Tag Archives: testing

Your Pentagon Tax Dollars At Work -Connecting Human Brains With Machines

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Human Machines and Brains

Image: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency 

“C4ISRNET”

“The goal of the Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N³) program is to “pursue a path to a safe, portable neural interface system capable of reading from and writing to multiple points in the brain at once.

The most significant challenge, according to a DARPA press release, will be overcoming the physics of scattering and weakening of signals as they pass through skin, skull and brain tissue. “


“As unmanned platforms, cyber systems and human-machine partnering become more prevalent in 21st century war fighting, the effectiveness of combat units will be determined by how quickly information can be processed and transmitted between air-breathers and machines. To achieve the high levels of brain-system communication that will be required on future battlefields, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has launched a new program to develop a noninvasive neural interface that will connect soldiers with technology.

According to Dr. Al Emondi, a program manager in DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, “We’re asking multidisciplinary teams of researchers to construct approaches that enable precise interaction with very small areas of the brain, without sacrificing signal resolution or introducing unacceptable latency into the N3 system.”

Although technologies that allow for high-quality brain system communications exist today, these invasive techniques are not a practical solution for ubiquitous man-machine communication.

Before soldiers can communicate with their R2-D2 units, DARPA scientists must overcome several significant scientific and engineering challenges.

The most significant challenge, according to a DARPA press release, will be overcoming the physics of scattering and weakening of signals as they pass through skin, skull and brain tissue. If this initial challenge is surmounted, the focus of the program will shift to developing algorithms for encoding and decoding neural signals, evaluating system safety through animal testing and ultimately asking human volunteers to test the technology.

While communication neurotechnology has a stronger foothold in science fiction than reality, Emondi believes devoting resources to the enterprise will spur breakthroughs. “Smart systems will significantly impact how our troops operate in the future, and now is the time to be thinking about what human-machine teaming will actually look like and how it might be accomplished,” he said.

“If we put the best scientists on this problem, we will disrupt current neural interface approaches and open the door to practical, high-performance interfaces.”

DARPA wants the four-year project to conclude with a demonstration of a bidirectional system being used to interface human-machine interactions with unmanned platforms, active cyber defense systems or other Department of Defense equipment.

Recognizing the potentially wide ethical, legal and social implications of such neurotechnology, DARPA is also asking independent legal and ethical experts to advise the program as N³ technologies mature.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/it-networks/2018/03/19/darpa-wants-to-connect-human-brains-and-machines/

 

 

Two Years And COTS Required For Patchwork Fix/Replace Of Army $Multi-Billion WIN – T Network

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Army Network knife

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

The Army needs at least two years to figure out a new, war-ready communications network to replace its current, fragile systems, the acting secretarysaid this week.

There’s no a quick fix: The service is effectively starting over on what it’s long described as its No. 1 priority for modernization.”


“A recently created task force called a Cross-Functional Team (CFT) will overhaul the network architecture, Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told reporters, but its major recommendations won’t be ready until 2019, when the budget request for 2020 is submitted. In the meantime, to ensure that troops are ready to “fight tonight” against immediate threats like Russia and North Korea, the Army is urgently seeking off-the-shelf stopgaps from the commercial world.

“It’s going to take a few years. What do you in between?” said Gen. Mark Milley, the Army Chief of Staff, speaking alongside McCarthy at a Defense Writers’ Group breakfast Wednesday. “What happens if there’s a conflict? And that’s a real challenge, Sydney, that’s hard, and there’s an element of risk there.”

The Army is still issuing some units with the current battlefield network, WIN-T Increment 2, which began fielding in 2012 and still hasn’t reached the entire force. (The Hawaii-based 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division is getting its WIN-T kit right now). But the Warfighter Integrated Network – Tactical program will end next year because it isn’t reliable and resilient enough for fast-moving operations against a sophisticated enemy who can jam or hack it. So after a decade working on WIN-T, the Army will take another two years or more to go back to the drawing board.

“Yes, it probably will take a couple of years to get it right. Changing the architecture of our network…the scale is massive,” McCarthy said. “We stood up these Cross-Functional teams a couple of weeks ago, to be honest with you. They are going to influence the ’20 budget” — not 2019.

Halt-Fix-Pivot

The Army strategy is “halt-fix-pivot,” Gen. Milley and Sec. McCarthy explained:

  • immediately halt programs that simply won’t hold up on a mobile battlefield under sophisticated cyber and electronic attack;
  • quickly fix systems that can be upgraded to withstand such harsh conditions;
  • and ultimately pivot from the current clunky patchwork to a new, coherent network architecture.

“We want to stop those subsets of the programs that we know with certainty will not work…for the combat environment that we envision,” Milley said. He wouldn’t say which specific programs were on the block: “Those are still under evaluation,” he said.

While some programs must go, Milley continued, “there are other parts of the system that we know can be fixed. We’ve had many meetings with industry (and) industry is already working on those piece parts of the quote, ‘network system’ that can be fixed in order to operate in a highly dynamic and very lethal maneuver battlefield.”

“And then, what we do is pivot the entire system of systems…to develop a holistic system that does operate in the (high-intensity) environment,” Milley concluded.

This isn’t about any one program: “It’s stepping back and looking at a common architecture, as opposed to particular issues with hardware (or) software,” McCarthy said. “It will take us several years to review the architecture and make fundamental changes.”

How fundamental? “We went back to the white board , literally, and we started laying out things like first principles,” Milley said. “We used that to evaluate not just WIN-T…but the whole suite.”

“We learned that a lot of these systems don’t talk to each other, within the army or the joint force,” Milley said. “We learned that the system is very, very fragile and is probably not going to be robust and resilient enough to operate in a highly dynamic battlefield with lots of ground maneuver and movement. We know that the system is probably vulnerable to sophisticated nation-state countermeasures.”

Short-Term vs. Long

Going back to the drawing board to fix these problems — the pivot phase — will take “years,” Milley acknowledged, “but the fix part is a much faster piece. Will we be fast enough? Time will tell,” he said. ” I know that we are working extremely hard, and we know we’re against the clock.”

The Army can’t afford another program like WIN-T that takes years just to develop new technology, let alone issue it across the service while private-sector processing power is doubling every 18 months. So McCarthy’s guidance to the Cross-Functional Team overhauling the network, and to the seven other CFTs working on other Army priorities, is to “take every opportunity to look into commercial industry. Buy it off the shelf.”

But this has pitfalls too. The Army and the other services already bypassed the procurement bureaucracy and rushed off-the-shelf equipment into service in Afghanistan and Iraq, from network tech to Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected trucks (MRAPs). They had to take shortcuts to save lives, but the result was a lot of wasted money and a patchwork of incompatible equipment.

Ironically, the program that was supposed to bring order to this chaos was WIN-T. Now the Army is halting WIN-T and, once again, embarking on a multi-year quest for one network to rule them all. In the meantime, once again, the service has to keep kludging together partial solutions. The short-term fix may, once again, make the long-term solution harder. The risk of just repeating history is very real.”

https://breakingdefense.com/2017/11/army-needs-2-years-to-reboot-network-seeks-cots-stopgaps/

 

 

US Weapons Exports End FY 2016 at $33.6 Billion

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“DEFENSE NEWS”

“The US hit $33.6 billion for foreign weapon sales in fiscal year 2016.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced Tuesday that it cleared $2.9 billion of Foreign Military Financing-funded cases; $5.0 billion in Building Partner Capacity-funded cases; and $25.7 billion funded by partner nations.

Among sales that were cleared in 2016 were $785 million from the UAE for munitions such as the GBU-10, announced in July; $1.2 billion from Australia for AIM-120D air-to-air missiles; and $1.15 billion from Saudi Arabia for M1A2S tanks and M88Al/A2 vehicles.

The drop from the 2015 total was predicted last month by DSCA head Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey, who argued that the total overall figure is not a barometer his agency uses to judge its success.

“We don’t look at sales like a benchmark we’re trying to capture. It’s not a number we’re trying to go for. Sales is really a fundamental result of foreign policy. We just have to understand what kind of workforce we’re going to need to prosecute those sales,” Rixey said then. “It’s nothing more than a tool for us to anticipate what we’re going to anticipate and work with.”

As an example, Rixey pointed out that if the long-awaited sale of fighter jets to Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain had been cleared in 2016, as many had expected, the total would have eclipsed the record-setting year of 2015.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/us-weapons-exports-end-2016-at-336b?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DFN%20EBB%2011.9.16&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

Department of Homeland Security Spending to Grow

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“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“Discretionary budget authority increased from $39.8 billion to $41 billion.

The department is seeking to develop next-generation systems that leverage advancements in the “internet of things,” digital transformation, data analytics and cybersecurity.

The Department of Homeland Security is one of the few federal agencies increasing the amount of money it obligates to contractors, according to a recent report by market analysis firm Govini.

The growth is due to overall budget increases and the allocation of a larger share to contracts, said the report, “2017 Fiscal Year Outlook: Department of Homeland Security.”

“The topline trend means that DHS is prioritizing purchases of products and services over additional personnel and other internal resources,” the report said.

The department is seeking to develop next-generation systems that leverage advancements in the “internet of things,” digital transformation, data analytics and cybersecurity, it said. “These investments are intended to fill capability gaps, automate procedures that currently present security risk and bring about operating efficiency all while lowering personnel costs.”

Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration and the Office of Procurement Operations fueled a 16 percent increase in overall DHS contract obligations to $14.6 billion in fiscal year 2016, a $2 billion bump from 2013, the report noted.

Obligations from each agency are projected to continue to increase by at least 3 percent in 2017, it said.

“Providers of advanced technology and technical services should target CBP as it plans to invest in next-generation detection devices that provide the operational advantages of automation,” it said.

TSA is projected to spend $200 million on improving baggage screening technology. Support for the agency in the coming years is “likely to be strong,” regardless of whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or businessman Donald Trump becomes the next president, the report said.

The Coast Guard is undergoing a major recapitalization effort. Big-ticket items in the expected buy include: $240 million for fast response cutters; $100 million for offshore cutters; and $150 million to begin work on a polar icebreaker. Fiscal year 2017 will be a “strong year” for the  Coast Guard’s industry partners, the report said.

Cybersecurity has been identified as a key investment area for DHS and the Defense Department going forward. Cyber attacks launched by Russia, China and non-state actors are a growing concern among U.S. officials and politicians.

“The flood of cyber spending will continue under either a Trump or Clinton presidency,” the report said. “The threat is simply far too large to ignore.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2016/november/Pages/DHSContractSpendingSettoGrow.aspx

Defense Innovation Board Lays Out First Concepts

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“DEFENSE NEWS”

“Thinkers and business leaders from the tech world outside of the traditional defense sector.

The sole exception to that is the presence of retired Adm. William McRaven, the former head of SOCOM.

The board came out with a series of rough recommendations for Secretary of Defense Ash Carter — or his successor — that they believe will lead to injecting a culture of innovation into the Pentagon.

Schmidt opened the meeting by acknowledging the importance of the Pentagon’s mission: “We all believe an outside perspective would be beneficial and we’ve set out to try and make some recommendations.”

He added that members of the board have spent the summer traveling around to various DoD installations, including trips to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Schmidt also spent two days last week traveling with Carter to learn about the nuclear enterprise, and future trips are scheduled for US Pacific Command and US Central Command.

So what are the early ideas from the board?

A Chief Innovation Officer

The first idea listed by the board was the concept of a chief innovation officer, appointed directly by the secretary of defense, to serve as a point person for innovation efforts around the department.

Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School who has served in various government positions, explained that the sharing of best practices around the DoD is currently “less than ideal,” and noted that the position could act as the umbrella from which funding for low-level projects could flow.

Sunstein also said he believes that office could be set up “in a hurry. This could be done in a relatively informal way in the very near future.” At the same time, he acknowledged that there are “significant” legal and logistical challenges about creating the office.

The position could particularly help create cover for individuals who are down in the ranks and have ideas but are unable to flow them forward on their own.

“There are innovators who are in the Defense Department and who are excellent, but who could be sharing best practices and better coordinated and could be spurred a bit more, and the idea there is a dispersed innovative capacity in the form of lower-level people who have great ideas but face obstacles,” Sunstein told journalists after the event. “The idea of that as an umbrella for various concepts, we’re drawn to that.”

Create a Digital ROTC

The recent hacks of the Office of Personnel Management and state election offices show how critical it is for the US to recruit and retain top cyber talent, said Marne Levine, chief operation officer at Instagram. Top commercial firms with deep pockets and great benefits compete fiercely for that talent, with DoD struggling to keep up.

So in order to attract talent to the Pentagon, the board suggested creating a “digital ROTC,” where the Pentagon would pay college tuition for cyber experts in exchange for their service.

Levine acknowledged setting aside the funding for such a program “may require hard budget choices,” but “one only has to think of the high cost of cyberattacks to understand the value of such an investment.”

Similarly, she put forth the idea of creating a science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, career-path specialization inside the department, similar to that followed by doctors or lawyers.

The good news, said astrophysicist and television personality Neil deGrasse Tyson, is that the generation currently in high school and college is more interested in science than any before it.

“If you’re going to recruit people who have an interest in science and technology, I can assert that the pool of people now available to you is greater than ever before,” he said. But to attract those people from the commercial sector, the Pentagon needs to offer the best opportunities for new technologies and programs around.

“You can’t just say come because we’re cool. You have to be cool,” Tyson said. “And you’ll get ’em, for sure.”

Create a Center of Excellence for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning have the “ability to spur innovation and represent transformational change,” said J. Michael McQuade, senior vice president for science and technology with United Technologies.

That is certainly an opinion shared by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, who has talked extensively about the importance of artificial intelligence for the next generation of Pentagon systems. But McQuade said the Pentagon needs to think broadly about that potential and how it can impact things down to supply-chain optimization and training, and not just combat functions.

“We do believe substantial changes are happening in the core science and technology capability” here, McQuade said, which means the Pentagon should look at creating a center of excellence to be the central hub of this work. Whether that is a national lab or institute isn’t clear yet, but the center would ensure “adequate” focus on the issue.

Embed Software Development Teams Within Key Commands

Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn and now with Greylock Partners, joked that the tech industry has become so reliant on software that Silicon Valley should be renamed Software Valley. And the Pentagon, he said, simply has not kept up.

As a result, he put forth the idea of creating embedded software development teams in various key commands, which would be “small, agile teams of software developers where you would keep these teams current on modern techniques of software development.”

Improve Software Testing Regimens

Milo Medin, vice president of Access Services with Google Capital and a former NASA official, also emphasized the importance of software for the Pentagon, noting it is the driving factor behind upgrade programs for everything from radars to the F-35 joint strike fighter.

Currently, operational testing of software is set in the classic mindset, Medin said, adding that the testers seem to have “an implicit assumption” that the Pentagon’s firewalls, as currently constructed, are sufficient.

“In the heavily networked battle space these systems are operating in, the consequences of our weapon systems being breached from a security perspective could be severe,” he warned, adding that as autonomy enters the battle space the risk of systems being hacked could expand.

As a result, software testing needs to happen on an ongoing basis, not just when the planes are going operational. And for that to happen, the government needs access to the software code that runs the systems.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Medin stressed that does not mean defense contractors should be forced to hand over control of code developed in house, a major issue that has been raised from industry in recent years.

“The issue isn’t owning the software. The issue is access to the software,” he said. “If software is your differentiator, if software becomes a core competency … that’s something the government needs to be able to have access to, to be able to build and to be able to potentially modify. That’s what you find in the tech sector.”

Create Funding Streams for COCOMs

The Defense Innovation Board is made up of thinkers from academia and the private tech sector, in a purposeful attempt to inject outside thinking into the department. The sole exception to that is the presence of retired Adm. William McRaven, the former head of SOCOM.

Now the Chancellor at the University of Texas, McRaven provides an insider’s perspective on the acquisition system and internal processes that drive the Pentagon. He also understands how to operate around them to innovate quickly, due to his experience at SOCOM, which is famously able to develop and deploy technology at rapid rates.

But while SOCOM has that ability, other parts of the military do not — something McRaven said the board came to understand during various visits this summer.

“We were a little frustrated as you see these magnificent infantrymen and pilots who are equally as smart [as SOCOM], equally want to innovate, and yet the layers of bureaucracy to get the decision-makers to make those decisions are difficult.”

As a result, McRaven would like to see a way to give other combatant commanders acquisition ability. Not for big, Category 1 programs — “You need to let that go through a traditional approach,” he said — but for smaller technology programs. And if the commanders can quickly turn small projects into fielded capabilities, the idea that innovative thinking will be rewarded will “spread like wildfire” through the force, he added.

Future Concepts

Those concepts are still in their infancy, but represent the more concrete ideas the board has come up with. But there are several broader concepts that the members are still trying to get their head around.

Jennifer Pahika, the founder of the nonprofit Code for America, said she wants to tap into what tech companies call the “maker movement,” with an eye on the tinkerers in the military who have good ideas but not the venue for turning them into products. Eric Lander, president and director of the Broad Institute, said he was really interested in what role biological technologies could provide.

But the toughest issue to tackle, and perhaps the most important, is cultural. All involved agreed that developing a culture where new ideas can be tested and fail, without fear of ending a career, is going to be the biggest challenge. And it’s not clear exactly how that can be changed.

Schmidt said he is “convinced” the biggest change the board needs to look at is with people and culture, more than specific pieces of technology.

That was driven home by the public comment section of the meeting, which featured a number of junior and mid-level officers talking about the risk-adverse nature of the Pentagon. At the end of the day, however, the hope is that the ideas from the board can start to change that around the edges before injecting change more directly into the system.

“The fact [board members are] not steeped in the Department of Defense may be the best thing this group brings,” McRaven told reporters. “At the end of the day, we want to have an outside look because I think that’s where we can make real change.”

Added Schmidt: “We’re not going to write a report without impact. We view ourselves as more of a contact sport, working with whatever way is appropriate.”

Another question is about the future of the group once Carter leaves office, which is expected to occur early next year as a new administration comes to power. The board is currently scheduled to expire in April 2018, but could be renewed much the same way other advisory boards have been in the past.

“The other boards have been around for a while, and I’m assuming we will generate enough value that people want us around,” Schmidt said. “And if we don’t perform, we will be fired.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/defense-innovation-board-lays-out-first-concepts?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EBB%2010.6.16&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

 

 

 

Underwater Robots: Will the Pentagon Miss the Boat?

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“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“The Defense Department has made significant investments in underwater vehicle designs and prototypes.

But it has not funded  larger numbers for testing and experimentation.

Top defense contractors have jumped into the race to develop autonomous mini-submarines for the U.S. military. As the Pentagon makes it increasingly clear that unmanned technology will be a linchpin of future warfare, contractors have taken the plunge, partnered with or acquired commercial firms in this sector in hopes of capturing future Defense Department contracts.

There is a flaw in the plan, however, warns retired Navy Rear Adm. Fred Byus. The Pentagon has taken initial steps to “steer investments” in autonomous technology but is not moving fast enough to increase production of robots so they can be made available to large numbers of users for testing and experimentation.

The technology to produce autonomous underwater vehicles is ready to transition from the lab to the fleet, says Byus, who is general manager of mission and defense technologies at Battelle. He contends that if the Pentagon continues to buy vehicles only in onesies and twosies, the technology is at risk of getting stuck in limbo, will remain unfamiliar to most potential users and will produce prototypes that are too expensive to be accessible across the military.

Undersea drones are one area of warfare where the United States has the opportunity to gain a big technological edge over potential adversaries, Byus says. Leaps in innovation have occurred both in the defense and commercial markets but the Pentagon may not be able to take advantage of the advanced technology because of its internal approaches to acquisitions, he adds. “You have to have processes that keep up with technology.” With robotics, it is important to “get the technology into the hands of the war fighters as widely as possible.”

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has been a proponent of unmanned undersea systems. He said in February that the Pentagon would invest $600 million over the next five years in “variable size and variable payload unmanned undersea vehicles.” Carter described a vision of networked “distributed” drones that would give naval forces unprecedented capabilities to collect intelligence.

Despite this high-level endorsement, the Defense Department’s acquisition organizations are not moving quickly to push the technology forward and start building prototypes in sufficiently large numbers, Byus says. Talking about the promise of robotics alone is not enough unless there is “parallel development of tactics” for the use of the technology, and incentives for vendors to produce more systems at lower prices.

The Navy this month solicited a “request for information” from contractors, asking for proposals on how existing unmanned undersea vehicles could be adapted for military use. Under a project called “extra large unmanned undersea vehicle,” the Naval Sea Systems Command wants to conduct experiments to develop tactics and concept of operations.

Contractors like Battelle, General Dynamics and Boeing Phantom Works have made big bets on commercial robots they believe are suitable for military use and cheaper than anything the Pentagon could ever invent.

Byus worries that the Defense Department’s plan to tap commercial technology may fall short because it is mostly focused on niche experiments that will not create a demand for vehicles and therefore not motivate the industry to keep investing. “The autonomous systems industrial base is not in place to support large scale employment of the technology,” he says. “They need to be thinking about that.” Underwater submarines, for instance, have not been made in big enough numbers so units across the Navy can test them, he says, nor is there enough work to support the development of the autonomous underwater vehicle industrial base.

Companies in this sector continue to hedge their bets. Battelle moved to acquire SeeByte Inc., a software developer that specializes in autonomous undersea vehicles and sensors. One of the industry’s best known players, Bluefin Robotics was taken over by Battelle in 2005, and earlier this year was acquired by General Dynamics Mission Systems.

A major Navy ship builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries, has produced the Proteus underwater vehicle in a partnership with Battelle. It is a dual-mode system that can be driven by a pilot or operated autonomously. The vehicle was designed by the Columbia Group’s Engineering Solutions Division. Huntington Ingalls acquired ESD two years ago and renamed it the Undersea Solutions Group.

Commercial companies that have developed underwater robots are now feeling the pinch of the downturn in the oil and gas industries. This creates an opportunity for the Pentagon to play a more prominent role as a customer of this technology, Byus says. “Underwater technology development is under the same type of financial constraints on the commercial side that it has seen with the downturn in R&D on the government side.”

The military needs to step up the integration of unmanned systems into the force because it can’t afford the rising costs of people, he says, and needs to “relieve war fighters from dull dirty and dangerous work that autonomous systems are capable of doing.” With underwater submarines, the military could deploy a network of robots to keep eyes on potential enemies, for example.

“It will take some progressive thinkers in the Defense Department to say, ‘For this industrial base to be in place when we need it, we need to kick start the commercial applications as well as the government applications.’” A cautionary tale is found in the ship-building industry, where there are so few suppliers that prices continue to soar, forcing the Navy to buy fewer platforms — a downward cycle known in the Pentagon as the procurement “death spiral.”

The Pentagon also would benefit from better outreach to commercial companies so it can learn what innovations are being acquired by other countries, some of which are potential future adversaries. “You need a well coordinated program of commercial and government investment,” Byus says. “With only commercial development, you’ll have technological parity. If it’s all government funded, there is a risk that you end up with an industrial base and systems that are very expensive, which increases the cost of systems and the challenge of getting them into the hands of users.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2316

“Political Engineering” to Weaken Independent Testing of Defense Products

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“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“The alleged hardship of living within a sequestered budget—albeit one that exceeds Vietnam War and Reagan-era funding peaks—provides a convenient excuse for new attempts to cut operational testing and evaluation budgets. That this is an excuse and the opposite of fiscal prudence is obvious: in times of budgetary constraint, the worst activity to cut is the one that provides the most important evidence for deciding where acquisition money is ill-spent.

Beyond that, if Congress truly is concerned about the real causes of today’s hundreds of billions of dollars of cost overruns and unending schedule delays, then it should require that operational testing and evaluation always take place before production begins.

Nothing else will eliminate the ever-worsening concurrency malpractice that has resulted in such disastrous recent programs as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Littoral Combat Ship, ballistic missile defense, Joint Tactical Radio System, and Ford-class carrier.

Naturally, the defense industry is opposed to realistic, independent operational evaluation and reporting because test failures can lead to program cancellation, reduced funding, and diminished profit. Companies with high-value contracts have become adept at spreading facilities and subcontracts out across as many states and congressional districts as possible in order to secure congressional allies, a phenomenon renowned defense analyst Franklin “Chuck” Spinney has termed “political engineering.” This outsourcing strategy weakens national security in many ways; one manifestation is the recurring effort by industry’s congressional allies to undermine the independence of DOT&E and the rigor of its testing.

Reflecting the misguided view that DOT&E—rather than procurement mismanagement coupled with shoddy contractor performance—is to blame for unprecedented overruns and schedule slippages, the House Armed Services Committee included language in this year’s NDAA intended to weaken the independence and combat realism of operational testing.

The bill, as passed by the House of Representatives, requires DOT&E to:

Consider the potential for increases in program cost estimates or delays in schedule estimates in the implementation of policies, procedures, and activities related to operational test and evaluation, and to take appropriate action to ensure that the conduct of operational test and evaluation activities do not unnecessarily impede program schedules or increase program costs.

Though not mandatory, this language opens the door for the acquisition bureaucracy to pressure DOT&E to pare back thorough operational testing, even though such operational testing consistently yields long-term savings and more combat-effective weapon systems.

The House Armed Services Committee’s NDAA also includes biased instructions to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to evaluate DOT&E’s causing of “unnecessary” costs and delays in weapons procurement:

To help inform the committee’s understanding of how operational test and evaluation processes and activities may unnecessarily increase schedule and cost of major defense acquisition programs, the committee directs [GAO] to review operational test and evaluation processes and activities.

What is actually unnecessary is yet another GAO study on DOT&E’s effect on cost and schedule. GAO produced exactly such a study in 1997 and concluded that operational testing in fact saves money and time in fielding successful weapons. Nothing has happened since 1997 to change GAO’s fundamental conclusions.”

http://www.pogo.org/our-work/articles/2014/independent-weapons-testing-comes-under-fire-again.html