The Air Force — and the Pentagon leadership which approved the service’s decision — did not do a complete review of the costs of building prototypes of the Combat Rescue Helicopter, the Government Accountability Office said today.
In its report to Congress, the GAO said this afternoon that:
“The Air Force could have more fully evaluated the cost and benefits of additional prototyping strategies, including more limited approaches that are mentioned in WSARA or DOD’s implementing memorandum, such as producing a single prototype or prototyping critical subsystems before Milestone B. The potential cost and benefits of these strategies were not included in the Air Force’s supporting analysis. While there are questions about the methodology the Air Force used to evaluate the cost and benefits of competitive prototyping for the CRH program, the decision to not pursue prototyping may still be sound given the other actions that the Air Force has taken to reduce cost and risk on the program.”
The good news is contained in the last sentence, where the GAO says, well, it may not matter that the service didn’t do the complete analysis: “…the decision to not pursue prototyping may still be sound given the other actions that the Air Force has taken to reduce cost and risk on the program.”
John Young, former head of Pentagon acquisition, pushed the concept of prototyping hard, arguing it provided the military with the best chance to compare the risks and costs of competing systems and required that the companies demonstrate they could actually build something in the time required. Read the report for yourself. These helicopters would replace the much maligned and canceled CSAR-X program. The Air Force concluded the “estimated $725 million cost of conducting competitive prototyping exceeded the maximum expected life-cycle benefits of $12 million.” Maybe ‘nough said.
Of course, the real irony here is that only one competitor remains in this program — Sikorsky and Lockheed. Every other company has dropped out, including EADS NA, I was finally able to confirm.