Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Industrial Base, Aircraft Costs

AFA Members, Congressional Staffers, Civic Leaders, DOCA Members, one concern I have had, following SECDEF's April decisions to shut-down or truncate seven aircraft production lines, is the continued vibrancy of the aerospace industrial base. As you may recall, the AF depends upon industry to produce the systems they need to defend the nation's interests both at home and abroad. This base has produced the world's best weapon systems – by any measure – and has provided the tools to facilitate the stunning military victories we have enjoyed these past 30+ years. The question for us all is: Can we continue to assume the industrial base will always be there in the future?

Dr. Rebecca Grant, Director of the Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies, has produced a Mitchell paper which addresses this question. You can find the paper on our website at:

Secondly, several months ago, during a Mitchell Institute presentation on the Hill, a Congressional Staff member asked a simple question: Why do weapon systems cost so much? Dr Grant answered him … and I added my two cents. However, I think neither of us did a very good job with our answers. Two weeks ago, I drafted a response to share with you … and sent it to several retired General officers for their comment. One – Gen (Ret) Richard E. Hawley – came back to me … not with edits, but with his own paper … which (not surprisingly) was better than mine. You can find a link to Gen Hawley's paper at:

For your consideration.


Michael M. Dunn
Air Force Association

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Mike, these two articles are spot on. I retired from the USAF in 1989. The USAF Ballistic Missile Office was my last assignment as a Quality Assurance Program Manager. I remember attending a conference in 1987 where a USAF Col gave a short presentation on the state of the DOD industrial complex. He said that in ten years we would have one or two engine and one air frame manufacturer. He also listed many more examples. His presentation was right on the money. I am puzzled that if we knew in mid 1980s that mergers, acquisitions, and budgets were going shrink the manufacturing base, why did not Washington do something to protect the manufacturing capability? With all these aerospace and defense manufacturing lines and job shrinking, the loss of all this capability and knowledge cannot but hurt our national defense.

Having spent fives years at a USAF program office, I have never seen a program come in on schedule and within budget. I feel that these programs are so big that it is not possible to estimate the cost much less schedule effectively. What are your thoughts in this?

I am now 61. I am at the top of my game as a six sigma master black belt. I would love to get back into the defense game but I see less and less opportunities every day.

Best regards,

Robert J. Wiebel, CM, SSMBB