PARIS --- When faced with criticism of a weapon system that is strongly backed by top military leaders, the public’s immediate reaction is to believe the military, assuming it has superior knowledge of reality and presuming their superior integrity.
Yet, public perception is not always right, and there are many instances of the military using misleading or factually wrong statements to protect favored programs.
That is the reason why Congress in 1983 mandated the creation of a new position, Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), to be an independent overseer of all OT&E and reporting only to the Secretary of Defense and the Congress.
In the words of one participant, this new position, which was “strongly opposed by the DoD and the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex,” was the “most significant and lasting legislative contribution of the Congressional Military Reform Caucus.”
The outgoing DOT&E, Dr. J. Michael Gilmore, has distinguished himself as being both willing and able to provide objective evaluations of weapon performance, to voice unpopular opinions and to contradict DoD officials or military officers, whatever their seniority, whose statements he found objectionable.
Gilmore’s evaluations, based on facts and rigorous analysis, are often more pessimistic than those of other senior officials, whose own, rosier evaluations can be influenced by considerations other than fact and reality.
One recent example is provided by the major contradictions in the answers provided to Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, by DOT&E and by the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, USD(AT&L) Frank Kendall.
In his answers, and in his cover letter to McCain, Kendall expresses his unwavering support for the F-35 program, but offers mostly opinions and confidence to justify this support.
This contrasts starkly with the precise and detailed rebuttal provided by DOT&E, each of whose statements are substantiated by facts and figures.
While the general public assumes senior military and civilian officials can be trusted to voice honest and objective opinions, human nature makes this impossible.
Gilmore’s recounting of the shenanigans which the US Navy and OSD officials used to protect an obscure program, Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV) for several years before its inevitable cancellation offers a cautionary tale of how the procurement bureaucracy, the military services and industry can conspire against taxpayers’ best interests.
We leave it to Gilmore to explain, in his own words, how the RMMV program ended, in this excerpt from his final report, published Jan. 10 (see link at bottom).
Statistically Based Reliability Analyses: Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV)
The Remote Minehunting System (RMS) uses the RMMV, which is an unmanned, diesel-powered, semi-submersible vehicle, to tow a minehunting sonar (the AN/AQS-20 variable depth sensor).
From 2005 to 2009, the system exhibited reliability problems in nearly all periods of developmental and operational testing, twice failing to complete a planned IOT&E because of poor reliability, and ultimately experienced a Nunn-McCurdy breach. (Emphasis added throughout—Ed.)
Following a Nunn-McCurdy review in 2010, USD(AT&L) directed the Navy to restructure the RMS program and fund and implement a three-phase RMMV reliability growth program.
In early 2016, following the completion of the independent review, among other actions, the Navy canceled the Remote Minehunting System (RMS) program, halted further Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV) procurement, abandoned plans to conduct operational testing of individual MCM mission package increments, and delayed the start of LCS MCM mission package IOT&E until at last FY20.
After canceling the RMS program, the Navy also announced its intention to evaluate alternatives to the RMS.
Ironically, the Navy’s mine warfare resource sponsor identified a multi-function unmanned surface vessel (USV) as a “game changer” and potential RMMV replacement in 2012.
In the years that followed, however, Navy officials touted RMMV reliability improvements that never materialized, reported inflated reliability estimates based on incorrect analysis, and funded additional RMMV development.
The Navy did not use robust statistical analysis to assess RMMV performance objectively nor did it prioritize development of a multi-function USV capable of integrating with the RMS’s towed sonar. These choices have left the Navy without a viable means of towing improved sonars when the contractor delivers initial production units next year and could delay realistic testing and fielding of the system until FY20.
By accepting objective analysis of RMMV performance and committing to the USV sooner, the Navy could have avoided this unfortunate position and saved millions in RMMV development costs.
Despite DOT&E’s reporting, USD(AT&L) (Frank Kendall—Ed.) published in its annual Developmental Test and Evaluation (DT&E) reports in March 2015 and March 2016 that RMMV v6.0 “improves vehicle performance and reliability,” and that RMMV v4.2 “demonstrated sufficient reliability growth to satisfy Nunn‑McCurdy requirements,” citing a debunked, inflated reliability estimate of 75.3 hours MTBOMF.
Such assurances from USD(AT&L) and the Navy misled their audience as to the seriousness of the problems the RMS program faced >in delivering a necessary capability to the warfighter.
The full description of the RMMV program’s cancellation can be found on page 11 of the FY2016 report by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.