|William Hartung describing the most inches of column he ever wrote without perverting |
reality to serve his ideological bent.
Everybody ready? All settled in? Then without further ado let’s throw ole Hartung’s Op Ed up on the slab, drain the corpse, and do the postmortem.
Don’t rush forward on the F-35
By William D. Hartung
To hear Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon tell it, the myriad problems with the F-35 combat aircraft are all behind us, and it is time to dramatically ramp up production of the plane. Nothing could be further from the truth. The plane continues to have basic problems with engine performance, software development, operating costs, maintenance, and reliability that suggest the Pentagon and the military services should proceed with caution.
This is a CLASSIC ‘Hartung’ opener. He begins with a scurilous attack: calling a dehumanized Lockheed Martin and Pentagon ‘liars’ [Hartung claims “they” say ‘x’ but Hartung says it is not ‘true’!]. Hartung then follows with an intentionally over-generalized laundry list of things that he asserts are in the ‘present tense’ (“The plane continues to have basic problems”) instead of observing these things he lists have occurred (more or less--usually less than how he describes them) and are either already in the past, or are being addressed per a viable plan now in execution. In any case, his over–generalization obfuscates events and encourages the casual reader to assume all the problems are significant and peculiar to the F-35 in the first place, when for the most part, these kinds of ‘problems’ have been part and parcel with any advanced aircraft development program since…..ever.
Hartung’s opening is ‘battlefield prep’. We’ve noted before the use of P.A.C.E. by the faux ‘reformers’ and this is a Hartung-style invocation of same. Hartung employs it for the same reason(s) POGO et al employ it: It is critical to the trite and cliché polemic-to-follow that Hartung bases his pitch upon two fundamental assumptions--which the Faux Military Reform crowd unvaryingly ground the bulk of their argumentation. These bases are:
1) A ‘problem’ is something that is never overcome or overtaken by events until it is proven to the ‘reformers’ satisfaction. And one wonders if it can ever REALLY be proven to be a thing of the past to the ‘reformer’ mind.
2) Closely related to #1 is the usually inferred assertion that no weapon system should be fielded until it is ‘mature’ (as decided by the ‘reformers’) vs. ‘mature enough’ (as decided BY THE OPERATORS). I would call the assertion “a belief” except I’m not nearly naïve enough to think they really believe what they want everyone else to accept.
Neither of these bases have any logical relationship to any generic real-world problem-solving nor program management activities, much less any proximity to weapon-system specific development experience. While it is exceedingly rare for a ‘Reformer’ to openly acknowledge these tenets, they are among the pillars of their basic doctrine.
Both bases of ‘reformer’ argumentation will be seen in full display through the rest of Hartung’s bloviating, but I consider the second basis the more onerous. It is easy for the average reader to catch on when the ‘reformers’ inevitably cling to claims about a specific problem too long after it is apparent it is no longer a problem to the average person. But as Hartung and his ilk are chronic agitators and manipulators of the technologically ignorant, those whom the ‘reformers’ gull into actually believing a weapon system COULD be ‘matured’ (to some unspoken and/or poorly defined standard BTW) before it is in the hands of the operators are MORE vulnerable. After all, most people have no idea of the amount of work is behind even the most trivial technology they use every day. Without these presumptive non-truths propping up the protestations, their hollow arguments immediately crumble and their motives become openly suspect to anyone applying the 'reasonable man test. I bring out this point upfront because just by remembering these are the key major premises, the reader is forewarned (and thus forearmed) to enjoy the rest of this ‘Fisking’ of Hartung’s yellow-press editorializing.
The ‘reformers’ chant their mantras of “risk”, “maturity”, etc.to explain their motivations, but this in spite of the fact that no one can show us such a case EVER occurring where a fully-functional weapon system emerged as a fully effective ‘whole’ coming out of the development phase. Nor has anyone ever adequately described how it could even be ‘possible’ without introducing more unspoken and equally erroneous ‘reformer’ assumptions into the equation. I’ve stated what I believe, but I leave it to the reader to decide if Hartung and his ilk are victims of their own bizarre ideology and rhetoric and therefore are of a kind with the people J.R. Pierce (I never tire of that guy!) identified in his famous dictum
Novices in mathematics, science, or engineering are forever demanding infallible, universal, mechanical methods for solving problems.....Or not.
Let’s continue dissecting Hartung’s rant….
If the F-35 isn’t ready for prime time, what’s the rush? The answer can be summed up in one word: politics. The decision to approve the Marines’ version of the plane for Initial Operating Capability (IOC) before the end of this year and the recent proposal to fund over 450 planes in the next several years are designed to make the F-35 program “too big to fail.” Once production reaches a certain tipping point, it will become even harder for members of Congress, independent experts, or taxpayers to slow down or exert control over the program.See how after setting up his presumptive preface (“If the F-35 isn’t ready for prime time..”) Hartung works from the assumption the reader has accepted his presumption and THEN builds a Strawman argument (or “begs the question”) :
” … what’s the rush? The answer can be summed up in one word: politics.”?
Hartung then attempts to suck the reader into his way of thinking by making more unsupported assertions up front. Hartung desires the slow-witted among us to view the F-35 program as HE says it is, not what those who are working the program say it is. And on a program that has seen its share of delays due more to preemptive programmatic decisions (risk avoidance) and external influences (stretching SDD to reduce concurrency) than from any real manifestations of technical issues (2 years),
What needs to be fixed before the F-35 is determined to be adequate to join the active force? Let’s start with the engine. On June 23 of last year an F-35’s engine caught on fire while the plane was taxiing on the runway at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Now, nearly a year later, a new report from the Air Force’s Accident Investigation Board attributed the fire to a catastrophic failure of the engine. So far, no long-term solution has been found to the problems identified by the accident investigation board. An April report by the Government Accountability Office has described the reliability of the engine as “very poor (less than half of what it should be).”Hartung often goes more than two paragraphs without making any concrete assertions before he starts introducing any specificity. I presume there was column-space limitation that curtailed his stem-winding this go-around. In any case, here he asserts, knowingly or unknowingly, two falsehoods.
In the first case, he characterizes the state of the permanent fix for the F135 engine as “no long-term solution has been found”. He would have been more accurate and far less deceptive if he had stated “no long-term solution selection has been publically announced”, as it has been ‘in all the papers’ that Pratt and Whitney had identified a number of options for the program to pick from, and that it is essentially a matter of evaluating the options and selecting the best option to follow.. But that isn’t hopeless sounding at all, certainly not as dire as Hartung’s little misdirection makes things sound does it? There is also no guarantee, because there is no need, that a detailed description of the final fix will even be announced.
In the second assertion, Hartung commits the Biased Sample (Cherry Picking) logical fallacy by holding up the GAO report as evidence and conveniently excluding uncontested Pratt and Whitney responses to same.
Problems have also plagued the plane’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), which is needed to keep the F-35 up and running. As Mandy Smithberger of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight puts it, “ALIS is the core to making sure the F-35 functions.” A report last year by the Pentagon’s independent testing office noted that the system had been “fielded with deficiencies.” In April, F-35 maintainers told members of the House Armed Services committee that 80 percent of the problems identified by ALIS were “false positives.” In addition, as Smithberger has noted, the rush to deployment means that there will be no careful assessment of how changes in ALIS affect other aspects of the aircraft’s performance.The funniest thing about this paragraph is I’m pretty sure neither Hartung nor Smithberger really know what the true scope and function of ‘ALIS’ is, but wha-ta-hay, let’s dissect some more.
First off, these guys apparently didn’t get the memo that the portable ‘ALIS’ was used in the Recent OT-1 aboard the USS Wasp. Software and hardware updates are pretty much going to plan. One exception is the 'downlink' to maintenance on inbound jets, which won’t be seen until Block 4. Personally, I don’t think that is a bad thing, as it is really evolved DoD security requirements driving the delay. The ‘false positives’ Mandy is quoted as all worried about are on their way to being overcome already. Maybe if Mandy had gone to a better school, y’know—an “Engineering College”, then advanced technology wouldn’t seem so daunting to her. That is, assuming she believes the crap she writes.
Mandy Smithberger, for those who haven’t been following the ‘reformer’ industry as closely as I have lo these many years, is the next-gen ‘Winslow Wheeler’ at POGO. For those who don’t know what “the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight” is…it’s a long story. Bottom line, it is a jobs program for anti-defense miscreants sponsored by one Phil Straus: an under-achieving-trust-fund-baby-cum-itinerant-‘photographer’ who is also, BTW, the Chairman of the Board of “Mother Jones”.
|Chairman Phil Strauss: Intellect held hostage by Ideology|
Mandy Smithberger, is a long-time POGOette who has only recently returned to the POGO sty from a finishing school of sorts. She dropped off POGO’s payroll for a while (to get her network mojo going with Congress and elsewhere I presume) spending time as a part-time “National Security Staffer” for a cheapa** Leftard Congresswoman whose main claim to fame is she didn’t get kill’t in the runup to, or climax of, the Jim Jones tragedy. Sure, Mandy looks pretty “cleaned-up’ nowadays, but just a few of years ago she was showing a more candid side:
|Mandy Smithberger (2011) letting out a little more of the inner feral SJW than thse days, Nothing says 'serious defense thinker' than a little body-modification involving piercings in places prone to infection.|
Let's move on to the next bit of spittle on the floor shall we?
There have also been serious problems with the helmet that is supposed to serve as an F-35 pilot’s eyes in the sky. Until the helmet is working to full capacity, the ability of an F-35 to drop bombs accurately or recognize enemy fighters will be impaired. And in April, the Pentagon’s office of independent testing noted that in the event of a failure of the helmet, a pilot would not be able to see what is happening below or behind the plane.In typical ‘Reform’ fashion, Hartung artfully ignores 1) the fact that the helmet’s capabilities are every bit under development as the rest of the plane, 2) the needed capabilities weren’t even known to be possible when the program began but were seen as desirous and worth the effort, and 3) that the capabilities are coming online in accordance with the current plan.
The last assertion Hartung makes is a howler. Somebody tell him 1) no one else can even see through their plane on their BEST day and 2) the pilot doesn’t have to look behind him or use his helmet to ‘see’(eyeball) anything behind him as he can ‘see’ it on his panel if he or she desires. In any case, the rest of the F-35 systems still provide the pilot with situational awareness superior to any other candidate Hartung could imagine….if he could 'imagine' that is.
Declaring planes ready before they can actually meet basic performance standards is not a responsible approach to fielding an aircraft. Down the road, many of the problems that have yet to be resolved will require expensive retrofits of planes already in the force.I could really pick on Hartung here and challenge him on exactly what he means by ‘basic’ performance standards, but the real problem is he’s F.O.S. about what kind of capability EVER can be initially fielded, because EVEN IF A WEAPON WAS PERFECT from the first article rolling out the door, the operators are the ones that will mature the capability over time. His claim is essentially 'not doing the impossible is irresponsible'. No. What IS irresponsible, is his penchant for making these kind of asinine assertions. It is yet another typical ‘Reformer’ tactic: ignore the real expectations set by the acquisition system and complain that the possible isn’t ‘enough’.
Hartung begins his signoff by making the now-cliché assertion that the F-35 is somehow ‘flawed’ because it is a multi-role fighter and attack aircraft:
The specific performance issues cited above don’t address a more fundamental problem with the F-35. The program is grounded in a basic conceptual flaw. Expecting variants of the same aircraft to serve as a fighter, a bomber, a close air support aircraft, and a plane that can land on Navy carriers and do vertical take off and landing for the Marines has resulted in design compromises that means it does none of these things as well as it should, given its immense cost.Why, oddly enough, the above is EXACTLY the kind of stupid-think one would expect from a ‘journalist’ who came out years ago as a peace-at-any-price social activist and who I note STILL has NO relevant experience or knowledge base upon which to make such a judgement. If one did have the relevant qualifications, one might ask oneself why it is then that among the most produced aircraft in the post Korean-War era, nearly all of them are multi-role fighters? Hartung is just being an over-the-top idiot on this point, but he’s not alone. This has become ‘Reformer’ Canon, so expect it to persist years after FOC.
Current plans call for an average expenditure of over $12 billion per year for procurement of the F-35 through 2038, a figure that will be unsustainable unless other proposed programs like a new tanker, a new bomber, and a new generation of more capable unmanned aerial vehicles are substantially scaled back.Gee. More Hartung-Brand pronouncements (“will be unsustainable unless X, Y, or Z”) that exclude the little point that the F-35 costs are coming down into current 4th Generation cost territory (as planned) and I think what Hartung fears most about the bulk buy is that if it happens then the costs will almost certainly continue to drop faster. I note here (again) that the only way the procurement of the F-35 goes through to 2038 is if they are successful AND the need for as many as planned continues. The most important thing for keeping total acquisition cost down is not the total number to be bought, but the rate at which they are bought: more ‘early’ equals more ‘cheaper’.
‘Dropping names’ as he does when mentioning new 'bombers' and new 'UAVs' reminds me of another favorite ‘reformer’ tactic: always promote the last program or the next program over the current program: lather, rinse, repeat.
Unless further, realistic testing can demonstrate that the F-35 can adequately perform all of its proposed missions, it’s not worth the cost. The Pentagon should slow down and make sure it knows what it’s getting before it spends tens of billions of additional taxpayer dollars on the F-35. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) should subject the program to close scrutiny during his committee’s proposed strategic review of major acquisition programs.Ah, the final ‘pronouncement’. The DoD Customers (even the Navy) , US Partners, and FMS Customers know exactly what they are getting. Hartung just wants everyone to agree with his crap. This last paragraph does perhaps identify who his real target audience is though. I don’t think even McCain is that stupid, but maybe his constituents are?
Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.No. Hartung’s a rabid anti-defense shill from within the Faux Reform Astroturf Noise Machine. He'd be a loyal babbler if he was still a journalist, and the CIP has it's toes in many things 'left', so Hartung could be considered a Stalwart operating inside a Fellow Traveler network.