16 March 2010

SECDEF on MC-12 (Project Liberty)

The MC-12 "Project Liberty" project is a remarkable ISR aircraft. A modified C-12 Huron, the MC-12 team just won a pretty big award at the AF Acquisition Leadership Forum this week.

At the presentation ceremony, they played a short video clip, in which the Secretary of Defense said the following:

"Your work proves what industry and the military can accomplish together. And it reminds us that new platforms can be developed, built, and deployed in a short period of time – and the best solution isn’t always the fanciest or the most expensive."

It's from a speech he gave on 31 Aug 09, and it's just about a perfect summary of the FIST concept. The MC-12 came together very quickly, inexpensively - and used proven, mature technologies that were put together in an interesting way to create something that's more than the sum of its parts.

I think it's cool the AF did this. I think it's doubly-cool the AF rewarded the team behind it. Hopefully other projects will take note that, in the words of Sec Gates, "the best solution isn't always the fanciest or the most expensive."


Glen B. Alleman said...

Given this example, is there an assessment of the "causal" sources of success?

This information could then be "tested" against the processes of other program.

For example, what level of ACAT is MC-12?

Dick Field said...

"I think it's cool the AF did this."

Ooops! I believe we had a conversation about this one last year, Dan. FISTy values should include not being redundant. This was cool because the Army did it as Guardrail over a succession of decades, dating back to Vietnam - and at a much lower cost per aircraft. Please see:




Meanwhile, the Army has been moving to UAVs for this purpose.

Better to leave this one off the catalog of poster children for FIST.

Dick Field said...

Trying again on that first link:


Dick Field said...

One more time:


The Dan Ward said...

@Dick - I agree (and I do now recall previous discussions - d'oh!). But at the same time, given the reality of political reluctance to borrow concepts & systems from other services (particularly an airplane from the Army!), I contend this isn't such a bad thing. It's not optimal, but it's so much better than the typical 10yr+ and $1B approach...

So you're right - ideally, the AF should have leveraged existing, proven Army tech... But I'm still excited the AF decided to give an award to a fast, inexpensive, simple project (even if it might have been redundant...)

Dick Field said...

Okay, I can accept this is FISTy in a relativistic world - as a funded FIST prototype under controlled conditions - but let's aim higher. It is SMART to be purple-suited when pursuing a FISTy solution - particularly as it serves Intel needs (that's why missions of the Air Force Security Service, the Army Security Agency, and the Naval Security Group were all ultimately managed by NSA back in the day). The end to inter-service rivalry lies somewhere on the road to FIST.

The Dan Ward said...

@Dick - I agree completely, and often say I bleed purple. The whole interservice rivalry thing has some benefits and makes for good football, but often times it prevents us from doing the smart thing. Ideally, we'd all make a point to leverage good tools & ideas, regardless of the source. But as much as I hate to even say it, politics sometimes gets in the way.

But really, the main point of his post was the SECDEF's comments & the AF's decision to give an award to a system that isn't "the fanciest or most expensive." It's a step in the right direction...