The Air Force just released a document describing its vision for the future (1) and it contains an amazing statement that warrants our attention.
I’m not an AF expert and this isn’t an AF blog so I won’t go into any great detail about this document beyond the one statement that has meaning for DoD in general and the Navy, in particular.
As a lead-in to the statement, the document defines agility as an organizational characteristic.
"... the term “agility” is meant to capture the attributes of flexibility, adaptability, and responsiveness."
It then describes the purpose of agility.
"Agility is the counterweight to the uncertainty of the future ..."
That’s a fascinating statement that borders on profound, if applied properly. I’ll leave it at that.
Now, the statement of interest.
"Huge, long-term programs limit our options; we are too often left with “all or nothing” outcomes and “double or nothing” budget decisions."
Ouch!!! That had to hurt. I don’t think there can be any doubt that the statement is a direct and scathing indictment of the F-35 program. That the AF would be the organization to make this statement is amazing. That the AF would appear to have learned this lesson is amazing. Of course, it remains to be seen how the AF will pursue its next generation bomber and other programs without falling prey to yet another long term, big budget program.
I wonder what the AF’s industry partners think about this?
If the AF recognizes the severe handicaps imposed by the F-35 program, such as the loss of institutional agility and handcuffed budgets, then why don’t they cut their losses and terminate the program before it does further damage? The F-35 could be terminated and redesigned, programmatically, as a much smaller effort without forfeiting any of the sunk costs of R&D.
The Navy needs to read this statement and re-evaluate their F-35C/B commitments. Further, the Navy would do well to take this lesson to heart regarding the rest of their programs.
’s Air Force: A Call to the Future, July 2014 America