In my last blog on this subject, “JSF – DoD’s Largest International Acquisition Program – Genesis,” we explored how the program was conceived and created by DoD and Air Force leaders in the early-to-mid 1990s as an international cooperative program. This key principle became part of the Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) program’s original vision statement:
"Be the Model Acquisition Program for Joint Service and International Cooperation; Develop and Produce a Family of Affordable Multi-Mission Fighter Aircraft Using Matured/Demonstrated 21st Century Technology and Sustain it Worldwide."
We then characterized the three types of DoD government and defense industry personnel that create, nurture, and implement successful DoD acquisition programs as:
- Visionaries and Architects
Most of you know that major DoD acquisition programs take decades to take shape – akin to the building of a gothic cathedral or the pyramids. Once the original JAST visionaries and the main architect -- Lt. Gen. George Muellner – moved on to other positions, the responsibility for turning the initial vision into reality fell to the “Builders.” As the program matured, DoD decided to rename the program “Joint Strike Fighter” (JSF) in August 1995. This blog focuses on the JSF Concept Demonstration Phase (CDP) international cooperative activities that shaped the multi-billion dollar JSF international partnership and foreign sales arrangements we have today.
JSF CDP Overview:
The JSF CDP phase competition eventually led to selection of Boeing and Lockheed Martin contractor teams. Each team developed and flew a concept demonstration aircraft (designated X-32 and X-35, respectively) while being evaluated by a combined Air Force/Navy/Marine Corps government team. DoD’s acquisition strategy envisioned selection of a single System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase prime contractor that would develop three variants – Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL - USAF), Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL – USMC), and Carrier Landing (CV - USN) – to achieve maximum commonality and economies of scale. The CTOL variant would eventually replace the USAF F-16, the STOVL variant the USMC’s AV-8B, and the CV variant the Navy’s F/A-18s.
JSF CDP International Cooperation Objectives:
In mid-1994, while the program was still named “JAST,” Lt. Gen. Muellner and Acting USD(A&T) Noel Longuemare asked DoD’s international cooperation experts to develop a strategy that would allow nations to join the JSF CDP phase as cooperative partners. To say this was a precedent-setting decision would be a huge understatement. DoD had never encouraged partner nations to join a major DoD tactical aircraft program this early in development before, let alone one designed with stealth characteristics from its inception. After some dialog within the Pentagon, top DoD leadership (including the Air Force and Navy/Marine Corps) decided to try to bring partner nations onboard based the following principles:
1) JSF would be a DoD-run program with “junior partner” participation by other nations (i.e., not at all like Eurofighter or other pan-European cooperative development programs).
2) The JSF CDP program schedule was already established and couldn’t be changed. As a result, prospective JSF partner nations would have to be able to join in a flexible manner. This meant that separate bilateral (or smaller multilateral) international agreements (based on U.S. and partner laws) would have to be used rather than a single overarching multilateral agreement (the “traditional” cooperative program approach).
3) As a result of 1) and 2), DoD would have be willing to fund the entire cost of CDP in hopes that – as partner nations joined and funded their “fair share’ of the CDP phase efforts – DoD’s funding requirements would diminish as more partners joined.
The other key piece of DoD leadership guidance (from the SecDef level) specified that the U.K. should be offered a significant role as the primary JSF partner – with a target contribution level of $200M (calculated in 1995) against the overall estimated CDP cost of $2B – including participation in the CDP contract source selection process. This meant the U.K. would have a significant stake in the program as a 10% partner, hopefully encouraging them to eventually replace their AV-8B Harriers with JSF STOVLs (which was also the USMC’s plan).
JSF CDP International Agreement Strategy
The International Cooperation (IC) “Builders” -- led by Al Volkman in AT&L(A&T)’s IC office, Jon Schreiber in JSF’s International Directorate (ID), and the Navy International Program Office’s International Agreement staff (where I worked at the time) – was given a few months by DoD and JSF leadership to develop a JSF CDP agreement strategy that would achieve the desired outcome.
Fortunately, the DoD and JSF leadership gave us performance objectives, rather than try to tell us how to do it (an all too common problem in the Pentagon). This is the framework we developed by the fall of 1994 (original plan shown below):
CDP Phase (1997-2001):
· Four Levels:
o Collaborative (U.K. at $200M)
o Associate (~$50M)
o Informed (~$10M)
o FMS Customer
· Ground Rules:
o Open Invitation (quite controversial … but this is what DoD leaders wanted)
o Tech Security and Foreign Disclosure (TSFD) constraints specified by USG/DoD
Since no partner nation would ever join as a cooperative partner without understanding the future path to complete JSF development and produce/field CTOL STOVL, or CV variant they needed, the rest of the framework included:
System Development and Demonstration (SDD) Phase (2001-2012):
· Partner Levels:
o Three financial contribution levels ($ amount TBD)
o By DoD invitation only
o Greater level of TSFD access that CDP IA partnership arrangements
· FMS Customer:
o DoD case-by-case decision
o Standard FMS Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA)
o Standard TSFD constraints
Production Phase (2008-2030):
· Three Options:
o International Agreement for Cooperative Production
o FMS LOA acquisition arrangements
o Direct Commercial Sales (maybe …)
The Builders Get to Work
A new USD(AT&L), Paul Kaminski, arrived in October 1994. He was a strong proponent of international cooperation, as was then-DepSecDef John Deutch, so they tasked the IC Builders to implement this plan. By early 1995, they had personally engaged their U.K. counterparts, which led to an agreement in principle that the U.K. would join the CDP phase as a partner at the $200M level. Paul Kaminski sent out letters to the rest of his National Armaments Director (NAD) counterparts around the world encouraging them to join as CDP phase partners during this timeframe as well.
By mid-1995, the IC Builder team was like a “dog that caught a firetruck” it had decided to chase. While the team was organizing the U.S.-U.K. CDP Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) negotiations it was being inundated by a flurry of responses from the other nations’ NADs asking for information on the potential benefits of CDP partnership. The fact that the U.S.-U.K. MOU negotiations were beginning – while other nations were still in the “window shopping” phase – meant that the CDP phase arrangements with partner nations would have to be put in place using a “hub and spoke” methodology, with the U.S. as the “hub” and each partner nation as a “spoke.” This was an unprecedented approach for a major cooperative development program, but it was the only way to build the foundation of what would eventually be a nine-nation JSF cooperative partnership.
Building Blocks Are Put in Place
The IC Builders completed negotiations with their U.K. counterparts in near record time, and the U.S.-U.K. JAST Framework MOU and CDP Project Arrangement was signed by both nations in December 1995. As envisioned, the U.K. became a 10% partner in the entire scope of the JSF CDP phase, including participation in the JSF CDP evaluations of the X-32 and X-35, plus the source selection process.
Once this was accomplished, the IC Builders focused on establishing additional MOUs with other partner nations in areas of specific interest:
- Denmark, Netherlands, and Norway (who had formed a F-16 Multinational Fighter Program arrangement with the U.S. in 1975) decided to band together as “Associate Partners” – each contributing $10M for a total of $30M – to negotiate and sign a JSF Requirements Validation Project Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in September 1997.
- Canada, an F-18 owner, decided to join JSF CDP as an “Informed Partner” via a Preferred Weapons System Concept (PWSC) Refinement Project MOU signed in January 1998.
- Italy, an AV-8B Harrier II plus owner, also became a JSF Informed Partner through signature of an Agreement for the JSF STOVL Ship Integration Risk Mitigation and CTOL/STOVL Operational Assessment Project in December 1998.
As a result of the challenges putting these cooperative agreements in place, and various other USG/DoD concerns, DoD leadership decided to wait until the SDD phase to establish initial FMS customer arrangements.
CDP International Partnership Efforts
Using this “hub and spoke” set of cooperative agreements, the U.K. participated in all aspects of CDP while the other five (5) partner nations – through their international agreements with the U.S. – participated in specific areas of the flight demonstration and evaluation activities conducted between 1997 and 2001 under the leadership of JSF Program Directors RADM Craig Steidle, USN; Major General Leslie Kenne, USAF; and, Major General Mike Hough, USMC. AT&L Under Secretaries Paul Kaminski and Jack Gansler strongly supported JSF's cooperative program efforts during this period as well. The CDP efforts were completed on schedule within the projected budget of $2B, setting the stage for selection of a JSF System Demonstration and Development (SDD) air system and engine prime contractors in October 2001.
Benefits and Challenges
From a U.S. and partner nation perspective, the approach used during CDP – which was a radical departure from all previous cooperative development agreements – provided each nation with minimal partnership risks:
- The U.S. was able to run CDP efforts without “partner interference” (a major DoD concern based on previous experience in other cooperative agreements).
- Except for the U.K. -- which made a conscious decision to join the U.S. at the beginning of CDP at a $200M contribution level – the other partner nations were able to join based on a scope and schedule of their choosing at minimal expense ($10M each).
- DoD used the $250M contributed by the various partner nations to expand the scope of the CDP effort in areas of mutual interest.
- The web of government-to-government cooperation encouraged all of the partner nations’ industries to establish “best value” teaming arrangements at the inception of the program that would provide mutual benefits.
- All partner nations had the choice of either continuing JSF cooperation after the SDD prime contractor selection through some type of follow-on agreement(s), or departing the program without penalty.
By contrast, the challenges were mainly “operational” in nature at the program office level. The U.S., as the JSF “hub” nation, had to manage four (4) separate cooperative agreement relationships in parallel and ensure each partner nation received its “fair share” of CDP phase results (no more, no less) in accordance with the international agreement it had signed. From a DoD and partner leadership perspective this was easy since – as noted in the adage “nothing is impossible if someone else has to do it” – the JSF Program Office and Navy/Air Force international offices had to figure a way to keep everyone happy. Fortunately, based a combination of resourcefulness, creativity, flexibility, and good will among the various partner nations, it all worked out. CDP ended on a high note with all seven nations -- plus two more in the wings, Australia and Turkey -- willing to join as SDD partners.
Spoiler Alert: the JSF SDD phase didn’t go nearly as smoothly, but that’s the subject of a future blog …
Until Next Time, Prof. Frank Kenlon