Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Demise of DOT&E

The most valuable organization in the US military complex is the office of Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).  As documented countless times in this blog, DOT&E is the only thing preventing the military from engaging in wholesale fraud when it comes to weapons development testing.  For their part, the Navy has done everything they can to skirt, avoid, bypass, and ignore DOT&E test requirements and has been publicly slapped down multiple times for it.  A good example is the Navy’s attempt to avoid shock testing on the Ford which was thwarted by DOT&E.


Unfortunately, someone has gotten to DOT&E and appears to have neutered them.


But next year, the Pentagon’s office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation will issue two different versions of the 2021 report: An unclassified version that will be available to the public, and a version with “controlled unclassified information” (CUI) that will only be made available to lawmakers and those inside the department, according to Raymond O’Toole, acting head of the DOT&E office. [1]



As a reminder, DOT&E is required by law to release a public version of its annual report.


DOT&E is required by law to submit an unclassified version of the report every year. [1]


Why is the Director taking this action?


“I thought it very important to provide Congress and the Secretary the test evaluation details that shouldn’t wind up in our adversaries’ hands, hence the new CUI version of the annual report,” he said at an event hosted Monday by the National Defense Industrial Association. [1]


No one wants to make sensitive information available to the enemy but the dual reports are not necessary.  DOT&E already routinely issues classified sub-reports, as warranted.


The problem is that the negative information will, undoubtedly, be deleted from the public version and pushed to the ‘controlled’ version where we will not be able to see it.


Mandy Smithberger, director of defense information for the Project On Government Oversight, raised concerns that most technical details could be pushed to the CUI version, leaving the unclassified version a shell with little relevant insight. [1]


“DOT&E already has the ability to include classified reporting, and I worry that this will end up [resulting] in a watered down version of the report that makes it more difficult for the press and the public to make sure that we are buying weapon systems that are effective and safe,” she said in an email to Breaking Defense. [1]


More frightening is that, under this new system, the military gets to decide what is ‘controlled’ and what is not.


O’Toole also stated that the decision about what constitutes “controlled unclassified information” ultimately rests with the services, not DOT&E itself. [1]


Do you really think the military is going to allow negative results to appear in the public version?  I think we can anticipate, with 100% certainty, that the services will use a very broad definition of ‘controlled’ to keep unflattering information from going public.


Someone has gotten to the Director and applied pressure to coerce him into hiding weapon failures.  There is no other explanation.  As someone who has read every DOT&E report issued, I can assure you that the information in the DOT&E reports contains nothing that could remotely be considered classified or sensitive.  The reports contain almost no actual data and only vague descriptions of the issues that arise during testing.


Beyond that, our enemies have active and robust cyber espionage programs and know far more about our weapon programs than what appears in the DOT&E reports.


The pubic exposés of the various program failures are the only means the tax-paying public has to evaluate whether their tax dollars are being well spent.


DOT&E reports are often the only negative reports ever seen as the Navy/military trots out an endless string of spokesmen to sing the praises of the various programs.  According to Navy spokesmen, there has never been a weapon system or test that did not far exceed our wildest hopes … and yet we have the LCS, Ford, Zumwalt, and so many other abject failures.  Well, you didn’t hear about those failures from the Navy.  Only DOT&E gave you the straight truth.


The Director has been co-opted by the Pentagon and is doing a disservice to the American public by watering down the public version of the annual report.  This is only going to make an already badly broken weapon development, testing, and acquisition process even worse … if that’s even imaginable.

You'll recall that INSURV reports got classified when they were demonstrating too many negative results, and now this.

DOT&E was the shining light in military systems development and testing and now that light has gone out.







[1]Breaking Defense, “Pentagon tester to restrict info on weapons programs, raising transparency concerns ”, Valerie Insinna, 6-Dec-2021,


  1. If you have no clothes on then as long as you can prevent people from noticing then you are ok. DoD has learned to merely cover up their shortcomings and NOT having to fix them. INSURV reports and now this.

  2. This is a major loss for the USA.
    All that's left now is "look how awesome this stuff is" propaganda, and ridiculously exaggerated manufacturer's claims.

    Another advantage over China has been lost.

  3. Consider the endless string of admirals that shilled for the LCS. With no DOT&E to refute them, how would we know what a pile of garbage they were? We'd have a fleet of 55 useless ships and not even know it.

    1. The after action reports and losses would let us know...

      Unrelated, the news is reporting the Amazon cloud went down and multiple systems that depend on it likewise crashed. Isn't the DoD part of that network?

    2. Don't bet on it. Those reports would be CUI also.

    3. We need a complete change in the incentive structure for officers. We reward people who persist in being wrong rather than recognizing that something is wrong and calling it out. In fact, we'll drum people out of the service or sic JAGs on them if they call out things that are wrong. I have a tough time identifying a single WWII general or admiral of importance that wouldn't have been forced out of the military under the current paradigm.

      I know there is a reluctance to get to political on this blog, which is understandable. However, the solution to this problem is political. It starts with a CnC who recognizes the problem and has the will to take action and a Congress willing to back him/her up. It's become clear that you cannot take on DoD and the intelligence agencies without complete support within your administration and Congress.

  4. I have long believed that every bureaucrat has three priorities, in order:
    1) My career
    2) My agency
    3) Doing the job I am supposed to do.

    This sort of thinking now seems to have taken over the top ranks of the military, which is particularly troubling since number 3) above is winning wars.

    We need to reverse this way of thinking in order to get anywhere. In the past, peer conflict has been the way to reverse it, but I'm afraid that at this point a peer conflict won't last long enough for the change to occur.

    1. This is what makes it particularly difficult to make changes in Washington. You have entire agencies whose sole goal is to preserve themselves. The military hasn't always been like that. Unfortunately, now it has become a jobs program rather than a warfighting machine.

  5. The peer enemy of the US military is not now, nor has it ever been, either the Russians, the Chinese, or any foreign country(s). The issue has ALWAYS been bribes and internal corruption and finding and promoting the few "good apples" among the sea of bad ones.

  6. Somebody needs to explain to our military brass that they have two jobs:

    1) Win any war that we get drawn into. This is done by killing people and breaking things.

    2) Be so well prepared to do 1) that nobody dares to pick a fight with us.

    I don't see either at the top of anybody in the Pentagon's list right now, maybe not even top 5.

  7. Is this new policy or only for USS FORD release? The pessimist in me says if it's only for FORD, testing didn't go well...

    The only way left we will know is how much time and money it will take before Ford goes for it's first cruise.

    1. The linked article makes it pretty clear that this is the new policy going forward.

      As far as the Ford's shock testing, I've heard nothing other than the usual superlatives from the Navy that the test exceeded all expectations. In fact, listening to the Navy's effervescent description, I get the impression that not only was no damage, whatsoever, incurred, but that several systems spontaneously improved themselves during the test!

      Similarly, the Navy raved about the LCS shock testing until DOT&E revealed that the tests were conducted at reduced shock levels and that the final test of the series had to be aborted due to anticipated major damage. DOT&E also revealed that many major pieces of equipment on the LCS were shielded from the shock or removed from the ship prior to testing. Odd that the Navy didn't tell us about any of that.

      Unfortunately, we may never hear that type of reporting again since DOT&E appears to have caved into pressure from someone.

  8. You may recall some words Orwell put in another's mouth in his novel 1984:

    "In past ages, a war, almost by definition, was something that sooner or later came to an end, usually in unmistakable victory or defeat.In the past, also, war was one of the main instruments by which human societies were kept in touch with physical reality. All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers, but they could not afford to encourage any illusion that tended to impair military efficiency. So long as defeat meant the loss of independence, or some other result generally held to be undesirable, the precautions against defeat had to be serious. Physical facts could not be ignored. In philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two and two might make five, but when one was designing a gun or an aeroplane they had to make four. Inefficient nations were always conquered sooner or later, and the struggle for efficiency was inimical to illusions. Moreover, to be efficient it was necessary to be able to learn from the past, which meant having a fairly accurate idea of what had happened in the past. Newspapers and history books were, of course, always coloured and biased, but falsification of the kind that is practiced today would have been impossible. War was a sure safeguard of sanity, and so far as the ruling classes were concerned it was probably the most important of all safeguards. While wars could be won or lost, no ruling class could be completely irresponsible."

    In the novel, the solution to this "problem" that prevented the political class from indulging in complete delusion in at least some contexts was a sort of informal agreement to maintain a constant state of phony-war, where the stakes were much lower than they appeared to be. I don't think we have any such agreement with the PRC.

    1. The war on terror is the ultimate in 1984s forever war. A war against an ill-defined enemy that could be anywhere and a war without goals or objectives.

      (And no it wasn't to defeat Islamism, as the west has supported Islamists in Libya, Yemen and Syria and ignored the key proponents of violent Islamism - Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, UAE, Qatar etc - all allies of the USA despite most being Islamo-fascist states).

    2. "A war against an ill-defined enemy...". Exactly, a war on do you declare war against a "tactic"? After Pearl harbor, our president did not declare war against "aerial bombing", he declared war against the japanese, so we knew where to go, who to attack and what to do!

    3. I think everyone understands that the war on terror means the war against terrorists. Without debating the wisdom of that effort, it was clear that certain groups, countries, and people were the terrorists. We know who they are and where they are although we seem to lack a coherent strategy for dealing with them but that's another topic.

      The enemy is not ill-defined. To repeat, we know who the sponsors of terrorism are, we know the organizations that engage in terrorism, and we know where they are. What we lack is the will to exterminate them and the methodology to do so (which returns to the issue of will).

  9. Loss of accountability and transparency is always a disaster. Alas it's becoming too common place in all western governments as they slowly are converted into corporate puppets.

    It's going to be shock one and a massive tragedy one day when the US has to engage in high intensity war (increasingly case of when not if) and US forces suffer higher than necessary casualties due to poor weapons and equipment.

    1. "...higher than necessary casualties due to poor weapons and equipment."

      Maybe not just because of those things.

      How about the possibilities of poor training and a lack of seriousness in preparing for combat.

      Or maybe a lack of motivation because the military members don't believe in the United States as something work fighting for. That's where many of our elites/leaders seem to be existing already.


  10. It seems to me that these threads always reach the same conclusion...we have near criminal incompetence in our national leadership.


    1. I've been reading an interesting book, STRATEGY SHELVED by Steven T. Willis, basically a well-documented look at how the Navy lost the bubble on strategic planning since the Cold War. Not really about DOT&E, but does reveal a lot about the "near criminal incompetence in our national leadership," at least the Navy side.

    2. It sounds interesting CDR, I'll add it to the list of books that I need to read.



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