From the "dull but important" bucket is this.
In fixed wing aviation, what is the least sexy from the perspective ... of ... well most everyone? Sure, CODs are always on a short list - but they do fly off the boat. No, this is simple: the P-3 community, or as they like to call themselves the "Maritime Patrol & Reconnaissance" (MPR) community.
Inside that world are the ugly step-sisters - the VQ/VPU folks. Well, the surface guys know how the Command Ships and Replenishment Ships are treated.
U.S. lawmakers have been pushing the Navy and intelligence officials to explain their long-term plans for collecting airborne signals intelligence given the age of the Navy’s EP-3E aircraft and the decision to cancel development of a successor. Congress and a bevy of prospective contractors will have to wait a bit longer now that the service has been granted an extension to April to file a congressionally mandated report.The logical plan is to go with a EP-8. Logic though has nothing to do with this.
What is certain is that the Navy is proposing to retire four of its 16 EP-3 planes and two P-3-based Special Projects Aircraft in 2012, which the Navy says would eliminate 274 personnel positions. The proposed cuts were driven by “budget constraints and requirements to maintain a strong [antisubmarine warfare] capability,” said spokesman Joe Gradisher of the Navy’s intelligence and networking staff, known as N2/N6.
Navy watchers thought that by Feb. 1, they would have fresh clues about the Navy’s long-term plan for its SIGINT squadrons. As part of the congressionally mandated report, Congress wants top defense officials to certify that whichever direction the Navy decides to go, the service will provide “equivalent or superior” capabilities to those of EP-3Es and the secretive Special Projects planes.
Gradisher said the Pentagon will certify that it is “sustaining” the EP-3 and Special Projects Aircraft, which he said are “nearing the end of their service life,” and discuss a plan to replace them with a “family of systems” approach. Those who once hoped to build a replacement for the EP-3E, called the EP-X, are eager to learn details of the family of systems approach. In 2008, the Navy awarded small study contracts to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and a combined team of Northrop Grumman and L-3 Communications to start an EP-X competition. It stopped funding the research in 2010. The Navy’s eavesdropping collections are considered important because of the tactical information they provide to ground commanders, but also because the collections are fed to the National Security Agency and into the U.S. national intelligence system.
The Navy says it is not stonewalling when it comes to its SIGINT planning. “Discussions are going on right now about what we’re to do. We’re just trying to keep the P-3 platform flying,” said Doug Abbotts, a spokesman for the Navy’s maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft unit in Patuxent River, Md.
The MPR community created an epic fail in the middle of last decade by playing in the ACS program - now it has punted on the EP-X?
But yea - there it is from last summer in SECDEF's statement to the Senate Appropriations Committee - Defense;
Building on the reforms of last year’s budget, the FY 2011 request takes additional steps aimed at programs that were excess or performing poorly. They include:So. Years and tons of money spent on ACS for nothing. Years and tons of money spent on EP-X for nothing.
• Terminating the Navy EP(X) intelligence aircraft;
What is one of the primary things we are contributing to the conflict in Libya now? Electronic surveillance. OK.
In a world where we need more, not less, flexible, multi-mission, quick response intelligence assets what are we letting die on the vine? Electronic surveillance.
Good luck with that.
- You cannot do what an EP-3 does from BAMS. There isn't enough bandwidth in Christendom to do that. Doing it offsite is a huge impediment to the warfighter WRT his intel OODA loop.
- You cannot "Mission Module" the P-8A to do what and EP-8 could do. This is not plug and play.
- The services provided by a EP-X is known, scaleable, flexible and proven. Once you let this die, good luck getting it back.
The whole program for replacing the EP-3 has been a rolling train wreck almost a decade old now. Partially it is the VQ community's problem. Absorbed into the P-3 community and never real big in telling its story - it doesn't have enough friends.
Speaking of which, let's replay the second paragraph above.
What is certain is that the Navy is proposing to retire four of its 16 EP-3 planes and two P-3-based Special Projects Aircraft in 2012, which the Navy says would eliminate 274 personnel positions. The proposed cuts were driven by “budget constraints and requirements to maintain a strong [antisubmarine warfare] capability,” said spokesman Joe Gradisher of the Navy’s intelligence and networking staff, known as N2/N6.As we've discussed here before - let's review. The number of aircraft per P-3 squadrons have decreased greatly over the last decade and a half due to attrition etc. One would think that they would consolidate squadrons then - wouldn't you? After all, that would save hundreds of billets. Well, of course not. Same number of squadrons, dramatically different number of tactically useful aircraft, dramatically lower pilot hours. I'll let you figure out why.
Enough of the manpower world - let's get back to programmatics. The Senate smells a rat - but doesn't seem to have an idea who to ask what hard questions.
In December, Congress gave the Navy a scolding of sorts when it said the service abandoned EP-X without “planning and budgeting for alternative means” to collect SIGINT for ground commanders and analysts in the national intelligence agencies.
The language was included in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Obama in January. The law requires the Defense Department to send a naval SIGINT report to Congress each year by Feb. 1 until “the fielding by the Navy of a platform or mix of platforms and sensors that are, in the aggregate, equivalent or superior to the EP-3E.”To my friends toiling as Senate Staff folks - this is rather simple. Get a list of recently retired CDR/CAPT from VQ who do not presently hold a government or contractor job. Interview them. You will get all the hard questions you need.
The congressional language is becoming sterner but so far has stopped short of telling the Navy to start work on successors to the EP-3Es and Special Projects Aircraft. In a May report, the Senate Armed Services Committee said it did not “quarrel with the [EP-X] decision,” but said it was “concerned that the Navy shifted the EP-X outyear funds to other priorities and had no concrete plans for the future.”
Hat tip CA.