Did Terminating the A-12 Navy Fighter Cost the 1992 Election?
A-12 Navy Fighter Program:
The following is why I oppose nearly every new weapon system on the table.
They follow the A-12 pattern. Except there has been no one to kill them since Cheney got “religion”.
In 1992 GHW Bush was not reelected. No failed large weapon system has been terminated since.
Jan 2003 “National Defense” NDIA’s (National Defense Industrial Association) Business and Technology Magazine:
“After more than a decade of litigation, the Department of Defense continues to seek vindication for its inappropriate use of a fixed-price contract and its faulty management of the $5 billion A-12 stealth aircraft research and development (R&D) project. “
Jan 7 1991 Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney terminated the contract to design the A-12 Avenger for default. The termination under federal law required the companies Mc Donnell Douglas and General Dynamics to pay back $1.3 B.
As far as I can determine the litigation is still in appeal and may get to the US Supreme Court if the court will hear a liability case.
In addition to the $1.3 B, interest of over $1B has accrued and litigation costs are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Navy did not fold up and blow away after the A-12 ceased to exist. They quietly made a bigger cost plus, best effort, no specification too gold plated to redesign the F-18 for the price of a whole new airplane.
What I see happened: the Navy desired a “stealth” fighter like the Air Force’s F-117 which was in design and under heavy secrecy in the 1980’s. It had to fly off carriers which presented several design issues, but Mc Donnell Douglas had built the F-4 for carriers and so had the expertise, it was assumed. Development contracts in that time were fixed price. A fixed price means that the Navy agreed to pay in this case $5 B for the design and delivery of several prototypes of the A-12, in a given time and the A-12 would meet a system specification with performance and physical requirements so it would fit on a carrier and do the missions it needed to be performed. If the contractor can deliver at lower costs than the fixed price they make more profit. They also stand to lose money if costs are more than expected.
In fixed price developments with huge cost overruns the response was to either “equitably adjust” the price upward being very sympathetic to the contractor, or revise the specification and take reduced quality and also not harm the contractor’s profits. This is quite a very cozy relationship. Went on then and goes on now. No one ever loses money working for Uncle Sam. The taxpayer gets expensive stuff that is not so good.
The Navy had planned to adjust the expectations but an unforeseen catastrophe occurred. The Defense Contract Auditor working the project cried foul. This is the most successful whistleblower case in memory. The whistleblower stated with thorough evidence that the delay was so vast that the idea of running up the price was totally irresponsible and the failed design was such the Navy would spend huge amounts to fix it while it pretended it useful in the fleet.
Cheney had no choice but to terminate the program.
Contrast the A-12 to the F-22 or the B-2 or the Littoral Combat Ship. F-22 took many extra years with huge cost overruns and no one ever asked was it still worth doing. The Air Force is much smarter than the Navy, they learned to have “disciplined” contract auditors who would not make critical observations known outside the cozy “community”.