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  • JSF "Acquisition Malpractice" -- Pentagon Procurement Boss
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 4:20 PM on Feb 06, 2012

    Putting the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter into production before flight testing had started was "acquisition malpractice," acting Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall told an industry group this morning at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    The program, Kendall said, had started with "the optimistic prediction that we were good enough at modeling and simulation that we would not find problems in flight test."

    "That was wrong, and now we are paying for that," Kendall added.

    Kendall -- who has been nominated to the post of undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, and who faces confirmation hearings in a couple of months -- acknowledged that "I am going to make headlines" for the comment, in response to a question from AvWeek's Amy Butler.

    Reaffirming the Pentagon's commitment to the program as "the future of tactical air" and echoing the conclusion of the Quick Look Review report, that "we don't at this point see anything that would preclude continuing production at a reasonable rate", Kendall noted that the program is expected to cover 15-20% of remaining testing per year "for the next couple of years" and that "hopefully, we won't see any more serious problems emerge."

    Kendall has a sign on his office door that says "In God we trust -- all others, please bring data," and some of his investigations into metrics are changing policies and approaches relative to his predecessor, Ashton Carter.

    Forcing fixed-price incentive and firm fixed price contracts into low-rate initial production (LRIP) batches, a big focus of Carter's approach to JSF, "does not make a difference", Kendall says. What counts in LRIP, he told the CSIS audience, is getting to full rate, "and the way you do that is to succeed in LRIP. If you're doing badly you're likely to be canceled."

    Kendall wants to start a process of improving the government's acquisition force -- including conversations with all the service chiefs about elevating the status and promotion prospects of acquisition leaders. "This is rocket science," he says. "It takes smart people." One area that needs improvement is competitive technology development, where, he says, contractors all too often "are not trying to reduce risk, but trying to win".

    Summing up, Kendall says this is a joke, but I wonder: "We have two problems in acquisition: planning and execution".

    Tags: ar99, tacair, JSF, kendall

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