Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Project On Government Oversight offers a reality check on competition

POGO (Project On Government Oversight) offers a dose of reality on the requirements of the Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act (WSARA), which alternate engine proponents have been trying to use to make their case for continued funding.

While the WSARA calls for competition on major defense acquisition programs in most cases, there are some important exceptions---which alternate engine proponents have ignored. As POGO writes:
Well, not exactly.
The law acknowledges that in some cases, competitive prototyping should be waived
(1) when the cost of producing competitive prototypes exceeds the expected life-cycle benefits, or
(2) when not issuing a waiver would undermine the ability of the Department of Defense to meet critical national security needs.
They go on to explain:
(P)roponents of the alternate engine may question the propriety of these waivers, the terms under which the White House has opposed the funding for an alternate engine are as follows: "Expenditures on a second engine are unnecessary and impede the progress of the overall JSF program" (ding ding, undermining critical national security needs). The Air Force has said they would have to cut 53 F-35s to continue funding the second engine, and in some cases it appears that the alternative engine would draw its funding from the program's management reserve, which could directly undermine the development of the program."

But more importantly, no one has come out to definitively say that the competition would result in overall cost savings. (emphasis added)
And, POGO notes, the argument has not been persuasive with two of WSARA's most ardent supporters.
To the degree to which competitive prototyping is a measure to result in savings for taxpayers, the case for an alternate engine has not been made. Moreover, a chief author of the Weapons Acquisition Reform Act, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and Defense Secretary Gates remain strong opponents of an alternative engine.
The full post is here and is worth a read.

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