FRCSW/COMFRC Top News Clips – Week of September 6, 2016

LOCAL COVERAGE

New capabilities, programs bring hiring blitz to FRCSE

Fair winds and following seas: Meier leaves legacy of inspiration, mentorship

FRC East worker honored for 63 years

Zarzaca adds capability to Air-6.0, named employee of quarter

Countering the Readiness Challenge

 

WORLD/NATIONAL NEWS

F/A-18 Crashes Rise Rapidly As Budget Constraints Have Led To Overused Planes, Undertrained Pilots

Miramar Fighter Pilots Aren’t Flying Enough, Reps. Warn

Military jet crashes on rise as some cite training and fleet issues

Almost A Million Expected To Opt For ‘Blended’ Retirement

Pentagon: “Play Hardball” Against Ryan Plan

Budget Hell: Kendall Prays For 3-Month CR, Fears 6

Better Buying Power 4.0 Would Focus On Sustainment

 

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LOCAL COVERAGE

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New capabilities, programs bring hiring blitz to FRCSE

(FLEET READINESS CENTER SOUTHEAST, 01 SEP 16) . Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Public Affairs

 

Though Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) has been the U.S. Navy’s aviation mechanic since the bi-plane era, the facility is growing at a clip not seen in decades.

 

With its headquarters at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FRCSE can at times fly under the radar of many civilians. Yet the word is getting out.

 

“I’m totally blown away,” said Army veteran Jim Rice, originally from Belfast, Maine. Rice was recently hired as a sheet metal worker.

 

‘I’m not blowing smoke, this is a great environment,” he said. “It’s only been a little more than a month, but everything is going really well.”

 

Rice is not alone. With ground-breaking work on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s avionics systems – along with the facility’s current work on F/A-18 fighters, H-60 helicopters, P-3C patrol planes, trainer aircraft and the possible assumption of maintenance duties for presidential helicopters – FRCSE has expanded its civilian workforce to 3,155 civilian employees. That’s more than 500 people in the last two years.

 

FRCSE is already the largest industrial employer in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, but is looking for more. Positions still being sought include sheet metal mechanics, aircraft mechanics, aircraft painters, machinists, non-destructive inspection (NDI) technicians, as well as aeronautical, industrial and electrical engineers, among others.

 

The new faces hail from all corners of the country. Some are just out of school, while others have decades of experience.

 

FRCSE sheet metal worker Sam Arulraj, 29, was attending Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Airframes and Power Plant (A&P) Program at Cecil Commerce Center, when FRCSE general foreman Buster Hathcock and human resources supervisor Ponhara Po visited the class.

 

“As an A&P mechanic, you can go anywhere around the world,” the Hilliard, Florida native said. “So I did have that option. I also had an option to go to a civilian employer and I turned that down. FRCSE picked me up and I said, ‘Hey, this is the best thing going on in Jacksonville and that’s what I’m going to do.’

 

“So for my family, my future, my career, I wanted to make this my full-time, forever thing.”

 

Leonard Timms, a recently hired sheet metal mechanic at FRCSE, is now back where his naval career began more than two decades ago. Originally from Lubbock, Texas, Timms spent 21 years on active duty, which culminated in a tour as a crew chief with the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.

 

“I wanted to work on Hornets. These are like my babies since they’re what I worked on during my active duty time,” Timms said in his southern drawl. “At one point, I’d been on every carrier except the USS Kitty Hawk.”

 

After a Navy career that included four deployments and a tour with the Blue Angels, he was ready to spend more time with his family. But something else contributed to his interest in FRCSE.

 

“I wanted to keep working for my country,” he said. “I want to keep getting these back to the fleet to my brothers and sisters.”

 

Though sheet metal mechanics, machinists and other tradesmen are essential to FRCSE, the facility also employs a slew of employees like chemists, engineers and business professionals.

 

John Lowe, a recently hired business management specialist at FRCSE, spent 23 years in the Army. Wounded while serving in Afghanistan, Lowe retired and earned a bachelor’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master of business administration from the College of William & Mary.

 

“I’m happy to be here,” Lowe said. “It’s going to be nice to be able to serve my country in a different way.”

 

Hathcock, the general foreman of the facility’s P-3C Orion production line, has the perspective of 36 years at FRCSE. He joined the facility fresh out of four years of service as an Army paratrooper. He now visits colleges and attends job fairs to bring in the next generation of FRCSE employees.

 

“I came here in 1980 as an apprentice making $4.88 per hour,” he said. “I’ve worked my way up and now I’m a general foreman.

 

“That’s what I try to tell these young guys out here: Get in here, come to work every day, do what you’re supposed to do and keep learning. It’s a great career. It’s been good to me.”

 

http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.NAVAIRNewsStory&id=6350

 

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Fair winds and following seas: Meier leaves legacy of inspiration, mentorship

(NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, 31 AUG 16) . Naval Air Systems Command Air-6.0 Public Affairs

 

NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — After 36 years of government service, Toni Meier, director of Logistics Management Integration (AIR 6.6), Logistics and Industrial Operations (AIR 6.0), Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), bid farewell to her colleagues and friends at a retirement luncheon here Aug. 23.

 

“I’ve been blessed to have a career supporting our warfighters,” Meier began, “and am honored to have worked with all of you. Thank you for all that you do to improve our processes, create national support contracts, develop training and keep providing excellent support to our warfighters. ”

 

As AIR 6.6, Meier guided its approximately 1,300 employees in integrated logistics support for 3,900 naval aviation aircraft and weapons programs. Meier managed an operating budget of $100 million that directly influenced $1.3 billion of program logistics acquisition budgets.

 

Meier began her career as a GS-1 shipment clerk at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, and credits mentors and participation in professional development programs for directing her path to the Senior Executive Service (SES).

 

She is known for being a strong advocate of mentoring and served as a champion for the NAVAIR Women’s Advisory Group (WAG), one of three sub-teams operating under NAVAIR’s Executive Diversity Council, a senior leadership group that provides guidance, advocacy and support in areas related to workforce diversity and inclusion.

 

“One of my favorite activities since becoming an SES has been acting as a champion for the WAG,” Meier said. “I have enjoyed watching this group of women and men work to make sure that women working for NAVAIR feel they are valued members of the team and are encouraged to seek whatever opportunities they desire.”

 

Meier was also a regular participant in AIR 6.0 speed mentoring events and was the inaugural guest speaker for the WAG’s “Breaking through Barriers: Entry-Level Women” group. The group, whose meetings are open to all, seeks to address ways to help new employees assimilate into the military-civilian culture at NAVAIR.

 

Todd Balazs, deputy assistant commander, AIR 6.0, spoke to Meier’s knack for encouraging her workforce in their career progression. He noted that more than 70 percent of her workforce is registered in the Talent Management Dashboard (TMD), a self-help tool for employees to voluntarily track their professional development and to manage their careers.

 

“This is not because of her ‘pushing’ them to do so,” Balazs said, “but because she has inspired them to take charge of their careers.”

 

“Toni leaves behind a legacy of talented logisticians that are ready to manage the challenges facing Naval Aviation in the future,” he said.

 

Prior to taking the helm of AIR 6.6 in December 2011, Meier served as technical director for NAVAIR’s Naval Aviation Readiness and Resource Analysis Department. Her past assignments include assistant program executive officer (PEO), Tactical Aircraft, Logistics; product support team leader for the P-3; and H-60 director of logistics.

 

Asked what she will miss most, Meier doesn’t hesitate to answer: “All of the great people that work at NAVAIR. I know they do their best to support our warfighters, and I am proud to have worked with all of them.”

 

http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.NAVAIRNewsStory&id=6348

 

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FRC East worker honored for 63 years

Dawkins has been a part of federal service since 1953

(HAVELOCK NEWS, 08 SEPT 16) . Drew C. Wilson

 

Freddie J. Dawkins, a pneudraulics systems mechanic at Fleet Readiness Center East at Cherry Point, was lauded as a national treasure Wednesday.

 

Dawkins, 81, of New Bern, received the Department of the Navy Career Service Award signed by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at a ceremony honoring his 63 years of service in the armed forces and as a civil servant.

 

Dawkins joined the Air Force in 1953 and worked with the Tuskegee Airmen. He served for 26 years plus time as a reservist. After working at Alameda Naval Air Station from 1981 to 1995, Dawkins came to Fleet Readiness Center East in January, 1995. He has been there ever since.

 

In presenting the award, Col. Vincent E. Clark, commanding officer of FRC East, called Dawkins a “national treasure.”

 

“It is not something that is being given to you,” said Clark. “You earned that.”

 

“You are a piece of history too,” Clark said. “You continue on. The standards you have set, the longevity, you persistence, your perseverance, you are quite the gentleman and quite the professional and quite the example for all to emulate. It takes the personal commitment on a personal and a professional level. It takes the individual commitment and the individual initiative, the drive, the endurance. I can go on and on. You are a shining example, Mr. Dawkins, for all.”

 

Supervisors and coworkers alike had encouraging words about Dawkins and his service to the nation, but also for bringing a personal touch to the FRC East team around whom he worked.

 

“When I found out about this day, I had to be here,” said Cynthia Hargett-Hill, G manager. “I had the privilege of being Mr. Fred’s PC (production controller) starting in 2012. There is one thing I can say about Mr. Fred that I will always remember: You never knew that when you brought your cards and when you brought your flowers and when you brought your candy, you never knew that your gift to some of us was the only gift we received on that day, and I want you to know that you touched my heart, and I will always remember that. When Mother’s Day came, when Valentines came, when Christmas came, and even when birthdays came, us ladies didn’t have anything to worry about.”

 

He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and had 125 combat missions while serving in the Vietnam War. Dawkins also served in the Korean War.

 

“That was an early part of my career and we had to be a qualified engine mechanic to qualify for the flying missions,” said Dawkins.

 

“I’m proud to serve. I would do it again and in the same token, I am really, really appreciative of being given the opportunity to serve and being allowed to serve,” Dawkins said. “That’s my heart.”

 

“The only thing I would do different is more of it,” said Dawkins, who doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon.

 

Clark said it was “unspeakable” the honor of awarding Dawkins for his years of service to the country.

 

Dawkins said his most important accomplish in his career was flying.

 

“Flying and being in Vietnam and supporting the mission and doing the job that I came into the military to do,” said Dawkins. “That’s the highlight, from day one. I am a military man and I love it.”

 

Dawkins offered advice to young workers to set them on the right track for their careers.

 

“You’ve got to set a goal. You have got to really want to be able to do it,” said Dawkins. “I went to a military school, so I knew when I came out of that school I was going into the military one way or the other. I would advise them to start right now. When you come out of high school, make up your mind. It’s a good career. It’s good to you and it’s good for you. That’s all I can tell a youngster to do. Go in the military.”

 

Dawkins said it has been “wonderful and beautiful” to be involved with all the FRC East workers he has had the opportunity to know through the years.

 

“When I first got here, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Dawkins. “I came here to do two years and 21 years later I’m still here. It has just been a beautiful experience for me here at the FRC.”

 

http://www.havenews.com/news/20160907/frc-east-worker-honored-for-63-years

 

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Zarzaca adds capability to Air-6.0, named employee of quarter

(NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, 07 SEPT 16) . Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers Public Affairs

 

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — Ten years is a long time, and that’s how long Naval Air Systems Command has been without the organic capability to manage training systems plans. One NAVAIR logistics professional is working to change that and, for his efforts, was named the Air-6.0 employee of the quarter for the second quarter of 2016.

 

Joseph Zarzaca, Navy Training Systems Plan (NTSP) program and operations manager in the Industrial and Logistics Maintenance Planning/Sustainment Department (Air-6.7), has established an internal government capability for managing NTSPs for NAVAIR previously provided by contractors. He and his 12-member team manage the complete administrative tracking of activities, including NTSP development tasks, schedules and funding for more than 200 aviation platforms and systems.

 

Todd Balazs, deputy assistant commander for Logistics and Industrial Operations, said the new capability helps increase NAVAIR’s credibility to its customers.

 

“When the fleet wants to know how to do something, they can call NAVAIR because that’s who they can trust, and we can support that warfighter,” he said.

 

Humble for being selected to the award, Zarzaca credited his team for providing support on the program.

 

“It’s easy coming to work each day when your team is like family,” Zarzaca said. “Hopefully I’m making them look good and making their jobs easier.”

 

Tracy Moran, Air-6.7 director, praised Zarzaca’s management skills in her award nomination letter.

 

“His wealth of subject matter expertise and sharing of corporate knowledge drastically improved the overall performance of the NTSP team,” she wrote. “By his efforts, he established an organic team of professional NTSP product developers, a workforce construct that has not been in place for over 10 years.

 

http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.NAVAIRNewsStory&id=6357

 

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Countering the Readiness Challenge

(NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, 08 SEPT 16) . Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers Public Affairs

 

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — Keeping mission-capable aircraft on the flightline for pilots to be ready for tasking, also known as Ready Basic Aircraft (RBA), is a never-ending challenge for logisticians and maintainers. And for a variety of factors, there are many aircraft on flight lines that are not available to fight tonight.

 

Logisticians from across Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Logistics and Industrial Operations (Air-6.0) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River gathered in the installation theater Aug. 24 to talk about countering the RBA challenge and some of the planning tools available to get more aircraft accessible to pilots.

 

The forum was part of a regular discussion series of hot topics for logisticians to discuss challenges and share solutions.

 

“The Marine Corps has . one third of its aircraft that are down that should be flying,” said Todd Balazs, deputy assistant commander of Air-6.0. “The Navy has between 10 and 11 percent down. We have a problem.

 

“The pilots who need to maintain proficiency can’t do so if their aircraft are down,” he said.

 

The logisticians heard from guest speaker Brian Scurry, executive director of Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF), U.S. Pacific Fleet. CNAF is responsible for the Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers, 3,800 Navy and Marine Corps aircraft and more than 100,000 professionals supporting naval air forces.

 

“We don’t have all the funding and resources we need and we don’t have as many aircraft on the flightline that are mission capable, so about 10 years ago we started a tiered readiness concept,” Scurry said.

 

Tiered readiness calls for squadrons to typically reduce training and increase maintenance following deployments. However, with the lack of RBA and as squadrons lose aircraft to maintenance, repair, overhaul, or other reasons, the ability to keep pilots and crews proficient is reduced.

 

“When they get ready to deploy, pilots have this ‘Mount Everest’ slope (of proficiency) to get back up on to get ready to go,” Scurry said. “We have noticed the performance . is noticeably lower than it was five, 10 years ago. We directly attribute this to the reduction of RBA.”

 

Toni Meier, NAVAIR director of Logistics Management Integration, talked about some of the lines of effort her division is undertaking to address the RBA shortage.

 

Some of the initiatives including building RBA playbooks to help achieve and sustain fleet operational capability requirements, understand and communicate current and forecasted weapon system availability and identify the funding necessary to execute the plans.

 

“We’re trying to pull all this together and put it in the plan and figure out how much will it cost to get there,” she said.

 

Meier said one funding solution includes finding ways to decrease the time needed for funding maintenance and materials by using a portfolio of Navy-wide, multiple award contracts for the acquisition of aviation industrial support.

 

Tracy Moran, director of the NAVAIR Industrial and Logistics Maintenance Planning/Sustainment Department, said among other initiatives, her department is working to improve Bills of Materials (BoMs), which are lists of parts or components that are required to build a product.

 

“BoMs build the (spare parts and supplies) forecast,” Moran said, which helps ensure materials are available when needed.

 

The Aviation Readiness and Resource Analysis division, led by Roy Harris, is working to understand trends to help better address the RBA gap by being more proactive with readiness and resource analysis.

 

“In the past we had monthly snap-shots of data that was looking in the rearview mirror,” Harris said. “It was good information, but it was maybe not as effective as we wanted.”

 

The new initiatives with “allow us to get ahead of issues in enough time to where we can wholly impact what happens on the flight line,” he said. “Stopping aircraft from going down before they go down, that is the ultimate end-goal.”

 

http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.NAVAIRNewsStory&id=6358

 

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WORLD/NATIONAL NEWS

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F/A-18 Crashes Rise Rapidly As Budget Constraints Have Led To Overused Planes, Undertrained Pilots

(STARS AND STRIPES, 01 SEP 16) … Tara Copp

 

WASHINGTON – A year ago, Navy and Marine Corps leaders gave a dire warning to Congress: Budget cuts have hurt nondeployed units and could cost lives during a major conflict.

 

The losses happened, but not in combat. Pilots died training at home.

 

Since May, four F/A-18 Hornet or F/A-18E/F Super Hornet crashes involving nondeployed units killed two pilots and destroyed five planes.

 

The crashes are the latest in a sharp increase in military aviation accidents overall for nondeployed squadrons, which have absorbed the bulk of budget cuts through reduced training and delayed maintenance at home so the best aircraft and personnel can be used on the front lines.

 

In 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act that instituted automatic federal spending cuts known as sequestration. By March 2013, the across-the-board cut to all spending programs started to take effect.

 

The Defense Department’s operations and maintenance account, which pays for flight training and repairs on aircraft, lost $20.3 billion that year, according to the Government Accountability Office.

 

Two workhorse aircraft of military aviation – the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet – were affected.

Since 2012, the number of major Navy and Marine Hornet and Super Hornet accidents – incidents causing at least $50,000 in damage and in some cases leading to injury, death or the loss of the $60 million aircraft – skyrocketed 44 percent, according to data collected by the Naval Safety Center in Norfolk, Va.

 

“It’s extremely clear what’s happened,” said California-based Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilot Lt. “Versace,” who asked to be identified by his call sign only because he was not authorized to speak on the issue. “These aircraft have reached their life span and they continue to extend their life spans for another few thousand flight hours, which hasn’t worked for them due to significant budget decreases. Yet they continue to run these jets that have caused catastrophic incidents.”

 

After the most recent F/A-18 Hornet crash Aug. 2 at Fallon Naval Air Station in Nevada, some experts who watch military readiness said Navy and Marine aviation is in trouble.

 

“I believe naval aviation is at risk of eventual systemic failure,” said retired Navy Cmdr. Chris Harmer, now a senior naval analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank in Washington. “Either funding needs to be significantly increased in order to restore airframe availability and pilot proficiency and support current operations, or operational tempo needs to be drastically reduced.”

 

Recent Accidents

 

The Navy and Marines rank their aviation accidents as mishaps, with the top three most damaging as Class A through C. Class A is the highest level of crash and means a pilot was killed or permanently disabled or the aircraft sustained at least $2 million in damage.

 

Since sequestration, the number of Class A through C mishaps involving Hornets or Super Hornets has climbed from 57 in fiscal year 2012 to 82 as of Aug. 2 of this fiscal year, according to data from the Naval Safety Center.

 

Not only Hornets or Super Hornets have been affected. Across the board, the number of Navy and Marine aircraft lost in accidents has doubled during the first 11 months of fiscal year 2016 compared to the same time in 2015. Twenty aircraft had been destroyed as of Aug. 29, compared to 10 aircraft during the same time in 2015, according to Naval Safety Center data obtained by Stars and Stripes.

 

But attention has focused on the Hornets after a recent string of crashes.

 

On Aug. 2, a Navy pilot safely ejected after the F/A-18C he was flying experienced an engine fire at Nevada’s Naval Air Station Fallon. Flights are required to test aircraft after having certain engine or cockpit repairs or if the plane hasn’t been flown in 30 days, according to the Navy.

 

Marine pilot Maj. Richard Norton was killed July 28 when the F/A-18C he was flying crashed near Twentynine Palms in California during a nighttime training mission.

 

A crash in June of another F/A-18C during a Blue Angels practice flight killed Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss.

 

Two Super Hornet F/A-18/F aircraft collided in May during a training mission off the coast of North Carolina. The four crewmembers ejected and were rescued.

 

The Role Of Flight Hours

 

Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for Marine Corps aviation, told lawmakers in July that the spike in Class A mishaps involving the Hornet looked worse than it is because the service was flying fewer hours.

 

“It’s actually kind of on par where it has been in the past,” he said. But with a smaller number of flight hours, “every mishap makes this bump up a lot.”

 

However, the Marines and Navy have seen their overall number of flight hours – deployed and home training – stay relatively the same during the past few years, according to data from the Naval Safety Center.

 

Combat demands on aircraft remain high and are the priority, the Navy and Marine Corps said. Since Operation Inherent Resolve began in late 2014, aircraft from the Navy’s carrier strike groups have taken on an increasing amount of the combat load. When the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt ended its deployment to the Middle East in late 2015, it had set a record for the number of bombs it had dropped against the Islamic State group. When the USS Harry S. Truman took its place, the Truman set new records again, not only in bombs dropped but in total flight hours.

 

That means even fewer hours available at home.

 

“Regrettably … you’re going to see [nondeployed] pilots that aren’t flying very much,” Rear Adm. Michael Manazir, director of Navy air warfare, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April.

 

Manazir told committee members that the minimum number of hours a Navy pilot can fly each month to stay safe is 11.

 

“We call that the tactical hard deck,” he said. “Studies have been done by the safety center that say, ‘If pilots fly less than 11 on a regular basis, there is a chance that mishaps will go higher.'”

 

Versace said he’s noticed the difference in the amount of time that he gets to fly.

 

“A lot has changed since I first started flying with the Navy,” he said. “Budgets are taking a significant toll on many military personnel. Many aviators have had their hours decreased. Personally, since flying the F/A-18E/F for 41/2 years, my flight hours have annually decreased by 15 percent.”

 

The Marines saw its low point for F/A-18 Hornet flight hours last summer, when it averaged 8.8 hours per month per pilot for nondeployed squadrons, Davis said. Increased funding and an emphasis to improve readiness has upped that average to 11.1 as of August 2016, said Capt. Sarah Burns, a spokeswoman for the Marines.

 

Naval Air Forces Rear Adm. Mike Shoemaker said at a recent defense forum that the average flight hours for the Navy for the nondeployed squadrons is 12 to 14 hours a month.

 

“That’s the average, there some who are down in the probably single digits and there are some who are flying above that … squadron [commanding officers] are managing that,” he said.

 

What It Means For Pilots

 

An average flight is about 1.2 to 1.4 hours, said retired Col. John Venable, who piloted F-16s for the Air Force for two decades and is now a senior defense fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.

 

Eleven hours means each pilot is only flying about twice a week. Venable said getting enough hours is key to being ready to fly.

 

“Flying is very volatile,” he said. “Your ability to not have to think about the task at hand was all related to how often you flew.”

 

Venable said a pilot needs to fly at least three times a week to maintain readiness. Twice a week isn’t enough.

“If you fly me three times a week, I sustain,” he said. “If you fly me two times a week, I am going to lose something.”

 

A lack of flying time does add to the rise in accidents, said Seth Cropsey, a former Navy officer who served as the deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

 

“When you send pilots up there who haven’t had time in the planes – [that is] what you get,” he said.

“Something has to give.”

 

Lack Of Aircraft

 

Reduced funding at a time when the Navy and Marine aircraft are required for many missions has dropped the number of aircraft available to pilots, members of Congress and the military have said.

 

“Intense budgetary pressures and years of high levels of ongoing operations have created a situation where the Navy and Marine Corps do not have enough ready basic aircraft for our aviators to fly,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said at a Senate hearing in April.

 

Increased use of aircraft has required more repairs on them or aged them to the point of no longer being useful, the Navy and members of Congress said. The budget cuts in 2013 forced layoffs at depots where the work was being done, Naval Air Forces Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld said. The rate of repairs has still not recovered.

 

In April, Davis said those pressures have specifically affected the Hornets and the pilots who fly them. He cited a report showing that of the Marines’ 276 Hornets, only 87 were available for missions.

 

“Out of those 87 airplanes, I put 30 airplanes in the training squadron and 40 airplanes for deployment. There’s not [enough] left for the units to train with during the day,” he said.

 

Of the Navy’s 259 Hornets, 55 were mission-capable, or able to perform “at least one and potentially all of its missions” as of July 28, Groeneveld said.

 

Of the Navy’s 544 Super Hornets, 290 were mission-capable, she said.

 

Working On A Fix

 

The Navy planned to stop buying Super Hornets in anticipation of the arrival of the F-35C, its version of the new Joint Strike Fighter.

 

As the F-35 program faced delays and setbacks, it was unable to relieve pressure from the F/A-18. It is expected to reach initial operational capability in mid-2018.

 

As a result, the older Hornets are reaching the end of their service life faster, and newer Super Hornets are aging more quickly than the Navy planned.

 

To address that, the Navy is pushing the aircraft to last 8,000 hours of flight time, Groeneveld said. In some cases, the planes are being overhauled to squeeze 10,000 hours out of them, she said.

 

“The F/A-18 Hornet was originally designed for a 6,000-hour service life,” Groeneveld said.

 

The Navy is considering buying extra Super Hornets to fill any gap between the time that the current jets wear out and the F-35 is finally ready. In May, USNI News reported that the Navy was seeking $1.5 billion to buy 14 extra Super Hornets to ease some of the strain on the current fleet. The extra aircraft are meant to serve as a bridge until the Navy’s version of the F-35 is ready. The aircraft, the F-35C, is finishing its final flight tests aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington this month, and the Navy is expected to declare initial operational capability for it next year. The Marine Corps and Air Force have declared their versions initial operational capable, but neither has been used in combat roles.

 

Without ready replacements, there is not another option, Groeneveld said.

 

“Despite its age and high-utilization rates, we continue to depend on the Hornet to be combat-ready,” she said. “We have an extensive ongoing effort to monitor, assess and repair, to safely extend some of our Hornet aircraft to a 10,000-hour service life,” she said.

 

But a fix won’t be quick, as the Navy and Marines deal with the limitations caused by funding cuts.

“It will take time to recover from the significant challenges we have faced in recent years,” she said.

 

http://www.stripes.com/news/f-a-18-crashes-rise-rapidly-as-budget-constraints-have-led-to-overused-planes-undertrained-pilots-1.426688

 

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Miramar Fighter Pilots Aren’t Flying Enough, Reps. Warn

The aging F-18 fleet is stuck in deep maintenance and aviators aren’t spending enough time training, House member say

(SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE 01 SEP 16) … Joshua Stewart

 

OCEANSIDE – A maintenance backlog of Marine Corps F-18 Hornets is so extensive that pilots aren’t getting enough flight hours to keep their skills well-honed, bipartisan members of Congress said Thursday.

 

“They’re flying very far below what we would consider an adequate level of training,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista. “We don’t have enough aircraft to get them to 16 or 20 hours (flying the F-18 per month), even if the fuel or assets were available.”

 

Issa and Reps. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove; Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, toured Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Thursday and were briefed on efforts to extend the life of its Hornets, the only fighter jet Marines fly from aircraft carriers.

 

“They’re really struggling with the age of the F-18 fleet,” Peters said at a news conference before the group headed off for a tour of Camp Pendleton.

 

The Department of the Navy is overhauling the Hornets, an aircraft that was designed to last 6,000 flight hours, to last up to 10,000 hours. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan kept the jets in heavy use, and delays in development and testing of the F-35 Lightning II meant that the debut of the Hornet’s replacement got pushed back.

 

That created a situation where the Navy and Marine Corps workhorse fighter jet was wearing itself out before the next generation F-35 could enter the fleet.

 

“With the slippage on that, we’ve have had to get more time out of our F-18s, for example, at Miramar,” Sanchez said. “So there are two issues there. There’s the whole (spare part) supplier network who thought at some time that they would be ramping down and be getting ready for the F-35 and of course that hasn’t happened. And some of them went out of business, got out of business, and it’s difficult to now get the parts.

“And secondly … the longer you have those airframes, of course, it’s like anything else, the more wear and tear you have on something, the more maintenance you have to do.”

 

That maintenance means that more planes are in hangars being fixed and not in squadrons where they can be used for training. A current count of the number of aircraft in the Marine Corps inventory that are mission-capable was not readily available. In April , Deputy Commandant for Marine Corps Aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, said that just 87 of the 276 in the service’s inventory were ready for missions, and the Corps was well short of the 174 mission-capable aircraft it’s required to have on hand.

 

This has a major impact on the work of the Corps’ mechanics as well as pilots and flight officers, Sanchez said. The number of Marines maintaining the aircraft hasn’t grown, so they’re doing more work than normal. With fewer aircraft available to fly, aviators are getting less time in the air.

 

Younger pilots, Sanchez said, aren’t getting the training they need with their squadrons and could be weaker during future missions.

 

Earlier this spring Issa, a pilot himself, rode in the back seat of a Miramar F-18A that already had been overhauled. Despite the aircraft’s age, it performed under extreme physical strain from its maneuvers with no unusual risk, he said.

 

Issa said that with the recognition of problems facing the F-18s, “Congress needs to ask for more of a strategic plan for how these aircraft are going to last until 2030 safely.”

 

Sanchez organized the tour and Issa said his flight in the F-18 prompted the delegation’s visit. They also visited BAE Systems’ and NASSCO’ shipyards, and planned to tour Camp Pendleton later on Thursday.

 

Turner, Sanchez and Peters are all members of the House Armed Services Committee.

 

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/sep/01/miramar-fighter-pilots-arent-flying-enough-reps/

 

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Military jet crashes on rise as some cite training and fleet issues

(FOX NEWS, 02 SEPT 16) . By Lucas Tomlinson

 

Marine Maj. Sterling Norton, 36, was killed when his F/A-18 Hornet crashed on July 28 during a live-fire nighttime training accident in Southern California.

 

Less than a week later, another F/A-18 from the same squadron crashed outside Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev. The pilot ejected safely – but it was the squadron’s third F/A-18 crash since October – two of which were fatal.

 

The Marine Corps, in response, conducted a one-day safety stand-down.

 

But such accidents are becoming more frequent – amid concerns that insufficient training and an aging fleet hobbled by a shortage of spare parts are contributing factors. A Fox News investigation reveals that, overall, the entire U.S. military saw a 48 percent increase in non-combat aviation crashes in 2014 and 2015 compared with the two prior years, based on press reports.

 

“They are going up partly because they are not getting the training they should get. They’re going up because maintenance is harder and harder to accomplish. They are going up because the airplanes are getting older and older,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, in an interview with Fox News.

 

Maj. Norton deployed in combat to Afghanistan in 2012. His commanding officer called him one of his best pilots. According to the Washington Post, a Marine who witnessed the crash said Norton’s jet “broke apart in midair” while in a dive preparing to fire weapons.

 

“I want to wait for the investigation report. However, these jets are too old and should not be flown anymore,” Norton’s mother, Mary Anne Vanderhoof, told Fox News.

 

She added that her son was an elite Top Gun graduate and weapons tactics instructor.

 

On Capitol Hill in July, the head of Marine Corps aviation seemed to share her concern.

 

“I worry about my young aviators that aren’t getting the number of hours they need to. And so it’s the mishaps that loom over the bow that we don’t see coming just now . Will they have the experience to keep that bad thing from happening?” said Lt. Gen. Jon “Dog” Davis.

 

So far in 2016, there have been nine military aircraft crashes. Four involved Navy F/A-18 Hornet jets. There were 33 total across all branches in 2014 and 2015 – up from just 23 in 2012 and 2013.

 

The admiral in charge of Navy aviation denies a link between the crashes and the age and readiness of their planes.

 

“I wouldn’t characterize it as a crisis. I get the question a lot of, do you tie it to readiness or a lack of proficiency . and in review of those mishaps, I can’t make that connection,” said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, speaking in Washington last month.

 

According to statistics provided by the U.S. Navy, only 21 percent of its early model Navy F-18 Hornets can fly — and only half of its newer Super Hornets can as well. Over 100 Super Hornets are not flying due to shortages in critical spare parts.

 

The Navy’s fleet of MH-60 helicopters is not much better. Only 57 percent of its 412 helicopters can fly.

 

The Navy, like the Marines, is having a hard time finding available jets for its pilots to fly and train in – amid more than $100 billion in defense cuts since 2009, a steady tempo of combat missions, and a delay of the F-18’s replacement, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

 

Training is another concern. Right now, the Navy is averaging 12-14 flight hours a month for its pilots, according to Shoemaker. The Navy is buying more Super Hornets and hopes to increase that average to 15 hours by December 2017, according to a Navy official who shared a forecast model with Fox News.

 

Following a Fox News investigation into Marine Corps aviation in April, an interview with the head of Marine Corps aviation reveals some gains, but many problems persist.

 

Today, only two of the Marine’s 12 F-18 Hornet squadrons meet their flying hours, Davis told Fox News. He said they are averaging 11.1 flight hours a month per Marine pilot right now. While it was 8.8 back in March, he said his pilots should average 16 hours a month.

 

“Our model is all squadrons ready to go,” he said. When asked why his pilots were not getting enough hours in the air he replied, “Not enough airplanes to fly, it’s a simple physics problem.”

 

Right now, of the Marines’ 273 F-18s, only 91 can fly; 88 are waiting for parts.

 

Thornberry said President Obama has effectively sent more U.S. troops into harm’s way without paying for the increase in costs.

 

“When the president sends more people to Afghanistan more people to Iraq, he doesn’t ask for more money. The costs just come out of the training, the maintenance and the readiness of our force. The problem is getting worse,” he told Fox News.

 

The Pentagon disagrees.

 

Lt. Col. James B. Brindle, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement, “Ensuring that the force is well-equipped and well-trained to execute critical missions is a priority. We have looked at our data and have not observed an overall trend in the increase of mishaps due to reduced training hours. Annual mishap totals vary for a variety of reasons. Any increases we have observed are too small, and over too short a duration, to categorize.”

 

Marine and Navy F-18s were originally designed for 6,000 flight hours, but they were refurbished and extended to 8,000 hours while waiting for the new Joint Strike Fighter. Some jets may even reach 10,000 hours, according to Navy and Marine Corps officials.

 

In 2015, the Marine Corps’ aviation mishap rate was three times the Navy’s.

 

The Air Force, while not suffering from the same shortage of parts, is short 700 pilots, and the secretary of the Air Force said last month it will grow to 1,000 “in just a couple of years from now.”

 

When asked how quickly the Marine Corps can get more Joint Strike Fighters into the fleet to replace 24-year old F-18s, Davis replied, “I am buying as many as we can afford. The money is not there.”

 

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/09/02/military-jet-crashes-on-rise-as-some-cite-training-and-fleet-issues.html

 

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Almost A Million Expected To Opt For ‘Blended’ Retirement

(MILITARY ADVANTAGE BLOG 01 SEP 16) … Tom Philpott

 

More than 740,000 currently serving active duty members and 176,000 drilling Reserve and National Guard personnel are expected to opt in to the new BRS, or Blended Retirement System, when the choice becomes available in 2018 to military members with fewer than 12 years’ service.

 

The opt-in estimates are the product of a “dynamic retention” computer model developed by RAND Corporation and used to predict how personnel will react to a new retirement choice. The BRS was designed by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission and approved by Congress last year after lawmakers tweaked a few features.

 

The number of current members who will opt to leave their “High-3” retirement plan, with its higher lifetime value for the near-term rewards and flexible features of the BRS, is important to Department of Defense Board of Actuaries.

 

The three-member board is responsible for ensuring the Defense Department’s Military Retirement Fund is properly valued and actuarially sound. It held its annual meeting July 15 and accepted RAND’s estimate that a total of 916,754 active and reserve component members will opt into the BRS starting 16 months from now. That estimate is roughly half of the 1.8 million active duty, Guard and Reserve members eligible to make the choice.

 

A transcript of that July meeting, however, shows the board and department actuaries embraced RAND’s numbers only reluctantly, as flawed approximations but also the best available. To understand why the number experts grumbled, we first need to review major features of the BRS.

 

The new plan is called blended because it combines an immediate but also smaller annuity after 20 or more years of service with a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) enhanced by government matching of member contributions of up to four percent of basic pay plus an automatic one percent government contribution for all BRS participants, whether they contribute or not to TSP.

 

This 401(k)-like nest egg toward retirement is a portable benefit on leaving service. Veterans can roll the account into an employer 401(k) or continue to make contributions whether they served two years or 40 years in the military. Because this feature will benefit the great majority of members who leave service short of retirement eligibility at 20 years, the blended plan is expected to be a popular option, particularly with younger folks on their first or second enlistment and officers completing initial service obligation.

 

Committed careerists, however, are likely to stick with High-3 retirement, which will pay 20 percent more in lifetime annuities if full careers are a realistic goal. The blended plan has two other features High-3 doesn’t.

 

By current law, BRS participants are to receive a one-time “continuation payment” at the 12-year mark that, at a minimum, must equal two-and-half months of basic for active duty members who agree to serve four more years or one-half month of active pay for reserve component personnel who make the same deal.

 

Defense pay officials wanted the continuation payment to be used solely as a retention tool. So they asked Congress this year to lift all restrictions on amounts paid, when paid and to whom. Both the House and Senate declined to grant such flexibility in their separate versions of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill. But both chambers did vote to relax the timing of this feature so continuation pay can be offered from the 8th to 12th year of service in exchange for serving a minimum of three more years.

 

The last key feature of BRS allows those who reach retirement to receive in a lump sum 25 percent or 50 percent of their pre-old-age retirement annuities. In other words, here would be cash to help buy a home, start a business or pay off debts in return for reducing military annuities by one quarter or one half until age 67.

 

What bothered the Board of Actuaries about the RAND forecasts for number of members who will opt for BRS is that no one has calculated yet how attractive the lump sum feature will be. Another term for the missing ingredient is “personal discount rate.” Without that rate, which the board characterizes as a policy decision, RAND was forced to assume that no BRS member would elect the lump-sum distribution.

 

Because many will, however, the actuaries know the BRS opt-in estimates and, therefore, projected costs to properly fund the new military retirement option, are not precise enough to be acceptable. The board so advised Defense Secretary Ash Carter in a mid-July letter providing the board’s annual status report on the Military Retirement Fund.

 

“Although we are unable to opine on the analytical model used to produce RAND’s opt-in assumptions, we have approved [the Office of Actuary’s] reliance on these assumptions, produced by that model, because we have no better basis for projecting opt-in behavior,” the board advised.

 

“However, the significant uncertainty surrounding the opt-in process (for example with respect to the financial training to be provided to service members) and other aspects of BRS means the opt-in and other assumptions are likely to change as more experience and information about the new system (e.g., the discount rate to be used for lump sums) become available.”

 

Members who enter service on or after Jan. 1, 2018, have no choice; BRS will be their retirement plan. Another group with no choice are members with 12 or more years of service by Dec. 31, 2017. They will be grandfathered under current High-3 retirement.

 

Congress rejected not only the department’s idea to eliminate the minimum continuation payment but three other changes sought to the BRS to save an estimated $5.4 billion on retirement through fiscal 2021. Defense officials wanted TSP matching to start in the fifth year of service rather than the third year. That would have dampened the value of the plan substantially for participants after their first enlistment.

 

Officials also wanted TSP matching to continue until retirement rather end at 26 years of service, as the law now requires. Lawmakers decided this change would have benefitted primarily senior officers, and rejected it.

 

DoD also asked to raise maximum government contributions to TSP under the blended plan from five percent basic pay to six. Congress balked at the added cost and also reasoned the match should stay at five percent for parity with federal civilian TSP participants. Defense officials argued it’s not parity to match five percent of federal salaries against five percent of basic pay, ignoring that military folks get a large portion of pay as allowances.

 

Almost a Million Expected to Opt for ‘Blended’ Retirement

 

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Pentagon: “Play Hardball” Against Ryan Plan

(POLITICO 05 SEP 16) … Austin Wright and Jeremy Herb

 

The Pentagon has crafted a secret plan to play “hardball” against House Speaker Paul Ryan’s defense spending proposal, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO that calls for pitting the House and Senate against each other, capitalizing on the “discomfort” of one key Republican lawmaker and finding ways to undermine the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

 

The five-page strategy blueprint also suggests possibly enlisting top military brass to help make the case that the Republican speaker’s budget “gimmick” would weaken the nation’s defenses.

 

The memo, prepared for Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Deputy Secretary Bob Work, reads at times like an intelligence assessment of congressional leaders. It provides an unusually clear window into the tactics the Defense Department’s top officials are using in an increasingly partisan feud over their budget – particularly striking for an agency that seeks to avoid the perception of involvement in election-year politics.

 

The strategy it lays out will come to a head as Congress returns Tuesday, and will probably spill into the lame-duck session, as the House and Senate decide whether to include an extra $18 billion in war funding in the final defense authorization and appropriations bills they send to President Barack Obama.

 

The White House strongly objects to Ryan’s proposal to boost the Pentagon’s budget without increasing domestic spending, both of which are under tight caps imposed by a 2011 spending deal.

 

“We should attack” Ryan’s plan “and be prepared to play hardball opposing it,” says the May 13 memo, which calls for applying both “public and private pressure” on lawmakers to ensure the House Republican proposal doesn’t become law. That includes appealing to “media commentators” to help make the department’s case and possibly having Carter lobby congressional Democrats at one of their caucus meetings – a step that it acknowledges “risks the appearance of partisanship.”

 

In assessing the motivations of House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, the memo says the Texas Republican is “still smarting” from tactics the White House used in last year’s bout with Congress over defense spending.

 

Asked to respond to the memo, a Republican aide to Thornberry’s panel said it was striking “how cynical it is.”

“This isn’t a game of poker – this is national security,” said the aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

 

“They see the chairman’s legitimate oversight concerns and policy concerns that he is trying to address in the bill as nothing more than a talking point.”

 

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said he would not discuss “internal department deliberations” but added the department’s “strong opposition to the House proposal should not be a surprise.”

 

“Secretary Carter and other senior leaders have repeatedly made clear their deep concerns with a proposal that raids $18 billion in war funds at a time of war, in order to buy force structure that the department has not requested and may be unable to support in the future,” Cook said. “In addition, the proposal also undermines the bipartisan budget agreement that has allowed the department to responsibly plan for the future in our budget proposal.”

 

The memo is more evidence of frayed ties between Congress and the Pentagon’s civilian leaders. Key lawmakers and their aides have been complaining for months about their toxic relationship with the Pentagon under Carter.

 

“We have less communication than any secretary of defense that I’ve ever been associated with,” Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) told POLITICO before the long summer congressional recess. “Even when I wasn’t chairman we had more than this.”

 

Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute and former Senate aide, said Carter’s relationship with Congress has been rocky from the beginning.

 

“When I talk to the senior staff of those two committees, they will tick off on both hands multiple examples of slights,” she said. “He clearly sees no tangible negative impacts, or at least ones worth changing his behavior over.”

 

The Pentagon has shown some public signs that it is following the playbook outlined in the memo. In July, for example, it took the rare step of announcing the department’s lengthy objections to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act in a so-called “heartburn” letter, rather than the usual practice of quietly sending such concerns to the committees as part of the negotiations on the final bill.

 

The 23-page letter tore into the bills passed by both the House and Senate, with Carter writing he was “surprised and disappointed about the extent to which provisions in the bills could adversely affect our enterprise.” Cook announced the letter at a press briefing, saying that “Congress needs to join the department in making the tough budget choices that are necessary in this environment.”

 

The newly obtained strategy memo spells out the Pentagon’s tactics in greater detail.

 

The blueprint – written by Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord and legislative affairs chief Stephen Hedger, both former congressional aides – describes Obama’s threat to veto this year’s defense policy and spending bills as “the principal weapon at our disposal.” But it also says Carter might have to take an “all in” approach to opposing the House GOP plan.

 

At times, the memo appears to step up to the edge of what tactics are considered acceptable for the Pentagon as it lobbies Congress. In discussing its efforts to keep outside experts “informed” about its opposition to Ryan’s plan, for example, it adds that “the department cannot advocate that such individuals take any specific actions.”

 

At issue is a move by House leaders this year and last year to use a supplemental war spending account, called “Overseas Contingency Operations,” to increase overall defense spending while leaving other federal agencies under strict congressional budget caps. The Defense Department’s base budget is subject to these caps, but its war-spending account is not – so Republicans have sought to game the system by using overseas money to fund base programs.

 

This year they’ve gone even further, seeking to fund operations in Afghanistan and Iraq for only half of the next fiscal year. The House budget would shift money from the overseas contingency account to pay for base programs, forcing the next administration to seek supplemental war funds.

 

Obama vetoed the first draft of last year’s defense authorization bill over the issue – seeking to preserve a spending balance in Congress between the defense budget, which is a priority for many Republicans, and the domestic budget, a priority for Democrats.

 

Carter has sought to bolster the White House’s position by saying he doesn’t want extra money at the expense of other federal agencies if doing so would undermine “bipartisan stability,” as he told reporters in May. The legislative blueprint makes clear his public statements are part of a much broader lobbying campaign.

 

Among the suggested Pentagon tactics, according to the memo:

 

A bid to play the Senate, which did not include the extra overseas funding, against the House: “The secretary should also meet with or call Senators McCain and [Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad] Cochran who have both said they would not include the OCO gimmick in their bills and urge them to hold firm in conference.”

 

An assessment of House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen’s (lack of) support for Ryan’s plan: “Importantly, we believe HAC-D Chairman Frelinghuysen may be less enthused about following the OCO gimmick format from the HASC bill, but has been directed to do so by the Speaker.

 

Capitalizing on his discomfort could help prevent the gimmick from surviving.”

 

An appraisal of Thornberry’s resolve: “We believe that Chairman Thornberry is still smarting from the veto sustaining vote that the FY2016 NDAA received the first time it was on the floor last year and has vowed to do everything in his power to ensure he gets a strong vote this year.” The memo notes that Thornberry’s “savvy inclusion” of Democratic priorities, such as a New Balance shoe provision and more submarines, “means he will probably achieve that strong vote.”

 

A plan to use the brass to bolster the department’s position: “Of the three or four aspects of opposition the department has already communicated, the idea that the gimmick gambles with war funding might resonate the loudest in Congress and the public. If that is the case, then the various courses of action described below should include significant senior military leader involvement.”

 

An effort to lobby Democrats, necessary to back up the veto threat, by having Carter appear at one of their caucus meetings: “This engagement can be crucial in convincing Democratic members, particularly in an election year, to take a potentially difficult vote in opposition to a defense bill. Appearing at these meetings does impact votes, but it also risks the appearance of partisanship.”

 

A move to enlist the support of outside sources: “The department can also ensure outside influencers, such as former secretaries, former military leaders, think tank leaders and media commentators are fully informed about the department’s concerns. The department cannot advocate that such individuals take any specific actions, however.”

 

https://www.politicopro.com/defense/story/2016/09/in-internal-memo-pentagon-plots-war-with-house-gop-128195

 

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Budget Hell: Kendall Prays For 3-Month CR, Fears 6

(BREAKING DEFENSE 07 SEP 16) … Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

 

NATIONAL PRESS CLUB – The Pentagon’s top buyer is praying that Congress will only be three months late enacting a 2017 budget, instead of six. Frank Kendall’s frank comments made clear that on-time is off the table.

 

Kendall’s got cause for concern. Just yesterday, the Senate failed for the third time to pass a defense funding bill.

“The election coming up is obviously drawing a lot of attention,” Kendall said this morning at the annual Common Defense (ComDef) conference. “We have to get past that, and then I hope we can resolve whatever differences there are (between House and Senate). It may have to go into the next administration.”

 

The timeline looks ugly. The fiscal year begins October 1st, while the elections happen November 8th, more than a month later. Clinton or Trump won’t be sworn in as president until January 20, almost three months later. If Congress can’t pass a final funding bill in the next three weeks – or if it does but then President Obama vetoes it – the only options are a government shutdown or a stopgap Continuing Resolution.

 

“The best I think we can see is they will pass a continuing resolution … that will fund the government until sometime in December,” said budget analyst Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic & International Studies, speaking at ComDef after Kendall.

 

A CR which basically puts spending on autopilot at the previous year’s levels, with little to no leeway to adjust funding, let alone to start new programs or terminate old ones. You waste millions continuing things you want to cancel and delay new starts by months. A three-month CR – which, remember, is both Kendall and Harrison’s best case – is painful enough. A half-year CR – which some in Congress are considering – would be sheer agony.

“I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail and we’ll get three months,” Kendall said.

 

Harrison thinks three months is more likely than six. “We’ve never had a resolution that spans a change between administrations,” he said. “Even if Congress passed it, why would the president sign it?” A six-month CR would punt the decision to the next President, so Obama’s signature on it would be a death sentence on his own influence, Harrison said: “if he signs a continuing resolution that extends past January 20th, he’s basically given up.”

 

But there are many time-consuming hurdles before we can get a proper budget passed. Even once the Senate passes its appropriations bill, the draft legislation must be reconciled with the very different House version. The House would shift $18 billion from current combat operations – the Overseas Contingency Operations account – to broader readiness and acquisition needs, which the administration has denounced as an irresponsible fiscal gimmick. “They’ve funded the war for (only) half the year,” Kendall scoffed.

 

The same $18 billion gap exists between the House and Senate policy bills, aka the National Defense Authorization Act, which must be reconciled in parallel to the appropriations. “There’s not an instance in modern history where congress has failed to pass an NDAA in a presidential transition year before the new president took office,” Harrison reassured the ComDef audience. “It would be unprecedented.”

 

But there have been plenty of unprecedented events in recent years, from the 2013 sequestration to the rise of Trump, and Congress keeps getting more dysfunctional. Last year Obama vetoed the first version of the NDAA to pass Congress, using it as leverage for a deal on the Budget Control Act (aka sequestration). This month, a leaked Pentagon memo made explicit the administration’s plan to exploit the House-Senate divide to get what it considers a more responsible budget – but all this debate takes time.

“There are conference negotiations going on now (on the authorization bill); we’re talking to both sides at the staff level,” Kendall said. “There are a lot of things we need to get adjustments on” in both the authorization and appropriations bills. Kendall particularly denounced the House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which he called the longest NDAA draft ever, for its “micromanagement” of the Pentagon as well as the $18 billion gimmick.

 

Funding is fundamental, Kendall made clear. There’s been a lot of talk about innovation and excitement about new ideas – the Third Offset Strategy, the Strategic Capabilities Office, the Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) – but actually realizing new ideas costs money.

 

“We are at risk of obscuring the resource problem by talking about innovation,” Kendall said. “We have may have created a (misperception) that our problem is a lack of innovation … The problem we have fundamentally is a lack of resources.”

 

“it’s good to have options. It’s better to have actual future investments,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, while Kendall waits on Congress, he’s working on the fourth iteration of his Better Buying Power initiative, BBP 4.0, to make the most of whatever funding the Pentagon does get. Whereas earlier BBP roll-outs focused on cost control, professionalism, and innovation, 4.0 will look specifically at service contracts and sustainment costs. The years or decades of operations, maintenance, and upgrades which dwarf the up-front costs of actually buying a weapon.

 

Kendall plans to make some progress on sustainment before Obama leaves office, but a full-up BBP 4.0 package will take into the next administration – if it decides to do it at all. “A year from now,” Kendall said to laughter, “people may not care at all what I think about anything.”

 

Budget Hell: Kendall Prays For 3-Month CR, Fears 6

 

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Better Buying Power 4.0 Would Focus On Sustainment

(DEFENSE NEWS 07 SEP 16) … Aaron Mehta

 

WASHINGTON – Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, knows time is running out on the Obama administration, but he hopes to set the table for the next round of his Better Buying Initiative.

 

Speaking at the Common Defense forum Wednesday, Kendall was asked what a fourth iteration of his Better Buying Initiative – perhaps his signature series of policies – could look like.

 

Kendall zeroed in on a single word: “sustainability.”

 

“I’ve already started some work on this,” Kendall said. “We had done a lot of work under the early revisions of Better Buying Power on service contracting in particular. It was something we had in 1.0, we kept working and refining in 2.0 and 3.0. The thing we have not put a full court press on is the sustainment part.”

 

Kendall said there were “a few things I want to kick off” in that regard as the year winds down, but held up the idea of factoring in sustainment costs to source selections as one concept he is thinking about.

 

“It’s hard to do that because the costs are a long way away,” Kendall acknowledged, “but I think we need to do a better job about that. So sustainment to me is sort of the thing we have not put enough scrutiny on, we have not done enough about. So if I’m here to do a 4.0, even if I’m not, I think that is where we should look to next from a point of efficiency.”

 

Better Buying Power 3.0 was rolled out in April 2015, with a focus on bringing commercial technology into the Pentagon. At the time, Kendall said he had no idea what a 4.0 iteration could look like.

 

Speaking Wednesday, Kendall added that the Pentagon “should continue all the things we’re doing on cost conciseness.” But in an interview with Defense News, he stressed that being aware of costs has never been about cutting profits for the big defense firms.

 

“Profit margins have stayed flat or gone up a little bit in the last several years. So I think we have kept our commitment to industry to not have a ‘War on Profit,'” Kendall said. “Sales have come down because budgets have come down, but I think we have worked with industry to craft win-win business deals where they maintain profitability but we also got better results, and that is what our goal was.”

 

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/better-buying-power-40-would-focus-on-sustainment