This is Will Never Save Money

Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, wants to restructure the cost profile of the next US fighters to front load the costs, on the theory that this will save money down the road through Silicon Valley style “Distruption.”

Well, that just pegged my bullsh%$ meter:

The U.S. Air Force’s acquisition chief said Feb. 18 that he expects a congressional backlash over how a recent revamp of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) procurement strategy could drive up the average procurement unit cost (APUC) of a sixth-generation fighter.

But the Air Force remains committed to an acquisition strategy for an F-22 replacement that accepts higher upfront costs in order to save money during the sustainment phase of the program, said Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force, speaking during an “Ask Me Anything” webinar for the service’s acquisition workforce. The Pentagon calculates APUC by dividing total procurement costs, including recurring and nonrecurring bills, by the number of units purchased.


But Roper, who was appointed in 2017, said in early 2019 that the strategy had changed. The details of the highly secretive NGAD program are murky, but Roper has compared the new acquisition strategy to the business model for the Apple iPhone. Apple does not sustain the iPhone beyond a few years, so it makes profits by charging a premium on the design at the point of sale. Although the upfront cost is higher, Apple’s business model incentivizes an external community of software developers to create applications for the iPhone at little to no cost.

Roper wants to apply a similar philosophy to the development of the next generation of combat aircraft. He wants traditional defense prime contractors to transition away from a sustainment model for profits and incentivize them to focus on design by offering them a premium.

An iPhone has a life of about 3 years., and with the exception of electricity to keep it charged, it has a sustainment cost of $0.00.

A fighter aircraft is a completely different life cycle.

This is a particularly disastrous form of bullsh%$ bingo.

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