Wednesday, March 19, 2008

LCS of the sky

Cost overruns are nothing new, but for some reason we seem to have perfected our own formula that we keep repeating over and over. The one common thread - clear, direct, precise and disciplined leadership, or lack of it, keeps coming up. The Reign of Happy Talk continues.
A year after Sept. 11, 2001, the White House set out to build a fleet of state-of-the-art Marine One helicopters for the al-Qaeda age that would be safer, more powerful and more reliable than the iconic white-topped aircraft that have landed on the South Lawn for decades.

But the al-Qaeda age has met the military acquisition process. Six years later, the cost of the new helicopters has nearly doubled, production has fallen behind schedule, and the bulk of the program has been put on hold while the government tries to figure out how to salvage it.

The Pentagon confirmed this month that the cost of the fleet of 28 new super-sophisticated helicopters has jumped from $6.1 billion when the contract was signed in 2005 to $11.2 billion today. Outfitted with cutting-edge communications equipment, antimissile defenses and hardened hulls, each of the VH-71 helicopters, to be dubbed Marine One whenever the president is onboard, will cost $400 million -- more than the most recent Boeing 747 jetliner outfitted to serve as Air Force One when it was delivered in 1990, even when adjusted for inflation.
Why? Well for one, people have forgot how to say "no." What do they want it to do?
The 64-foot-long helicopters must carry 14 passengers and thousands of pounds of additional equipment while being able to fly farther without refueling than existing Marine One choppers can. They must be able to jam seeking devices, fend off incoming missiles and resist some of the electromagnetic effects of a nuclear blast.

They also must have videoconferencing and encrypted communications gear to allow the president to instantly reach advisers, military officers and foreign leaders.
Did anyone from the "6" shop talk to them about the bandwidth, blindspot, and square footage problem you would have getting VTC on a helicopter? Someone watching too much TV methinks. Secure VOX is fine. Secure data transfer is fine. VTC? In a mid-sized helo? With all that other stuff mixed in?

Why LCS of the sky? Hmmmm, sounds familiar.
Although Lockheed Martin does not make helicopters, the Navy chose it over longtime contractor Sikorsky Aircraft because the company's European partner had a three-engine model that seemed a logical off-the-shelf base for a new presidential helicopter. But modifying the EH101 has proven so complicated that the company is essentially building a new helicopter.
There is also this.
"The Navy and industry team did not clearly realize the full implications of the White House requirements," John J. Young Jr., the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, said in a written response to questions. To meet those requirements and retrofit a commercial aircraft to Navy standards, he said, "the Navy and industry teams are having to complete substantial redesign" of the helicopter. He added that "this redesign work is driving significant cost growth into the program."
Let me translate that for you,
The Navy and industry team did not know what they were doing, did not have enough people qualified on the job, used the best case scenario, and generally gun-decked the process. No one was fired either - they were actually promoted. Please reward me too, and send more money.
This "the laws of physics are no fun" quote kind of makes me giggle.
“Because of cost growth issues and congressional funding cuts,” Increment 2 also is under a stop work order, they said. While the White House has not changed Increment 2 requirements for the 23 helicopters there, no existing medium-lift helo can meet the requirements.
Once again, without accountability and clear communication, this will continue to happen. There will be fewer shadows on the ramp and fewer ships at the pier.

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