You know your program is in trouble when the guy in charge of the purse at the Pentagon has no idea what it is or does.
At the Defense Department budget press briefing yesterday, Comptroller Robert Hale was asked why the Sea-Based X-Band Radar, also known as SBX -- a humongous radar system installed on a refurbished, mobile drilling rig to detect missiles, was placed in "limited test support status" in the Cuts, Consolidations and Savings section of the 2013 budget.
Hale, as the transcript of the press briefing showed, had no idea what an SBX is, to the considerable amusement of the Pentagon press corps:
Q: (Off mic) -- there was -- there's not going to be a missile defense briefing provided for us today, so I'm curious if you can outline for us what was the decision behind the SBX being shelved. And can you outline --
MR. HALE: The which, I'm sorry?
Q: The Sea-Based X-Band Radar -- shelved?
MR. HALE: Oh.
Q: And also, can you outline for us -- (laughter) -- I guess that says it all.
MR. HALE: Yeah, I think -- well, I think maybe you already know the answer.
Q: OK, and the SBX -- if you could articulate -- (inaudible) --
MR. HALE: I can't help you. (Laughter.)
FRANK KENDALL (acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics): The services are going to be -- (inaudible) --
MR. HALE: You want to -- you want to say something about that, Frank?
MR. KENDALL: Yeah, I can say it.
MR. HALE: This is Frank Kendall, I think you know, our acting under secretary for AT&L.
MR. KENDALL: The SBX is a large X-band research development radar primarily. It's very expensive to keep and operate. And we thought we could get adequate for the testing that we're doing without that radar. So that's essentially the reason. It's largely an affordability issue where we have other centers that can -- that can fill in the gap.