Monday, December 5, 2016

Littoral Combat Ship, at a Crossroads - Defense One

Littoral Combat Ship, at a Crossroads - Defense One: The U.S. Navy’s littoral combat ship program is at a crossroads, and it’s not just a new Government Accountability Office review saying so.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Dec. 1, senators, the GAO, and a representative from the Office of the Secretary of Defense slammed the program for cost overruns, engineering failures, and more.

“The miracle of the LCS didn’t happen,” said Paul Francis, GAO’s managing director of acquisition and sourcing management.

Vociferous criticism for the ships is nothing new in committee hearings, But yesterday’s hearing also saw calls for further reducing planned purchases.

The Navy, which has bought or ordered 26 LCSs and just received approval for another two, is working to build a fleet of 52 small surface combatants (either LCSs or a planned modified version dubbed a frigate). But the recently settled National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 provides for only 40.

“Given the cost overruns, mission package testing woes and the rate of engineering failures, reducing the size of this program is a necessary first step,” SASC chair Sen. John McCain said. “I am prepared to go even further by taking a hard look at any further procurement of ships until all of the mission packages reach IOC,” or initial operating capability.

Six key issues facing Trump's Pentagon pick

Six key issues facing Trump's Pentagon pick: How will President-elect Donald Trump's pick for defense secretary, retired Marine general James Mattis, steer America's largest bureaucracy and the world's biggest war machine through what likely will be turbulent years to come?

Here are six of the most pressing issues that will land on Mattis's plate if he is confirmed:

Navy Shipbuilding, Uniforms Under Scrutiny in Defense Budget | DoD Buzz

Navy Shipbuilding, Uniforms Under Scrutiny in Defense Budget | DoD Buzz

The final version of next year’s defense budget bill allocates extra money to the Navy for procurement of a new warship, but it also demands the service produce reports on a controversial ship acquisition program and several much-discussed changes to the female dress uniform.

Overall, the service would get a modest end strength bump from 322,900 to 323,900 under the plan and see a relatively small increase in shipbuilding funds from what was recommended in the president’s fiscal 2017 budget request.

The National Defense Authorization Act increases the number by nearly $526.7 million to roughly $18.88 billion, with most of that increase going to a $440 million down payment on another landing platform dock (LPD 29) amphibious ship, or an L(X)R, the planned amphibious ship replacement.

That money will allow procurement of the LPD 29 or L(X)R to begin in 2017, instead of 2018 as had been planned.

Tucked inside the NDAA, however, are several stern accountability measures. The bill requires the secretary of defense to submit a report on the littoral combat ship‘s mission package for every fiscal year from 2017 to 2022, including plans for development, projected unit costs, and projected development costs, as well as problems encountered during the year and test milestones accomplished.

The embattled LCS was the subject of a fiery Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this week, as lawmakers expressed outrage that the ship, which has more than doubled in unit cost from $220 million to $478 million, is falling short of planned capability goals and may not be survivable in combat.

Despite Reputation, Mattis Tries to Avoid Fights: Neller |

Despite Reputation, Mattis Tries to Avoid Fights: Neller | Despite his brawler reputation, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis actually tried hard on the battlefield to avoid fights, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said Saturday.

Neller means that as a compliment.

The commandant said he had served under Mattis twice and "I never met anybody who tried harder to win without fighting."

The retired general, selected by President-elect Donald Trump for defense secretary, has a special talent for matching goals with means and "how to engage below the level of conflict," Neller said during a panel discussion at the Reagan National Security Forum in Simi, Calif.

Neller quickly added that he had also "never met anybody -- if you have a fight -- there's no way we're not going to win." Neller called Mattis a rare combination of "accomplished leader, thinker, fighter" whose fitness to lead the Pentagon will soon become evident to Congress.

"He's a very measured guy. He listens and he's decisive. I'm confident that when he makes the calls”to members of Congress and testifies at Senate confirmation hearings, he will be judged to be exceptionally qualified to serve as the next defense secretary, Neller said.

Acquisition Chief: LCS Program 'Broke' the Navy |

Acquisition Chief: LCS Program 'Broke' the Navy | The Navy's littoral combat ship is costing taxpayers billions more than budgeted, failing survivability assessments, and may never live up to the original vision for the program, a panel of Navy and government oversight officials told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

The hearing, which focused on continued testing and acquisition of the small surface vessels, came at the close of a 12-month period in which five of the eight littoral combat ships in service have suffered major mechanical and engineering casualties. Navy officials have ordered dramatic program overhauls and reviews of ship employment and training in response to the breakdowns.

And despite the program's underperformance, costs continue to skyrocket, testified Paul Francis, managing director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office. The ship's unit cost has more than doubled from $220 million to $478 million apiece, and plans to conduct a "block buy" of 12 redesigned littoral combat ships, to be called frigates, will put taxpayers on the hook for nearly $14 billion, he wrote in a GAO report released Thursday.

"The miracle of LCS didn't happen," Francis told the Senate panel. "... Once the money wheel starts to turn, the business imperatives of budgets and contracts and ship construction take precedence over acquisition and oversight principles."

Friday, December 2, 2016

US Air Force Has Severe Shortage of Pilots

US Air Force Has Severe Shortage of Pilots: The United States Air Force is reporting a shortage of pilots of fighter airplanes. The lack is so severe that some generals say it may affect the service’s ability to carry out operations as soon as next year.

The Air Force is training about 135 more fighter pilots this year than two years ago. But it will be a long time before they are ready for action.

Pilots must train for years -- at a cost of millions of dollars -- before they are qualified to fly fighter jets. The high-tech aircraft could be described as flying supercomputers so lengthy training is required.

The Air Force is permitted to have 3,500 fighter pilots. However, there are now about 725 fewer.

Major General Scott Vander Hamm and Lieutenant General John Cooper supervise Air Force pilots and mechanics who take care of the planes.

They recently spoke with VOA about the pilot shortage.

General: Army struggles to meet goal of 80,000 recruits |

General: Army struggles to meet goal of 80,000 recruits | The U.S. Army is having trouble recruiting the 80,000 new soldiers it needs this fiscal year because most people don't meet the requirements to join or are misinformed about the military, according to its chief recruiter.

"The biggest challenge right now is the fact that only three in 10 can actually meet the requirements to actually join the military," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command. "We talk about it in terms of the cognitive, the physical and the moral requirements to join the military, and it's tough. We have a very good Army; there's a desire to recruit quality into the Army."

Snow spoke about the issues Tuesday while in the Phoenix area to meet with recruiters and to address a gathering of local community and business leaders about their roles in helping to develop the nation's soldiers.

Snow's command is charged with signing 62,500 recruits for the Army and 15,400 for the Army Reserve in fiscal 2017, which runs Oct. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2017.

Although there are many requirements that must be met in order for an individual to join, Snow said he doesn't believe changing or adjusting them would be beneficial because it would ultimately reduce the quality of the military.

"We don't want to sacrifice quality," Snow said. "If we lower the quality, yes we might be able to make our mission, but that's not good for the organization. The American public has come to expect a qualified Army that can defend the nation. I don't think the American public would like us to lower the quality of those joining the Army if they knew it's going to impact our ability to perform the very functions or nation expects us to do."