An unnecessary procurement

By John Mazach

As the Pentagon faces unprecedented pressure to reduce spending on weapons programs, operations and personnel, the hunt is on to find new cost-saving strategies, and the need to spend taxpayer dollars wisely has never been greater.

That’s why it’s perplexing that the Navy is considering a new aircraft procurement program for its Carrier Onboard Delivery mission.

New aircraft procurements are expensive, especially integrating these new aircraft and their associated logistical support into the carrier fleet. So it is hard to understand why the service is considering a new aircraft in the current budget environment. Our COD aircraft are seamlessly executing the mission today, with years of service life remaining.

One alternative to the billions of dollars required to procure, build, test, introduce and operate a new COD aircraft might be to simply do nothing. Let the current aircraft execute the mission for the foreseeable future. Another alternative would be to make affordable updates to the existing aircraft to extend their service life.

The budget required to perform the COD mission should be based on operational needs. The only real change in today’s environment is the impending pivot to the Pacific theater of operations. In this case, the Navy’s current COD aircraft have the range and payload required to continue performing their mission, which is to ensure resupply of carrier strike groups no matter where they’re operating around the globe. So why spend billions of our country’s precious dollars when the current aircraft is good enough?

Similar to a family’s budget, where the timing of major purchases must be carefully considered, the Navy should carefully consider when, or if, new aircraft procurements make sense. Procuring a multibillion-dollar COD aircraft will preclude other, perhaps more important purchases – purchases that might contribute more directly to executing the multitude of missions the Navy must perform.

The Navy is already bringing several new aircraft into the fleet. Is it wise to add a different COD aircraft to the mix with tightening budgets? Today’s COD aircraft and support system will execute the mission for years – and the financial breathing room created by doing nothing would allow the Navy to invest where it makes the most sense.

The COD procurement case is a no-brainer. Minimize cost and exposure in our budgets and make decisions that improve the operational capability of current systems.

Big military budgets are a thing of the past. The Navy needs to focus on winning future wars by continuing to invest in aircraft carriers, strike aircraft, submarines and surface ships that are already in the procurement stream. The Navy does not need the distraction and resource drain that a new COD aircraft procurement effort would bring.

We should acknowledge that the current method of delivering critical supplies to aircraft carriers at sea is working just fine – and has been for decades.

John Mazach, a vice admiral, retired from the Navy in 1998 after commanding the Naval Air Forces’ Atlantic fleet. He lives in Virginia Beach.

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