The U.S. Air Force urgently needs to replace its decrepit fleet of UH-1N helicopters, which provides security for Minuteman III missiles and emergency transport for senior government officials. However, the way the Air Force is going about picking the replacement helicopter seems to completely ignore guidance from the Secretary of Defense about being more efficient. First, the acquisition strategy turns a simple off-the-shelf procurement into a complicated development program, with all the added costs and delays that it implies. Second, the strategy does not think through the long-term costs of sustaining the new helicopter once it is in service, including how money might be saved. Third, the strategy ignores the fact that the Army already has a warm production line for one of the competing helicopters, and that the Air Force’s source selection thus could have budgetary consequences for a sister service. In sum, the Air Force acquisition strategy is very much at variance with what Secretary Mattis says he is trying to achieve in reforming Pentagon business practices. I have written a commentary for RealClearDefense here.
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