ASPJ HEARING PLANNED (Senate - April 19, 1990) [Page: S4537]
Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, we all remember the Divad. It was the Army's $4.5 billion antiaircraft gun that did not work. As we all know, the Pentagon tried to build it anyway.
In 2 weeks I will hold a hearing on what may be another Divad. In dollar terms, by last summer it was $9 billion, twice as big as the Divad. In effectiveness terms it may be even worse than Divad. Nonetheless, in the midst of a defense cutback, we have begun producing the system.
What is this mystery weapon that we are about to spend $9 billion for?
It is the airborne self protection jammer or ASPJ. It is supposed to permit our jet fighters to jam enemy radar. The ASPJ does not look like much, it is contained in small black boxes, but it is extremely complex, very expensive, and more importantly it does not work.
The upcoming hearing that I will chair will review the results of investigations on the ASPJ by the Pentagon inspector general and the General Accounting Office. We will also look at ASPJ test results and the acquisition system that allowed ASPJ production to begin in the first place.
This hearing is also in response to troubling correspondence I have received from the Pentagon. Please allow me to explain.
Recently I received a letter about the ASPJ from the Pentagon's so-called acquisition czar, Under Secretary Betti. He was responding to a letter I had sent Secretary Cheney 4 months ago.
My letter had asked Secretary Cheney some difficult questions about ASPJ. You see, Mr. President, I had documents in which some of Secretary Cheney's top executives stated that the $9 billion ASPJ had failed to meet preproduction criteria and recommended terminating the program. Why then, I asked the Secretary, did his top executives turn around and vote to spend half a billion dollars to begin producing the ASPJ?
This smelled a little fishy to me and I honestly wanted Secretary Cheney's side of the story. He is a good Secretary of Defense. He is a man of good will. He is a man of common sense. But the response I received 4 months later smelled even fishier.
It says `The decision to initiate low rate ASPJ production was a difficult one.' That, Mr. President, is the understatement of the year. Dishing out over $400 million to start building a 14-year-old, over budget, past schedule product that has flunked almost every test is not something to be proud of. No wonder it was a difficult decision.
Mr. Betti's letter acknowledges some risks in the production gamble but assures me that the risks are being minimized. That still does not explain why production was permitted despite failed production criteria.
Finally, the letter reassures me that before the Pentagon decides next September to build more of these duds, further testing will be conducted on the ASPJ production models to `assure that technical deficiencies have been corrected.'
Now, how many times have we in the past decade, or actually the past two decades, heard that:
Oh, yes, there are deficiencies, there are problems in the system, but let us go ahead and produce a few hundred million or a couple 3 billion dollars' worth of them and as we produce them we will correct the system.
Many, many times on many weapons systems, Mr. President, we have heard this same excuse.
Mr. President, Secretary Betti's letter is inadequate. Either he thinks Congress is gullible or he is unaware of what is going on in the ASPJ Program.
According to the GAO, by this fall, when the next production decision is made, the only tests that will have been performed are production qualification tests. These limited tests are conducted by the defense contractors in Maryland and New Jersey. In effect, once again, the students will be grading their own exams.
The truth is that true laboratory testing on the ASPJ will not begin until this November, 2 months after Secretary Betti's next production decision.
The truth is that vital operational or field testing will not begin until late 1991 and will not end early 1992, a year and a half after Secretary Betti's decision to produce.
This is not the testing that Congress has requested and it is not the testing that represents good management, nor good weapons.
Mr. President, I am not the only person who disagrees with Secretary Betti's view. According to a Defense Week article, the Pentagon's top testing official, the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, thinks testing on the ASPJ is inadequate to justify a production decision this fall.
The testing director should be complimented for taking a stand on this highly politicized weapon program, once again a weapon that is flunking its tests.
Secretary Betti is only fooling himself if he thinks his letter will satisfy concerns about this jammer when Congress is being forced to slash other weapon systems that have already proven to be effective.
Production of the ASPJ is going to waste billions of dollars. Worse yet, it could lead to putting faulty radar jammers into American jet fighters, risking American lives and missions.
I know many of my colleagues are eager to hear what has gone wrong with this program. We are particularly looking forward to hearing from Deputy Secretary Atwood, who is personally aware of the ASPJ situation.
Mr. President, I want to make clear that I am not opposed to radar jammers. I am, however, going to work harder than ever, to ensure that we do not waste precious dollars on defense projects until they have proven to work.
Mr. PRYOR. Madam President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Mikulski). The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. SPECTER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. SPECTER. Madam President, I further ask unanimous consent that I may proceed as in morning business.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.