Case Study In Waste

I have been ranting about military waste. I will leave the Air Force alone for now.

Marine Corps and supporting contractors want a new Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). It is a whiz bang improvement over the existing ship to shore armored vehicle. It is a “keystone for both the Marine Corps Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare (EMW) and Ship-to-Objective Maneuver (STOM) war fighting concepts” from the EFV site.

What EMW and STOM have to do with the common defense is hard to tell, but it is good for the contractors and careers. It is no good to anyone if it doesn’t work, which seems to be the case. It is supposed do 25 kts in sea state 3 and come in from over the horizon. It can do 45 mph on land and scoot and shoot a 30 mm gun.

It comes out of the wet hull of an amphibious ship. It is indispensable to that ship’s indispensable capability to go ashore at Iwo Jima again.

So far, Washington Post reports, the Corps has spent 10 years and $1.2 B and they have problems. It breaks all the time. Who was spending $120 million bucks a year and delivering such a mess?

How could it happen? CoRev thinks I have been on failed programs this is deeper than any of mine.

Here is a process view:

The Marines’ wish is for a vehicle that can both hit the beaches at 25 knots through seas from over the horizon, to sneak up on them, whoever we want that to be. Then link up with the Army or Marine M-1 tanks and keep up with their Bradleys and Abrahms’.

They hired a contractor to do “system engineering”, over 10 years and $1.2 billion ago, to translate these wishes and a few more like not getting the kids inside killed by .30 caliber ammunition and blasts. The contractor derives specifications, the government reviews them.

As the contractor designs the thing to the specs they stumble, and bumble along have all kinds of travel and meetings and reviews. No one really knows what they are looking at and every time they get together the contractor tells them “everything is great”, it is not good to be accused of ranting in the contractors plant that things ain’t so hot. So for 10 years everything is great.

The design has performance specifications for various parts of the system. The performance specs tell how each part is to work to make the thing go, float, communicate and so forth. The specifications also include rocket science like: the part has to work for so many hours, a thing called reliability, it has a thing called maintainability and specs for support and technical repair.

It also tells how to link the parts together.

It is a hard job. It is not done well and no one dare tells how bad it is because it is impolite to rant about the trash that the brass tells congress is a “keystone” of some capability.

These performance specs start at the top level, the vehicle, and break down all the way to the nuts and bolts. The rocket science got too much for the government and contractor guys. But everyone went along spending time, traveling about the country and spending the money even though no one had a clue other than making a living and growing their careers.

After they write the specs they do some building and then some testing. This is done from the nuts and bolts up. Each item in a spec is supposed to be tested. Reliability testing is hard because the lower level stuff has to work for a long, long time between failures so the total vehicle works for a hours. Reliability is hard, too hard for this group.

Testing long hour reliability requirements takes more time, so it is not done and the guys assume everything is just fine in this “keystone” system.

When the test fails it is again impolite to say the “keystone” is not very good. To say so is bad for the career.

When you allow faulty design in the nuts and bolts it is like not installing the bearing seals in an engine and putting the thing together.

This wasteful engineering approach with negligent testing is evident in the EFV and is common on many systems.

Tests are very important during design. There is often not enough money or time even in a $1.2B, 10 years effort. But a test not performed is not a failed test. To state otherwise would be to rant. Get you fired CoRev!

All they will do when they get caught is do it over again.

Jack Welch would say they are producing defects, which is a source of waste.

It is illogical to think and act as if “the thing is so important that we need to produce and operate it regardless of how expensive, late and bad the performance”.