The Air Force has succeeded in its yearlong goal of cutting at least 100 years of planned schedule time from its existing weapons development programs, the service said May 23.
The “Century Challenge” was launched in May 2018 as one of the Air Force’s many efforts to streamline acquisition processes and get capabilities to the warfighter more quickly. The service cut 100.25 years off of expected timelines since the launch date, Secretary Heather Wilson said Thursday at an event on Capitol Hill.
“Transparency, accountability, empowered program managers has shown to get results. And I am very pleased …that we have exceeded our century goal and we have stripped over 100 years of unnecessary schedule out of the Air Force programs,” she said.
Wilson thanked lawmakers for allowing the Air Force to use new legal authorities approved under Section 804 of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to rapidly prototype and test new capabilities.
Among the programs impacted by the Century Challenge, the Air Force shaved about two years off of its F-22 Raptor capability pipeline, and three years off of new protected tactical satellite communications efforts, Wilson said.
Early prototyping authorities led to over 3.5 years cut off of the service’s Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) early missile warning satellite program, in development by Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Northrop Grumman [NOC]. About five expected years were cut from the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) program, also developed by Lockheed Martin and expected to achieve first flight by the end of 2020.
The service has also made speedier progress on agile software programs including the “Mad Hatter” effort that seeks to solve issues with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s cumbersome Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), which shaved four months between contract award and app delivery. Six months came off a space command and control program between contract to software app delivery.
The service not only took advantage of Section 804 authorities but tailored its acquisition programs to increase speed and shut down efforts that weren’t working early on in the process, Darlene Costello, principal deputy assistant secretary for Air Force acquisition, technology and logistics, said at the Thursday event.
“When we found out early that the acquisition strategy was not going to be executable, we stopped that program,” she said. “Under the old construct, we would have gone through a milestone, [and] started a program, then years in, have lots of momentum. … It’s very hard to stop any program once it’s started.”
The work to streamline Air Force program schedules does not stop after the Century Challenge, Costello noted. “We’ve empowered our programs, we’ve empowered our [program managers]. We have given them the flexibility to do what’s right,” she said.