Loren Thompson slaps J. Michael Gilmore:

by Craig Hooper on November 6, 2010

Loren Thompson, the erstwhile employee of Lockheed Martin, slaps the Pentagon’s testing community, dismissing J. Michael Gilmore’s testing and evaluation community as a tribal manifestation of bureaucratic bloat.  In Loren’s latest missive, he claims that the F-35 delay will be…

“…caused by the desire of the Pentagon’s testing community to conduct a vast array of redundant flight tests — literally thousands of them. Why? Because that’s what testers do. So now there’s an internal dispute between the testers and budget planners about just how many tests are really needed, and if the testers prevail the cost of the program could go up by billions of dollars.”

I understand frustration when testing is “overdone”–there is no

reason to keep, say, an amphib at home for years of tests when there are plenty of pressing “low threat” missions crying for a hull.  For ships, figure out a way to conduct some tests underway!  I mean, look what France did with their fresh-from-the-yard Mistral amphib–the platform was busy rescuing people within six months of

commissioning, and now Russia is likely to purchase a brace of ’em.  Crying that the LCS-1 deployment was a waste of time was a bit of overkill.

But Loren is also wrong to suggest that testing is a zero-sum, anti-program manufacturer game.  With the LPD-17, “testing” excuses kept the LPD-17s failures out of the public eye, allowing Northrop Grumman to pretty much finish the LPD-17 program unmolested by defense reformers.  Test results were ignored, and it was only the initial LPD-17 deployment–and it’s horrible month-long breakdown in Bahrain–that finally pushed the program into a long-overdue accountability moment.  In the end, the testers were proven right.

Aircraft are a little different.  Good testing makes a difference in whether the aircraft flies or occasionally crashes.  Shortchange testing, and, well, maybe Loren wants to go back to the fifties, when naval aviators crashed and died in droves.  You know, the good old days, when men were men and aircraft were cheap!  The Right Stuff!

Top Gun is being re-made, after all…

But then again, look to Loren’s bottom line.  Who would benefit from less testing?  Sure, the program would stay alive, and aircraft would head out into the service…and we’d probably loose a few aircraft and pilots.

But then again, a higher airframe loss rate means more business for Loren’s employer (somebody will need to restock a flightline depleted by Class A and B mishaps, right?), and, well, where ‘ole Libertarian Loren is concerned, I guess that is all well and good.  For Loren, it is just another case of the market at work, or something like that…

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