There were some ups and downs, but Bogdan ultimately won kudos for awarding a contract to Boeing Co and locking the company into a fixed-price development contract that analysts say could well result in narrow losses for the company.
“The Air Force has focused heavily on improving the culture and practices of its acquisition people, and Chris Bogdan is exhibit A in the case that they’ve succeeded,” said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute. “This is the guy who finally got the Air Force tanker contract awarded after a decade of trying.”
A second former military official lauded Bogdan for taking responsibility when an inadvertent data swap threatened the Air Force’s third to buy new tankers. “Even when things didn’t go perfectly, he took responsibility for fixing what was wrong.”
Bogdan emphasizes accountability in every speech he gives these days, underscoring that he and everyone involved in the F-35 program need to take responsibility for their part in what he has called an “incredibly complex” program.
“Take the program construct and the concurrency we have, put those together and boy, you have got one monster on your hands. It is a very complicated program,” Bogdan said.
He has also been known to cite the case of the legendary General George S. Patton, the gruff World War Two general, who missed the chance to lead the D-Day invasion of Normandy and was forced to apologize after he slapped two sick soldiers.
Former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said Bogdan’s experience with tough negotiations on the tanker program would serve him well on the F-35 program, which faces big challenges in coming years as the U.S. Marine Corps gear up to start using the new planes and international partners firm up their orders.
He said Bogdan would need to develop strong ties with top Air Force and Marine Corps leaders, as well as ground commanders who would rely on data gathered by the new warplane.
Kevin Killea, who oversees aviation requirements for the Marine Corps, said Bogdan’s arrival had led to noticeable changes at the F-35 program office.
“Whether you like his approach or not, there comes a time in any organization when you heed a change of pace, or a change of attitude,” Killea said, noting that the F-35 office had clearly become more aggressive about maintaining the program’s schedule.