Skip to comments.Pentagon Complains About Contractor Quality
Posted on 02/28/2010 12:28:04 AM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld
Complaints from Pentagon officialsfrom Defense Secretary Robert Gates down through the ranksare mounting about the quality of products from the aerospace industry.
David Altwegg, executive director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), grabbed journalists attention during his Fiscal 2011 budget briefing on Feb. 1. He railed that contractors had been delivering poor quality. We continue to be disappointed in the quality that we are receiving from our prime contractors and their subsvery, very disappointed, he said. Most of these contracts are cost contracts . . . [a problem that] costs the taxpayer more.
Although Altwegg declined to name names, he cited one example. A C-17-launched target failed to execute its mission, bringing an entire Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (Thaad) system to a halt in December. The target, made by Coleman Aerospace (which is owned by L-3 Communications), was found to have a big-time quality problem, Altwegg said. Along about 20,000 ft. [altitude], the booster motors light off and the target assumes the trajectory toward the firing unit. We all sat there and watched the target fall into the water.
The MDA has had issues with other targets, as well as earlier problems with Boeings quality of work in the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense program. Also, a Raytheon SM-3 Block IA interceptor failed during a flight test in July because of poor adherence to processes at the assembly line in Tucson, Ariz.
Government Accountability Office auditors are now investigating this quality-control issue, says Altwegg.
Poor workmanship has also plagued U.S. Air Force space projects for years. Inadequate fasteners dogged the Boeing Wideband Global Satcom system.
(Excerpt) Read more at aviationweek.com ...
That's how a contract is structured when the customer (government) is permitted to offer changes during the life of the contact. Don't like it? Fine. Firm fixed price bids, no changes allowed. I've had to do this with a customer. The contract locked down the operating system and everything installed (compilers, libraries, kernel, patches). No changes allowed until the product was delivered and signed off. The customer hated it, but it was the only rational solution after we arrived for an installation on SunOS (fully tested and ready to deploy) and found the customer updated the OS to the new release of Solaris. Nothing would run and the contract wasn't locked down. Never again. Some of my co-workers even caught the customer TRAINING employees in ways to screw contractors. They found out just how screwed down a contract can be. We opted to avoid any further bids with that organization.
I suspect the contractors can point out failings of the government on these contracts. Aerospace contracts have requirements for First Article Inspections. If the item passes FAI by the government, then there is a subsequent failure during production delivery, you have to look at the FAI to find out if it really passed or the items are no longer meeting spec.
Contracts are a two-way street and rarely is the fault merely a failure of one party to the contract. Change of scope and specs are common on projects like the JSF and are quite often the source of contract/project delays and disputes.
I fully agree, T-Bird45.
I worked for over three decades for a major defense contractor, in management positions in Quality Engineering that included dealing with RFPs, daily contact with the resident government representatives, government audits by Army and Navy civilian workers, should-cost teams, etc.
It was a given that the DoD would always try to get more than what was contractually required, without wanting to pay the extra costs, and they usually pursued such a course by using threats of reducing or cutting other contracts. They are/were basically just a bunch of thugs.
That is a major issue in contracting, and I've seen it time and time again. The client will submit a plan, have it approved, and then everyone in the chain will implement their own idea's to "improve" the original plan.
It's like the old adage," Too many cooks in the kitchen..."
I was working for a defense contractor in Texas, and one procurement officer wanted us to change the drawings to suit him, for free. Of course we couldn’t. He wouldn’t accept any documentation until we complied with his illegal request.
We eventually got into a meeting with him and an under secretary of defense, who pointed out to him “Suppliers get their money from their customers, in return for products built to agreed upon standards. If you don’t believe that, I suggest you do some research.”
He got clear direction to stop making his illegal requests, and we got thousands of items shipped to the Army in a state fit to support operations post 9-11.
I think I’m fortunate that the branch of DoD I deal with uses the technical people to control the contracts.
That is, the techies deal with the contractors over the technical aspects of the contract, and financial specialists deal with the finances. The lead govt. technical person answers to their section chief.
Of course, there still are sometimes problems. We once had a contract to build a facility in a foreign nation, with that nation as the end user. The govt. contracting officer used the contract to start a business in the host country, and used the bribes to finance it.
To save face, the govt. blamed our program manager for the problem, and only fired the govt. manager, without filing charges.
There is nothing wrong with ‘contractor quality’ it is just a PR effort on the Obama Administration to continue to cut contractors and make the employees government servants (GS).
This is the exact opposite of what Al Gore did in his ‘ReInventing Government’ scheme to replace government servants (GS) with contractors.
Maybe they should stop awarding the contracts to their buddies and stop taking kick-backs. Instead, they should give contracts to companies that do a good job.
Oh, and by kick-backs, I don’t mean money in envelopes; that’s not how it is done anymore. The new kick-backs come in various forms. I mean hiring relatives of insiders to cushy management positions, political contributions to favorite incumbents, prestigious award nominations, etc. I’ve seen all of these.
It’s not just DoD. There are a lot of bureaucrats all over the government of the United States who should be in jail. Not most of them, but a lot of them. And they’re usually the lying backstabbing a-holes who get promoted.