The Air Force needs to provide Congress with more details of how it plans to acquire new networked technologies via the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) program, a top Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) member said March 3.

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who chairs the SASC Seapower Subcommittee, asked Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein for a status update on congressionally requested documents related to ABMS and expressed concern about the program’s timeline during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill.

The plan to develop technologies that can network both current and future Air Force systems together “does not fit the traditional acquisition structure,” he said. “How do we interact? Congress provides oversight, … we don’t want to become bureaucratic, but right now I’m very concerned.”

The Air Force recently completed its first ABMS-related demonstration and is planning a second live-fire demo in April, with subsequent demonstrations planned every four months thereafter (Defense Daily, Feb. 21). Perdue noted that the Air Force was supposed to provide the committee with an ABMS Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) in September 2019, and the Air Force secretary was due to meet with members six months after the AoA was released.

“It’s really unacceptable that we don’t get these reports on time and we had commitments from your predecessors to do so,” he said.

Perdue noted that if the Air Force requires Congress to alter its acquisition oversight structure to support the rapid fielding of ABMS technologies, “now’s the time.”

“This can’t be an acquisition process [where] we wake up in three years and realize it’s three times the cost and 10 years late,” he added.

Goldfein told the committee that the service had hired 12 “pioneers from industry” to work on ABMS with the Air Force as a testament to how it is working ensure its acquisition strategy is sound.

“Industry is in there with us,” he said, adding that the April demonstration will be witnessed by all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “If we do it right, about 60 percent will work,” he said.

The ABMS program was developed to eventually replace the Air Force’s E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft, which are flown by the 461st Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. Goldfein shared with Perdue that capabilities currently performed by the JSTARS fleet — namely ground surveillance done with the Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) radar and battle management — will be tested in the April ABMS demonstration, but in an “interim step.”

The chief of staff also told the committee that there are currently no plans to reduce the size of the JSTARS force at Robins, and the service intends to continue flying the aircraft into the 2030s.

The Air Force’s fiscal year 2021 budget justification book shows the service hopes to spend about $3.2 billion in research-and-development funds on the ABMS effort over the next five years (Defense Daily, Feb. 11).