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  • Reshuffles In The JSF Office
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 2:26 PM on Jan 03, 2012

    A rare glimpse inside the Joint Strike Fighter program comes from an August 2011 presentation by director of engineering Doug Ebersole -- one of the new leaders brought into the program by VAdm Dave Venlet. (Hat tip to Eric Palmer for finding it.)

    The presentation should be encouraging to JSF supporters, because it shows at least that the new team is trying to put things right and -- at least to some degree -- is recognizing the causes of the program's challenges.

    There's some interesting wording on page 16. Ebersole's (DoE=director of engineering) challenge is to:
    Transition engineering community of practice from one that “reviews and reports” to one that “engages and influences”.
    Part of that process is to "stand up FTW (Fort Worth) JPO engineering presence". (Ebersole does not say "expand" or "augment" -- he uses a term that implies that there was minimal presence until now.) Between February and June 2011, Venlet's new team completed an audit of "faces and places" that "resulted in (a) need to re-align workforce competencies and re-assign personnel", a process that will continue through 2012.

    This is a major reorganization of the government JSF workforce, based on  an assessment of its performance that doesn't sound favorable: Largely absent from Fort Worth, relying on the contractor team to provide information, and not having the right people in the right places to do the job.

    Note, too, that Ebersole precedes his comments with a "vector" provided by USAF Chief of Staff Gen Norton Schwartz:
    Improved acquisition performance begins with experienced professionals, using the right analytic tools and processes, all supported by transparent decision-making.
    That note links the JSF program to a long-simmering argument as to whether the Pentagon moved too quickly in cutting the size and importance of its professional acquisition corps -- for instance, the USAF's elimination of Systems Command in 1992.

    It's worth repeating a quote from Paul Kaminski -- now chair of the Defense Science Board and a former acquisition chief -- from his October 2011 interview with DTI, on the importance of developing "domain experience" in acquisition professionals:
    We used to give people that experience, where they would start as the managers of technology development programs. We could see who did well as program managers in those smaller programs, and pick from the best to run the larger programs. They ended up having bruised-knuckles experience.

    They could understand who in the industry was credible, how to separate the promises from the delivery experience.
    Also of interest in the paper: A detailed plan for releasing block upgrades:

    blog post photo

    Note that training aircraft are restricted to subsonic speeds and modest g and angle-of-attack limits until Block 2B arrives, and that "Block 2B and 3C Fleet Release timing (is) under development". Stay tuned...

    Tags: ar99, tacair, jsf, venlet, ebersole

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