Picture 2

Picture 2

May 23, 2016

Improving US Military Big Ticket Procurement

The US procurement problem for big ticket ships and airplanes is a vicious circle. We don't get to buy many platforms because they are too expensive. So we try to pack every single capability we ever wanted onto each platform, which makes the platform too expensive to buy in quantity. This leaves us with fewer platforms. And repeat as long as possible.
I'm a USAF Vietnam Era veteran, so I mainly watch airplane development. I would have to call the F-35 the second coming of the F-111. The F-111 was a Vietnam era fiasco. After a lot of expensive bureaucratic bumbling, it ended up in service only with the Air Force
Just like the F-111, the F-35 is a multi-service airplane that costs too much and requires 3 services to sign off on design changes. That many admirals and generals with their fingers in the pie just has to be prone to management delays, which delay the project. The F-35 is a jack of all trades, master of none. It should have been developed for one service, probably the Air Force, before any of the other services had any input. After IOC, the Navy and Marines should have had their turn to modify the design into something they could use.
But I think the biggest problem with US development of big ticket items like ships and airplanes is "systems thinking." We design and develop new everything for most new designs. Not just a new platform and engines, but new electronics, new software, new ejection seats, new cockpit displays and, in the case of the F-35, a new on board logistics system, which isn't working right now. Having all of these new things increases risk tremendously. In integration testing, there are an exponential number of combinations of new elements which may not be working together correctly.
I think the solution is to separate the platform development from the electronics and the software. Develop the new platform with as much off the shelf electronics and existing other standard parts as possible. Don't pick a completely new part unless you have to. This makes debugging problems in the new platform a lot easier. It's either the software specific for the new platform or it's the platform itself.
Electronics and revolutionary new software should be deployed after IOC, Initial Operating Capability. We definitely know how to do this. We upgrade existing platforms routinely. Those B-52's on missions over Syria are not using vacuum tube electronics from when they were originally built in the early 1960's. Even the A-10 Warhogs have upgraded electronics and the Air Force doesn't even like them. New weapons systems, like the small diameter bomb, can also be integrated after IOC.
I'm sure the Navy can do this with ships. When the battleships sunk at Pearl Harbor were repaired and refitted for service in World War II, their secondary armaments were changed to feature a lot more anti-aircraft guns and they also got fitted with radar. There’s no reason similar upgrades can’t be fitted into modern ships after their Initial Operating Capability.
It’s a lot cheaper to go from a platform that works to an improved platform that works than it is to debug a completely new system over the course of several years. If it takes several extra years to debug a new ship or airplane, you get no benefit from your investment while you’re debugging. The platform is useless.
The whole idea is to get something that works ASAP, then improve it with additional capabilities or variants. This is the way World War II aircraft were developed. The P-40 was an adaptation of the P-36 with a better engine. The P-51A used the same engine as the P-40. The subsequent P-51s used the same engine as the British Spitfire.
Similar component sharing and variants are possible today. For example, there was a proposal to build a stretched F-22 as a bomber.

Starting with off the shelf capability with everything but the platform and engines will make it harder to allow scope creep, the repeated inclusion of “just one more requirement.” If only the platform and engines are developmental items, it's not feasible to make a Swiss Army plane or ship that’s designed to do everything. This will hold down costs. You have to tell the people asking for additional features that it will be fixed in the next release.

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May 17, 2016

Changing Obamacare Takes More Than Winning Elections

Liberals are fond of saying that if Conservatives don’t like Obamacare, they should win some elections and change it.  The problem with this liberal advice is that the GOP did win several elections with Obamacare as a major issue, but political shady deals, rigged court cases and liberal obstructionism kept those elections from mattering.   While Obamacare was being considered, the GOP won the December 8, 2009 election to fill the Senate seat of Edward Kennedy, who had died.  Republican Scott Brown won the election by promising to filibuster Obamacare.  The result was Democrats lost their 60 vote filibuster proof majority.  The Democrats passed a badly flawed bill in the House later in 2009, to avoid having the Senate vote again on a revised bill, which the Republicans would have filibustered with their newly added Senator Brown being enough to stop the bill.  The GOP won the Congressional election in 2010.  Obama and the Supreme Court revised Obamacare numerous times without Congress.  The bill was poorly drafted, but Obama wanted to avoid having to compromise with the Republican House and Republican Senators ready to filibuster.  The GOP won another Congressional Election in 2014, and took control of the Senate.  President Obama's response was to use his pen and phone trying to legislate without Congressional involvement.  In effect, Obama wanted to negate the election results.  

So tell any liberals who say that the GOP needs to win some elections that all elections are supposed to count, not just presidential elections.  Congress is supposed to legislate, not the Supreme Court and not the president.

Blaming Bush ... or Nixon

Twenty years from now, Democrats will still be blaming Bush for their current failures.  Liberals never take responsibility.  

Liberals deny there was a bloodbath when we lost the Vietnam War.  They deny the deaths of 2 million Cambodians and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Laotians killed by victorious Communists.  They also want you to forget that Lyndon Johnson escalated the war while lying about it.  The phrase "Credibility Gap" was invented to describe Johnson's statements.  Johnson also consistently refused to follow military advice.  Bombing targets were selected in the White House. 

The reason I bring up Vietnam is that Obama is behaving like Johnson.  He refuses to follow military advice.  The White House is picking bombing targets and giving the military impossible rules of engagement.  Obama's decision to withdraw from Iraq killed hundreds of thousands.  Liberals say it's all Bush's fault. 

Liberals blamed Nixon for Vietnam, not Johnson.