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Last Updated: Mon Jan 27 11:18:09 UTC 2014

F-35 JSF: The Gamekeeper vs the Poachers
     .... JET Mk.II Juxtaposition and the 'Normalisation of Deviance'

Air Power Australia - Australia's Independent Defence Think Tank

Air Power Australia NOTAM

   22nd November, 2009

Peter Goon, BEng (Mech), FTE (USNTPS),
Head of Test and Evaluation, Air Power Australia

Contacts: Peter Goon
Carlo Kopp

Mob: 0419-806-476 Mob: 0437-478-224

(Imagery via Air Force Link).

The deliberations currently under way on the future of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program have far reaching implications for the US armed services, the armed services of partner nations, future defence budgets in all of these nations, and no less importantly, the widely marketed intent by the Obama Administration to reform the ailing US defence procurement system.

If the Hon Ashton Carter and his Team make the wrong choices, the consequences will reverberate for a very long time. To see why we need to drill into the background to the JET I  & II  reviews, and  earlier budgetary plays surrounding this program.

The JET Mark I review was constrained to only look at cost and schedule estimates and only for the 2010 - 2015 timeframe.  In other words, not to consider the current year proposal activities for the President's Budget (PB), since they were already underway, and only consider forward estimates for the five year projection (FYDP).

JET Mk II was likely similarly constrained to these metrics over this timeframe.

Both have reported what would normally be considered SEVERE consequences in terms of massive cost overruns (~$17 Billion) and similarly huge delays in schedule (2 - 3 years).

Because of the level of concurrency in the design, development, testing and production of this program, it is hard to tell when the physical aspects of the SDD Phase cease and the production of the aircraft begin.  However, under the DoD 5000 Acquisition System, approval of Full Rate Production (FRP) as opposed to Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) occurs at Milestone C and, by law, this is not supposed to happen till the aircraft has passed the tests of initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) and the results are presented to the Congress.

Therefore, it would be fair to say, the currently approved cost provisions (the Budget) do not include the Procurement Budget that would have been the bulk of the pre-Jet Mk I & II and pre-GFC total program budget estimate of $350+ Billion. The pre-Jet/pre-GFC budget for the SDD Phase and the currently planned 8 x LRIP phases of this program, combined, is steeped in creative presentation and interpretation.  However, a conservative estimate, favourable to the JSF Program, would see this budget figure (the currently approved cost provisions) at something less than $50 Billion.

As such, the JET MkI & MkII cost estimates constitute a blowout in the currently approved cost provisions in excess of 35%.

Cognisant of modern day program management being driven by 'normalisation of deviance', 'dilution of risk management processes' and 'framing', the enormity of these estimates may be seen in the Defence/DMO Liability Risk Management Process and the accompanying Liability Risk Assessment Template wherein for risks in the categories of cost and schedule, the SEVERE consequence measures are defined as an exceedence in the currently approved cost provisions by more than 10% and a delay in scheduled in service date by more than 12 months and/or a delay in achieving full operational capability by 2 or more years.

If, as most independent critical thinkers agree, the JET MkII estimates are not "worst case" but, in fact, the best case, then the Hon Ashton Carter and his Team are facing "the largest perfect storm" in defense procurement history.

What takes this "largest perfect storm" beyond 'perfect' and ensures its ranking as 'the largest', are the technical and operational risks inherent in the JSF program that are yet to be acknowledged, let alone addressed.

What is of greater concern, if that were at all possible, and what scares the wits out of me and others is, based on the attitudes and behaviours observed since 2003, the Hon Ashton Carter may be forced to become both the Poacher as well as the Gamekeeper of this just so flawed program. 

If so, he will be forced to accept the already significantly degraded performance inherent in all three variants of the JSF under the auspices of "avoiding the JET estimates", thus normalising the deviance and degraded performance in the JSF designs - in other words, making acceptable that which should be unacceptable.  If this happened it will likely enable those responsible for this disaster to skulk away with their ill gotten gains, secure in their core beliefs that taxpayers exist mainly to fund rent-seekers, and national interest is secondary to self vested interest. 

In so doing, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (AT&L) and those calling the shots will have placed the Obama Administration's imprimatur on the very behaviours and attitudes that POTUS railed against and promised to eradicate in his inauguration speech on that crisp, cold day in Washington DC, not that long ago.

Air Power Australia Website - http://www.ausairpower.net/
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