Honorable Edward "Pete" Aldridge
Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition,
Technology, and Logistics
3010 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-3010
Dear Mr. Aldridge:
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) would like to commend you on your recent decision to ground the V-22 Osprey. Bloomberg.com quoted you on October 22nd as saying, "It is my view it [V-22 Osprey] needs two years of flight testing before we can answer the question of whether or not this is a reliable, safe, operationally suitable aircraft." We agree. The Defense Department has an obligation to the men and women who serve in the armed services, along with the taxpayers, that we are not only purchasing the best weapons systems, but also weapons systems that work.
However, POGO is concerned about the upcoming Joint Strike Fighter engineering and manufacturing development contract award decision. The Joint Strike Fighter program will be the most expensive aircraft program in the history of the Defense Department, with estimates currently at $200 billion. Moreover, the aircraft will play a major role in our armed forces and require a substantial amount of funding. For those reasons, it is crucial that the Joint Strike Fighter meet all of its testing criteria and stay within budget. We need to make sure that this aircraft is reliable, safe, and operationally suitable.
According to a recent General Accounting Office Report, Joint Strike Fighter Acquisition: Mature Critical Technologies Needed to Reduce Risks GAO-02-39, there are eight technologies that are at high risk levels: prognostic and health management, integrated flight propulsion control, subsystems, integrated support system, integrated core processor, radar, manufacturing, and mission systems integration. Furthermore, because these eight technologies are currently at high risk, the program is at risk of not staying within its' projected budget and taking a longer amount of time to complete.
We are not yet questioning whether the Joint Strike Fighter is the right aircraft for the military, but we do believe that if we are going to spend an estimated $200 billion on about 3,000 planes then we should make sure they work and stay within budget. There is no rush to award this contract at the moment. We urge you to delay the decision until these technologies are proven adequately and are no longer considered a high risk.