"A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in the United States Air Force - Part I

The F-35 is not the only problem facing the Air Force today but the one we hear about the most. One of the biggest problems right now is flying under the radar and could end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars in the end, providing an inferior system, and adding a lot more civil service employees to the bloated federal payroll. People who are in charge of Air Force offices today are treating our tax dollars like a slush fund for pet projects and empire building. In a time where tax dollars are in short supply, this is mind-boggling.

We started out with these basic questions when we originally started our own investigation. These are the answers we have come up with after months of investigation and research:

What is the ultimate cost? Billions! Why? The attempt to bring all of Automatic Test Systems (ATS) in house in DoD and thereby putting small and large Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) companies out of business. How? Demanding Air Force Weapon Systems only buy Versatile Data Automatic Test Systems (VDATS)from the Warner Robins Depot and not allocating money for upgrades. Manpower? Hire people as Civil Service employees from local universities and from the companies they are putting out of business to help with rehosting every Test Program Set (TPS) in the Air Force to VDATS. Fraud, Waste, and Abuse? YES!

A Reply to our Freedom of Information (FOI) request on VDATS and the F-35 was sent back from the Secretary of the Air Force office. The letter answered the questions on ATE with half-truths and spin along with a few downright lies, which we are sure the author was provided by the depot. We asked for data and testing results for VDATS and received none. The reply said nothing about the F-35. Suffice it to say the final chapter has not been written, and why we have continued to investigate.

You may be asking why Automatic Test Systems (ATS) are so important. In a nutshell these are the systems made up of hardware and software that test all the Line replaceable units and circuit cards in the weapons systems. These test systems are used to diagnose problems in aircraft avionics and weapon system components so that the component can be repaired and replaced on the aircraft or put into the supply system for future use.

Today, we have an Air Force organization in Air Force Materiel Command attempting to put 60+private companies out of the Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) business. These Government employees are no longer disguising what they are attempting to do. This ATE organization at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB, GA, has set course to do empire building by lavishly infusing millions into billions of dollars on their own in-house Versatile Depot Automatic Test System (VDATS). They are calling it manufacturing of VDATS, but it is actually buying 90% of VDATS as Commercial Off- the- Shelf (COTS) from Teradyne and building it like you would an erector set.

Warner Robins is assembling VDATS and now demanding the weapon systems managers buy the new VDATS instead of buying ATS from companies with a long expertise in this area. The other services buy their ATS from commercial companies, so why does Warner Robins think they have to build their own? These private ATS companies have spent hundreds of millions on their ATS systems for Research and Development (R&D) and Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) to meet the requirements of the DoD. We are now hearing a rumor that after Robins takes over all of ATS for the Air Force, they want to take over the Navy CASS and Army IFTY and change it to VDATS as well.

The In-house Government ATE office is now asking companies to provide all their proprietary data to the depot, with no strings attached, so the depot office can give that data to any company to help with VDATS. In other words, the depot expects a company who has spent millions on development and manufacturing to give all that information to the Air Force so the Air Force can use it as it sees fit with nothing given back to the company who had the original data.

Maybe their ultimate goal is nationalization of the aerospace companies so everyone works for the Department of Defense and they control what the companies do like they do General Motors. They said it couldn’t be done with GM but it was.

In some instances Robins is camouflaging the name VDATS and budgeting for it under other names on aircraft platforms like versatile tester so that VDATS isn’t always listed on the budget. This makes it harder to find how much is being spent on VDATS. Then they are also budgeting for research and development (R&D) as part of buying the new VDATS testers. Until now, we thought R&D happened as part of developing a new system before it was approved.

The former Logistics depots, especially the one at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, looks to be trying to shed a depot image to be like a mini System Program Office 'SPO' no matter how much they have to spin the truth, outright lie or how much it costs. We doubt if anyone in the Air Force can even fathom the old Logistics Command telling an Operational Command what system they have to buy and put it in their budget even though they only want an upgrade. We have that problem today at Warner Robins ALC in their Automatic Test System operation.

GAO did a report in 2006 and said the Air Force needed to reduce the number of different testers at Robins so what does the depot do? They decide to build a tester and throw out the rest of the testers even if their new tester (VDATS) doesn't work as it is billed. That is not what GAO said to do but that was the Robins interpretation in order to build an empire. How do you build that empire? Make sure people from the depot get sent to the Pentagon to cover for your operation.

The biggest fraud at the time was getting VDATS put in the Air Force Family of Testers at the Pentagon before it was completely built and fully tested. They sold the military chain on the necessity of taking this action, which goes against their own regulations. In order to be part of the Family of Testers there are all kinds of requirements including it must be fully operational, tested, and validated. It appears all the requirements to become part of the Family of Testers were waived by the Air Force for the Warner Robins depot.

There are at least four companies who have been trying to get their proven testers in the Family of Testers for years, but to no avail. These companies have done the Research and Development (R&D), Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V); fields tested their systems, and have sold them to the Air Force but were not admitted to the Air Force Family of Testers. Yet, a Warner Robins depot plan from their ATS office to build the tester from COTS was accepted into the Family of Testers without being fully built or tested. It was announced in their local media they had their first test station AFTER it was already accepted in the Family of Testers. How do you get the certifications when there is no system? Robins managed to get VDATS put in the Family of Testers without testing or certification.

The reason it is so important to be in the Family of Testers is every contract has to at least look at the Family of Testers before giving the rationale to choose another tester. That has been tossed out as well, as Robins is making VDATS virtually mandatory now, once again going against the Air Force/DoD regulations and if they have to they will rewrite the regulations.

Air Combat Command wants upgrades not new VDATS testers for some of their weapon systems, but the depot is demanding they put the new VDATS testers in the budget not the upgrades. The pleas from Air Combat Command are met with silence at the depot. Warner Robins wants every system to get VDATS at a cost exceeding $1B and probably much higher before it is over. Once again the old Systems Command ‘shiny and new’ bug has hit Robins and ‘Common Sense’ has been tossed out the window.

What we learned on Friday morning after several calls for info is that the WR-ALC has taken the item managers and equipment specialists for the various weapon systems out of the equation when it comes to automatic test systems. Instead all funding has to come out of the empire of ATS at the depot. That means the item managers and equipment specialists now cannot do their job for their weapons system they know best. An Item Manager is an individual within the organization of an inventory control point or other such organization assigned management responsibility for one or more specific items of materiel. An Equipment Specialist serves as the technical expert on complex and sophisticated systems/equipment to support the overhaul and repair process. /equipment to support the overhaul and repair pro

On top of this, all weapons systems have been told not only to put new VDATS in their budgets for over $100M, but the egregious part is they are also being told to put R&D money into the budget for the VDATS Testers so they can make them work for the weapon systems. These will be replacing perfectly good testers. Some of the weapon systems are balking at spending over $100M when they could get an upgrade for $10M.

If all that wasn't bad enough, the B-1 just finished buying Teradyne testers last summer for a cost over $70M and were told recently by Warner Robins ATS office to put VDATS in their budget for over $100M plus R&D. No one replaces ATS in that length of time. Upgrades yes, but a whole new system and now they also have to add program costs for R&D? That R&D really is insanity since it should have been done before the first VDATS was declared operational and long before it was put in the Family of Testers. Now the weapon system has to add more cost to cover R&D and no one seems to see anything wrong with that in the Air Force. Beam me up, as this is not the Air Force of earlier years where people were concerned about how they spent money.

WR-ALC has been on a hiring binge for engineers to fix VDATS. Why? It should have been tested out long before it got in the Family of Testers. Late one Friday afternoon in February we learned that Robins ALC plans to rehost all Test Program Sets (TPS’s) using ‘C’ language. This means the software to test all assets will have to be rewritten at a cost of billions of dollars? Why? So Warner Robins can build an empire. But who is the man behind that empire. It never dawned on us, when we first heard about VDATS, they were going to make every weapon system get all new VDATS instead of any upgrades to the current testers or that they would have to rehost all TPS’s which is a huge undertaking, extremely expensive, and in some instances almost impossible to do.

Company after company has lost money on rehosting as it costs more than they bid but now here comes the Government employees with an unlimited budget, it seems, to do the job. Some of these engineers conducting the rehost are also inexperienced. Billions of dollars will be wasted on rehosting in order to cut the number of Automatic Test Stations at the depot. That doesn’t even count the $100M for each weapon system plus add-in cost for R&D to replace their current system when the weapon systems want upgrades for around $10M. Not cost effective at all.

All requests for upgrades are being turned down in favor of the weapon system buying VDATS, which has been demonstrated incapable of doing RF well and is not deployable due to size and mobility. All of this makes no sense what so ever.

Does anyone at Warner Robins or the Pentagon care that they are on the verge of putting 67 companies, a lot of them small business, out of business in favor of bringing ATE in house? In the process they will be giving the weapons system an inferior product. If this whole takeover of ATS by the Robins depot is not fraud, waste, and abuse, nothing is.

Stay tuned for Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Part II in the United States Air Force on Wednesday, Februrary 3, 2010.

NOTE: The research and compilation for this document was done by people with over 100 years of combined experience in Automatic Test Equipment both inside and outside the Department of Defense.

The background material used in this document is available to the public and any requests for the the material should be sent to truesoft.474@gmail.com

All the initial material was turned over to the Congress last year but in today's Congress, investigations move very slowly and are stonewalled by Democrats in some instances.


ken said...

This is a travesty and a double whammy on the American Tax payer. Not only are they wasting funds, but they are obliterating the tax collections from those businesses and their workers.

ken said...

This is truly a travesty. Not only are they wasting taxpayer money, they are eliminating the tax base of the United States. These companies will no longer pay taxes, the workers will no longer be paying taxes, and the economy as a whole will suffer.

Shame on everyone involved. I hope congressional action will be taken to see this does not happen.

ken said...

This is truly a travesty. Not only are they wating taxpayer dollars, they are eliminating the tax base. These companies will not be paying taxes and the unemployed workers will not pay taxes. This is bad for the economy and bad for the United States of America.

I hope congress takes action to ensure this does not happen!