June 6, 2011 Mandy Smithberger, POGO Investigator - defpro.com
There is general agreement in both Congress and the Pentagon that the current price estimates for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) are unaffordable. The Pentagon's Acquisition head, Ashton Carter, plans to use a should-cost strategy to bring component prices down to what they should cost (get it?).
Leading this effort will be the Pentagon's newly named director of defense pricing, Shay Assad. Marcus Weisgerber from Defense News reports that to accomplish these estimates, however, Assad will have to focus on the acquisition workforce and "improving their skills on what it is we pay on the goods and services we buy."
Primarily, this means improving the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA).
But it may require more than skill sets. A Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG) report last August highlighted several instances that raised questions about DCMA's independence, and indicated that the agency may also need a cultural transformation.
The should-cost savings may not be enough to make the difference needed for the JSF program. POGO's Director of Investigations, Nick Schwellenbach wrote a smart and thorough explainer on the issue in April, and we posted thoughts from a knowledgeable Pentagon insider who says it may just be a pipe dream.
All that I will add is that the head of the Pentagon's independent cost estimating shop, Christine Fox, pointed out to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the major cost risk in the JSF program is software and mission systems integration—and the complexity and immaturity of that component means pinpointing its should-cost will be difficult, if not nearly impossible.
(For notes and links, please go to the original article at the POGO website