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Inside the Navy
(Reprinted by permission)
June 5, 2000

Service wants to avoid redundancy in SAPs

by Christopher J. Castelli

In planning its program objective memorandum for fiscal year 2002 through 2007, Navy budget officials have sought to subject the service’s highly classified special access programs to the same rigorous financial review process used for more conventional efforts, according to budget guidance obtained by Inside the Navy. Specifically, affordability concerns have forced the Navy to question more aggressively than before the need for each SAP, and to ensure these programs, often segregated from other service efforts, are not redundant.

The unclassified memo from the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, dated April 5, outlines the guidance the Navy has used in crafting long-term budget plans for special access programs as part of the service’s POM-02 submission, which is due to the Office of the Secretary of Defense today (June 5).

Navy SAPs are, in general, technically advanced naval warfare programs that are handled in a special, strict need-to-know category. Often SAPs are referred to as “black” programs because of the secrecy surrounding them. This secrecy tends to isolate black programs from the Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS) used by the Pentagon to determine the fate of all conventional programs. While the secrecy is sometimes based on the sophistication of the technology involved, senior defense officials have been known to put programs in the black just to avoid the Pentagon’s own budget bureaucracy.

As Navy under secretary in the Carter administration, James Woolsey, the former director of the CIA, often sought secret cover for acquisition programs for the sole purpose of avoiding the program objective memorandum budget process.

“I have a confession to make. When I was under secretary of the Navy I used to put programs into the black in order to be able to avoid the requirements of the POM process,” Woolsey said while participating in a panel discussion at an aerospace conference in Arlington, VA, in May 1999. Putting a program in the black enabled faster, more efficient development -- and less oversight, he noted.

The April 5 memo, from the CNO’s program planning and development branch, suggests at least those in the Navy tasked with assembling the service’s POM-02 plan want the secret programs to be more integrated in the budget process. Affordability concerns are pushing the Navy to make sure it avoids unnecessary duplication in buying secret programs.

“Program for joint warfare. Navy core capabilities are inviolable and must be adequately resourced, but we cannot afford to duplicate the capabilities other services will provide in a joint operation,” the memo states. “Seek opportunities to leverage joint and defense agency efforts, e.g. BMDO.”

As key elements in warfighting capability, SAPs should be “fully included in the process,” states the memo, which references the relatively new Integrated Warfare Architecture process and the CNO Program Analysis Memorandum, both of which shape the development of the six-year budget plan known as the POM. “In particular, these programs should fit into each of the IWARs pillars, and therefore into the assessments and prioritization of the CPAM,” the memo states.

The “trade space” for the POM build must include SAPs “while still respecting their ‘close hold’ status,” the memo states.

Programming for technologically advanced solutions to warfighting requirements -- particularly top-secret programs -- “should be based on managing response to military risk,” the memo states. Not every advanced gadget is something the U.S. military can afford to buy or should buy, the memo indicates.

“We cannot afford to develop and field every attractive technology, but at the same time we must be able to counter effectively an opponent’s emerging capability. Programs designed to reduce military risk must be pursued in priority order based upon the degree of risk,” the memo states. Officials in the Pentagon, various commands and the fleet who received the memo were directed to develop capabilities-based threat assessments that prioritize programs based on degrees of risk with help from the director of naval intelligence.

In addition to stressing the importance of a capabilities-based threat assessment to provide long-term estimates of the military significance of specific threats, the memo instructs Navy and Marine Corps officials to create flexible development plans for top-secret programs, just in case the threat changes. One such option is developing technology but not fielding it, while maintaining the ability for a timely fielding, the memo notes. Three other options include fielding the capability but shelving a small tailored inventory for contingency use, shelving a larger inventory for a war reserve, and deploying the full operational capability.

Top-secret programs that correlate to conventional naval programs must be properly synchronized with their conventional counterparts, especially when one program depends upon the other, the memo states.

© Inside Washington Publishers

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