AFA CONFERENCE: After three years of bringing acquisition costs down but seeing schedule breaches grow and grow without any end in sight, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced today in her keynote speech at the premier US aerospace conference that schedule is now in the service’s sights.
“Unfortunately, today it takes too long today to deliver our systems,” James said with some understatement.
As we’ve reported in some depth, Air Force weapon programs have busted their schedules, taking longer to field, adding another 112 months to the 29 major weapons programs that the service monitors in 2014. In 2012, schedule performance “continues to remain problematic and shows no signs of improvement.” In 2013, schedule problems mounted, getting a “poor” rating from the service, with more than 102 months added to major programs between September 2012 and September 2013.
Calling the effort “should schedule” — a euphonically awkward allusion to the much sweeter sounding “should cost” — James said they’re starting small and plan to go big once they’ve demonstrated the approach works.
James noted, as have Air Force military acquisition deputies, that there’s “no single reason this has happened” on schedule. She said they’re going to effectively offer money to companies to get their products going moving quickly. They’re going to start small with three programs: bomber armament tester; enhanced GPS INS modernization program; and the advanced precision kill weapon system.
Of course, the problem with using small programs is that they typically come in faster, with fewer and smaller cost overruns, than do large programs, usually because of the increased complexity and technical uncertainty afflicting larger programs. So it’s hard to really make the argument that a small program’s lessons will be transferable to a large one. On the other hand, anything they do to improve their schedule record can only help those in the field.