I was initially going to post on this when it was first announced, then I decided to just let this latest F-35 development lie where I thought it belonged (in the ‘Political Doublespeak ‘roundfile’) because the major blogs and news outlets weren’t giving it much play. I moved on to other interests, but should have anticipated that the more inflammatory of the pundit perches were merely saving up for a weekend rabble-rouser squawking. Defense Tech, in an unattributed piece started the red-meat varmint call early last Friday. The post itself was on the whole quite innocuous -if incomplete - but it was the rhetorical “we’ll see what happens next” at the end that calls out to the innumerate and the ignorant along with the casual observers to proffer uninformed opinions en masse. This would be, of course, perfectly acceptable as long as they are offered AS opinions. The problem with much of the DT/Military.Com crowd these days is that too often opinions and personal preferences offered are masquerading as absolute statements of fact without any specific evidence of same. Heck, we’re lucky if they even bother with a fallacious argument, and when they do, if one points out the argument is fallacious it will result in fallacious ad hominem thrown back reflexively. ( I'll check out the responses to my comment at DT after I get this up, but as I have noted before, JSF 'haters' are woefully short of logicians (link).
The WHOLE story and nothing but....
To quote the actual (and corrected) statement (link here)
"We recommend a $695 million reduction to the Joint Strike Fighter program. We continue to strongly support this program and believe that the F-35 is showing progress since it was restructured last year. However, excessive concurrency in development and production still exists. The test program is only 10 percent complete, yet the request continues to ramp up production of aircraft in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. We recommend maintaining production at the fiscal year 2011 levels for two more years in order to limit out year cost growth. For each aircraft we build this early in the test program, we will have to pay many millions in the future to fix the problems that are identified in testing.Instead of employing a teaser ‘let’s see what happens next’ approach, how about we ask ourselves ‘What might this (Senate decision and rationale offered) really mean?”
I. Decomposing the Appropriations Committees’ Recommendations
Note: Readers may skip this section and proceed directly to Part II if they desire, and revisit this section if they have questions as to my summary of the Committee’s core argument. In fact, unless you are predisposed for classical rhetoric, I STRONGLY recommend it.
2. The Appropriations Committee asserts that the F-35 program concurrency is “excessive”.
3. The Appropriations Committee continues “to strongly support” the Joint Strike Fighter program.
4. The Appropriations Committee believes the program has shown “strong progress” since last year.
5. The Appropriations Committee recommends maintaining the current production level at 35 aircraft per year for two more years (2012 & 2013) for the express purpose of “limiting out year cost growth”.
6. The Appropriations Committee asserts that each aircraft built “this early” in testing will require “many millions in the future to fix the problems that are identified in testing”
B. The Committee believes that this delay in ramping up production will reduce “excessive” program concurrency.
C. The Committee believes that reducing program concurrency will save the program “millions of dollars”.
It is not.
It is simple.
In spite of well over two decades of fear-mongering by detractors, 'Concurrency' in and of itself has been shown to be nothing to fear - only managed.
Then we get to Congressional testimony in May 1999 by Frank C. Conahan, Assistant Comptroller General, National Security and International Affairs Division of the GAO (link here):
Within, Mr, Conahan insists problems with 5 of 6 then-‘highly concurrent’ programs were related to concurrency (without any supporting rationale as to why concurrency is a problem) and took a swipe at the then-emerging DDG-51 program. His ardor was as palpable as his data was invisible. It drips with the fear that somebody must be doing something wrong someplace therefore the standard GAO response of 'more oversight' gets an entire section.
Our results (located at [link fixed by me], based on examining 28 programs across all Services, are very similar to those of the Congressional Budget Office and RAND [example] studies with one surprising exception: While from a purely statistical point of view we found that the relationship between both planned and actual concurrency and cost growth was very weak, in both cases, there seems to be a “sweet spot” of about 30 percent concurrency. That is, programs that plan on spending 30 percent of RDT&E funds while concurrently spending procurement funds actually experience the lowest average cost growth. Similarly, those programs that actually do spend about 30 percent of RDT&E funds while concurrently spending procurement dollars, even when not originally planned, also experience lower cost growth. Furthermore, programs with planned or actual levels of concurrency below 30 percent experienced higher cost growth than those with higher levels of concurrency. In other words, lower levels of planned or actual concurrency were actually worse than higher levels of concurrency. This is the complete opposite of what many in the acquisition community believe. We speculate that lower levels of concurrency may expose the program to higher levels of external changes.At the end of the AT&L article, the authors Donald Birchler, Gary Christle, and Eric Groo close with the following:
So far, no conclusive evidence exists that concurrency (no matter how it is defined) is generally a problem. This does not mean that concurrency is never a problem. But most likely, concurrency leads to cost and schedule growth under very particular circumstances. What these circumstances are is not very clear just yet. Nor is it clear why in our study, the sweet spot for concurrency is somewhere around the 30 percent mark. What is clear is that there are definite advantages to concurrently designing and building a weapons system that most program managers take advantage of, to some extent or another.
The  Congressional Budget Office study advised that “Congress may wish to take no further action regarding concurrent programs as a group,” given the very weak relationship between the concurrency and cost growth. Instead, the office argued that Congress should simply ask that DoD develop a consistent measure for concurrency to be published in a program’s acquisition report and then monitor programs to see how they are performing relative to their planned level of concurrency. More than 20 years later, this advice still seems to be appropriate.
Senators! – this time I’m talking to you!