Saturday, May 14, 2016

Boeing's Arrogance

The arrogance of the defense industry is staggering and is matched only by the incompetence of the Navy.  Together, the two produce the kind of abysmal acquisition programs and naval strategies we’ve come to think of as normal.  Here’s the latest example as reported by DOD Buzz website (1).

“Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson in March told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the service requires two to three more squadrons of the Boeing Co. [Super Hornet].

That translates into roughly 24 to 36 planes to meet projected operational needs … “

OK, there’s the Navy’s officially stated need.  That should be the end of the story.  Now, Boeing decides to chime in.

“Boeing … says the Navy requires even more of the aircraft — closer to 100 planes — to satisfy operational demands.

That was the figure cited by Dan Gillian, vice president and program manager of F/A-18 programs at the aerospace giant, during a briefing with reporters Wednesday at the company’s offices in Arlington, Virginia …”

So, Boeing thinks the Navy needs 100 aircraft.  Who asked them?  Who cares what they think? 

That’s not the end of it, though.

“He [Gillian] said the quantity is based on the Navy’s stated requirements for its carrier air wings, increasingly advanced air-defense systems developed by adversaries, the high operational rate of both Hornet and Super Hornets for U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and other operations, among other factors.”

So now Boeing is assessing our military needs, operations, and strategies and determining what the Navy needs?  Isn’t it the Navy’s job to determine what they need?  The arrogance in this is stunning.  Boeing is telling the Navy what they need.

You don’t think Boeing’s larger assessment of aircraft needs has anything to do with the fact that Boeing makes the aircraft in question, do you? 

If I were CNO Richardson, I’d quietly call Gillian and tell him that if he wants to continue to do business with the Navy that he should shut up and leave the naval assessments to the Navy.

Far too often, the defense industry tells the military what to do, what equipment they need, and what they’ll have to pay to get it.  That’s just backwards and wrong.  Sadly, though, the military not only acquiesces, they actually depend on it because they lack the professionalism and expertise to form their own opinions.  Remember former CNO Greenert’s statement that he can’t wait to see what the defense industry produces next?  That couldn’t be any more backward.  The Navy needs to tell the defense industry what is needed, not the other way around.

Let me be clear.  I'm not saying that Boeing is doing something illegal by telling the Navy what they need.  They're not.  It's simply arrogant, uncalled for, embarrassing and demeaning to the Navy, a conflict of interest, and a clear lead-in to future fraud.

Some of you are thinking, hey, doesn’t ComNavOps routinely tell the Navy what they need?  Yes, I do!  The difference is that I don’t sell anything to the Navy, I have no conflict of interest when I give advice and, most importantly, my advice is always right.

Once upon a time I though Eisenhower was off base with his warning about the military-industrial-Congressional complex but now I wholeheartedly believe he was correct.  This is a broken, corrupt system that doesn’t even bother to try to hide the incestuous relationship any more.


(1)DoD Buzz website, “Boeing Says US Navy Needs About 100 More Super Hornets”, Brendan McGarry, 11-May-2016,


  1. I'm not sure it is arrogance because every defense contractor wants to sell more of their products to either our government or to a foreign country. That's why they spend millions on lobbying and hire retired generals and admirals.

    1. Of course they want to sell their products. Nothing wrong with that. But, when the Navy has stated their needs and Boeing presumes to know more than the Navy about needs, strategy, missions, AAW, operations, etc. then it becomes sheer arrogance. It's one thing to offer products. It's entirely another to publicly second guess the Navy and tell them what they need.

      Of course, the truly sad part is that Boeing may well be more right than the Navy. You know my opinion of the Navy's leadership and professional capabilities. Still, the arrogance is breathtaking even if they are right. A quiet back door contact is the way to offer your opinion about needs if they're different from the Navy's public stance.

    2. I'm with you on the Navy needing more Super Hornets. Our carriers aren't getting any smaller but our carrier air wings certainly are. I'd like to see the Navy add a 5th fighter/attack squadron and a few more Growlers to each electronic squadron. And, 6-8 Super Hornets to serve as tankers.

  2. What would Smedley Butler do? This is my new "watch-word."

  3. Off topic, but a follow-up on your post about the need for heads to roll over Iran's capture of two riverine vessels.

    1. You can go ahead and comment in the relevant post. I see all comments regardless of which post they appear in our how long ago the post was.

  4. Back in the old days we had multiple vendors that were capable of delivering a carrier aircraft.

    Now we have, what, 2? 1 1/2?

    Mergers and our acquisition strategy (Hello F-35) have given the industry the power over us.

    1. Quite correct. Our current limited options are a situation of our own making. Disappointing.

  5. Here is a radical suggestion to get things back on track. Require all companies that sell to the US Government to have more than 50% of their revenue come from other than Government (Fed, State, local) sources. That is get the defense companies back to being commercial enterprises that sell part time to the Government.

    This would break up the monopolies and lead to cross pollination of commercial ideas with Defense ideas.

    That system worked fine up until 1993 with the SecDefs last supper.

  6. I think you need to realize that F/A-18 production was scheduled to end in FY14 if I remember correctly. That was all the Navy said they would ever need. Obviously that wasn't the final aircraft bought. Force structure reviews like these lead the Navy to rethink their planned buy. Is it any wonder that these assessments are revisited. The Navy is free to use the information as they see fit. It is free information for them to consider and they can consider how objectively the data was created. So is providing this service a bad thing????

    Also, I think you need to understand that the modeling and simulation tools in industry are now better than in the services and the services are trying to catch up. This means that the industry analysis is often better than that which can be done by the USG/Service. Again, getting this information should not be considered a bad thing in my opinion.


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