Chaired By: Rep. Neil Abercrombie
Witnesses: David G. Ahern, Director, Portfolio Systems Acquisition, Office of Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Department of Defense; Lieutenant General Daniel J. Darnell, Deputy Chief of Staff for Air, Space and Information Operations, Plans and Requirement, Headquarters U.S. Air Force; Lieutenant General Mark D. Shackelford, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition; Lieutenant General Raymond E. Johns Jr., Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Programs, Headquarters U.S. Air Force; Michael J. Sullivan, Director for Acquisition and Sourcing Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office
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REP. ABERCROMBIE: (Sounds gavel.) Aloha, everyone. Thank you for coming. We're sorry we're starting a few minutes late. The vote pattern took place in such a way that we're about 10 minutes behind.
Again, aloha to all here and thank you very much for coming.
This afternoon, the Air and Land Forces Subcommittee meets to receive testimony regarding the Department of the Air Force modernization programs, and we certainly welcome our witnesses: Mr. David Ahern, director of portfolio systems acquisition in the Office of the Secretary of Defense; Lieutenant General Daniel Darnell, Air Force deputy chief of staff for air space and information operations plans and requirements; and Lieutenant General Mark Shackelford, military deputy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for the Air Force for acquisition; Lieutenant General Raymond Johns Jr., Air Force Deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs; and Mr. Mike Sullivan, director for acquisition and sourcing management of the Government Accountability Office, with whom I think virtually all of us are more than familiar right now.
And I'm glad to see all of you.
I first note, and I want to underline this, that we have just recently seen some of the detail of the fiscal year 2010 budget request. The request did not include any information or data regarding plans, programs or budgets for fiscal year 2011 and beyond. That is of great concern to me because of some of the decisions that we're being asked to make in this defense budget and what we'll be recommending to the Appropriations Committee involve decisions that obviously have implications that go beyond 2011. So I'm hoping that we can clear some of that up before the markup.
Overall, the Air Force has faced a number of challenges in executing its modernization programs. The F-22, the F-35, the Combat Search and Rescue helicopter, the KC-X tanker and the next-generation bomber programs have been the most prominently reviewed or critiqued.
The current F-22 program of record is 187 F-22s. Yesterday the Air Force chief of staff, General Schwartz, testified that 243 aircraft is the right number but 187 is, quote, "the affordable number," unquote. The budget request does not include any more F-22s, and line shut-down activities are proposed to begin in the fiscal year 2010.
The Air Force has just taken the lead in the Joint Strike Fighter program office. That program continues to have cost and schedule problems with testing further delayed and greater development and procurement concurrency being incurred. Yesterday, the secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, was quoted regarding the Joint Strike Fighter as follows, quote, "We need to state on cost and schedule," unquote -- a rather amazing statement but, nonetheless, one that I felt we needed to quote.
We have heard that refrain before on other major programs. Let me start the first line of the recent GAO report, quote, "Joint Strike Fighter development will cost more and take longer to complete than reported to Congress in April 2008," unquote. The facts as provided by the GAO are that the Joint Strike Fighter development program in 2001 was estimated to cost $34 billion with an average aircraft procurement unit cost of $69 million. This is 2001. The December 2007 estimated development cost was $44 billion, a 30 percent increase, and an aircraft average unit cost of $104 million, a 50 percent increase for aircraft over 2001.
The initial operation capability date has slipped two years to 2012. I'm going over some of this detail, ladies and gentlemen on our subcommittee and for members of the audience and to our witnesses, not because I don't think you know it or this isn't part of the conversation, but this is for the public record and for public consumption and we wanted to make sure that the public has at least all of the perspective and perception of what our perspective is in a context that may be new to them.
Last year's projection for the Joint Strike Fighter research and development was $2.1 billion. This year, the request is $3.6 billion, a 67 percent increase. This is without the cost of an alternate or competitive engine program. I would also note that under the current procurement plan, 273 Joint Strike Fighters will be procured before flight testing is projected to be complete. I want to make sure that that number is before you in case you want to dispute it or amplify on it. Two hundred and seventy-three Joint Strike Fighters will be procured before flight testing is projected to be complete under the current procurement plan.
Also, yesterday General Schwartz was quote as saying that he would prefer a more rapid production rate for the Joint Strike Fighter, yet the Air Force request for the Joint Strike Fighter this year is two aircraft fewer than projected last year for this year. Regarding other Air Force programs, the helicopter program that would have procured 141 helicopters has been canceled.
Excuse me one moment -- (off mike consultation). Yes. The search and rescue helicopter program would have procured 141 helicopters. That has been canceled in favor of a new undetermined search and rescue helicopter program that Secretary Gates believes will have a more realistic requirement and, if acquired, be a joint service program.
The KC-X program that would procure 179 aerial refueling tankers to replace the 48-year-old KC-135 tankers was canceled last year after the attempted acquisition failed following a GAO protest. GAO did not protest -- (laughs) -- that's a bit awkward, excuse me -- following the protest which was submitted to the GAO.
Is that more correct, Mr. Sullivan?
A new request for proposal will be issued this summer, that's the present plan of Secretary Gates, with the source selection planned for the spring of next year. It has not yet been announced whether the Office of the Secretary of Defense or the Air Force will execute the source selection.
Perhaps you'll be able to enlighten us today.
The next-generation bomber program, which would have replaced the aging B-52 fleet, has also been delayed. We are told that a new program may be started pending a review of the requirement and technology during the Quadrennial Defense Review to be done later this year.
Facing funding challenges in 2010 and in Future Years Defense Program, the Air Force has decided to propose the accelerated retirement of about 250 fighter aircraft. The Air Force indicates this will save $351 million in fiscal year 2010 and $3.5 billion across Future Years Defense Program. In the aggregate, the Air Force is facing significant changes in fiscal year 2010, therefore, to its modernization programs.
Regarding now the specific issue of the Joint Strike Fighter program and the Competitive Engine program, overall, as I mentioned, the Joint Strike Fighter testing schedule continues to slip to the right while the Pentagon insists on maintaining the current production schedule. This creates more development and production concurrency, much like what was experienced with the Army's Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program. I'm using the words production concurrency here -- to me it's kind of like the equivalent of what my mother used to say to me. "If wishes were horses, we'd all be riding." That's the best I can figure out what concurrency means. It apparently means we're going to produce, and at the same time be able to say with some certainty that all the testing, safety requirement and all the expectations of the fighter will continue the pace with the production schedule. I've never seen that happen in anything in my life, but apparently they think that's going to happen with the Joint Strike Fighter.
The current Joint Strike Fighter baseline engine has barely begun flight testing. It has yet to even fly in even the most stressing vertical flight and landing modes. It will not have its first flight in that flight regime until September. Aircraft design and engine testing problems have thus far caused a two-year slip in the F-35B's first vertical landing. The baseline engine for the Joint Strike Fighter had two turbine blade failures within the past two years, requiring redesign, remanufacture and delaying the flight test program.
In April, the former Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition, Ms. Payton, cited the Joint Strike Fighter baseline engine cost growth as, quote, "an ongoing concern," unquote. Continuing that quote: "From fiscal year 2007 to 2008, the Joint Strike Fighter engine costs have grown, causing a $3 million increase to the Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing aircraft's unit flyaway costs," unquote.
Without a competitive engine program, current Air Force plans call for approximately 90 percent of all Air Force manned fighters and a substantial percentage of all other service manned fighters to be dependent on one engine type from one manufacturer by 2030. The last time the Air Force proceeded with such a plan was the acquisition of the F-15 and F-16 aircraft. That resulted in dependence on one engine type for a large proportion of the Air Force fighter fleet. Because of engine reliability and durability problems in the 1970s, the Air Force ended up with a large percentage of its F15 fleet grounded. As a result, in Europe, to keep up with the demands for refurbished engines due to much lower engine life than planned, the Air Force bought a small fleet of cargo aircraft and shuttled F-15 engines back and forth between bases and a centralized engine depot. The engine problems that resulted in an alternate engine program in the late 1970s were not discovered until two years after initial operational capability was achieved for the F-15.
Currently, initial operation capability will not be achieved for the F-35B until 2012, five years after the Pentagon quit funding the current version of an alternate or competitive engine. The Pentagon fully funded the alternate engine program in the Pentagon's annual budget request for 10 years -- fiscal year 1997 through 2006. Parenthetically, forgive me if I'm giving you information you already know, but, again, it's very important for the public to understand the context within which we have to make this decision.
Cost overruns -- again, I want to repeat -- the alternate engine or competitive engine was funded by the Congress at the Air Force's request for 10 years. Cost overruns in other areas of the Joint Strike Fighter program, not the engine or the alternate engine program, in other areas of the Joint Strike Fighter program caused the Pentagon to discontinue its budget requests for the alternate engine.
The three studies the committee asked to have done in 2007 were inconclusive with regard to the financial benefits of competition for engine development, procurement, and operations and support. However, all three reports cited numerous likely nonfinancial benefits of engine competition, including insurance against fleet grounding, contractor responsiveness, technological innovation, force readiness and industrial-based breadth. All of these benefits were derived from the experience of what came to be known as the Great Engine War -- GEW. The Great Engine War has now achieved a phrase of art in Pentagon lore.
With that as our background, we look forward to our witnesses' opening remarks, and I'm sure they look forward to making them now with that background.
But before we begin, and I appreciate and thank all the members in the audience for their indulgence in this rather lengthy and, I hope, informative opening remark, let me call on my good friend and a friend to armed services members everywhere, the ranking member of this subcommittee, the Honorable Roscoe Bartlett.
REP. ROSCOE BARTLETT (R-MD): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
There's no doubt that this budget and the decisions that come along with it will fundamentally change the United States Air Force. In the recent series of full committee posture hearings, a consistent theme has carried through and I want to echo it here today. I feel that there has been an absence of thoughtful debate, discussion and, in some cases, analysis to support this budget request.
I see two problems here. First, the budget should not drive the strategy. The strategy should be set, then the funding requirements are laid out in the budget that follows. It appears to me that in many cases funding limitations in the FY 2010 budget top line were the sole driver in major policy decisions. The second problem that I see is that instead of openly engaging the legislative branch on policy matters, proposed force structure changes and the shifting of requirements for major weapons systems platforms, the executive branch has chosen to lock us out of those debates and tie our hands by unveiling sweeping policy changes buried under the guise of a budget request.
As a case in point, take the retirement of 250 Legacy Fighters. It is my understanding that this idea came up sometime last year and the details were worked out over the course of many months. Why, may I ask, were we not brought into that discussion well before the budget request was formulated? Shouldn't the members of this committee have been given the opportunity to discuss this matter on the substance of the issues and the implications to national security and homeland defense before it ended up as savings in the budget request?
The Joint Cargo Aircraft is another example. All of you have heard my thoughts on this over the course of the previous full committee hearings. I've asked witnesses from the Army, the Air Force and OSD what has changed. Why is this mission being moved out of the Army and solely over to the Air Force, when, not four months ago, we received the Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review Report that stated that, and I quote, "The option that provided most value to joint force was to assign the C-27J to the Air Force and Army." None of them have been able to answer the question, but all of them stated that there was no new study or analysis conducted that countered the existing plan or reduced the JROC-approved requirement for 78 Joint Cargo Aircraft, not the 38 envisioned in this budget.
What has happened as a result of all this is that the Congress is now left to debate the puts and takes in the budget when there has been no vetting of the underlying threat assumptions policy or strategy. Furthermore, we have not been provided a five-year funding plan, although it is required by law. We have not been provided an annual aircraft procurement plan and certification as required by law. How is it that we are being asked to authorize funding for the advanced procurement of aircraft and ships and ground vehicles when we cannot see the department's procurement plan for the fiscal year 2011? We can't see the strategy. We can't see the assumptions. We can't see the plan for the out years.
All we can see is a budget request that terminates the next- generation bomber, terminates the Combat Search and Rescue helicopter, terminates production of the F-22, terminates production of the C-17 and terminates the Army's involvement in the Joint Cargo Aircraft.
What are we supposed to tell the American people? We and you are supposed to function as a team, perhaps analogous to the husband and wife team. If we related to our wives as you have related to us, I don't think we'd have happy marriages. Indeed, we might not even have a marriage. This body, not the executive branch, is charged with the constitutional mandate to raise and support armies and navies.
I am extremely troubled that these decisions have been made in a vacuum and appear, at least on the surface, to be informed by nothing other than top-line budget pressures. I'm very interested to hear from our witnesses today. Perhaps they can shed some light on these decisions.
Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time to be with us today. I'll look forward to your testimony.
And thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you, Mr. Bartlett.
Gentlemen, I think you can see that Mr. Bartlett and I have prepared our remarks separately, as we always do. We talk all the time but our remarks are not coordinated, on purpose, so that there's no conspiratorial accusations able to be rendered. But you can see that we both have zeroed on particularly, where the advanced procurement is concerned, what we consider to be fundamental policy questions, well within the jurisdiction and purview of the subcommittee and, by extension, the full committee. These are serious policy implications and I hope they can be addressed forthrightly today.
Without objection, all witness prepared remarks will be included in the hearing record. So if you can summarize your views and/or take the opportunity perhaps to respond, even not necessarily in detail, to the opening remarks, that will be welcome.
We'll proceed first, then, with Mr. Ahern.
Am I pronouncing your name correctly, sir?
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir. That's fine.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you.
And when the statements are finished, we will proceed in regular order today in terms of seniority.
Mr. Ahern, if you please. Thank you for your appearance today and thank you for your service to the nation.
MR. AHERN: Thank you and good afternoon, Mr. Chairman Abercrombie, Ranking Member Bartlett, distinguished members of the subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you. I'll be brief in order to move to the committee's questions.
As you know, on April 6th Secretary Gates announced key decisions he would recommend to the president in regard to the FY 2010 defense budget. As part of his remarks, the secretary stated that one of his principal objectives was to rebalance the department's programs, to institutionalize and enhance our capabilities to fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years ahead, while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks and contingencies.
In terms of tactical air force structure, the department position is that the forced structure we have programmed meets the requirements for the National Military Strategy. The capabilities contained within the Air Force and across the services, to include strike fighter aircraft, unmanned aircraft systems, aerial refueling tankers and ISR assets, combine to form a robust program prepared to deter and defeat a wide range of threats to our security.
In terms of the F-22, the department believes the program force of 187 F-22 aircraft, combined with a larger force of F-35 aircraft, provide the necessary mix of strike fighter aircraft to meet the military strategy. The department's analysis showed that, while we have adequate air-to-air capability, we need a significant amount of air-to-ground capability that the F-35 provides.
One key area in regard to the F-22 is the department must ensure that the program force can prevail against advanced threat. The Air Force plans a $7 billion modernization effort across the FYDP to provide important improvements for the F-22 fleet. For the Joint Strike Fighter, the budget request includes $10.8 billion to continue development and to support the procurement of 10 conventional, 16 STOVL and the first four carrier variants.
The secretary has also stated his intention to increase the number of F-35 aircraft across the FYDP. That creates a more efficient ramp rate as we prepare to enter full-rate production. Recognizing the committee's interest in the F-35 alternate engine, I can tell you that the F-35 acquisition strategy contains provisions for a second engine program, provided funds are available. Consistent with our past positions, the department did not include funding in the budget for the F-136 engine because there is not a compelling business case to fund completion of the development effort.
The department does, of course, continue to execute appropriated development funds for the 136 engine. Among the secretary's decisions was that of canceling the combat search and rescue program known as CSAR-X. The services in the U.S. Special Operations Command possess a wide spectrum of overlapping and complementary personnel recovery capabilities. A deep penetration mission to recover downed crews in a complex threat environment requires a joint solution. Since this mission drives many of the CSAR-X requirements, it is imperative we reassess that mission in the context of joint force capabilities.
The Joint Cargo Aircraft program is important to help address the aging force structure supporting the Army's time-sensitive, mission- critical airlift mission. The decision to transfer the Army JCA mission to the Air Force was based on an agreement between the two services, a real breakthrough in jointness. The reduction in the total quantity of JCA aircraft is an acknowledgment that the department can expect to meet more fighter requirements through better management of our intratheater airlift assets.
Moving now from intratheater to strategic airlift, from a fleet capacity perspective there is no indication that the department needs additional strategic airlift beyond the 205 C-17s and the 111 C-5s already programmed. As to the KC-X program, now that the deputy secretary and the undersecretary for acquisition technology and logistics have been confirmed, the secretary will meet with them, along with the Air Force secretary and the Air Force chief of staff, to finalize an appropriate course of action with regard to the KC-X. The secretary has stated his intention to consult with Congress and to brief them before finalizing the department's approach. We anticipate being able to solicit proposals from industry this summer with award of a contract by late spring 2010.
We are grateful for the continued support of Congress, which has been critical to ensuring our airmen are the best-trained and best- equipped Air Force in the world. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on the department's plans to continue to equip them for today's wars and tomorrow's challenges.
I look forward to answering any questions you may have.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you very much.
General Darnell, I have you next. If you want to change the order, you can. Is it all right?
GEN. DARNELL: That's just fine, thank you.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you. And thank you for your service as well, General Darnell.
GEN. DARNELL: Sure.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Bartlett, and distinguished members of the committee.
Thank you for calling this hearing and for the opportunity to discuss our Air Force programs. The Air Force continues to contribute to operations across the globe to provide support to the combatant commanders, ensuring that they have the means necessary to accomplish their assigned missions.
As you know, that level of continuous effort takes its toll on the readiness of our air assets. We're here today to discuss those effects and our plans to work within the FY 2010 budget to ensure we find the correct balance of maintaining and procuring unnecessary assets to meet current and future Air Force requirements.
I thank the subcommittee for allowing me to appear before you today and for your continued support of the Air Force. My opening comments are brief, but I respectfully request our combined written statement be submitted for the record.
I look forward to your questions.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you, General Darnell.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir.
Chairman Abercrombie, Ranking Member Bartlett, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for calling this hearing and for the opportunity to provide you with an update on Air Force modernization efforts and other matters that are important to our Air Force and the nation.
The secretary and the chief of staff of the Air Force have made recapturing acquisition excellence a top Air Force priority. Earlier this month, they approved the Air Force Acquisition Improvement Plan, which identified the following five initiatives: revitalize the Air Force acquisition work force, improve the requirements generation process, instill budget and financial discipline, improve Air Force major systems source selections and establish clear lines of authority and accountability within acquisition organizations.
We are developing more detailed implementation plans for the individual actions within each of these initiatives and will remain flexible, with the ability to adjust, as suggestions and initiatives proposed by Congress and the Office of the Secretary of Defense come our way.
I will conclude my opening remarks by saying that we are committed to recapturing acquisition excellence by rebuilding an Air Force acquisition culture that delivers products and services that are essential to Air Force modernization programs as promised -- on time, within budget and in compliance with all laws, policies and regulations.
Thank you for inviting me today. I look forward to answering your questions.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you for your service, General Shackelford.
And finally, General Johns, I just wanted to mention for purposes of the members' attention the emphasis that if you have questions with regard to requirements, they should go to -- first, you can send them to anybody, but I think General Darnell is the key person here, General Shackelford, of course, with acquisitions, and now General Johns, who will be speaking to us in the area of long-range planning.
Thank you, welcome, and thank you for your service as well, General Johns.
GEN. JOHNS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Bartlett, I'm grateful for the opportunity to appear before this distinguished committee to speak on behalf of the United States Air Force and the dedicated airmen who are defending freedom in air, space and across cyberspace.
I'm proud of the fighting spirit of these brave young Americans who carry the great traditions of our Air Force. Our airmen stand watch every minute of every day as they do so with pride an honor. I thank this subcommittee for all that you have done for the airmen and for their families, because their families also serve our nation. I'm honored to be here and I stand ready to answer your questions.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you very much.
And now Mr. Sullivan -- again, Mr. Sullivan has been involved in his professional capacity with acquisition and sourcing management for the GAO, and we're happy to have you back again, Mr. Sullivan, and thank you for the perspective that you've been able to provide both this committee and the full committee over the years.
MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Representative Bartlett, members of the committee. I'm very pleased to be here today --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Can you pull the microphone a touch?
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah, I'm sorry.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: A little closer, thank you.
MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you.
I'm very pleased to be here today to discuss the status of the F- 35 Joint Strike Fighter Acquisition Program. I'd like to make a few brief points in my opening statement and ask that my written statement be submitted for the record.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Without objection.
MR. SULLIVAN: First, the F-35 is critical to our nation's plans for recapitalizing the tactical air forces and it will require continued long-term commitment to very large annual outlays.
Second, cost to develop the F-35, which has already increased by 30 percent as the chairman noted earlier in his statement, from $34.4 billion to ($)44.4 billion, is now projected to increase an additional ($)2.4 billion, according to the program office, and as much as $7.4 billion according to a joint estimating team comprised of OSD, Air Force and Navy cost estimators. Assuming the joint teams' estimate, development costs would now be projected at $51.8 billion, a 50 percent increase from the original baseline.
The main reason for these cost and schedule overruns continues to be problems with manufacturing development aircraft and engines. Design changes, parts shortages, out-of-station work and supplier problems have caused significant manufacturing inefficiencies and increased labor hours that have led to higher costs and have caused the program to adjust manufacturing and delivery schedules four times so far in development.
My third point: the Joint Strike Fighter Flight Test Program, which was reduced last year to pay for development cost overruns, has once again been extended, this time by a year. This lessened the overlap between development and operational testing, which is a good thing. It gets rid of some of that concurrency that you were talking about, Mr. Chairman.
But the plan is still very aggressive, very little white space, very little room for error. Flight testing of the first vertical lift test aircraft has been slowed by engine problems, and the first flight of the first carrier variant test aircraft has been delayed. As the program stands now, it will have procured 273 F-35s before flight testing is finished.
My fourth point, the program is aggressively ramping up its procurement rates in the next five years in order to recapitalize the aging tactical Air Force fleet. This means the department will now spend an estimated $54.3 billion to procure 383 aircraft by 2014 before the development program is completed. There are also plans to procure an additional 28 aircraft between 2011 and 2015; however, we have not seen the annual schedule for those buys. Because these aircraft will all be procured before development and testing is complete, the government plans to procure them using cost-reimbursable contracts, placing most, if not all, of the financial risk on the government.
Fifth, the program has not funded its alternate engine program, as you cited, Mr. Chairman, which was part of its original acquisition strategy, since 2007, and it has no funding in its current budget request.
Our past work, examining the costs and benefits of a competitive engine program, found that the program would have to achieve about 12 percent savings across the engine's life cycle through competition in order to recoup its initial investment in a competitive engines source and that past programs, most notably the F-16 competitive engine program that you cited earlier, which spurred the Great Engine Wars, achieved much higher savings than that. In fact, I believe the Great Engine Wars achieved an overall life cycle savings of 21 percent.
In addition, there is great consensus that nonfinancial benefits such as increased engine performance over the life cycle, increased reliability, contractor responsiveness and improved industrial base health could also be achieved with this alternate program.
The F-35 program is at a crossroads. With continuing manufacturing problems, increasing costs and slowing deliveries of test aircraft, the flight test program remains about 2 percent complete today. While the department must move forward with the program to recapitalize our aging tactical air fleet, the rate at which it is accelerating its orders before flight testing is complete increases risks that the aircraft will not meet requirements, will need additional work after they have been bought, and will eventually cost much more than expected.
In March, we recommended that the department re-examine its plan to ramp up procurement under these conditions and to analyze the risk it is accepting by procuring as many as 273 aircraft under cost- reimbursable contracts. The department agreed with that recommendation. We believe that with an improved delivery schedule and contracting strategy, the program can more effectively meet the needs of the warfighter.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your time. I'll do my best to answer any questions the committee might have.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Will you be submitting your summary for the record? Did I understand that correctly?
MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah. We have a written statement that I think would provide --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: That we have.
MR. SULLIVAN: That will be submitted for the record.
We also have -- we were asked to provide some PowerPoint slides as an attached --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: That which you just read, can you submit that for the record as well?
MR. SULLIVAN: Yes.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Good. Thank you.
Before we begin, Mr. Ahern, I want to make sure that I understand something that was in your statement. I want to make sure I'm reading it correctly. On Page 4, if you can look -- it's our Page 4, I'm presuming you have the same material in front of you that we've given out to the committee.
I'll read it to you. This is in regard to the F-22. "Analysis also showed that while we have adequate air-to-air capability, we also need a significant amount of fifth generation air-to-ground capability." It may be that I'm not quite clear as to what the implications of the phrase fifth generation are.
The reason I'm asking is there's no mention of the F-22's air-to- ground capability, particularly with regard to the Joint Direct Attack Munitions, the JDAMs, or the Small-Diameter Bombs, the SDBs, which I believe fulfill that air-to-ground capability. Now, it may be that you're saying you need more than that, but it goes unmentioned.
I just want to make sure -- do you consider that the F-22 air-to- ground capability -- did you consider that when you were talking about the attack air decisions with regard to the question of air-to-air capability and air-to-ground capability? I want to make sure that I'm on the right page here.
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir.
When I wrote that statement, of course, I had assistance, and it came primarily from conversations on the Joint Air Dominance Study that has been shared with members of the committee staff, as I understand it, and it had a force mix of F-22s and F-35s. And it was a stressing scenario where there was both air-to-air and air-to-ground targeting, if you will, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yes.
MR. AHERN: And the essence that I took away, but I'll be glad to come back and revisit it, and I think maybe I should, was the F-22 is predominantly the air-to-air dominance.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yes.
MR. AHERN: And the JSF was predominantly, but I'm not saying exclusively, the air-to-ground. I'm sure that there are other intricacies of the study that I failed to ask, but when I wrote it, that was what was on my mind from my familiarity with that study.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Not so much to get in an argument about it, because one of the advantages of the F-22, at least the way it's presented to me, is it does have that capability with air-to-ground.
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir.
And in my oral statement I mentioned and I'm sure that my compatriots from the Air Force today would also talk about the modernization of the F-22 through the FYDP and beyond, that is exactly -- part of it is exactly in the areas that you're talking about.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay. We don't have to pursue it further. Thank you very much.
I will go first, then, to Mr. Bartlett.
REP. BARTLETT: Thank you very much.
Mr. Ahern, I think that you said in your testimony that you had concluded that with better management of your in-theater assets that you could meet the Army's demand for light cargo planes with just 38 planes rather than the 78 that the original study said they needed. I believe that the original study said that the Army needed 78 of these planes, and then, since the Air Force also had a need for light cargo planes, it was decided, against Air Force wishes, is my understanding, that the Air Force should join this program, it should be a joint procurement, and that the number of planes that the Air Force needed for their responsibilities were yet to be added to the 78 that the Army needed.
And my question, sir, is what study can you cite that indicated that not only did we not need the 78 that the original study said the Army needed, and whatever additional airplanes the Air Force needed which have not yet been added to that procurement, that now you can meet both needs with just 38 aircraft?
I might remind you that in at least three prior hearings here we have asked the witnesses, was there a study that indicated that the original need for 78 could now be reduced to 38 and each one of them told us, with some conviction, that they knew of no such study.
Was there, in fact, a study, sir, that they did not know about that you cited when you made the claim that you had decided that you could now meet the needs of the Army with just 38 planes?
MR. AHERN: I think my statement -- I'd have to go back and read it -- is that the requirement for the current submission was 38 aircraft but that there was an intent to study the full range of the requirements in-theater in conjunction with the Air Force taking on that mission, but that there was an indication that there were assets in-theater that could support that mission-critical, time-sensitive demand, sir.
I did not -- I do not want to say that the 38 is lying flat forever. My understanding is that is the initial request and that will be studied during the QDR to determine if that's the right amount.
REP. BARTLETT: As I have your statement here, the decision to reduce the JCA procurement from 78 to 38 aircraft was made after considering a full range of options that included procuring as many as 92 joint cargo aircraft and as few as zero.
I believe this study was made prior to the present surge in Afghanistan. I think it would be hard to argue that the requirements are now less than they were then. And I might remind you that the Air Force had yet to add their need to the 78 documented need for the Army.
So this is just one of a number of different instances where we believe that the number that is requested in the budget does not represent the need but represents rather what can be afforded. Are we wrong?
MR. AHERN: Not from what I understand of the way the budget was constructed, sir. And I would like to take your question and get back to you with the analysis that was done to get to the original force structure for the JCAs and the work that's been done subsequently.
REP. BARTLETT: Is there anybody who believes that the in-theater Iraq and Afghanistan need is now less than it was then?
See, we're kind of confused as to why an earlier study would validate a need of 78, which did not include the Air Force's need, and now just because there is less money available suddenly the need in an expanded requirement is less than half of the original need -- considerably less than half when you include the yet-to-be-determined number of planes that the Air Force would need.
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir.
REP. BARTLETT: Is this just a statement to justify this without any study to confirm it?
MR. AHERN: No, sir, not on my behalf, not on the behalf of the department. As again --
REP. BARTLETT: Then there was a study you're telling us?
MR. AHERN: I'm saying as part -- there certainly have been studies previously. I need to take that question toward as the program was taking shape.
In determining the number for this year, sir, I'd like to take that question, but my understanding was that with that came a commitment to look at the puts and takes, the additions and the subtractions as part of the QDR if there were more as the Air Force took over the mission from the Army. The 38 was the right number for the FY '10 -- or excuse me, for this initial commitment, but going forward it certainly could be changed. But there was a recognition that there were C-130s in theater that could support that mission with the Air Force taking it on from the Army.
REP. BARTLETT: Sir, in the prior hearings I don't think anybody said that 38 was the right number. They all said that they knew of no reason, no study that would reduce the required number from 78 to 38. In fact, there was a repeated statement that we are going to procure at least 38. Are we to imply from that that this is still under discussion in the department, that you have not yet reached a final decision as to what the needed number is?
MR. AHERN: As I understand it, yes, sir, that's true. As the Air Force and the Army -- and I will defer to my Air Force brethren on my left -- as the Air Force takes on the mission from the Army in that specific area, as they develop their concept of operations and their plans, yes, sir, I would expect that that number of JCAs would change.
REP. BARTLETT: Thank you very much.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: We'll pursue this then, Mr. Ahern, okay, in time to come.
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you.
Mr. Marshall is next to be followed by Mr. Hunter.
REP. JIM MARSHALL (D-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Ahern, I want to pick up where Mr. Bartlett left off. The IDA at our request did a study of lift and in its study considered 36 different mixes. The study's unclassified report published March 13th of this year seems to indicate that for low-intensity conflicts, the wars that we're in right now and we think probably will be -- we will be in for the foreseeable future, the right mix of lift includes not 38 but my recollection is 98 JCAs.
And obviously you can vary that in lots of different -- you know, you could make a number of different changes. But there's a big difference between 38 and 98. And I -- the reason I think the administration is hearing so many concerns from Congress -- it's not just Mr. Bartlett and myself, it's many others with regard to JCAs -- we've been listening to the JCA pitch now for a number of years. It's very credible and it's supported by independent studies.
Now, with regard to independent studies generally, sir, the 2005 Mobility Capabilities Study came up with 292 as the lowest permissible figure for strategic lift. And lo and behold, that's precisely what the Pentagon decided to adopt. Now, that 2005 study was one that many of us thought was fatally flawed because it -- those conducting the study were required by DOD to assume certain things that anybody with a whit of sense and a knowledge of history would conclude aren't going to come true. And if those things don't come true, then the figure would be higher than 292.
So in your opening remarks and your written statement, the suggestion that there is nothing out there that indicates to us that perhaps the total lift needs to be beyond 292 -- I'm talking about C- 17s and C-5As -- C-5s, pardon me -- is not true. We don't know the exact number, but we do know that it's well above 292 just based on that study.
And one thing that concerns me is that Mobility Capability Requirements Study you say in here an early indication from the MCRS analysis suggests thus and such. To my knowledge, this committee has not been privy to the MCRS analysis nor to any, you know, early peek into that analysis. And some here worry that the analysis may be driven too much by a need to reach the right answer.
So we'd like to know a little bit more about how that analysis is being conducted and how independently the judgment is being made from senior officials who are concerned about bottom line numbers and whether things are affordable. Could you describe that process and the independence of whoever it is that's involved in doing the MCRS from a directive that a certain result needs to be obtained and you just need to find out how to get us to that result?
MR. AHERN: Sir, I'd like to take that question. I definitely talked to PA&E. I was familiar with the MCRS studies from my work earlier with the C-5. And when one of the questions that came to be was to look at airlift I went to the PA&E to see where they stood on the MCRS 2016. They gave me an overview of what they were doing and provided me the thinking that I wrote up.
In the detailed work on the study, sir, I didn't ask them that question.
I would like to ask them that question and get back to you on that.
REP. MARSHALL: That's certainly okay with me. You know, we need to be very comfortable that whoever is conducting this study is actually trying to determine what the requirements are as opposed to coming up with a formula that will reach a result which has effectively already been dictated. You know, that's backwards. If it's bad news it's bad news. If it's bad news for the department it's bad news for the country. We need to hear that bad news.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you, Mr. Marshall.
Mr. Ahern, I assure you, as you can tell, members of this committee do their homework. And they also listen to what is presented to them -- (laughs) -- by the Pentagon over time. Sometimes, you know, be careful what you wish for one year because somebody on this committee will remember you wished for it, and then if the wish changes there has to be some accounting for it.
The main reason that we're pushing as hard as we are right now is we're getting into markup stage pretty quick here. And we're going to try and stay on a schedule with regard to the 2010 defense bill and hopefully the appropriations that go with it to try and finish on time. That's the goal of the -- of I think all sides here. This is not a partisan issue. So that's the reason we're pressing it as much as we are to try and get some answers or some perspective that will help us make the decisions. So we'll be following up particularly on this joint cargo -- or the cargo aircraft I think is going to be a key element in the decisions we have to make.
Mr. Hunter has returned. So I think I said it was Mr. Coffman, but it will be Mr. Hunter next.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER JR. (R-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First, to General Johns I think is who I'm --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Mr. Kissell -- excuse me, Mr. Hunter -- Mr. Kissell will follow Mr. Hunter.
REP. HUNTER: I think I'm addressing this to Mr. Johns. With our stable of bombers that we have right now -- and you could -- this could be an easy yes or no -- does any air defense system in the world give you pause with our ability to strike deep?
GEN. JOHNS: Right now I believe we can accomplish the missions set before us. As we looked at the next-generation bomber and the future of long-range strike, we looked to the future to say how can we ensure that the combatant commanders and the leaders of our nation have the ability to hold any target at risk and strike it and resolve it as they need to be. So I think we're good right now. But again, that's why the discussion in the QDR as they go through that is to what does the future hold and --
REP. HUNTER: Is there anything that you see being worked up right now that would give you pause in five years or 10 years based on our current fleet?
GEN. JOHNS: No, sir. I'm comfortable within that time frame for sure.
REP. HUNTER: Gotcha, thank you.
Next, to switch gears here, General Darnell I think is the right general here -- (laughs) -- can you tell us about how the Air Force -- because this is something I talk to everybody about is that the golden hour in Afghanistan, we didn't have it. We weren't meeting that standard. And I know Secretary Gates said he's on it, and that was one big thing he was pushing for.
Can you tell us what the Air Force is doing with rotary wing aircraft in terms of casevac and medevac in Afghanistan?
GEN. DARNELL: I'd be happy to. Mr. Hunter, we've deployed more aircraft forward. We've quadrupled the number of Air Force combat search and rescue aircraft that are forward. What we're finding is we're flying in an environment which it doesn't really matter whether it's counterinsurgency or whether it's high-end asymmetric, they both involve very kinetic situations.
One advantage the Air Force has is we train to the high-end mission in combat search and rescue. We outfit the aircraft appropriately, forward-looking IR, weather mapping as well as we have personnel on board which -- pararescue in particular as well as gunners who are prepared to defend the aircraft.
REP. HUNTER: Are you dual-adding combat search and rescue rotary wing aircraft for search and rescue and for medevac, casevac?
GEN. DARNELL: We are.
REP. HUNTER: And would you say that the majority of your search and rescue fleet in Afghanistan is being used for medevac, casevac purposes to meet that golden hour standard right now?
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, that is accurate.
REP. HUNTER: Okay. So let me switch over to Mr. Ahern. Is it wise do you think that the secretary stopped the CSAR-X program, the acquisition of that when the -- it seems to me like the Air Force is pressed right now to perform medevac, casevac because of the lack of ability for the other services to provide it for themselves in that kind of environment. Mr. Ahern.
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir. I understand the question, but I'm -- I would -- I need to take it. I'm not in -- I don't understand exactly the -- I understand the question but I'm frankly not able to address it. I will take it. It's --
REP. HUNTER: Generals, do any of you up there want to address this, the fact that you're canceling your search and rescue when you don't have enough birds to provide dedicated medevac, casevac birds while at the same time providing search and rescue birds because you have to have search and rescue all over?
Wherever you're flying anything you have to have that ability. And I would think that you would want dedicated search and rescue and not have to dual hat and not have to say hey, we're not going to go pick up these guys because you're able to do it because you have gunners and you have the ability to do it in a kinetic firefight situation, which a search and rescue would be or a medevac would be. But would you want the ability to have enough airplanes to do it -- to do either one or to do both at the same time?
GEN. DARNELL: Mr. Hunter, I'll tell you as far as numbers are concerned we were looking for 141. Our intent though was not to separate out the missions themselves. We would still be happy to perform medevac if required. And as I pointed earlier, I think in the secretary's comments regarding a joint program, I think he's looking for a utility aircraft that just about any service can fly.
Our point in the Air Force is we are the only service that trains to these kinetic situations and working well with other combat support aircraft. And I'll give you a good example. We just had a pickup about 50 miles north of Bastion. It was a young Marine in a vehicle that was hit by an IED. It was not a very simple scenario. It was a scenario that we train to in our weapons school at Nellis. We had F- 15s and B-1s involved dropping GBU-38s.
The combat search and rescue aircraft that flew in, the crew was experienced in working in that kind of environment, did not have to wait until the scenario calmed down. They went in in the middle of the middle of the firefight basically and picked this young Marine up. The response from the Marine doctors was he would not have survived had they not done that.
So it's -- our point in the combat search and rescue mission is we train to it, we equip to it --
REP. HUNTER: I'm not arguing that you aren't the best equipped to do it. My argument is do you want the ability to do both.
And I'm out of time. Thank you very much.
GEN. DARNELL: And we can do both. And I understand your point.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Well, we're going to have to pursue this also, General Darnell. You can see the questions here need to be answered. What we have right now -- to follow up just momentarily, Mr. Kissell, before we get to you -- and you need to get back not just to Mr. Hunter but to us on this, Mr. Ahern, and you, General Darnell, because of the requirement side.
As I said in my remarks is what we -- all we have from Secretary Gates right now is that they are supposed to be more realistic requirements, whatever they are -- I think Mr. Hunter has pretty well enunciated what they are -- and if acquired to have a joint service program. Now, we've got other situations where services are being severed from that, and they become an exclusive service thing.
Now, it may be that the joint -- because of the nature of say the rescue helicopter, both for medevac purposes and other rescues, or as Mr. Hunter said simultaneous -- it may be that this requires joint. But all we have is the assertion, and there are clear legislative implications for us in that. So we need to get something definitive pretty quick.
I don't mean to -- I hope I've amplified correctly your --
REP. HUNTER: Yes, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yeah. So this is not an academic question. This is something that is real-time decision making for us, right?
REP. HUNTER: The reason why is because the Marine Corps might be meeting the golden hour. The other areas might not right now --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yeah.
REP. HUNTER: -- because you don't have enough birds there. You don't have the right personnel there to do it.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Right. Thank you. So let's -- you don't have to come further today, but if you can put that into the mix of discussion you have in getting back to us we'd be grateful.
Mr. Kissell, and then Mr. Coffman will -- Mr. Kissell will yield to Mr. Massa, and then Mr. Coffman will be next.
REP. ERIC MASSA (D-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Kissell.
Generals collectively, my personal appreciation on behalf of those I represent in the United States Congress for all you do both in the acquisition and operational side. However, I take the microphone today for the record to express a truly troubled point of view over not only what I have heard in this hearing but what I have heard over a long series of hearings that frankly --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Eric, excuse me, can you speak a little more into the mike? Lift the mike up a little bit maybe. There you go.
REP. MASSA: I'm very troubled. I'm very troubled because throughout the course of this hearing and the courses of hearings that I have had the opportunity to sit in over the past several weeks I have heard -- and I will put this as candidly and yet as professionally as I can -- a series of testimonies that can only lightly be described as incredible Pentagon double talk.
When I have a series of general officers appear before this committee -- and I parenthetically tell you that I'm not a military expert; I'm a country guy from western New York state. But when I continuously hear people tell me that we can do more with less, that the number of airframes available to afford deployed commander, that commitments and requirements were at -- that were absolute just a year ago can be erased with the fluke of a phrase saying we don't need them anymore, that somehow the United States Air Force is willing to say we need to upgrade the F-22 fighter -- which arguably by the testimony of those who have appeared before us is the absolute air dominant aircraft today -- while we are accepting incredible risk in the procurement of an airplane that in my opinion and historical analysis will tell you will never be delivered along the time frames currently you discussed today -- that's the F-35 -- I scratch my head in bewilderment.
We in the United States Congress are burdened with the reality of a long historical knowledge. And while those who come in front of us change and rotate and may never come back again, we sit here and listen over and over and over again to program after program after program which I guarantee you today will not deliver as you have testified this afternoon.
The F-35 and the numbers at the prices that you have discussed today simply will not happen. It won't. And I suggest for the record that you know it, we know it and the people that sent you over here know it.
And yet last year with equal passion and forcefulness, your contemporaries appeared before the people of the United States of America and said we absolutely must have this tactical airlift aircraft. We absolutely must have a dual-engine procurement strategy for the F-35. And now we sit here and we're told, well, absolutely not. It's not necessary. We're going to do it through some incredible force of magic where fewer airframes will deliver more ordinance, more combat flexibility and more operational capability to the generals and admirals at sea and ashore for our forces deployed.
And gentlemen, I'm sorry. More cows back on my dairy farms don't give us more milk. It just doesn't happen that way. If it's an issue of funding, then the Pentagon should come before this committee as a representative of the people's will and say we're getting shortchanged and we need to document this.
If it's not an issue of funding, then someone needs to look at me say you know, we really got it wrong last year blatantly, either out of omission or commission. But by golly, how about some straight talk for the American people instead of a whole bunch of five-sided Pentagon jargon.
I just register for the record the fact that I am deeply concerned about the veracity of the testimony that I have heard not only at this committee and this hearing but in all of the acquisition hearings.
I close my statement and have no questions. But it's awful hard for me to take some of this seriously at this time.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you, Mr. Massa.
Mr. Coffman. Mr. Coffman, you can have one minute more.
REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R-CO): (Laughs.) Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Just a question on the airborne electronic attack programs -- you may have covered this. General Darnell, with the B-52 Stand Off Jammer program cancelled in December of 2005 and without a Core Component Jammer program, which was also cancelled this year, how will the Air Force compensate for the lack of this capability?
GEN. DARNELL: Mr. Coffman, we look at our airborne electronic attack as -- there are several different elements associated with it. We're looking at a CONOPS right now where expendable jammers, which have thus far tested very well and have done very well, as an in-close jamming capability.
We also look at the fact that (AESA ?) radars, the electronic scan radars in both F-35 and F-22, are going to have the capability to deal with that environment as well.
We've made a commitment to upgrade the EC-130. I'll be honest with you. That's -- my son flies EC-130s, so I am painfully aware of all of the challenges that we've had with that program. And we are looking very closely to ensure that sustainability is met.
REP. COFFMAN: General Johns, what is the long-term Air Force strategy for airborne electronic attack?
GEN. JOHNS: Sir, it's to continue with the programs that General Darnell talked about and look at the balance between what can you do standoff, what you need to do in a penetrating environment because if you are forced to stand off at greater distances then is the effectiveness of a standoff capability reduced.
So we're going through the discussion to say where is the trade between penetrating capability for stand-in jamming versus standoff jamming, and that's continuing to go beyond what General Darnell has talked about to the future of how we migrate the systems from where we are today.
REP. COFFMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back the balance of my time.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you very much.
REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D-AZ): Thank you.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: To be followed by Mr. Bishop.
REP. GIFFORDS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank the witnesses today for your service and for being here.
As you probably know, yesterday we had Secretary Donley and General Schwartz in our full committee hearing. And I was happy to hear about their genuine concern for an issue that I think is important to the Air Force, the military and our country, which is the transition to renewable energy. So I was really pleased to see that we were headed in the right direction, and the Air Force has certainly been a leader in that regard. I'm looking forward to seeing more in terms of the successes at Nellis Air Force Base, down at areas like DM and Luke for example.
But the other area that I was less happy to hear about, and I'm sorry that Congressman LoBiondo is not here at the moment because he's really been a leader in this area, is the fighter recapitalization for the Air Guard. This is an issue that many members of Congress are concerned about right now. And as you continue to come before us we're going to continue to really press you all to get some hard answers.
Our Air Guard is really approaching a precipice. In the past the Air Force has told the Guard that -- and this committee that there is a plan for fighter recapitalization. Last week when we asked Secretary Gates he said we needed to wait a few more months. And yesterday General Schwartz asked us to be patient.
Well, now we've essentially waited several years and we've been patient. So have our Guardsmen. But I think about the 162nd Air National Guard unit in Tucson, which is the largest Air Guard wing in the country -- it's the largest international schoolhouse for the F-16 -- and under current plans the 162nd will lose its aircraft in just six years.
At 15 of the Guard's 23 fighter wings the fighter aircraft will become un-flyable in the next 10 years. And in just eight years, 80 percent of all Air National Guard aircraft will become un-flyable. And looking at that waterfall chart -- I'm sure you've seen it, but I can give you a copy if you haven't -- it's a pretty scary scenario.
By 2017 aircraft assigned to Air Guard units in Alabama, Texas, Colorado, Iowa and Indiana will all be un-flyable. Under current plans the Air National Guard, the sole guarantor of air -- of our nation's air sovereignty will have no aircraft left to defend our nation's 10 largest cities.
So there is really no ambiguity in these numbers. There's no mystery giving the looming impact of the shortfall in the Guard community and the dangers that this gap will have on our overall nation's security. I believe that this issue is too perilous to ignore.
Secretary Gates last week said that the future for many Guard units will be the Reaper. And simply I couldn't disagree more. I don't believe that our Air Guard units can defend our nation with an aircraft that cannot operate in its own airspace. We cannot perform the defense of our homeland with unmanned drones.
So I'm curious if you all can be more precise, if you can give us a specific date when we will have the plans, and if you can talk, again, very specifically about the Air Force's vision for recapitalizing and modernizing the Air Guard. Not all at once. (Laughs.)
GEN. DARNELL: Congresswoman Giffords, our chief spoke yesterday about F-22 upgrades. He spoke about the Golden Eagle upgrades as well for -- and I'm talking specifically to ASA -- two units of the 18 have upgraded and are upgrading to F-22. We have four that will be Golden Eagle-equipped, F-15-equipped, and then the remaining 12 will depend somewhat on the F-35 RAF. Right now we have 80. If we could find the money to get to 110, it would certainly make that problem a lot easier to solve.
The chief also spoke about some of the Guard units are going to have to open the aperture just a little bit on missions. And I think he was just being very honest. And I know General Johns has just got a couple things he wants to add as well, but in the ASA side of the house -- as I spoke to it in a committee hearing previously, which you attended, we in DOD will ensure that combatant commander requirements for defense of the nation are met, whether it's with the Air National Guard aircraft or a combination of active duty. That's not the intent right now. The mission is an Air National Guard mission, and our intent -- it's predominantly an Air National Guard mission. Our intent is to keep it that way.
GEN. JOHNS: Ma'am, regarding the recapitalization effort, the waterfall chart that you talk about says if I fly the aircraft 300 hours a year, by the time it gets to 8,000 hours that when we think that the aircraft will no longer be useful. And I think that's the genesis of the chart.
So we're working through that. For example, the Tucson unit itself -- the Tucson unit is key. Look at all the training they do globally. I mean, and as we sell more F-16s to the world their support and importance continues on. Now, they do some of the training with other nations' aircraft. Okay, we understand that. Plus we have a lot of organic aircraft that are there. So the mission and our commitment for them continuing on is there.
So the question is as we look at the total requirement how do we flow the active duty aircraft to the Guard unit, how do we make sure, as General Darnell said, that ASA mission is key. We will never defer from the mission and the defense of our homeland.
So we're working through that, but again there is many moving pieces as we look at all the different Guard units around the country and to see where is the best alignment as we go forward to make sure that every morning when they get up and they put this Air Force uniform on that they're proud to serve their nation and proud to serve their Air Force. And that's what we're striving to. And I feel it well because my son is a Guardsman, so I get that every night.
REP. GIFFORDS: General Johns, in terms of a specific date when we can really sit down and look at the plan, can you give us -- you know, you talked about plans that are developing, and also when I think about whether or not it's feasible under any scenario that a contractor can produce or the Air Force can procure enough F-35s to fill the needs -- I mean, is that something that we can see in the next couple weeks, the next couple of months?
GEN. JOHNS: Ma'am, I would like to if I could make it conditional. I'd like to get through the QDR to see what is the national requirement, the Air Force requirement and then come back to you with that overarching, you know, approach, and then say how does it waterfall and cascade throughout the Air Force. So I'd say in the fall. And I apologize.
If I could give you a specific date I would, but I don't want to offer something and not be able to deliver on it. So it would be in the fall.
REP. GIFFORDS: In the fall.
GEN. JOHNS: Yes, ma'am.
REP. GIFFORDS: September time frame?
GEN. JOHNS: Ma'am, probably more toward November time frame. (Laughs.)
REP. GIFFORDS: Late fall, early winter.
GEN. JOHNS: Yes, ma'am.
REP. GIFFORDS: All right. Well, we're looking forward to working with you on this.
GEN. JOHNS: Thank you, ma'am.
REP. GIFFORDS: This is obviously a very serious issue. And, you know, we have some patience, but we're kind of running out of patience.
GEN. JOHNS: Yes, ma'am.
REP. GIFFORDS: It's very important. Thank you.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Mr. Bishop.
REP. ROB BISHOP (R-UT): Thank you. I have like six questions I would like to get through, and then one for Chairman Abercrombie afterwards.
So General --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Delighted.
REP. BISHOP: -- I'm assuming Darnell first. I want to talk about the 250 legacy planes that will be retired if I could. The 388th Wing is one of -- if not the first one of the first that was blended with the 419th Reserves. The question I have is the PAA assumes that there will be about 24 planes retired from the 388th in some way. Was consideration of the integration of these -- of the reserve and -- I'm sorry I'm giving this feedback here -- was integration considered as you went through coming up with how many planes would be retired from that particular group? Does this in some way mess up future integration problems when you have the chance of taking planes away from a wing like that?
GEN. DARNELL: Mr. Bishop, I'm not exactly sure what you're driving at. But I think we -- well, we did look very closely at that.
REP. BISHOP: I guess the bottom line, was integration a consideration when you came up with the number of planes that would be taken out?
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, it was. And obviously the -- if there had been no probability of success we wouldn't have done that.
REP. BISHOP: Can I also ask -- and this may be going deeper in the weeds that at this level we should do. As you're looking forward to how you reshape these things are you giving some flexibility -- a retired general said you had to have 24 planes in a squadron, couldn't happen with anything less. Are you going to give some flexibility to air combat command, maybe the wing leaders to try and say if maybe a squadron could be dealt with with fewer than 24?
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, sir. In fact we currently have many of our units that are 18 PAA versus 24.
REP. BISHOP: Yeah. That would be very helpful because I -- you know, if, for example, a squadron was simply lopped and then you had deployment, you had a squadron tasked, that would have a negative impact obviously on the training ability for those kind of wings to do that kind of work. I'd hope that that would be one of the options that were there.
As we retire more F-16s, who have been carrying so many of the sortie missions, are we not putting more pressure on the existing ones? We're already well past the design capacity of these planes. By having fewer planes out there are we not making those that remain even more stressed as we go through the needs of the Air Force?
GEN. DARNELL: Sir, we acknowledge that when you have fewer tails that you're going to fly -- with the same requirements you're going to fly more hours on the remaining aircraft. We've not -- at this point we've not reached a point where that's of concern to us. We are looking at extending the life of the airplane to 8,000 hours. Currently the F-16 was originally designed for four.
We're going to do fatigue testing, which we'll start within the next year and a half, on the F-16 to give us some sense for whether we need to, for instance, SLEP the airplane. And there are pros and cons associated with a SLEP. I'm not saying that's the absolute right thing to do. But we're going to start fatigue testing on the F-16 just as we are currently doing on the F-15.
REP. BISHOP: If I could skip with an unfair question on F-22s for just a second. If 187 is now the accurate number, was there a new study that was done to validate Secretary Gates' conclusion that that was the right number or is this a byproduct of money?
GEN. DARNELL: Sir, I'm not aware of a new study. Mr. Ahern may be able to speak to that. But as --
REP. BISHOP: Maybe -- I'm sorry. I think you just answered the question. You did it very well.
And maybe one of the things I could tell to Chairman Abercrombie is when Secretary Gates was here we talked about -- or he talked about how this had to be a zero-sum game within the defense budget. And cannibalizing another area of defense for another area of defense doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense. This should not be a zero-sum game within this particular budget area, which was not the question I had for you.
The question was that wonderful statement --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: For purposes of perspective, however, I agree with you.
REP. BISHOP: I think we both agree and we both realize the problems we're up against in trying to change that.
I just want to know if wishes were horses we'd all be riding. Is that a copyright statement or is that something I can be using?
REP. ABERCROMBIE: If wishes.
REP. BISHOP: That's what I said. If wishes were horses we'd all be riding.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yes.
REP. BISHOP: So I can start using that or have you copyrighted that?
REP. ABERCROMBIE: No.
REP. BISHOP: I don't want to have to contribute to your campaign --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: It comes from my mother, and my mother was a very generous-hearted person.
REP. BISHOP: Gentlemen, I appreciate your service here. I also think the Air Force is underfunded.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: If wishes were F-22s we'd all be flying. (Laughter.)
REP. BISHOP: Then I'll pray for more wishes tonight in some particular way. Thank you for what you're doing.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you.
Mr. Hunter, we have a couple of minutes left out of the first round before I get to my questions.
And I understand you had something you wanted to go a little further, and so did Mr. Marshall. So we've probably got three or four minutes. And then Mr. Kissell gave his time away.
REP. : He should have given it to me.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: But we'll go to Mr. Hunter and then Mr. Marshall. And if there is any time left we'll give Mr. Kissell a shot, and then I have a few questions. And we'll go to a second round.
REP. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your indulgence.
I asked General Schwartz this and I would like to ask you also. AC-130s -- the AC-130 gunship -- that's still what it's called, right, the AC-130 gunship? When I was in Fallujah in 2004 we -- the AC-130 would circle and that would be the time for us to go out, resupply the guys, get our own resupply, do whatever we had to do because the bad guys just hid. They didn't want to be out. And they could hear it and that was it. I mean, it was amazing. And as you know, it's not an every night occurrence that the AC-130 flies for you.
And I know it's a Special Operations asset as it is now. But I'm sure that other units that aren't specialized that aren't necessarily SOCOM or MARSOC assets, regular Marine Corps infantry units, if there is such a thing as, you know, they're all fantastic Marine Corps infantry units. But there's them. There's, you know, 10th Mountain, certain Ranger groups. They would love to have an asset like that.
Has it been looked at to provide that asset? Because I know that there is money in here to upgrade AC-130 and maybe to have more, but is there -- has it been looked at to acquisition some more for the regular guys? So you have enough pilots and you have enough aircraft to be able to put them in RC South for instance even if a more specialized group in RC East wants it too at the same time or a different agency wants to use it? Can -- I mean, has that been thought about at all?
GEN. DARNELL: Mr. Hunter, I'm not aware of any -- right now any expressed concern on the part of SOCOM or AFSOC that we don't have adequate numbers and can't --
REP. HUNTER: No, I'm saying you have plenty for them. I'm talking about different warfighters, the ones that aren't SOCOM or MARSOC or -- just the regular Marine Corps, regular Army, talking about them. Because I've had questions asked of me by ground commanders, combatant commander, wow, it would sure be nice to have this. If they had one thing -- in fact, I've asked them if you could have one thing what would it be -- AC-130 gunship.
GEN. DARNELL: Our CONOP right now with the AC-130 does not mean that they are dedicated strictly to SOCOM. I mean, it's -- we have a lot of the (straightly ?) conventional units, and I'll speak to Army. Quite frankly --
REP. HUNTER: But they get to use it when the other guys aren't. If there's not a SOCOM or other agency requirement that night, then they can -- then the other guys get to use it. I mean, that's what I -- that was the position we were in. We got to use it when it wasn't being used.
GEN. DARNELL: Right. I mean, --
REP. HUNTER: Because you didn't have enough.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Could you look into it?
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: You've got the question.
GEN. DARNELL: We're speaking to the tyranny in numbers, and I understand the point you're getting at.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: As well, it's a good follow on to what Mr. Bishop's point was is that we're going to have to take into account when we make our recommendation. We are going to try and do this from the point of view of strategy and strategic interests as opposed to budget per se. Obviously we're not going to be reckless with that. We may have to do reallocations within what we -- with what we've got. We obviously have to talk to Mr. Skelton and Mr. Murtha and et cetera and to the ranking members as well.
But that's what we're trying to get at. We're trying to get the right mix the right way right now.
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: And if you could give at least a perspective. You're not expected to usurp Secretary Gates' prerogatives or anything of that nature.
We'll go to Mr. Marshall.
REP. MARSHALL: Thank you. Do we have a vote? No, we don't. Okay.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
When Ms. Giffords pursued her line of questioning concerning the National Guard I wanted to ask the gentlelady if she would yield me some time so that I could jump in. But her time had already expired and so I couldn't.
The line of questioning reminded me of some conversations that I had about four or five years ago with some Naval National Guard air units. And evidently a Guard unit was deployed to the Roosevelt and conducting missions off the Roosevelt along with active duty. And the Navy graded landings, graded the performance of the maintenance teams, et cetera. And the Guard unit -- and it should come as no surprise to the Air Force guys, and you'll hear why, but the Guard unit was far and away superior to the active duty units in those measurable characteristics. And I think we can all generally agree that typically a 40-year-old pilot's judgment is likely to be better than a 25-year-old or 28-year-old pilot's judgment. Certainly experience is there.
That's generally true of Guard units. And what really struck me was that these Navy guys were saying -- you know, the Air Force gets this. The Air Force understands that a very valuable asset for the Air Force is its Guard units with experienced pilots, experienced mechanics. You don't have to pay as much. And frankly, in performance with the exception they said of taking Gs, in certain circumstances a younger pilot is a better choice. But other than that, across the board everything you'd be looking for -- and frankly, when I fly I kind of like to see a lot of gray hairs in the cockpit -- everything you're looking for you get from Guard units more so than you do from active duty units.
And where -- you know, the constant lament where the Army is concerned whenever the Army is -- you know, this JCA thing or other things, the Army will constantly point out that well, gosh, you know who we have flying our planes. We've got warrant officers. And they've got some gray hairs. And they're pretty dry behind the ear. And their performance as a result is going to be better on average.
And so I'd just add to what Ms. Giffords was saying that Air Force doesn't need to lose sight of the credit that Air Force has gotten from others over the years recognizing that a valuable asset here are these Guard units with their experience, with their crews. And also, by the way, on the Roosevelt trip, the Guard units -- the maintenance teams for the Guard units were the ones that kept all of the planes flying. And the Guard units had their older planes. They had older platforms, many more hours on them. The Guard units were supplying the active duty units with planes to fly. That's how good they are.
So we obviously need to just keep an eye on that and make sure that we take advantage of that asset, the asset of the individuals. That's all I want to say.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you very much. And well said at that.
Mr. Kissell, did you have something you'd like to pursue?
REP. LARRY KISSELL (D-NC): Mr. Chairman, just one question.
And General Shackelford, if you could answer this, to go to a phrase earlier discussed, if wishes were F-22s would we wish for F-22s that had ground capabilities because I had not heard of this approach until today as a matter of fact? And I'm just wondering are we just looking for a justification for the F-22s? Obviously they are a superior fighter. Are we just trying to find a way to say okay, we're using them for something? Is this really a good purpose for using them?
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Mr. Kissell, thank you very much for the question. If I may, I'd like to point out that the F-22 has had a basic air-to-ground capability from the beginning. That would be two 1,000-pound bombs carried internally, which is the mode of operation for the F-22.
The mission of the F-22 is largely in the air-to-air arena, but we use the term air dominance. And air dominance goes beyond pure air-to-air to countering advanced surface-to-air missile systems using weapons like the Joint Direct Attack Munition or the small diameter bomb.
As we have looked at the F-22 as it has originally come off of the production line, we have wanted to expand its air-to-ground capability to bring these newer weapons into play. And this results in what I would call a preplanned product improvement program. This is what is otherwise called modernization of the F-22, which brings in incremental additional air-to-ground capability that is tied both to going from the 1,000-pound JDAM to up to eight small diameter bombs with the ability to self-target by an upgrade to the radar that allows ground mapping. The original radar was optimized for air-to-air, but an upgrade to the radar which allows us to do ground mapping of sufficient accuracy that we can self-target these GPS-guided weapons and to go beyond simply dropping one at a time to dropping multiples by taking advantage of better integration of the avionics.
So the F-22 uses these weapons in the suppression or really destruction of enemy air defense role for the advanced integrated air defense system that it is optimized to fly against with its high altitude super cruise low signature capabilities so that it can in effect take down some of those higher threat systems before other forces come along. So that's been part of the philosophy for the F-22 for at least the last seven or eight years and is now working its way into the baseline for the system through these incremental modernization upgrades.
REP. KISSELL: Will we be able to use that capacity with support for our ground troops?
GEN. SHACKELFORD: That capacity would certainly be available for support for the ground troops were it called for by the combatant commander.
Now, the F-35 has similar capabilities in larger numbers with better air-to-ground sensors optimized for air-to-ground, optimized for a more persistent air-to-ground role, additional internal fuel, additional weapons load, particularly after you get past the first few days of a high-threat conflict into something where you can put external stores on the F-35. And in effect, the F-35 would be the weapons system of choice for that type of support of ground forces type of mission. But the F-22 would be capable of doing it too.
REP. KISSELL: And when will the F-35 be available?
GEN. SHACKELFORD: The Air Force initial operational capability comes along in the 2013 time frame.
REP. KISSELL: Thank you, General.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Thank you, Mr. Kissell.
REP. FRANK LOBIONDO (R-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, very much. I also wanted to compliment you on going through your opening statement in the detail that you did to help clarify the situation we're in.
And gentlemen, thank you for being here. Thank you for your service to our country. I apologize that I had to leave for part of this. I know that a couple of my colleagues, Congressman Marshall and Congresswoman Giffords, brought up a topic that's near and dear to me. And I apologize if I'm covering some repetitive ground.
But through hearings from Secretary Gates and every opportunity we've had we can't quite get an answer of what's going to happen with our Air Guard units if the F-35 slips. We've got a QDR coming up. We understand that there's a lot that's hinging on that. There is always a reason why we can't get an answer.
If you're looking at a cost-benefit analysis everything I've seen suggests that the Air Guard is some of the best bang for the buck that the United States of America gets anywhere. So we should in fact be doing anything and everything we can to ensure that we don't have any slippage.
And I just -- I mean, I don't understand if we have a two or three-year shift to the right, which is not too farfetched on the F- 35, that what do we do? We have Air Guard units that have jets that you can't put online because just the airframes can't take it. What do we do? When do we get an answer of what the plan is? I don't know, General Darnell, if you want to take a shot at that.
GEN. DARNELL: Congressman LoBiondo, I answered a question -- a similar question earlier to Congresswoman Giffords. And I'll speak to the ASA portion of this and I'll allow General Johns to carry it from there.
Obviously as General Schwartz said, we're converting the 18 alert sites. Two are going to be F-22 equipped, four F-15 equipped with Golden birds and then the remaining 12 are a question right now. We are fatigue testing an F-15 and fatigue testing the F-15 fleet to see if we can extend the airplane out further. We're looking at right now 12,000 hours for the F-15 to see if that's achievable.
Some might be concerned about the -- (inaudible) -- issues we had before. We're doing inspections every 400 flight hours on the aircraft to ensure that we're not getting ourselves in a situation that could be just as catastrophic as that Guard mishap at Saint Louis. And thus far the inspections are not -- have not been concerning at all. In fact, we're finding we're being overly conservative.
When we're able to complete the structural testing on the F-15 as well as the F-16, which we're going to do -- and I know a lot of your ASA units, particularly there in Atlantic City are F-16s -- then our intent is to try get out the 8,000 hours with the airplane. We'll know how realistic that is after the fatigue testing is complete and should be able to at that point give us some sense for whether a SLEP or a combination of SLEP and new aircraft is required.
Now, obviously those answers are going to be a lot further out than you would prefer. I know Congresswoman Giffords in talking to General Johns, General Johns committed to her that we would like to be able to come back to you with a plan by November of this year. And that's what we intend to do.
REP. LOBIONDO: Well, I certainly hope so. And I --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Well, General, I'm sorry, but that is not responsive to Mr. LoBiondo's question.
Maybe you'll need some time on it. What I mean by responsive is I understand what you said. I think we all do.
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: But the question was is what is your plan? Do you have a plan and what is it with -- if this F-35 slippage takes place, or any of the other slippages take place, with regard to the real-time necessities of having the Air Guard readiness addressed?
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, sir. And I ended my statement with --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Because if you say November that doesn't do us any good with this markup that we're coming into.
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, sir. Well, I'll allow General Johns to add, but I'm not aware of --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay.
GEN. DARNELL: -- definitive plan right now.
GEN. JOHNS: Sir, regarding a plan, the chart that has been used, the waterfall chart --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: In other words, what do you want us to do?
GEN. JOHNS: Yes, sir. Right now as we go through '10 I'm comfortable to say we're going to go through '10 and be okay. There is time for us to effect whatever outcome we need to do as we look at the F-35 coming onboard, as we look at the aggregate requirement for fire attack platforms for our nation that the Air Force provides.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: The problem with that, General, is that -- I'm sorry, I'm taking a little of Mr. LoBiondo's time here. But we've talked about his, he and I, for quite a bit and we can do this together. The problem here is that we don't have any projection from you past next year. I mentioned that in the beginning of my remarks, which is the ordinary way that we do this. In fact, I think it's legally required of us.
And what we're expected to do, what Mr. Skelton is expecting us to recommend to the full committee is what is the -- what are the likely requirements that we're going to have in terms of funding and numbers -- numbers of airframes and funding requirements for the future. If we don't have a plan we can't give it to him.
I understand what you're saying tactically speaking or budget year speaking that, well, we can get through 2010 and then we're going to take it up. But I can't give Mr. Skelton and the rest of the committee that answer. Am I correct, Frank, where we're going?
REP. LOBIONDO: You're exactly on the mark.
GEN. JOHNS: I apologize that we aren't going through the rest of the FYDP. And that's the situation we're in as --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Is that because of this quadrennial review? Every time we don't get an answer they bring up the quadrennial review. This is going to be I think my fifth one. They're useless. They are utterly useless.
I came into this thing -- when I was a rookie and I came on this committee, I thought oh, this is going to be a General Powell, it was going to be 96 percent -- he could have told us we were all going to get those horses and that wishes would come true and everybody would have believed it. He had I think a 96 percent approval rating and the other 4 percent were going to be committed. So he could have done anything. But that quadrennial review was a bunch of words on paper that never went anywhere. And every other one that's come in has been the same.
GEN. JOHNS: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I can't go to -- really, honestly, we can't go to Mr. Skelton and say were depending on the Quadrennial Defense Review because we'd all have to sit here and pretend that we thought that was going to mean something.
GEN. JOHNS: Yes, sir. So my comment to come back to you, and I apologize, was --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: You don't have to apologize.
GEN. JOHNS: -- toward November, toward the end of the review we'll take whatever information is available to us as --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay.
GEN. JOHNS: -- and I apologize it doesn't help you for '10, but then formulate that as to what is the best way to go forward to, one, we ensure that we always defend our nation, two, that we ensure that we get maximum utility.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Well, if you can give us -- give Mr. LoBiondo and give us your best guesstimate as to what a plan would be to address the Guard question, the Guard readiness question, then we'll try to incorporate it in what we'll do and make our best judgment on it.
GEN. JOHNS: Yes, sir.
REP. LOBIONDO: Mr. Chairman, if I might just for a moment, let me put a little bit different spin on all this than the critically important perspective that the chairman has put on it.
On Saturday, I had an opportunity to go into the 177th -- no ribbons, no cameras, no hullabaloo. There were a group of Air Guard young men and women who just I got together with to answer some questions, just to tell them thanks. Again, we were completely -- it wasn't anything that was any media event. And they were incredibly motivating young group of people. The questions that I got from more than one, and actually a number of them, was do I have a future in the Air Guard.
Now, if we get into this territory -- and I assured them that they did -- I don't think the Air Force is prepared to not have an Air Guard. And if you've got young people who are so incredibly talented, so incredibly motivated that they're not doing what their peers are doing on weekends off and playing but they're serving their nation, and they are questioning whether they made the right decision.
This is a problem. They know some of what's going on here. They don't know all the details. And I want to encourage them. I want to thank them. I don't want to mislead them. And at some point we're going to have to have something tangible that these young men and women can be assured that they have made the right decision, and whether it's the 177th that I represent or pick any other unit that's out there, that it's critically essential to the homeland security of the United States and to the national defense of our country.
So this is getting down to a real personal level. And I did not expect those questions. Mr. Chairman, I expected some of the other questions, some of the general questions, but when they said gee, we're really wondering if we made the right decision. Can you assure us? So you need to be thinking about this as well as we come up with something that I can say to them that's credible.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: You're welcome.
Mr. Marshall has a last comment, and then I know Mr. Ahern is looking forward to our dialogue. (Laughs.)
REP. MARSHALL: (Laughs.) Continuing along the same line, it sounds to me like the department has decided to retire platforms that largely will be replaced by the F-35, that the department has a notion of the ramp-up for the F-35 that may be overly optimistic. That's certainly the perception we're getting from the testimony that we've heard and the comments that we've gotten from industry and the history so far with the development of the F-35. And Mr. Sullivan would have some expertise to be able to comment on that.
So it sounds to me like the retirement part of this is sort of tied to the development of the F-35 on a certain schedule.
And at the moment you're simply not able to answer some of these questions concerning the impact of retirement on some of these Guard units and other matters. It seems to me that perhaps we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves with regard to retirement, just as we may be getting a little bit ahead of ourselves with regard to actually acquiring a whole bunch of these F-35s in the sense that we haven't even finished our development and testing.
But we're certainly getting ahead of ourselves with retirement when your testimony is, if I understand it correctly, that many of these platforms don't need to be retired. They -- we can continue to use them for a while, don't know how long but we're going to go ahead and test to make sure they're safe and we can continue to use them.
So maybe the wiser course here is for you to suggest to us how we might in our bill not just take what you've proposed, which is the authority to retire 250, but ramp up retirement. The idea is that ultimately we get to 250 but we don't get to 250 until you've shown us how there is actually feasibly going to be platforms available so that there's not an unacceptable interruption in the availability of platforms for these Guard units and others.
In other words, it's not just 250, trust us; it's yes, 250 but it's on a certain schedule that assumes certain things about the development of the F-35, failing which we halt retirements so that there isn't a gap that's caused by some sort of problems with the development of the F-35 that we can't anticipate right now. And frankly, what we've heard so far is that the F-35 is development is not going to proceed at the rate that we'd like to see it proceed because history would certainly suggest that.
So perhaps you all could suggest to us some sort of schedule that's -- where the two are tied together. And I frankly think the committee would be a lot more comfortable with this in giving the authority to retire if there were a link and a stepped up schedule.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: You don't have to answer that question. That is a suggestion. And I would iterate it as well that perhaps we could put some language together which will be in the bill not in the report about this to be able to address that.
Thank you all.
Mr. Ahern, I'd like to take my turn now and go through a few things if we can. I have a letter here which I don't believe you have to Secretary Gates in April with regard to the Joint Strike Fighter program and the funding for the alternate engine. That's okay. You needn't look for it; I don't believe you have it. I'm just referencing it for you. I suspect it is wandering around in the vicinity of Secretary Lynn at the moment I should imagine.
I'm not so concerned that Mr. Bartlett and I sent this letter six weeks ago that it hasn't been answered because of the obvious changes that have taken place in the department with the inauguration of a new president and a new -- the wheel turning in perhaps even another direction at the time.
However, last year before this subcommittee then-Secretary Young committed to us to obligate the authorized and appropriated funding for the Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine. Contrary to that commitment -- and that was a commitment and it was commanded, if you will, by the defense bill on a bipartisan basis. We don't do things in this committee where at all possible on a partisan basis. And I would say that's true 99 percent of the time. Contrary to that commitment, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has not released the fiscal year 2009 funding for advanced procurement.
Now, as I say, this is a letter -- this is a copy of the letter, which I'll be happy to send to you. But take my word for it. It's simply asking why advanced procurement funding had not been released. Are you sufficiently aware of this situation to be able to say to us today what is the status of that funding?
MR. AHERN: The funding --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: We're still in this fiscal year after all, and there's still time to get this moving and underway.
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Over and above the projection for 2010 about the alternate engine.
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir. That money was not released because there was not procurement funding planned for the eventual procurement of the engines for which that advanced procurement was planned.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I was afraid that that was going to be your answer. I wasn't trying to trap you, but you realize the logic of what you just said means that we're not going to fund anything that doesn't have exactly that. I can see General Johns swallowing hard right at the moment because that means you can't do any long-range planning. All the rest of what we've talked about today, we don't have -- exactly the same situation prevails for these other platforms.
MR. AHERN: By that I mean for other -- or for most situations, AP is followed by -- or there is identified funding in the FYDP. And there was a FYDP at that time. There was the FY '09 FYDP, which --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Nice try, Mr. Ahern. But you understand that you don't -- we have just discussed here in other venues exactly this same situation. Does that mean we shouldn't do -- you're not going to release funding for any of these other -- in these other directions?
MR. AHERN: I'm not sure that that's --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: You don't have the --
MR. AHERN: Those are unique -- this sounds like a unique case to me, at least at the time that it came up, the AP in '09.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I'll repeat what I said in the beginning. We have just received the details of the fiscal year 2010 budget request. The request did not include any information or data regarding plans, programs or budgets for fiscal year 2011 and beyond. There is a number of requests for advanced procurement in there. We don't know what's going to be procured. We don't know -- just what you just said. You said you can't release the funding for the alternate engine because we don't have what -- we just don't have for everything else.
MR. AHERN: I take your point.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I'm not trying to push you in a corner.
MR. AHERN: No, I know. Yes, sir. I'm not perceiving -- I take your point, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay.
MR. AHERN: I was addressing the specific --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: If you don't want to do it --
MR. AHERN: -- for the '09.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: All I'm saying is Secretary Gates doesn't want to do it or Mr. Lynn, whoever, then say so. I don't want to have somebody tell me well, we don't have the -- everything worked out for 2011 and beyond, and I said we don't have anything else worked out for 2011 and beyond either.
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir. I understand that. I was addressing the specific case of the '09 AP for the second engine. I understand what you're saying.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Because at some point, you know, we're going to have to put this in the bill or something. I would like to have the opportunity maybe to sit down with you if you're going to make the recommendation or somebody else, the secretary for that matter, and talk about this alternate engine.
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I think we can work it out so that it's not in addition to and that we're not in the position for somebody to win, somebody else has to lose. I think if we look at this in terms of some reallocation of funding, some reallocation of -- or reconsideration of numbers with regard to advanced procurement with the F-35 and so on that this could be worked out on a reasonable basis.
The thing that drives me in this is the GAO -- does everybody have the same material that we have?
MR. : (Off mike.)
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I've got that. Anyway, we can -- I'll provide them to you.
MR. : (Off mike.)
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay. You do have the backup slide. Here, this is the F-15 and Joint Strike Fighter engine programs compared in terms of this engine difficulty that occurred and the time frame. I mean, when I look at this it gives -- makes my heart beat faster because I don't want to share or recommend to this subcommittee or the full committee funding and policy that I have trepidation is not going to be able to be fulfilled. That's why we're trying to do the alternate engine or the competitive engine.
We're not trying to get into a contest of wills with the secretary or most certainly not with the Air Force. We're trying to make this succeed. I hope it's clear that the motivation here is to make sure that you get the Joint Strike Fighter -- (laughs) -- that you want to have in all of its permutations, all of its iterations if you will, that work and that maximizes the opportunity for it to work in a time frame that in turn maximizes your opportunity to carry out its strategic requirements, the long-term necessities that you've outlined for us.
The amount of money is not that great comparatively. And if we work this right I think we can do this and still accommodate everybody. As we are well aware, the numbers change all the time -- 231 becomes 187 -- (laughs) -- you know, 98 becomes 38 or 92 becomes 38, that kind of thing.
So I'm just putting on the table for your consideration that let's not get off into arguments about definitions of advanced procurement funding and so on. Let's figure out how we can do this. I believe you're going to find a very strong school of thought in the Congress for funding the alternate engine. Let's not make this barbed wire that people have to throw themselves on. Let's talk about it in a way that to see whether we can accommodate everybody's interests.
The fact is that about almost 70 percent of the alternative engine development cost has already been obligated. And I think it's worth the investment and I hope that the secretary will give us the opportunity perhaps to have a little discussion about whether or not that makes sense.
I can send some other questions on to you. But in that context then, and maybe I can ask General Darnell and General Shackelford, this is not news to you about the great engine war and so on. I take it you're all familiar with it. Right?
GEN. SHACKELFORD: I'm familiar with it, yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Did you have to go through some of it yourselves?
GEN. SHACKELFORD: We both were flying at the time. I was flying F-15s at the time.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay. So it's my -- I hope you'll agree that my recitation -- my summary recitation of what happened during the '70s and so on was correct. I'm not trying to create a myth here. That's the information I have is that these difficulties were encountered. And I'm not saying that it's necessarily an analogy but it's a parallel situation I want to avoid if I can. That's the reason.
Were you involved when the F-15 engines had to be shuttled around because of the readiness problems and the maintenance problems?
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Mr. Chairman, I was flying F-15s at the time when that was going on, yes.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay. In terms of the long-range -- or maybe, General Shackelford, you're the more appropriate person to ask here in terms of acquisition cost. Has the general recitation here about acquisition cost increases reflect the realities that you have encountered? Are those numbers real?
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Sir, you're referring to the cost of the engine?
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Changes -- yes, the cost changes and so on with regard to the F-35 over and above the engine.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir. The -- well, what I'd like to comment on, sir, with respect to the engines is that the comparison of cost increases for the F-135 versus the F-136 are not really an apples-to-apples comparison. As you're aware --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I'm sure they're not. I didn't --
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Right.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: If you thought it was making an apples-to- apples comparison I apologize. That was not the intention.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir. I understand. Just to point out that there are other items in the F-135 funding line that aren't directly part of the engine technology itself.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yes, that's right.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: There's some common equipment, the common exhaust system and whatnot, which is part of that cost increase as well as the redesign on the aircraft as a result of the STOVL weight problems here a few years ago.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yes.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: As we look at --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I'm well aware that the weight problems created -- it created its own -- you can -- I can draw a parallel there to the presidential helicopter.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Just weight problems alone caused -- which I don't know, as a layperson I certainly anticipate it. I can say that with some authority because I got the transcript out of even our closed briefings and closed discussions that we had to make sure that I wasn't dreaming up that oh, yes, I knew all that or I brought that up and then it turned out I was dreaming that I did it or only wished that I had said it. But even to myself, not an aeronautical engineer or a pilot, it was clear to me you start changing the weight around in some significant way you're going to change everything that has to do with design and flight testing and everything else because it changes the physics.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay. I'll send you some questions, General Shackelford, if it's okay, with regard to your prepared statement on the cost of the alternated engine through FY '15, because there are some differences that occurred there.
I mean, from information we got in the past. So I'm trying to get an accounting for that, okay?
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Take a look at it so that I have the right numbers in mind.
Right now, just for background information, there's three flight test aircraft delivered to date.
If you have different information, you stop me, okay?
Three flight test aircraft delivered to date, 10 flight test aircraft in the works, 28 production aircraft authorized and appropriated through fiscal year 2009, and 30 aircraft in fiscal year 2010 request -- 10 for the Air Force.
Is that all accurate?
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir, that's correct.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay. Very good.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: I'm sorry, sir, did you say all for the Air Force -- the 30?
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Ten.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Ten of them are for the Air Force.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Ten, right.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Thirty total.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Mr. Sullivan, you were inches from a clean getaway. The Joint Strike Fighter Procurement Plan, including the international purchases, would increase -- would these numbers be correct? -- would increase from 17 to 32 aircraft from fiscal year '09 to '10. Is that -- are you familiar with that number? Does that make sense to you?
MR. SULLIVAN: Fiscal year '09 to '10? Yes, that's correct, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay. I'm looking for some flexibility here as we go forward in terms of possible reallocation of funding.
To the best of your judgment, Mr. Sullivan, and the best of your capacity to answer, is there an industry or government standard regarding preferred year over year increases in production? And what factors affect the preferred rate of increase?
MR. SULLIVAN: In terms of -- you're referring to the speed in which they ramp up their production rates?
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yeah. Is there some kind of formula that you --
MR. SULLIVAN: I don't know of any -- I don't think there's any industry standard or anything like that, but there are formulas that they use that are based on learning-curve analysis. And I think that, on the Joint Strike Fighter program, probably the learning curves were more steep and are less steep now as they re-examine where they are in the program, because they don't know as much as they thought that they would know at this point, I guess -- is kind of a rambling answer. But that's the best way I can say it.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Would that have something to do --
MR. SULLIVAN: They miscalculated the learning curves at the outset, and they've -- they have adjusted them now. And as a result they're getting a lot of cost increases due to -- you know, they're having to add labor hours to the estimates.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: And this is not beyond normal expectation, right?
MR. SULLIVAN: No, this is not
REP. ABERCROMBIE: This is not an easy deal.
MR. SULLIVAN: It's not an easy deal.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I made an analogy today, again, in layman's terms, I mean, this is not a simple V8 engine, you know, put in the '55 Chevy, right? This is a V12 with a whole computer set --
MR. SULLIVAN: That's correct.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: -- to have to be dealt with, right?
MR. SULLIVAN: Yes, sir.
In fact, if you wanted to make -- if you wanted to compare it to the auto industry or something -- the auto industry or some industry that's high volume, pretty much knows what they're doing, they have learning curves as well, but it's based on really, you know, actual data and they don't change much.
So they can do learning-curve analysis, figure out what the first one's going to take to build, figure out what the millionth one is going to take to build, because they know what they're learning --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: But see, compared to the F-15, this -- the Joint Strike Fighter is an incredibly more sophisticated -- and the demands on this airframe are going to be infinitely greater.
MR. SULLIVAN: Yes. I think one of the points that we've been trying to make the past several years and are making again this year is that the Joint Strike Fighter is so complex that those learning curves are harder to come by.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Sure.
MR. SULLIVAN: You know, one of the beauties of the F-15 and the F-16 was that they were kind of an incremental approach to developing aircraft. They bit off a little bit of capability at a time, so their learning curves were much steeper than what the Joint Strike Fighter is. The Joint Strike Fighter has well overestimated from the outset how much learning they would accomplish at this point.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: In that context, then you were critical, others were critical of the management plan approved in 2007, which reduced the Joint Strike Fighter development flight tests in order to replenish the management reserves.
You raised concerns about the cutback in flight testing and implications for finding and resolving those performance problems.
I think you've already stated some of the specific concerns that you had with the plan at the time.
How do you regard that now?
I think you've stated it in general terms, but how do you regard the question of flight tests, assets and planning right now, with regard to the timetable for -- that at least is implied in the 2010 proposal with regard to increased production, et cetera?
MR. SULLIVAN: Right now we think that the midcourse risk reduction plan that they undertook last year -- that the schedule, as a result of that and where they are today is still -- is very risky.
If you look at the test program itself -- flight test -- no white space in there. There's no room for error. There's very little time to do the flight testing, bring the data back, do the analysis, discover, trial and error, things like that. They have a -- it's a very, very aggressive schedule now to complete flight testing.
And they've reduced -- of course they've reduced the resources that they were going to have by two aircraft.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: General Johns, what's the reason for that? Why? What's the necessity? Is it because numbers were put on paper years ago or that there's some -- is it policy driven -- that we want to get this in the air so we want to get it to our people and so we just write down the number and say, well, we're going to have to do that? Why not take longer to do the testing or build that in? You're the long-range guy. That's why I'm asking you.
GEN. JOHNS: Yes, sir.
As we look at it, I'm going to defer this to General Shackelford, because as part of the acquisition strategy. But how do you manage --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: He was just looking at you, by the way, saying, I hope he defers this over to me, I can't wait. (Laughter.)
GEN. JOHNS: We're dear friends.
Sir, again, the whole point is, how do you manage that, as you said, the white space to concurrency to come up with a successful program.
So let me go --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: The point -- the reason I'm asking it is -- and some of -- maybe you folks don't know me as well, but we're not looking here to trap anybody or anything. We're just looking to be -- how can we be helpful and make it work? And if you're told -- you know something, we really wanted to do this, and we really had our heart set on doing this, but you know what, the schedule's working out differently because getting a hold of the physics of this thing and the testing patterns and so on -- this is not a Model A Ford we're dealing with, and we're going to have to take more time.
Nobody's going to get upset with you. We'll just have to figure out how we do this and get the appropriate funding.
Am I making sense?
GEN. JOHNS: Yes, sir. And before I defer to General Shackelford -- but as we tested the F-15, again, we had technology, we had an industrial base that has since moved along.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yeah, right.
GEN. JOHNS: So to say, well, this is more sophisticated, but so is our industrial base and the ability to handle it, so I can't say --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay. Fair enough.
GEN. JOHNS: -- there is some growth in that area.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: Sir, if you'll indulge me for a second --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I will.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: -- I'll go back a little bit in history to -- when we were starting out with the F-35 program there was an understanding there was going to be a great deal of concurrency in the program.
Typically, that comes along as you balance the needs of the test program versus the contractor's need to man up to a certain level and then have efficiency within their manning that goes from building developmental aircraft into production aircraft. And that's often what leads to several annual buys of low-rate initial production as you're trying to move into the production profile that you'd like to get to.
Within the context of looking at the F-35 as the recapitalization focus for the various more legacy weapons systems: In order to bring that weapons system on quickly, the desire has been to ramp quickly up in the production profile such that we could come down whatever learning curve exists -- also, to reach a more economic order quantity, if you will, to get the unit cost down as we're buying them from year to year.
So there're competing pressures to complete that development and at the same time get into production.
To mitigate that type of concurrency on the F-35 program, a great deal of up-front investment was made in design tools, for instance, such that we have at this point in time a greater level of confidence in the design of the aircraft than we would have for legacy systems -- go back to F-16 of F-15 days.
As we look at where we stand in production right now, the change traffic is stabilizing. The build process, as noted by Mr. Sullivan, has found some issues, not the least of which came along when the issue of the design of the wing route was discovered to be an issue a couple of years ago and led to a redesign.
But as we have gone through the last six months or so of getting these aircraft stabilized into production -- and these are the development aircraft -- we're seeing a greater level of maturity, a better level of fit as the parts go together. The maturity of the physical aircraft gives us reason to believe that we're going to get beyond the production issues cited by Mr. Sullivan fairly quickly.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay.
GEN. SHACKELFORD: When you move over to the software side -- about 74 percent complete for the entire weapons system software at this point in time -- with the sensors and that software flying on the Cooperative Avionics Test Bed -- or in the, granted, very elaborate laboratory structure that was put together for the program -- all so that we could have greater confidence earlier that moving forward with production would be a reasonable risk.
In the annual production buys, as we go through the low-rate initial production, the program has to meet certain entrance requirements or entrance criteria that are established by the defense acquisition executive. These would be key things that -- he doesn't give them permission to press ahead with the negotiation of the contract for the next production lot unless they have chinned the bar, so to speak, on certain technical characteristics.
The STOVL engine would be an example of that that's part and parcel of that delay but got us to the point where the confidence of those who were closest to the program is high enough that they believe they have reasonable risk in terms of pressing forward with the further work in that area.
So the whole program was built with that philosophy in mind, and that sets it aside, really, from legacy programs -- realizing that those legacy programs were 30 or 40 years ago, that the state of the art in technology now is better. Certainly, there is risk. But to the extent that we can identify where that risk is and do the best we can to mitigate it, that's folded into the program plan for F-35.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: That's fine. Thank you.
Mr. Sullivan, in your statement, you highlight the -- what I presume is still a fact, that the DOD plans to use cost reimbursement- type contracts of the procurement of the production aircraft.
Is that still the case?
MR. SULLIVAN: I believe the department's strategy is still to -- the aircraft that have been procured so far are under cost reimbursable.
And I think it would go as much as 273 aircraft -- through lot seven, whenever that is -- I believe that's --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: That's your understanding, Mr. Ahern?
MR. AHERN: No, sir, it is not. I work very closely with General Shackelford and the rest of the program office, and I'm quite confident that we will be moving toward a fixed-price, incentive-fee contracts in lot five or no later than six.
I can't amplify very well on what General Shackelford has said about the way this program is run, and I don't want to give you the impression that I sleep well every night knowing nothing else is going to happen under the JSF.
But there are really good indicators of this carefully orchestrated program that was based on that up-front investment that really focused on very sophisticated design tools and modeling.
And an example of that that comes to mind, as Mr. Sullivan said, the STOVL has just finished the pit test and is en-route -- and will be en-route to PAX River to actually go through the landings.
The pit test turned out to be just slightly better than the model -- no issues with it at all. That's with the engine down. And that's a real credit to the model.
There's another example of it. They've just finished some of the static testing on one of the ground aircraft. And I believe the phrase is it was going to 150 percent of its design. And it turned out to go to where the model said it would be.
The three aircraft that are flying now -- the last time I asked, anyway, they're running about 75 percent returning to the ground without any discrepancies on them at all.
So in comparison to my experience -- and just to put it in context: I was a naval aviator in the '60s and the '70s and in the '80s; we didn't have anything comparable to this. It's not to say that we don't have challenges in the JSF going forward. But the rate that we're on -- and as I pointed out, the secretary just did add aircraft to the plan going forward. The rate that we're using going forward year over year is .75 more, which seems to an achievable rate that goes to what Mr. -- General Shackelford and General Johns said.
We want to get down the learning curve as fast as we can. And we are progressing in that fashion, because I checked this. I mean, that's really my job -- LRIP lot one cost, LRIP lot three -- and our challenges to the program and to Lockheed Martin to bring those costs down. And it's happening. And we will continue on that line.
But to follow -- to answer the first question: No, sir, we're going towards fixed-price incentive probably in lot five or lot six.
MR. SULLIVAN: Well --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: With regard -- I'm sorry.
MR. SULLIVAN: If they're going to a fixed price by lot seven, that would be at least 273 aircraft that they're going to procure in a cost-reimbursable environment.
When you procure aircraft in a cost-reimbursable environment, it is tacit acknowledgement, if you will, that they don't know how much the aircraft are going to cost. That means that they could not negotiate with the contactor a fixed price.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: So from financial point of view, accountability point of view, then, it's we who assume the risk there?
MR. SULLIVAN: The government assumes all -- most all of the financial risk on that. And this is not uncommon in LRIP. You know, you can buy under cost reimbursement as many as 10 percent of an aircraft by -- however, on this program, the only reason we raise this is because 10 percent of this program is a significant number of aircraft that, you know -- not only do you not understand the cost yet, but they have not been flight tested. You got 2 percent of the flight tests done. And we understand that the program has done a significant amount of work to reduce risk in ground testing and with all of the labs they have. And we applaud that, and we think that that's good. But flight testing is flight testing.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: It's also been paid for. One of the reasons that's --
MR. SULLIVAN: It's -- and it's all been paid for, that's right.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: -- taken place is that it was funded to do exactly that.
MR. SULLIVAN: That's right. And it has reduced risk. But we still believe you fly before you buy.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yes.
MR. SULLIVAN: So you're in a position where you have as many as 300 aircraft that the government is going to take ownership of -- no idea how much they're going to cost and whether they're going to work.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I don't necessarily even object to that, by the way. I'm not citing that as if that's some kind of show stopper for this. That doesn't necessarily bother me, because if it's the defense of the nation and you get what you want to get out of it, then maybe that's the price you pay. So that doesn't necessarily disturb me.
But can I ask, then, either -- any of you or, perhaps, Mr. Ahern -- I'm sorry. Do you want to --
MR. AHERN: Sir, and I don't want to be argumentative with my friend Mike --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I don't know whether you heard what I said that I don't necessarily object to -- I'm not raising the cost reimbursement -- maybe that's fine with me if that's what it takes in order to get the plane done.
MR. AHERN: I think it's very important that we get to fixed- price contract. It is a --it's in -- not only in this program but in every program in our portfolio --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: When you can.
MR. AHERN: As soon as you know well enough on the cost--
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Yes.
MR. AHERN: -- you need to. Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Sure.
MR. AHERN: And I think by lot five -- and that's -- I apologize for whispering behind me.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: No, no, that's all right.
MR. AHERN: I was just thinking of the 270 number. And I think we'll be in the fixed price for the jets and the 135 -- around lot five.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Even so, it's a considerable amount of money.
MR. SULLIVAN: Just briefly -- I mean, this was one of the recommendations that we made in our report in March is that they report to the Congress the -- they have to analyze the risk that's involved here and write a report that shows their path to getting to a fixed-price contract.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Right.
MR. SULLIVAN: You know, we share your opinion on that. It's not necessarily, in and of itself, bad. It's an indicator, though, that this program's costs are still not yet under control.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: If in order to get it right -- yes. If in order to get it right it requires cost reimbursement, that's, you know, that's --
MR. SULLIVAN: Yes.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: -- you present -- you're the professionals. You're the ones that have to make those recommendations. And your people have to fly these planes.
I mean, in the end human beings are going to be doing the testing. And you have the responsibility for putting them into those planes along the way. And nobody wants to be reckless about it.
In some respects -- the reason I'm -- this is a predicate to what I wanted to say about -- or ask about the competitive engine. What is your assessment of the competitive engine -- over and above whether we should have it or not -- what is your assessment about the progress of the competitive engine? Is that also making progress?
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir. From what I understand it is making progress. It is --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: It's not an orphan, in other words.
MR. AHERN: No, sir, it's not an orphan.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: You guys are paying close attention to it?
MR. AHERN: Absolutely, because you all -- the Congress has appropriated a significant amount of money. And we have put a significant amount of money into the 136 engine. And it is absolutely making progress.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay. So --
MR. AHERN: And it is not an orphan.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Right. So -- okay. My point I guess here would be, as you towards the time when you can get a fixed cost because your confidence level is that high, I'm hoping that you will conclude or that the secretary will conclude that perhaps if we continue along with the alternate engine, it is not an expense which is excess, and it one that is reasonable within the present cost- reimbursement universe as we move towards something fixed.
Just appreciate it if you would take it into account and perhaps take another look.
MR. AHERN: Yes, sir. And I take that responsibility seriously.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: I'm sure you do.
MR. AHERN: It's part of my job. And right now -- because I was involved in the 2007 study and familiar with what the IDA did and the CAIG study and, of course, the GAO study. And I looked at it again this year, not only for this hearing but in the budgeting sense overall.
And it remains -- although there has been additional investment in that second engine. The compelling business case to make that upfront investment to garner the benefits down -- down in the competition area, down in the intangibles -- is still not there, sir. That I can see.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Well, and I appreciate that.
Although you -- and by way of full disclosure, I have never -- I have said publicly and privately and in many contexts that a business case, per se, in the ordinary understanding of what a business case is, doesn't apply where defense is concerned. And that's not a criticism of your -- of what you just stated so much as it's a perspective that I hold.
I believe the people of the United States will pay for their defense. And if that requires, precisely because it does involve the strategic interests of the country, as well as the military personnel expected to carry out the necessary requirements of implementing that -- those strategic interests or their pursuit -- if that takes more funding than it would to build a city bus or, for that matter, a commercial airliner, as opposed -- if it -- if something -- if an airframe or an instrument of the Air Force requires more spending in order to maximize our capacity to produce what we want to produce, I think we're willing to pay for it.
So I never -- at least in my own approach to this committee -- I've never tried to operate as if it was my dad's food brokerage business writ large. I believe that there's another element to it with regard to our obligations -- our constitutional obligations as a committee to fund the military of the United States that may involve expenditures that under ordinary circumstances General Motors or Chrysler, it they're still in business -- (laughs) -- would be doing.
So I understand what you're saying. But from a policy perspective, it may be that I ask you once again -- and that is not necessarily the first consideration that I have in my recommendations.
I think what we're doing -- our attempt here is to supplement and complement what you're doing and that that was in line with what the Air Force had in mind, at least through the first 10 years of this project's existence.
And there is a feeling or a thought in the committee that the change from having the alternate engine as part of the budget picture had more to do with budget considerations than it did with strategic considerations or even requirements and acquisition considerations -- or that was part of the driving force.
You know, you don't have to comment on that one way or the other; I'm just giving you an observation that has reflected in the opinions that I get from members in the committee.
So I have my constituency here also that I have to address.
The bottom line for all of is is we want to provide the best possible foundation, financially and in terms of defense policy, as written in the defense bill, for you to be able to carry out your very important mission, which I know all of you are completely devoted to.
Mr. Bartlett, you're the -- as usual, the essence of patience and forbearance. At this stage, do you have anything else? Or I think we can bring the event to a close.
REP. BARTLETT: Mr. Chairman, I would like to spend just a moment, if I might, to help clarify for those who might be listening to this hearing or reading it in the future, as to why we in a budget- constrained world have been pursuing the development of two brand new fighter aircraft.
Could you tell us for the record the fundamental differences between the Joint Strike Fighter and the V-22 that made it seem necessary that we -- I'm sorry, the F-22 -- made it seem necessary that we develop both of these planes?
That may not be clear to the casual observer.
GEN. DARNELL: Mr. Bartlett, I'll take a stab at that.
Sir, the F-22 is designed really to be our air dominance aircraft when you compare the two.
It has an air-to-ground capability, and quite frankly --
REP. BARTLETT: By air-dominant you mean that it could contend in a aerial fight with the best aircraft in the world?
GEN. DARNELL: Not only that, sir, but it can -- it is also designed to penetrate IADS -- an Integrated Air Defense System --
REP. BARTLETT: And why is it better than the Joint Strike Fighter in doing that?
GEN. DARNELL: Sir, it's primarily because of its speed -- is the biggest reason.
REP. BARTLETT: Its speed would enable it to outrun missiles that were fired at it?
GEN. DARNELL: Sir, if you chose to disengage from a target area, yes. It allows you to do that.
REP. BARTLETT: And how about altitude?
GEN. DARNELL: It can super-cruise at very high altitude, which the F-35 cannot.
Now, when you look at the F-35, though, I think -- I think General Shackelford really covered it pretty well earlier. I mean, it's mean to be persistent in the battle area. It has got sensors on it that the F-22 does not -- for air to ground. That's what it's designed to do. It's an exquisite platform that has capabilities that the F-22 doesn't have.
REP. BARTLETT: Where in the world might we need the increased air dominance of the 22? Certainly not in Afghanistan and Iraq?
GEN. DARNELL: No, sir. It's designed for a high-end scenario. It's designed for major combat operations that might involve peer competitors.
REP. BARTLETT: Who in the world builds aircraft that are competitive with the Joint Strike Fighter and the 22?
GEN. DARNELL: At this point no one.
REP. BARTLETT: A recent secretary of the Air Force, Secretary Roche, told us that the best fighter aircraft in the world was the latest SU version, and I think there's been one since then.
GEN. DARNELL: Sir, the -- he may be speaking to the SU-35. I'm not sure what he's speaking to.
REP. BARTLETT: That's the number? Okay.
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, sir.
REP. BARTLETT: Yeah.
GEN. DARNELL: Which does not have the stealth characteristics. It's not even close.
Now, both the Chinese and the Russians are working on what we call a fifth-generation aircraft with the stealth characteristics that we have in F-22 and F-35.
There -- is it still -- and I would have to bring one of my intelligence folks in to give you an accurate estimate, but in my opinion, they're not close to fielding either one of those aircraft yet.
REP. BARTLETT: So in terms of penetration, we still are dominant.
What about in terms of speed and maneuverability and --
GEN. DARNELL: In terms of speed and altitude, we are still dominant. In terms of maneuverability, I think, quite frankly, with the SU-35, the margin is closing. But the F-22 is still a much more agile and maneuverable aircraft.
REP. BARTLETT: The 35 is a competitive aircraft? Some would say, in some respects, a superior aircraft. That's what the secretary told us. He was wrong?
GEN. DARNELL: He may have been alluding to our fourth-generation capability in our current F-15 fleet. Frankly, I think it is the equal or superior to that aircraft.
REP. BARTLETT: Okay, so until the 35 and the 22 -- the Russian plane was probably superior?
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, sir, at least equal or superior.
REP. BARTLETT: Okay. And they are now developing a new plane that will again challenge us for next generation?
GEN. DARNELL: That is under development, yes, sir.
REP. BARTLETT: Okay. Thank you very much.
I thought it would be interesting, Mr. Chairman, to get on the record why we should be developing, in this budget-constrained world, two fighter aircraft.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: When you say the Russian plane -- if I can follow just for a moment -- the Russian plane and/or Chinese variation, in what way -- what do they mean by a next generation or fifth generation, whatever generation it is for them?
Is that in terms of speed, in terms of distance that it can fly, in terms of -- what -- on all fronts?
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, sir. If they were to build a fifth- generation compatible -- or comparable aircraft, they're striving to have the same capabilities we do with our fifth-generation capable aircraft -- so speed and stealth being the primary attributes.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: What about distance that -- what distance can they fly? And how do you differentiate the -- by the way, the F-22 and the F-35.
GEN. DARNELL: The SU-35 -- which is not one I consider fifth generation, but it is the best they've got -- has a range which exceeds our current F-15 and F-16 fleet. I think it would be -- I think the range would be comparable with our fifth-generation aircraft -- F-22 and F-35.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: When we say range, by the way, I want to make sure, does that depend on whether -- how much fuel is being used -- what is being required of the plane? I mean if it's one thing if it just goes up in the air and flies as long as it can.
GEN. DARNELL: Right.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: That's different than going up and maneuvering.
GEN. DARNELL: Right. And internal capacity. I mean, they build very large aircraft. Their fighter aircraft tend to be -- have gotten bigger over the years. And their internal capacity has increased as a result.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Mm-hmm. So the -- with that projection the F- 22 -- now if there's things you can't talk about, just say so.
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, sir.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: But again, because this is for the record, as Mr. Bartlett says, and so people can understand it.
Then finally, does the -- compared with what they're doing, how do your projections of what you think you can talk about with regard to either the Chinese or the Russians or whoever it may be -- how do -- how does the development projected, as you understand it, compare to the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter?
GEN. DARNELL: They --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Presuming the Joint Strike Fighter is able to succeed in all its iterations.
GEN. DARNELL: Yes, sir. I think, quite frankly, sir -- and again, we can have our intelligence folks come over and talk to you --
REP. ABERCROMBIE: That's a separate issue. I'm asking you professionally, in terms of what you think those planes can do.
GEN. DARNELL: Yeah. I don't -- as far as their fifth-generation capability, they are probably double-digit years away from equaling our capability.
REP. ABERCROMBIE: Okay. The reason I go into that in some detail, just to amplify a bit, Mr. Ahern, that's what I meant about the business case. I don't think that this is a business -- I understand why the secretary might want to make that point or you would make that point, because you're trying to be prudent with dollars. I mean, that's -- I take that as a given.
I don't think that there are people in the Pentagon that are profligate in that regard and don't show any concern in that respect. And perhaps some of the arguments that have been made in public or with regard to particular platforms in the past, because there's been failures or missteps or a combination of these factors, where it made it seem there was waste or indifference to it. I don't think that that's the case here, and that's certainly not the position that we're taking.
My point simply is, if that's -- if -- whatever it takes to accomplish what General Darnell has been describing in general terms, then that's what we have to do.
And so, if in order to accomplish that we have to expend funds that wouldn't fit an ordinary case about what's the most efficient way of doing something -- sometimes the most efficient way of accomplishing something -- especially like the Joint Strike Fighter, which you're going to -- its variations are going to be asked to do different things, right? That is an extraordinarily complicated, detailed and lengthy process that is going to require a whole lot of cooperation and teamwork to get accomplished.
So we're well aware of that. And we want to try and maximize your opportunity to accomplish that as soon as possible but, more importantly, the correct way -- the way that you're comfortable with, professionally -- and saying, yes, I'd like to be in that plane. I'm comfortable in that. And I feel totally comfortable in asking someone who has to accept my orders to take that plane and do what needs to be done. So that's the whole motivation.
On that note, I thank you very, very much for your candidness.
And by the way, Mr. Ahern, I'm -- thank you very much for being straightforward today on a lot of these areas where you said you'd be getting back to us. We appreciate that, because that means it's being -- the questions are being taken seriously, and the implications are understood. We want to be partners in this. This is not a contest, I can assure you.
And I hope that by -- and in short order we'll be able to put together a defense bill we can all look to and be proud of.
Thank you very much, everybody. Aloha. (Sounds gavel.)