Inside The Pentagon
September 20, 2007
Army and Air Force officials in charge of acquisition and development of unmanned aerial vehicles are expected to meet over the next two weeks, to begin laying the groundwork to merge two key UAV programs into one joint effort, a defense official tells Inside the Pentagon.
Program officials from the services will work together under the auspices of “joint integrated product teams” to help combine the two separate UAV efforts into a single acquisition program.
The first team will focus on blending the two services’ common datalink structures, with joint service meetings set for the first week in October, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Over the next two weeks, joint integrated product teams will be stood up to hash out differences between each service’s UAV organizational structures, or “how we can come together more closely [to] build a cohesive and effective team,” the source said.
Creation of the joint integrated product teams is the first step being taken by the services after Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England ordered the Army and Air Force UAV programs be combined.
England’s decision essentially overruled the recommendations made by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council in July to give the Air Force executive agent authority for all medium- to high-altitude UAVs.
“The Predator and Sky Warrior programs will be combined into a single acquisition program . . . in order to achieve common development, procurement, sustainment and training activities,” England wrote in a Sept. 13 memorandum to the services. ITP
obtained a copy of the missive, which sums up a meeting of the Deputy’s Advisory Working Group (DAWG) held the same day.
The steps being taken by Army and Air Force officials also fall in line with DOD plans to have both programs merged under a single contract by next October.
The new joint UAV program will be conducted as a “ACAT-1D program,” said the source, referencing the Pentagon’s name for acquisition programs that have the highest level of oversight in the Pentagon.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense, as opposed to just the individual services, must review ACAT-1D programs before they can advance into new phases.
The new joint program’s official designation will remain MQ-1and will “primarily be based on the Warrior design [with] both services migrating to that configuration,” the source said.
However the services have not yet determined which moniker -- Sky Warrior or Predator -- the new drones will be tagged with, the source said.
“Certainly there is precedence in other [joint] systems where an aircraft takes one name in one service and another, slightly different name in another service,” the source added. “But from the perspective of the actual management of the program, it will be a much more collaborative approach” compared to other joint efforts, the source said.
While under the joint umbrella, each service will retain separate funding authority for their part of the acquisition program “toward their own service-specific requirements,” the source said, adding similar funding authorities are already in place on several joint programs across DOD.
“What [the services] will do is contractually they will be on one contract . . . the Air Force will buy what they need and the Army will buy what they need off of that same contract,” the source said. “And then they will jointly manage the configuration, in terms of what that includes.
Additionally, the offices of acting Pentagon acquisition executive John Young and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “will develop interoperability profiles for incorporation” for the new joint UAV program, the missive states. Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, the current chairman, is due to be replaced by Navy Adm. Michael Mullen on Oct. 1.
The Sept. 13 memo directs Young’s office to develop a task force to “coordinate critical [unmanned aerial system] issues” geared toward creating a new UAV roadmap that will “enhance operations, enable interdependencies and streamline acquisition of UAS.”
The task force will report to the DAWG, as well as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright.
“The task force will identify to the DAWG and, where appropriate, assign lead organizations for issues related to acquisition and management of UAS, including interoperability, civil airspace integration, frequency spectrum and bandwidth utilization, and airframe payload and sensor management,” the memo adds.
The memo also directs the JROC to coordinate the development of UAS training activities and operational employment.
While led by OSD and specifically Young’s office, the source said the UAV task force was not an attempt by OSD to bigfoot the services, in terms of UAV acquisition. Consequently, the task force will have adequate service representation within its ranks, the source noted.
“OSD [acquisition, technology and logistics] has been fairly adamant about that,” the source said. “They do not see this as an OSD czar kind of position . . . they are just trying to put themselves in a better coordination role.”
The missive also instructs Young and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to develop interoperability profiles for unmanned drones. Further, England directs Young to evaluate and make recommendations “leading to increased competition for UAS acquisition.”
The original JROC recommendation, signed by Adm. Edmund Giambastiani (Cartwright’s predecessor), gave Air Force officials acquisition authority over that class of unmanned aircraft but also called for the stand-up of joint program offices to ensure all the services would have a say in the acquisition process.
The decision seemingly brought to an end months of heated rhetoric and debate between the services over the Air Force’s aggressive bid to garner executive agent authority over medium- to high-altitude unmanned aircraft. But England’s memo trumps the JROC’s decision.
Prior to the DAWG decision, all three services had already begun mulling the idea of streamlining UAV acquisition efforts, without naming an executive agent for those platforms. ITP
first reported that issue was discussed this summer by senior Air Force, Army and Navy officials during warfighter talks.
“There was some discussion about working together under the same tenets of an executive agent [for medium- to high-altitude UAVs], but without that emotional [baggage],” a defense official said at the time of the warfighter talks.
Deputy Air Force acquisition chief Charles Riechers also acknowledged the services were in the process of evaluating alternative acquisition plans for UAV programs well before the DAWG had reached a decision on the issue.
The source could not comment as to why the JROC -- or specifically Giambastiani -- went ahead and gave the Air Force the green light on its bid for the UAV executive agent role, but did say “ regardless of what information was presented,” the three other service chiefs vehemently pushed back against the idea.
“The major issue, in terms of pushback, from all the services was we did not feel that there was a case made [that the Air Force] promoted greater efficiency,” the source said, noting the services were “all were in favor of working closer together and doing more cooperative work . . .cooperative developments in terms of doing things more jointly.”
Consequently, service leaders involved in the deliberations agreed the Sept. 13 DAWG decision would solve the issue of duplication ongoing in UAV development, while adhering to service-specific requirements, the source said.
“None of the other services felt that the Air Force proposal would result in a more efficient system and, in all likelihood, reduce our ability to support our service-specific [concept of operations] and requirements,” the source added. “OSD was consistent from the start that they wanted [the services] to work this much more collaboratively, and we are going to do that.” -- Carlo Munoz