Troubled AF systems are kept alive by 'generous' lawmakers

Congressional meddling and slow Air Force progress on a new
aircraft maintenance system have left the service's wing units with a trio of old,
unreliable systems that will not be replaced before 1997.


Evidence of the ongoing support for the problem-plagued systems is buried in the House
and Senate fiscal 1996 Defense appropriations bills. Both the House and Senate added
roughly $28 million in unrequested funds to the bills for the three old systems and a new
one, the Integrated Maintenance Data System (IMDS), that is intended to replace them.


Both houses have passed their versions of the bill and are scheduled to meet for
conference negotiations any day.


The old systems are the Core Automated Maintenance System (CAMS), the Reliability and
Maintainability Information System (REMIS) and Tactical Interim CAMS/REMIS Reporting
System (TICARRS). Eventually, the service plans to replace all three with IMDS.


In 1982, the Standard Systems Group at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.,
began developing CAMS, which gathers maintenance data on aircraft, electronic equipment
and other assets at 109 Air Force bases.


REMIS, which is designed to process, store and retrieve performance and readiness
information based on data generated by CAMS, was built under a contract awarded to Litton
Computer Systems in Dayton, Ohio, in 1986. The management of both programs was
consolidated by the Air Force in December 1991.


TICARRS, a standalone system that predates CAMS and REMIS, was designed by Dynamics
Research Corp. in Andover, Mass., and is limited to tracking maintenance and parts data
for F-16, F-15 and F-117 combat aircraft.


All three systems have suffered from a host of data accuracy, interoperability and
reliability problems over the years. A General Accounting Office report in March 1992
quoted several Air Force in-house studies on CAMS and REMIS that cited an overall data
error rate of 50 percent, prohibitively slow response times and data so incomplete as to
negate its worth for planning and readiness purposes.


Despite these problems, and based on commitments by Litton to fix the performance
problems, the Air Force three years ago decided to eliminate TICARRS altogether by porting
its data to the other two systems. Accordingly, the Air Force has not requested any funds
for TICARRS for the last three years.


But the appropriations committees have insisted on keeping TICARRS alive. Prior to the
Republican takeover of Congress, the pressure to retain funding for TICARRS could be
traced to Rep. John Joseph Moakley (D-Mass.), whose district is home to many Dynamics
Research employees.


In fiscal 1996, however, with both the House and Senate appropriations committees led
by Republicans whose home districts are not affected by any of the systems' contracts,
Congress still is maintaining TICARRS fund, adding $10 million in unrequested dollars this
year.


Sources in Congress and the Air Force say TICARRS never came close to being rolled into
the newer system, mainly because the transition was deemed too costly.


"Consolidating TICARRS into CAMS/REMIS at this point would require a very
expensive and laborious effort," said a Senate staff member. "We believe the
most prudent approach, at this point, is to keep both systems going with no further
enhancements until a follow-on system is in place."


Col. William Colmer, program manager for the three systems and the planned IMDS,
agreed. "Four years ago, when we were assuming that we would phase out TICARRS, we
developed a funding plan that included no money for it," he said.


Since the phase-out never happened, Congress has "generously" provided funds
to make sure that Air Force users of TICARRS will have continued service, he added.


Meanwhile, the Tandem mainframe computers that run REMIS are "in dire need of a
hardware upgrade" that will cost between $8 million and $10 million, according to
another Air Force staff member.


Not coincidentally, the House and Senate bills include unrequested allocations of $10
million each for that program as well.


The money will be spent despite a host of continuing flaws in REMIS data. "There's
no historical data on the failure of [aircraft] line replaceable units in REMIS, which is
critical," the Air Force source said. "There's no linkage between subsystems, so
that you've got flying hour data that's not linked to failure data. You can't gauge where
you're support problems are if you don't have accurate data or access to the data."


Litton officials declined to comment on REMIS.


Colmer said the hardware upgrade was necessary to ensure continued service until a
contract for IMDS is awarded. Apparently aware of the problems with REMIS, both houses of
Congress also allocated around $15 million in unrequested funds to expedite the IMDS
acquisition.


In April, the Air Force awarded five small contracts to companies that are now
demonstrating commercial software programs capable of integrating the CAMS, REMIS and
TICARRS functions for IMDS.


Colmer said the Air Force will finish reviewing the demos in December and issue a
solicitation for a contract to be awarded in early 1997. Industry sources said the IMDS
contract probably would be worth somewhere between $200 million and $400 million.


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