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Project on Government Oversight

POGO’s comments to Congress on Air Force policy changes and CSAR-X report

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April 15, 2008

The Honorable Vic Snyder
Chairman
Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Committee on Armed Services
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-6035

Dear Chairman Snyder:

Thank you very much for your continued oversight of the Air Force's number two acquisition priority, its Combat Search and Rescue replacement (CSAR-X) program. POGO continues to monitor this program as well, as follow-up to our report, Rescue at Risk: Crucial Helicopter Requirement Weakened.

While our findings have been supported to some degree by Air Force admissions that there were problems with the transparency and tracking of key -performance parameters, we believe there has not been full candor with your subcommittee.

Furthermore, we have questions about the recently launched Defense Department Inspector General audit into the program. Though welcomed, we are concerned about the audit's limited scope.

First, the Air Force in its February 15, 2008, response to you, is clearly only forward-looking in its written reply. For instance, it simply "outlines new procedures that have been promulgated throughout" the Air Force.

It does not address the inappropriate and significant weakening of the Deployability KPP change in the CSAR-X requirements documentation that we identified in our report which have led to these procedural changes.

Although we think the improvements to the Air Force's requirements oversight process are positive ones, we believe the Air Force is avoiding accountability for the improper changes to the Deployability KPP and is avoiding this issue in its correspondence with your subcommittee.

Our belief is buttressed by the highly misleading presentation to your subcommittee in December. The Air Force's presentation was riddled with inaccuracies and is even internally inconsistent. Also, Boeing's account of some of the moments we discussed in our report contradicts that of the Air Force's in its presentation.

Examples of problems with the Air Force's presentation are as follows:

  • The Air Force states in slide page nine that the KPP change occurred in the March-April 2005 time frame and that, after the change was made, it was then approved during May through August. In slide page ten, the Air Force says the KPP change occurred during April-June 2005 due to "government discussion and continued market research."

  • On slide page eleven, the Air Force quotes from a May 26, 2005, Lockheed letter to them, that proposes a KPP change from "mission ready" to"flight ready." According to slide page nine, the change had already been made during March-April 2005. If the Lockheed letter was the impetus for the change, it is hard to reconcile the date of the Lockheed letter with the range of dates the change occurred.

  • On slide page seven, under the second mention of changes to the Deployability KPP, the Air Force says that "offerors"—not one offeror—requested the change for clarification from April through June as the "rationale for change." Given that the Air Force refers to offers, this means that in addition to Lockheed either Boeing or Sikorsky also requested the change if one follows the Air Force's logic.

  • The Air Force states that "Boeing began discussions with the CSAR-X Program Office in June 05" on slide page seven. Boeing told us that their "business development representative Bob Richardson briefed AFSOC in April 2005 on the capabilities of the MH-47G aircraft. He showed them a chart depicting a 3:15 build-up for deployability and said he expected the time could be improved. He did not say the CSAR requirements could not be met. About 2 weeks later he and others briefed the SPO at WPAFB with the same message." Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is responsible for the drafting of CSAR-X program requirements. WPAFB (Wright Patterson Air Force Base) is the Air Force base in charge of most Air Force procurements, including CSAR-X. AFSOC does not fly any MH-47Gs, but the CSAR-X HH-47 is a derivative of it. The CSAR-X program was the only major Air Force helicopter acquisition program that would be looking at different helicopters at that time.

The IG announced that the audit "will determine whether KPP changes were properly designated and appropriately vetted through the Joint Requirements Oversight Council." It is unclear whether the Defense Department IG audit into CSAR-X requirements changes will examine whether or not there were ethics violations, including conflict of interests and revolving door laws and regulations. We believe this should be included in the audit's scope.

During the course of our investigation, we became aware that numerous key individuals involved had moved between the Air Force and industry and that there were questions about improper influence that may have subverted the integrity of the acquisition process. But we were not able to substantiate them.

The DoD IG auditors should be made sensitive to these concerns.

We have recently forwarded some documents of interest to the DoD IG which relate to these potential ethics violations.

As always, please feel free to contact me or POGO's national security investigator Nick Schwellenbach at (202) 347-1122 if you have any questions. Again, thank you for your continued oversight on this and other defense issues.

Sincerely,

Danielle Brian
Executive Director
Project On Government Oversight (POGO)


CC:
Ranking Member Todd Akin, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Neil Abercrombie, Air and Land Forces Subcommittee
Ranking Member Jim Saxton, Air and Land Forces Subcommittee

Attachments

1)  Air Force's February 15, 2008, reply to Chairman Vic Snyder

2)  Chairman Vic Snyder's January 7, 2008, letter to the Air Force's Ken Miller

3)  Air Force's December 5, 2007, presentation on POGO's report to HASC Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee

4)  DoD IG February 19, 2008, announcement of audit of CSAR-X requirements changes

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