Back to news

September 10, 2019 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

Why program cuts from Esper’s Pentagon-wide review could come sooner than expected

By: Aaron Mehta

WASHINGTON — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper intends to implement changes from his review of Defense Department organizations on a rolling basis, rather than waiting until the review process is completely finished, according to the department's top spokesman.

Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said Monday that there's “no interest” from Esper to wait until the review is fully done or the start of the next fiscal year to start implementing program changes, including potential cuts.

“It's going to be an ongoing process. If he makes a decision, it's not going to be ‘I have to look through everything and then make some decisions.' If he sees a program that needs to end or be moved, he'll make that decision as quickly as he can,” Hoffman told reporters. “He's going to make changes as we move forward. If he identifies changes that would save money, there's no interest in waiting until next year to start saving money.”

An Aug. 2 memo kicked off a departmentwide review of programs ahead of the development for the fiscal 2021 budget request. The goal is to find savings and drive a “longer-term focus on structural reform, ensuring all [defensewide] activities are aligned to the National Defense Strategy while evaluating the division of functions between defense-wide organizations and the military departments," per the document.

The so-called fourth estate of the department includes 27 agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Missile Defense Agency. A September 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office estimated those agencies collectively have an annual budget of at least $106 billion.

Esper has acknowledged the review sounds a lot like the “night court” process the Army used to find roughly $25 billion in savings that could then be reinvested into new capabilities. But he has so far declined to offer a target dollar figure for savings.

"It's a long road. I'm spending two hours a week, 90 minutes to two hours a week on this in formal session, so we're just going to work our way through it week after week after week,” the secretary said Aug 27. “I'm looking for programs that don't have as much value relative to another critical war-fighting capability, absolutely.”

Hoffman described the process as starting with internal reviews inside the various offices, looking at what projects are ongoing. Those are cross-checked with assessments from others in the department that are looking to find cost-sharing or cost-saving options. Those are collectively provided up to the deputy secretary of defense before being presented at regular meetings with Esper.

Esper then “holds a review with all the parties that may have equities and go through it. I sat through one of these last week. He really digs into what are the appropriate roles, what are the appropriate missions, is there someone better or capable to hold this than the equity that has it now, is there better cost savings,” Hoffman said.

Some have questioned whether Esper's plans will run into roadblocks in Congress. On Monday, Hoffman stressed that the department has been keeping Congress in the loop.

“The secretary has been very adamant he wants to make sure Congress is fully informed,” he said.

On the same subject

  • 9.	Le ministère des Armées investit pour la disponibilité des aéronefs

    October 19, 2020 | International, Aerospace

    9. Le ministère des Armées investit pour la disponibilité des aéronefs

    Le 15 octobre, à Clermont-Ferrand dans les Ateliers industriels de l'aéronautique (AIA), la ministre des Armées Florence Parly a fait un point d'étape sur la modernisation du maintien en condition opérationnelle (MCO) en matière d'aéronautique, près de trois ans après son discours à Évreux en 2017 où elle a pris le dossier en main. Le ministère investit des moyens spectaculaires en crédits de paiement, dont l'enveloppe grossit depuis 2017 : 2,3 milliards d'euros en 2017, 2,7 milliards en 2020, 3 milliards en 2022 et 4,1 milliards en 2025. Près de 80% de hausse programmée en huit ans. Le ministère explique : « On met plus d'argent mais nous avons obtenu une amélioration très sensible sur la disponibilité des aéronefs sans être spectaculaire », souligne-t-on dans l'entourage de la ministre. Et d'estimer que « la tendance, qui est bonne, peut continuer à l'être » dans les prochaines années. La Tribune du 15 octobre 2020

  • Simulation manufacturer expands its footprint in support of Australian Seahawk operations

    March 1, 2019 | International, Aerospace

    Simulation manufacturer expands its footprint in support of Australian Seahawk operations

    By: Mike Yeo MELBOURNE, Australia — Synthetic training aids are an integral part of educating the crews that operate Australia's Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters, as its Navy balances training needs against operational requirements for its helicopter fleet. The Royal Australian Navy, or RAN, operates a fleet of 24 MH-60Rs, known locally as the Romeo, from Nowra, south of Australia's largest city Sydney when the helicopters are not deployed at sea. The helicopters were ordered from the United States under the Foreign Military Sales program in 2011 and delivered to Australia between 2013 and 2016. Australia's MH-60Rs are split among two squadrons at the RAN base at Nowra, HMAS Albatross, with the 725 Squadron primarily assigned to training duties, while its sister unit 816 Squadron handles operational duties. According to Cmdr. Stan Buckham, the commanding officer of 725 Squadron, splitting up the fleet into two squadrons allows each to concentrate on their respective primary tasks, while operating next door to each other means they can interact and support one another. Both units operate out of new, purpose-built facilities at the base designed just for the MH-60R. These facilities include a suite of synthetic training devices that have helped the RAN train personnel while reducing demand on the aircraft. This suite of training devices, operated and maintained on site by the Canadian-based CAE, include two tactical operational flight trainers, or TOFT, a composite maintenance trainer, an avionics maintenance weapons loading trainer, and four other devices to train RAN MH-60R pilots, flight crew and maintenance crew. The two TOFTs, which can be linked so crews can operate together, are certified by an independent simulator evaluation authority to level D, the highest qualification for flight simulators. These have six degrees of freedom and can replicate a variety of day, night and weather conditions. CAE is also due to deliver an aircraft flight control system trainer to the RAN, completing its suite of nine training devices to support the country's MH-60R training program. Buckham describes the MH-60R as a “great capability” and has called the work between the RAN and CAE at HMAS Albatross “a step change in integration with industry.” The company has an extensive footprint across Australia and New Zealand, delivering training and simulator services across 13 sites in both countries. Together, these training devices have enabled the RAN to stand up eight flights of MH-60R crew that are either deployed or ready for deployment. Each flight consists of two sets of flight crews and a maintenance team that totals about 18 personnel. The first RAN MH-60R flight deployed onboard an RAN ship in 2016, and have since made numerous deployments onboard various ships to the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific region.

  • Fighter jet OEMs aim to keep pace with needed technology

    April 26, 2018 | International, Aerospace

    Fighter jet OEMs aim to keep pace with needed technology

    Chris Thatcher Fighter jet manufacturers are well aware that advances in technology can take years, if not decades, to introduce, creating a constant struggle to match the pace of technological change and the evolution of threats. In a panel discussion at the Aerospace Innovation Forum in Montreal last week, executives from Airbus, Boeing, Dassault Aviation and Saab described how a change from closed “black boxes” to more open mission architecture is allowing faster and easier acceptance of technology from wider sources. Wolfgang Gammel, head of combat aircraft for Airbus Defence and Space, acknowledged the need to be much faster to market with new technology. He noted the shift in focus from “kinetic weapons” to “data fusion and the cyber piece” now driving new capabilities, but said the goal has been to “keep flexibility” in the Eurofighter Typhoon to allow customers “to adapt the aircraft as threats change.” He also noted the wealth of data becoming available on all advanced fighters, and the ability to predict maintenance requirements, better manage costs and improve availability, all of which should impact the overall life of the airframe. Pontus de Laval, chief technology officer for Saab, said the life management approach to the Gripen JAS 39 has been continuous change rather than one large midlife upgrade. The version currently operated by the Swedish Air Force is “actually edition 20.” For the Gripen NG now undergoing flight tests for the Brazilian Air Force, the aim has been to make “continuous evolvement of the platform much easier,” he said. That has been achieved in part by separating flight critical and mission critical systems, to allow Saab and the customer to introduce new sensors and other capabilities without significantly affecting “systems that keep the aircraft flying.” By using virtualization of avionics to introduce software and hardware changes, Saab has also been able to minimize the effect of one on the other as upgrades are made. “Software kills you in big programs if you are not careful,” de Laval observed. The company has also recognized the role artificial intelligence and machine learning could play, especially on the future computing capacity of a fighter, and is investing about US$400 million in research to understand to prepare and capitalize. Boeing has long bet on incremental technology upgrades for the Super Hornet, providing a “roadmap forward” for the platform. But the Block 3 will introduce the Distributed Targeting Processor-Networked (DTP-N), an open mission system “to enable these future technologies,” said Troy Rutherford, director of the company's HorizonX program. From autonomy to AI, the user experience in the cockpit will change dramatically. Boeing too has invested heavily, seeking small start-up companies to develop these capabilities. “What plays over the course of time is the ability to adapt to the threat,” he said. Any new technology must reach a certain level of maturity before it can be integrated into an advanced fighter. Bruno Stoufflet, chief technology officer for Dassault Aviation, said the company has leveraged its Falcon family of business jets “to embark some demonstrations” of new capabilities. “There is a strong commitment of the French weapon agency to have a family of demonstrations in the future based on [the] Rafale.” That has opened the door to more research with small- and medium-sized business. Previously, Dassault collaborated more with academic teams or larger players in the aerospace and defence industries. “It has changed completely. We were asked to integrate more SMEs into our research now we understand what they can bring in research and innovation projects,” said Stoufflet.

All news