Some days I really like my job! Today happens to be one of those days. One of the biggest tasks I've been working since the first of the year is an installation scheme to modify 140+ F16s with an improved breathing oxygen system. This program has been going on for a few years now through the engineering development, then the purchase of kits through contracting, then two installations to prove that the kits fit as advertised and now, a plan is needed to get the kits installed on the airplanes. Expediently. Starting in October this year.
Seems simple right? What if I told you that all the funding for this program comes directly from Congress and that it has a 3 year shelf life and that oh, BTW, there is 3.2 million that will be worthless on September 30 if not obligated on a contract? Would that get your attention? That alone is almost a separate issue entirely but it is looming large in the shadows compared to my bigger circumstance and we will come back to it later.
There is a depot here that has all modification responsibility for the F16. They do all the work that is outside the scope and skill level of a normal flight line crew chief. It really is pretty amazing just how far an F16 can be torn down, repaired, improved and finally put back together.
Today the depot's business office finally responded formally to my request to accomplish this OBOGS modification. I asked for 6 aircraft accomplished per month, or 143 jets total, beginning in October 05 and finishing in September 2007 because that is when my last dollars expire if I don't receive any further congressional funding.
If you read the response, it appears that the depot can do the job as requested. Nowhere on the letter does it say that the depot cannot meet my request. Except when you do the math, using their numbers, it doesn't add up! They can't do 143 airplanes in 23 months, rather by their figures, they would be done in 29 months! But it doesn't say that anywhere…
Hah! I called them on it! Diplomatically and through the proper channels, I asked for a clarification of their math which I need so that I can get further agreement from the people that actually own the airplanes and have to agree to send them to me in the right quantities and times.
This written admission that they cannot support my program as requested also provides the leverage needed to enjoin a contractor to perform some of the modifications using all that $3.2 I mentioned earlier that will otherwise expire. The depot has to approve any action that moves work away from themselves and they normally won't do that for any reason. Except when they can't meet the requirements. Which today they admitted they can't do.
Obviously, no contracts have been let this afternoon, but the fact remains that I got what the program needed to establish an installation scheme that might make the players in this program look like heroes instead of incompetent oafs. And I gave the depot just the tiniest little black eye, without being obnoxious about it! I'm doing that here!