Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan jokes about how sequestration is screwing over the other services but not his.
ARLINGTON, VA — Air Force officials confirmed Monday that they would be grounding the entire Experimental Uniform fleet after problems were discovered on one of the zippers, the latest setback amid a string of recent disasters.
Test wearers first noticed the problem during a routine maintenance wear, while attempting to use the bathroom. When airmen noticed their futuristic pants zippers sometimes caught on their lower fuselage, sometimes pushing them to the point of asphyxiation.
"This is certainly not a problem that we could have seen in the planning stages," said Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the program manager.
The $345 billion program is the service's attempt to implement a fifth-generation uniform to serve in peacetime until they need to inevitably update to the sixth generation to justify an increased budget. The Experimental Uniform, if completed, would have a number of enhanced features, including pants zippers, increased back support for chairborne operations, and built-in Doritos holsters for drone pilots.
Many have decried the experimental uniform as "no better than legacy woodlands."
"The fact we're spending $345 billion on this program is absolutely preposterous," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "This program should cost no more than $340 billion. Tops."
It's certainly not the first problem to hit the uniform. During initial testing, uniform wearers reported that the fabric would not allow them to turn their head to see what's behind them. Pentagon insiders also found major software problems in January, although the reason an airman's uniform would have any type of computing power "remains classified."
"We're confident that despite this hiccup, we'll get through this," said Bogdan. "We've already conducted 20,000 tests of the uniform's capabilities and only have about 40,000 more to go."
The Air Force estimates the program to remain on schedule, with development and fielding set to take no longer than 30 years at a total cost anywhere between $600 billion and $1.2 trillion, or maybe $2.9 trillion, or even "possibly $3.7 gazillion or so, give or take a couple zillion," Bogdan said.
"We are absolutely precise when it comes to getting a bomb inside a chimney," Bogdan told Duffel Blog, "but you can't ask us to tell you exactly how much this could cost. It's very hard to predict contractor kickbacks."