The congressional defense committees want the Air Force to accelerate recapitalization of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS).
All four committees weigh in on JSTARS in their respective bill reports. The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee (SAC-D) directs the service to pick up the pace with its acquisition schedule. It directs the Air Force to spend $103 million of its budget request for radar risk reduction only on the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract award or to support the EMD source selection process.
While not directing the Air Force to accelerate the program, the House Appropriations defense subcommittee (HAC-D) is concerned about any further slips to the present schedule. To preclude further delays to the program, the committee includes a provision that prohibits the obligation or expenditure of JSTARS recapitalization program funds for pre-Milestone B activities, including radar technology maturation and risk reduction, beyond the end of 2017. HAC-D also recommends an increase of $20 million above the budget request to complete modifications to the primary mission equipment of the existing operational E-8 JSTARS fleet.
On the authorization side, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) encourages the Air Force secretary to develop a plan, including incentives in the EMD and procurement contracts, to accelerate the development, procurement and fielding of the program. The committee expects the Air Force to downselect to one radar solution as part of EMD to ensure the program does not continue to be delayed.
HASC expressed concern that a protected acquisition program would result in a multiyear capabilities gap. It also believes that use of existing technology combined with a commercially-available jet aircraft can result in a significantly faster acquisition program.
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) directs the Air Force secretary, not later than Dec. 1, to provide a report that includes options to accelerate the program initial operational capability (IOC) date to fiscal years 2022 and 2023 and full operational capability (FOC) by fiscal years ’24 and ’25, respectfully. It also wants a funding plan needed to support accelerating the program for both IOC and FOC options and an analysis concerning the option of transferring the JSTARS recapitalization program to an Air Force program office that can execute a rapid acquisition program.
Congress is likely to take up the bills the week of June 6.