An interesting promotion has been announced by the Air Force. Pending Senate confirmation, Lt. Gen. Charles R. Davis, whose resume includes nearly five years overseeing the troubled F-35 program, is being assigned to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition at the Pentagon.
From June 2004 to July 2006 Davis was deputy program executive officer for the Pentagon's Joint Strike Fighter program office, the official government managers of the program to develop the futuristic warplane. Then from July 2006 to May 2009, he was the program executive officer -- the top boss.
To be fair, the F-35 program was in trouble when Davis moved into the management office. Within a year of its start, in early 2003, prime contractor Lockheed Martin and the program office knew the aircraft design was too heavy and undertook a total redesign.
Still, during Davis nearly five years overseeing the program the F-35 turned into a major debacle, one that the Pentagon is still trying to sort out. Production and testing schedules and budgets were blown badly and repeatedly. In November 2009, shortly after Davis moved on, the Star-Telegram reported how badly the program was doing based on internal Pentagon documents.
About the same time, Defense Secretary Robert Gates began to grasp how bad a shape the F-35 was really in, as a second Star-Telegram story in March 2010 that was based on more recent documents showed.
In February 2010, in conjunction with the release of the Pentagon's proposed 2011 budget, Gates fired the program executive Marine Major Gen. David Heinz, who had been second in command to Davis until a few months earlier. Gates was very critical of the program and ordered the first of what have been three successive F-35 program restructurings with delays in planned purchase each year.
Gates replaced Heinz with Navy Vice Adm. David Venlet, who boosted the program offices own engineering capabilities to better manage and monitor the program and has been critical of some past program management decisions.
So with that record Davis is now being assigned to the Air Force's acquisition office. Most recently Davis has commanded the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. and prior to that he was the Program Executive Officer for Weapons and Air Armament Center commander at Eglin AFB, Fla.
According to his official Air Force bio, Davis previous assignments include: serving on the Air Staff under the director of Air Force Test and Evaluation; leading divisions in both the F-16 and F-15 program offices; serving as director of the F-15 and Flight Training System Program Offices; and serving as the Joint Primary Aircraft Training (T-6A) System Program director. He is an experimental test pilot with more than 3,400 flying hours in 53 types of aircraft.