Madbob - An Angry American

Thoughts & rants concerning US & world events |

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Now here's a very long personal/professional rant – a Navy program I used to work on is having its systems removed from surface navy ships, without an identified replacement for a critical capability. It inspired me to write my Indiana congressional reps, as well as Sen. John Warner, Chairman of the SASC. My letter to him is as follows (similar letters were sent to the Indiana reps):

US Navy Removes Critical Capability In Time Of War

Executive Summary:
The US Surface Navy's sole Electro-Optic (EO) / Infrared (IR) program of record, the AN/SAY-1 Thermal Imaging Sensor System (TISS), is being removed from ships and the program has been completely cut off from funding. No near-term (within 5 years) replacement for this critical night vision/all-weather capability has been identified. How can the US Navy justify this action at such a crucial time in our nation's history?

I am writing this to you, as the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee and as a former Sailor, as a last resort – this situation makes no sense when our nation is at war.

The situation? The US Navy is set to remove the Thermal Imaging Sensor System (TISS), AN/SAY-1, from all ships. Make no mistake, TISS is a troubled system, with respect to reliability, but it also offers a capability that no Sailor would be without if they had a choice. Now, they won't have that choice.

A bit of background, both on myself and the TISS program. I was involved in the program from nearly the beginning, first as a Contractor in Crystal City, Virginia (9 years) and then as a Government employee at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, Crane, Indiana (1 year). I have since moved to a different program, partially due to the situation which has inspired this letter.

TISS was designed as a Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (AT/FP) asset for the US Navy's surface ships long before AT/FP became in vogue. Back then (1992), the concept was referred to as Ship Self Defense (SSD), and the Navy stood up – briefly – a Program Executive Office, Ship Defense (PEO(SD)). This morphed into PEO Theater Air Defense (TAD), which was subsequently split up into various PEOs, including PEO Expeditionary Warfare (EXW). Not finished yet, PEO(EXW) was also dissolved, with most programs (including TISS) falling under the new PEO Integrated Warfare System (IWS). TISS is currently under PEO(IWS)2E1, the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Office.

What does TISS offer? In short, TISS has a thermal imagining sensor, also known as a Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) sensor, for night operations; a daytime Low Level Light TV (LLLTV) for regular dawn to dusk ops; an Eye-Safe Laser Rangefinder (ESLRF) to determine range to target; and an Automatic Video Tracker (AVT) to track targets. Although as currently installed (on approx. 20 surface ships), TISS is a stand-alone system, it was designed to be integrated into combat & weapon systems. Even as a stand-alone system, all you need to do is ask any Sailor who has deployed with TISS what they think of its capability. Caveat: TISS is loved when functioning properly, but has had an unacceptably high failure rate, which caused a lot of frustration among the various crews.

The reliability issues of TISS have been known for years, and the NAVSEA program office along with the program's In-Service Engineering Agent (ISEA), have devoted all of their limited resources trying to rectify the problems. However, if you had access to the historical funding levels for the program (most notably, a complete vertical cut of procurement/engineering dollars in August 1998), you would understand that TISS had been forced into a no-win situation: With a scant pool of Operations & Maintenance, Navy (O&M,N) funds, all program office/ISEA efforts were devoted to reacting to Casualty Reports (CASREPS) of deployed systems, while having no funds to solve the underlying issues.

Over the years, the various OPNAV sponsors (with one exception) of Electro-Optic (EO) / Infrared (IR) programs (including TISS) have had no intention to adequately fund any EO/IR program. In their defense, their rationale was based on the "zero-sum" funding reality of the requirements budget; i.e., what would you, as the CO of your ship, like for OPNAV to remove from your budget in order to fund TISS? Since the 1998 vertical budget cut, the OPNAV sponsors have informally suggested that the TISS program office pressure the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of the system to have their Congressional delegates lobby for "plus-up" funding. And finally, after years of effort, the OEM secured a $4.4 million plus-up for Fiscal Year (FY) 2004 (DRS Technologies, Inc., headquartered in Parsippany, NJ is the current OEM; the contract was originally awarded to McDonnell Douglas in 1995, which was procured by Boeing, which sold their EO/IR programs to DRS). More on this later.

As it stands today – to the best of my knowledge, now that I'm no longer associated with the program – all remaining O&MN funds in the TISS budget line are to be used to remove the systems from the ships. After FY03, there are zero funds for TISS, O&MN or otherwise. Ships in the unenviable position of having a TISS failure from this point forward will be funding a repair for a system which will be removed within months. The program office, ISEA, and Fleet Technical Support Centers (FTSCs) intend to support the deployed systems until their removal in FY04, but how they will fund this support is unclear.

The fact that the US Navy has decided to permanently remove a troubled system from their budget is not the issue. It is the lack of a replacement or follow-on system of any kind. How this be justified in a time of war? What is the justification for removing this critical capability without a replacement of any kind? That's the issue, and that's what needs to be asked of OPNAV.

You may be told that there are other existing Night Vision devices aboard all ships, and that would be true. There are a number of hand-held or otherwise man-portable Night Vision devices, but having Sailors use Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) while standing watch, or while underway at night, etc. is simply not effective tactics nor effective use of manpower. You may also hear that there is a new system, the Integrated Radar Optical Sighting and Surveillance System (IROS3), which will integrate radar and EO input laid out on top of Digital Nautical Charts (DNCs). This is a long overdue concept with great potential, but the problem with IROS3 being called a replacement for TISS is that it is still an Advanced Concept Technical Demonstration (ACTD) program, with no budget line; i.e., it's not funded. Even if funding were to show up tomorrow, it will take years to finish development, perform an acquisition, and finally field the system. Conservatively, and I do have experience in this matter, I would guess a Limited Rate Initial Production (LRIP) decision would occur no sooner than one year from this date (much more likely 2 years), with the lead-time for manufacturing the required EO devices (I have no insight on the lead-times for the other components) adding between 12 and 18 months. And since the FY04 budget has been set, full funding for IROS3 is a fiscal year away at best. So in the meantime, Sailors, please man your NVGs. How is this considered an acceptable plan of action?

As promised, let's touch on the Congressional plus-up that DRS successfully lobbied for this FY. Each year that DRS lobbied Congress, it was for first - funds to improve the existing systems, and second - funds to install TISS on all surface ships listed in the TISS Operational Requirement Document (ORD), which would number between 150 and 200 systems. Of course Congress was unable to come up with the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to outfit most of the Surface Navy, but money to improve the existing systems was finally had.

As stated earlier, Congress provided the TISS program with a $4.4M plus-up, and while I do not have the actual Congressional language attached to this plus-up, it was clearly intended to improve the existing systems. Most, if not all, of this money will end up back at DRS to fund the effort, as it should. But what is the Navy's plan for these improved systems? There's a big gap between what Congress is told, and what the Navy does. First off, Congress was somehow convinced to provide $4.4M to improve systems that the Navy (read, OPNAV) knew it was planning to remove from all ships. But that's not the biggest insult to your esteemed colleagues in Congress. Currently, the Navy's plan is to upgrade 2 or 3 of the systems that are NOT installed on a ship and use them as lab assets. There is absolutely no intension of ever installing these improved systems aboard any ship, unless they are needed to prove out various concepts/demos, inclusive of IROS3.

So here's the bottom-line – at a perilous time in this nation's history, instead of giving our warfighters the best tools to do their job, we are taking away a critical capability. Again, how can this be justified? And, is there anything you can do to stop this folly? I have exhausted all other possibilities...


Robert S. Major, Virginia expatriate
2724 Elderberry Ct.
Bloomington, IN 47401

P.S. I did not even touch on the fact that OPNAV has an approved TISS ORD (dated 07 Aug 95) which requires a TISS-like system's capability. Has this requirement gone away?

posted by Madbob  # 11:24 AM
CNN is pissing me off - again. This time it was their website...
A couple days after the UK's Beagle 2 was supposed to have landed, and after Earth had received no signal from the lander, CNN reported on the efforts to contact the spacecraft. CNN stated that an attempt would be made to contact Beagle 2 by (paraphrased quote) "...a craft on an unrelated mission...". Immediately checking the BBC website, I found that the "craft" in question was NASA's Mars Odyssey. What - was it too painful to give the US credit for having a craft in place to assist? I just don't get it...
(I recently checked the archives of CNN, and the article in question, if still there, has been modified to omit my paraphrased quote - how convenient. Guess if I wasn't such a lazy ass I'd have linked to the stories while they were fresh)

posted by Madbob  # 11:15 AM

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Today on NPR, during the Morning Edition, one of the segments concerned a NYSU law prof who was suing some arm of the Fed gov't. Why? Because info from the INS, namely the names of aliens who have overstayed or are otherwise in violation of their U.S. visas, is being entered into criminal databases. Said law prof states that this is illegal as Congress specifically delineated what info can be entered into this particular database (this suit must be related to the Patriot Act). INS violations are civil by definition (so they stated on NPR), and only criminal data may be entered. Here's the story description on NPR's website (sorry, no text link):

Suit: Databases Misused for Immigration Issues
A growing number of immigration violators are being flagged on police database systems. The Justice Department began entering their names about two years ago as part of post. Sept. 11 reforms. But immigrant advocates are filing suit against the Bush administration for what they say is an unlawful policy. NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports.

As pointed out by NPR, a couple of the 9/11 hijackers were pulled for minor traffic infractions and such, but were released even though they were listed by the INS as illegal aliens (overstayed visas, etc.). Had this info been available to the local cops, these terrorists might have been prevented from joining their comrades, which conceivably could have caused the whole op to be postponed (and we might've had time to get our heads outta our asses to prevent it).

Sooooooooooooooo, why is the good prof pursuing this matter? [Sorry, o inspirational Instapundit, but this is the kinda crap that gives lawyers a bad rep - Ed] Just to make a point, or score points with Arab/Muslims?

Another group concerned about this "backdoor attempt" to circumvent Congressional intent (I don't remember who they are/were) stated that this actually puts people at risk. "Oh", you say - "how is that?" Well, this "immigrant advocate" group has its ear to the ground, stating that "the community" has come forward to say that they've heard if they call the police or fire department, their names could trigger an arrest warrant for being illegally in this country. A couple of things here – 1st, what the heck are they using to define "the community"? I might've missed a part of the broadcast that stated what city/state they were referring to, but I don’t think so. Which leaves "the community" to be what? The entire U.S.? If so, then I'm a member therein, and I know I didn't come forward to tell anyone that this practice has frightened me off of calling police, firemen, etc. – because I'm not an ILLEGAL ALIEN!! Okay – 2nd, perhaps these people wouldn't feel so threatened if they, too, were not ILLEGAL ALIENS!!!! Protecting illegal aliens is not what our judicial/legal/criminal system is designed for. More like, it's designed to rid our society of ILLEGAL ALIENS. Providing protections to ILLEGAL ALIENS falls under the same kind of minority appeasement which CA ex-Gov Davis attempted with his granting of drivers' licenses to ILLEGAL immigrants (did Arnie ever do anything about that?). It's a slap in the face of all those who've gone thru the immigration process, and it makes our country less safe.

So again - why is this common sense approach being challenged? 1st, to showboat someone's lawyerly intellect and/or score points with the Arab/Muslim community; 2nd, to provide protection for ILLEGAL ALIENS. Valid reasons? You make the call...

UPDATE: The NPR link now connects to the audio version of the story. It was a NYU vs. NYSU law prof, and the other organization quoted was the Nat'l Council of La Rasa (spokeswoman claims that this practice is "...scaring the tar out of huge swaths of American Society." Excuse me – are there that many ILLEGAL ALIENS in our country that "huge swaths" are now without their tar? )
posted by Madbob  # 8:17 AM
I knew it - CNN totally misses a demo of 5-10,000, but gives detailed/video coverage of "hundreds" of pro-saddam protesters. *sigh* Sometimes I hate it when I'm right...
[Hattip to Tom Perry, isntapundit]
posted by Madbob  # 4:42 AM

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Aarrgh! Figures - now that I've got a place to blow off steam, I never get around to using it. Whatever...
Anyway - did you know that there was a massive pro-democracy/anti-terrorism protest in Iraq? Well, unless you surf blogs, you won't - cuz Mainstream Media has decided it's a non-event. No Americans killed = no news. But if this had been a pro-Saddam/anti-US protest, it'd be front page everywhere. Here's a link to the Instapundit's coverage. (after today, you'll have to scroll down to find the thread, entitled simply "Roger Simon", and of course under Dec. 11)
I was pissed off enough to write a letter to the WaPo on their lack of coverage, as follows (I pretty much plagiarized this from the Instapundit/Roger Simon piece I linked to above):

I am stunned & dismayed that there is absolutely no coverage on the large (estimated crowd between 5,000 & 10,000) pro-democracy/anti-terror march of Iraqis in Baghdad today in today's Washington Post (at least on your website). Somehow, I just know that if thousands had been marching for Saddam that it would have made your front page. What's going on? Do you (editors, owners, or whoever it is that decides on what is "newsworthy" enough to grace your pages) WANT the U.S. to fail? Why not give this significant, PEACEFUL event the coverage it deserves?

Robert S. Major
Virginia expatriate, former subscriber, current web reader

posted by Madbob  # 5:05 AM
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