National Guard September 2011 : Page 56

LAST WORD An Engine Monopoly By Retired Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver W engine also used in the F-15. However, technical problems with that engine posed significant operational restrictions HEN I WAS a commander, my top priority was and fleet readiness issues. always the safety and security of the men and Finally, the Defense Department recognized this serious is-women with whom I served and flew. sue and introduced a competitive engine to the market. As a Preparedness of our servicemen and women hinges result, not only did the performance of the engines improve, upon the right training and equipment. That’s why it’s but costs went down as well—to the tune of 20 percent. imperative that we make certain our weapons systems are Congress has written competitive procurement for the best our nation can produce. defense contracts into law many times over the years, in-As the former director of the Air National Guard, I am cluding as recently as 2009, but such legislation has been also familiar with budget constraints. remarkably ineffective. Constraints are more severe now than they have been For example, even though the independent Govern-in decades. We must better manage the costs of our weap-ment Accountability Office has more than once reported ons systems in order to ensure that we have them available that a competition to power the next-generation F-35 Joint on the battlefield. Strike Fighter could have similar benefits as the Great En-There’s only one way to accomplish both goals: Com-gine War and save taxpayers $20 billion over the life of the petitive procurement. program, the Pentagon seems insistent on Anyone with a basic understanding supporting an engine monopoly for one Congress must of economics can attest to the various for the next 30 years. do more than just contractor benefits competition brings to any mar-This is particularly frustrating given ketplace. When producers realize they’ll support the notion that the makers of the competitive en-have to fight for a piece of the market, gine, GE and Rolls-Royce, have offered to of competition; they’re forced to make both the quality self-fund the development of their engine and cost of their products as attractive as for fiscal 2011 and 2012. it must demand possible. Today, DoD is experiencing unparal-competition for This is true whether companies are leled pressures. Not only are we fighting a selling automobiles or computers. And war on multiple fronts against an enemy all contracts. it’s certainly true when they’re selling unlike any we’ve faced before, but the state-of-the-art weapons systems to the Pentagon. defense budget, almost untouchable in years past, is also a The benefits of competition among defense contractors prime target for federal spending cuts. have been empirically proved time and time again. Competition is quite simply the best mechanism to In fact, the Air National Guard can thank competi-control costs without sacrificing performance. tion for myriad technological advancements over the past Congress must do more than just support the notion of couple of decades, including night-vision lighting, target-competition; it must demand competition for all contracts ing pods, color displays for F-16 fighter aircraft, helmet-purchased by all branches of the armed services at all mounted cueing and the dissemination of information in times. real time to C-130 cockpits, to name a few. Engine competition for the Joint Strike Fighter pro-One of the clearest examples of how competition gram is the perfect place to begin. improves defense programs is the “Great Engine War” that The author is a former director of the Air National Guard and took place in the 1980s and continues for all practical is currently a consultant to General Electric. He can be reached purposes today. at magazine@ngaus.org. N ATIONAL G UARD welcomes opposing Initially, pilots who flew the F-16 aircraft during that views. period had to rely on a sole-sourced engine, the same 56 | Na tional Guard

Last Word

Retired Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver

An Engine Monopoly<br /> <br /> WHEN I WAS a commander, my top priority was always the safety and security of the men and women with whom I served and flew.<br /> <br /> Preparedness of our servicemen and women hinges upon the right training and equipment. That's why it's imperative that we make certain our weapons systems are the best our nation can produce.<br /> <br /> As the former director of the Air National Guard, I am also familiar with budget constraints.<br /> <br /> Constraints are more severe now than they have been in decades. We must better manage the costs of our weapons systems in order to ensure that we have them available on the battlefield.<br /> <br /> There's only one way to accomplish both goals: Competitive procurement.<br /> <br /> Anyone with a basic understanding of economics can attest to the various benefits competition brings to any marketplace. When producers realize they'll have to fight for a piece of the market, they're forced to make both the quality and cost of their products as attractive as possible.<br /> <br /> This is true whether companies are selling automobiles or computers. And it's certainly true when they're selling state-of-the-art weapons systems to the Pentagon.<br /> <br /> The benefits of competition among defense contractors have been empirically proved time and time again.<br /> <br /> In fact, the Air National Guard can thank competition for myriad technological advancements over the past couple of decades, including night-vision lighting, targeting pods, color displays for F-16 fighter aircraft, helmetmounted cueing and the dissemination of information in real time to C-130 cockpits, to name a few.<br /> <br /> One of the clearest examples of how competition improves defense programs is the "Great Engine War" that took place in the 1980s and continues for all practical purposes today.<br /> <br /> Initially, pilots who flew the F-16 aircraft during that period had to rely on a sole-sourced engine, the same engine also used in the F-15. However, technical problems with that engine posed significant operational restrictions and fleet readiness issues.<br /> <br /> Finally, the Defense Department recognized this serious issue and introduced a competitive engine to the market. As a result, not only did the performance of the engines improve, but costs went down as well – to the tune of 20 percent.<br /> <br /> Congress has written competitive procurement for defense contracts into law many times over the years, including as recently as 2009, but such legislation has been remarkably ineffective.<br /> <br /> For example, even though the independent Government Accountability Office has more than once reported that a competition to power the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could have similar benefits as the Great Engine War and save taxpayers $20 billion over the life of the program, the Pentagon seems insistent on supporting an engine monopoly for one contractor for the next 30 years.<br /> <br /> This is particularly frustrating given that the makers of the competitive engine, GE and Rolls-Royce, have offered to self-fund the development of their engine for fiscal 2011 and 2012.<br /> <br /> Today, DoD is experiencing unparalleled pressures. Not only are we fighting a war on multiple fronts against an enemy unlike any we've faced before, but the defense budget, almost untouchable in years past, is also a prime target for federal spending cuts.<br /> <br /> Competition is quite simply the best mechanism to control costs without sacrificing performance.<br /> <br /> Congress must do more than just support the notion of competition; it must demand competition for all contracts purchased by all branches of the armed services at all times.<br /> <br /> Engine competition for the Joint Strike Fighter program is the perfect place to begin.<br /> <br /> The author is a former director of the Air National Guard and is currently a consultant to General Electric. He can be reached at magazine@ngaus.org. NATIONAL GUARD welcomes opposing views.<br /> <br /> Congress must do more than just support the notion of competition; it must demand competition for all contracts.

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