling to keep up with a disorienting worldwide acceleration of technological development that it has little or no hand in steering.
Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest arms exporter. That isn’t useful right now against Russia, but it may be someday.News from Crimea over the past month has been endlessly surprising, but often missed is a surprising industrial fact: Ukraine currently ranks as the world’s fourth-largest arms exporter. The local industry had a blowout year in 2012 (the latest estimated by SIPRI), selling over $1.3 billion in weapons and related products abroad. All that military-industrial output hasn’t sufficiently encouraged the new government to put up a fight against Russia, the world’s second-largest arms exporter. But with the right encouragement from NATO, it may prove valuable in the long run.
In AvWeek, Bill Sweetman pines for another Polaris program. Here’s how to recapture the magic.In last week’s issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Bill Sweetman observes (“Does the Pentagon give contractors an incentive for slow R&D?”) how the same US Defense Department that
had put a nuclear submarine to sea with sixteen long-range nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles in four years, and taken a spyplane from drawings to operational missions in two years, seemingly became incapable of developing [an airplane] bigger than a primary trainer in less than twenty years. Producing the Air Force's next bomber in fifteen years (from its 2010 restart) is considered a challenge, even though in many respects it will be a smaller B-2 and the requirements have been ruthlessly pared down.
As GD and BAE’s square off for the AMPV, the US Army shouldn’t pick a winner before the envelopes are opened.With the cancellation of the Ground Combat Vehicle, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) program is now the US Army’s top platform modernization priority. But money is still tight. In 2012 and 2013, I endorsed the idea that the AMPV could be bought off the shelf, or literally out of inventory, and the Army does seem to be thinking that way. But one contractor’s recent lobbying reveals the difficult dynamics of this program, and a broader point about the challenge of maintaining competition in contracting.
Jacques Gansler’s editorial in the NYT skirts the challenges of competing every contractJacques Gansler’s editorial in yesterday's New York Times appropriately laments the Pentagon’s drift away from real competition in contracting, and prescribes two sequential solutions: initial competition on price and quality, but subsequent re-competition on price. In supply chain management, the former is called best-value contracting, the latter dual-sourcing. Both have been used to good effect in military contracting. However, I must expand on Gansler’s essay by addressing a problem in his prescription: while best-value is an obvious choice, two sources are sometimes more costly than one.
Not hardly. Jet engines are just its most promising storyMonday’s announcement of the 2015 US Defense Budget request made exactly one explicit mention of the defense industrial base. One billion dollars is to be invested, Secretary Hagel said, towards developing
A promising next-generation jet engine technology, which we expect to produce sizable cost-savings through reduced fuel consumption and lower maintenance needs. This new funding will also help ensure a robust industrial base, a very strong and important industrial base—itself a national strategic asset.
Strong words, but not many of them. Does so little talk mean that the department otherwise doesn’t care? We think not.