Not too surprisingly, Lockheed Martin consultant Loren Thompson is back in action in Forbes
, assuring us that it is safe to disregard the latest report on the F-35 program from the Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation.
More surprisingly, there is not a lot of what Thompson says that I would disagree with.
That's because most of his points don't refer to what was new in the report: most importantly, the DOT&E presented detailed evidence showing that since last year, the risk of software-driven delays to the program has increased; that on the latest measured trends, the 2B software needed for the Marines to declare initial operational capability will be more than a year late; and that 2B delays will directly affect the progress of the Block 3 software that is needed for Air Force, Navy and partner IOC, with the capabilities required by the initial development contract in 2001.
Thompson does dredge up one of his old allegations
-- that some shadowy testing Mafia just wants to delay the program and waste money for its own self-interested reasons. "The testing community is seldom satisfied with the performance of combat systems because it benefits from doing testing... the F-35 offers an especially lucrative target for bureaucrats who never want to stop testing."
There is no "monolithic testing community." There are many people in the military, and associated with the F-35 program, who do testing. Today, most of the work (development test) is being carried out by the JSF combined test team, most of whom either report to the JSF Program Office or work for the contractors. Operational test will involve a combination of program test people and many regular service personnel. There is no mechanism by which these diverse groups could be delaying the program "to close out their home mortgages and get their last kid through college", in Thompson's disgraceful language from 2012.
This isn't the first time that Thompson has pointed the finger of blame at this nonexistent conspiracy. But it should be the last. Nobody on the contractor team has any right to blame the customer for the program's status - seven years late, and eight if DOT&E's predictions are on track, with a so-far-unsolved massive overrun in life-cycle costs, all despite full funding and requirements that have changed only to the contractors' benefit.