PUNARO brief CSIS 11-7-2013

WASHINGTON: Acquisition reform. It almost makes you feel good to hear those words. They connote improvement, reason and good government. But the more acquisition reform America gets from Congress and the Pentagon, it seems, the less return we get on each dollar we spend.

Estimates of the cost of government oversight of Pentagon acquisition range from $6 billion up. The amount of time and money it takes to deliver most major weapons has increased ever since the famous Packard Commission.

Combined that with sequestration and the coming drawdown of US forces around the world, and there seems to be a growing consensus that the laws governing how the Defense Department buys its weapons need a complete makeover.

Today, the Pentaogn’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, told an audience of acquisition experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that his office is “looking at the body of law on acquisition management” with an eye to fixing it all. He plans to work very closely with Congress on this — as he must. Between the complexity of the laws themselves, their number and the keen congressional interest this is “not going to be a quick and easy job,” Kendall noted dryly.

Meanwhile, one of the most powerful defense lawmakers has taken it upon himself to pursue broad improvements to the acquisition process. House Armed Services Committee co-chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, one of the most intelligent legislators dealing with defense issues, held the first of a series of hearings on acquisition last week.

To get an idea of the amount of acquisition reform Congress has thrown at the problem, read this testimony by Moshe Schwartz, acquisition expert at the Congressional Research Service:

“In recent years, the primary mechanism by which Congress has exercised its legislative powers to reform defense acquisitions has been the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Sections of these acts have prescribed requirements applicable to both specific acquisition programs and the acquisition structure overall, the latter of which has typically been addressed in Title VIII, which is usually called ‘Acquisition Policy, Acquisition Management, and Related Matters.’ Over the last six years, the Title in the NDAA dealing with acquisitions included more than 275 sections.”

Schwartz’s testimony also includes this gem: there have been more than 250 studies of defense acquisition since World War II, an average of more than three-and-a-half every year since 1945.

How much effect have all those studies and laws had, according to Schwartz?

  • “Since 1993, development contracts have had a median of 32% cost growth (not adjusted for inflation).
  • “Since 1997, 31% of all Major Defense Acquisition Programs have had cost growth of at least 15%.
  • “During the period 1990-2010, the Army terminated 22 Major Defense Acquisition Programs; every year between 1996 and 2010, the Army spent more than $1 billion on programs that were ultimately cancelled.
  • “Aircraft development times have increased significantly since 1980.”

Breaking this pattern to allow for faster, cheaper and more effective weapons buying appears to be Thornberry and Kendall’s goal. I spoke with several longtime practitioners of the dark art of acquisition after the CSIS event. Their consensus was that there’s a reasonably good chance that Congress soon will scrap existing acquisition laws in favor a new, more streamlined approach.

If we continue on our current path — bound by sequestration and hobbled by laws that don’t seem to have improved things much over the years — we are likely to arrive at the juncture outlined in the chart at the top of the story.

“If we don’t make some fundamental changes to how we are making decisions, we are going to have a dramatically smaller fighting force,” Arnold Punaro told the CSIS audience. Punaro, of course, authored the widely read Defense Business Board study on acquisition. Our readers will remember how he summed up his take on the existing system: “Put a match to it.”


  • Gary Church

    Pick some weapons like the silent eagle and M1A1 and stick with them. Most of these new projects are never going to work right- they promise too much and cost way too much. It has always been tanks, fighter planes, and submarines- and of course infantry. Build a tank like the Merkava- that has a big gun that can act as artillery, carry infantry, and fight other tanks, and stick with it. Silent Eagle will suffice for the next fifty years instead of a trillion dollars for the junk strike fighter. And a hundred or so smaller nuclear submarines will own the oceans. Most of the stuff being peddled right now really is junk and constitutes theft of tax dollars on a mind boggling scale.

    • Gary Church

      “Partially” nationalize the airlines so the airliners can be converted on short notice into missile carriers, tankers, etc. Do the same with the merchant fleet so it can be converted on short notice into missile carriers, helicopter carriers, etc. These two resources in the air and at sea can be maintained along with a reserve component of personnel. Helicopters can be used as a national medevac fleet- truck drivers and trucks can also be put into the reserve. Make the entire law enforcement establishment into reserve infantry.

      Police, Trucks, helicopters, container ships, jumbo jets; all can be mobilized in time of war to support what fights. Infantry, tanks, fighters, submarines.

      • 10579

        all that you say was done once before. it was during ww2

      • mark

        Hate to tell you, Gar’ole boy, but the USA has a miniscule merchant fleet these here days. Only about 460 or so vessels of over 1,000 GRT. Not exactly great carriers for our obsolete TLAMS and Harpoonies (right now we lack a decent anti-ship missile, especially one with a 300-500km+ range that is supersonic). Besides long range Russian, Chinese supersonic cruise missiles like BrahMos, Granit, Klub, P-800 Oniks, and YJ-12 Eagle Strike will turn our merchant ship “missile ship” carriers into molten slag. Remember too many of the missiles are now in the arsenals of a wide variety of growing, little, piss-ant nations. Our ASW capabilities have rapidly declined other than our subs which are limited in number. Nuclear ASROC is long gone, ship vertical launch ASROC compliment is minimal, the S-3B Viking is retired as an ASW platform, P-3 Orion is obsolete and nearing the end of its days, and will still don’t know how good the P-8C Orion is going to be without MAD equipment. The ultimate key is to back off a tad on the world scene, get our house in order, and come back out with determination, a desire for peace and prosperity for all, but a willingness to kick the living shite out of anyone who threatens our vital interests. Isolationism is a recipe for ultimate disaster, it has never worked historically. Even if you think we’re armed to the teeth with the latest, greatest, and most sophisticated weaponry, sooner or later some geek develops a countermeasure and we’re back at square one on an even playing field. You need to read more or if you’re reading trying reading on topics you might not agree with at the start. It will open your mind and allow you to think more critically and broadly.

        • Gary Church

          I guess you know it all. No way to argue with such military genius.

  • Gary Church

    Greed and consumerism are the true enemies of America; the rest of our
    problems are all make-believe. We could close the borders and become
    self-sufficient tomorrow (what we should have done after 911). I am
    definitely an isolationist. America first and then worry about the rest
    of the world. If other nations object to our being left alone then we
    have a nuclear arsenal to adjust their attitude

  • Don Bacon

    Frank Kendall is going to fix it?

    Frank Kendall is part of the problem.

    Chicago Tribune, Nov 28, 2012
    Pentagon says “lot of money” still to be made in arms business

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer on Wednesday reassured industry executives and investors that there was still “a lot of money” to be made in the defense business, despite mounting budget pressures that will limit spending on new arms programs.

    Frank Kendall, defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said the budget outlook had clearly changed after a decade of continuous increases in U.S. military spending.

    But he said the Pentagon’s annual budget remained quite large — and even a worst case scenario that would cut defense spending by an additional $50 billion or around 10 percent in fiscal year 2013 — was “not the end of the world.”

    “We’re going to work our way through this,” Kendall told an investor conference hosted by Credit Suisse. “There’s a lot of money still to be made.”

    He said the U.S. military’s new strategy which sees a pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, and calls for increased investment in cybersecurity and space, would result in new growth opportunities for defense companies.

    The department was also mindful of the need to maintain critical design skills in aerospace, he said.

    “We’re in this together. The health of the industrial base is very important,” he said.

  • Don Bacon

    Apparently there is no concern about the plethora of sweetheart sole-source cost-plus contracts issued by the Pentagon. But they’d rather blame sequestration and existing laws for that flat-out corrupt behavior. It makes a better story.

  • Chernenko

    Gary ,
    An isolationist economy in an America that produces debt and expensive military equipment. If we closed the borders like you advocate America would go the way of the Soviet Union. Converting our small merchant fleet into auxiliary warships is a stupid idea. Merchants lack damage control and are not constructed like warships. Examine what happened to the Atlantic Conveyor when an Exocet slammed into her. The M1A1 desperately needs an engine replacement, it’s maintence heavy, and burns ridiculous amount of fuel.

    • Gary Church

      damage control did not help the Sheffield. And we would not go the way of the soviet union; that is a stupid assumption. And….yes, everyone knows the M1A1 needs a diesel engine. The point is we would not be producing debt and expensive military equipment if we closed the borders.

      • Chernenko

        The current CNO is a submariner, so I’m pretty sure what he says about subs holds some weight. And yes Gary a closed economy will fail just like a centrally planned one. What’s to stop the G8 or G20 from boycotting the small amount of items we still produce. Who will Boeing sell their junk to. Damage control was crucial in saving the Samuel B Roberts, and The Stark. The silent eagle is a wash.

        • Gary Church

          I guess you know it all. Cannot argue with such perfect knowledge.

          • ComputerGeezer

            Thanks for the insult- Gary Church says that usually means
            you lost the argument.

      • mark

        The Sheffield was built at a time before proper damage control, construction techniques/design, and Kevlar or Kevlar-type armoring designed at protecting a ship against an anti-ship missile hit from going boom or sinking was incorporated. AND it was built from aluminum, one of the most potentially flammable metals out there, but it’s light and cheap, and keeps ship displacement down. I’m not saying modern surface ships are immune to anti-ship missiles. Far, far, far from it. These birds are deadly. But the above items plus stealth design, improved electronic detection systems, improved electronic warfare/jamming systems and multi-tiered air defense systems with missiles and rapid fire machine cannon has and will definitely help in dealing with anti-SM except maybe swarm atacks and deadly supersonic anti-ship missiles (?laser defense systems or small caliber rail guns as possibilities for defense systems). Also HMS Sheffield was launched in 1970 and even with updates was bordering on obsolescence in 1982 when it was sunk. It was also armed like a row boat (in true modern British/UK fashion– their ships are more poorly armed then ours) with only a 4.5″ gun, 2 20mm WWII-era Oerlikon machine “cannons” (unsuitable in WWII to shoot down kamikaze and worthless against an Exocet coming in at Mach 0.8). ASW torpedoes, a Sea Lynx chopper, and a double launcher for the Sea Dart area-defense AA missile. It lacked a close in AA/Anti-missile missile or a CIWS gun system to say nothing about modern electronic warfare/jamming/detection systems (for the time of course).

  • PolicyWonk

    The acquisition system should be extirpated and replaced with one similar to that used by the British. They use a threat analysis board comprised of civilian and military experts that review threats, and then determine the force structure and weapons required to defeat those threats. The only thing parliament does, is approve the budget. This eliminates meddling of elected representatives, prevents redundant efforts, prevents design changes from being made at every step of the process through construction (a common practice in the US), and garners them a vastly better deal for defense money spent.

    • Gary Church

      I know nothing about how the Brits do it. It is interesting they had trouble with their most basic piece of equipment- the infantry rifle- and like the M-416 our special forces use had the Germans fix it. They have an outstanding Main Battle Tank and probably the best manpads.

  • Reginald Bronner

    Got two problems with the models presented above. First, it is acknowledged that President Reagan over bought on everything. Highest expenditures for defense since the second world war. In talking to some ex-submariner friends discovered that we had to mothball a number of SSN and SSBN’s because we just had no use for them. Some of the boats were retired within 1 or 2 years of launching. Terrible waste.Second, we are still overbuying weapon systems designed to fight a nuclear European or Asian land-mass all out war. Many of these systems are pork barrel waste and are located in Southern U.S. congressional districts. These same congressmen are currently in charge of new systems appropriations in the House. Consider that we have a reported 3,000 Abram tanks sitting in an empty lot and the Army has asked us to quite authorizing further expenditures for same but the House Republican (and some Democrats) are ignoring the call for procurement cessation. As long as we have stupid people in charge of the military and Congress we will be making more expensive (and stupid) procurement decisions. And, then there is the overcharging by the defense contractors and inability of the IG offices and congressional oversight to bring these people to justice through the Attorney Generals office. You know, “personal responsibility” rather than “without admitting guilt” corporate fines.

    • Gary Church

      Having no use for a nuclear attack submarine might be translated as aviation and carrier officers having no use for nuclear attack submarines; it is a matter of opinion which arm is more potent. My opinion is that nuclear attack submarines own the ocean and the more of them you have the more ocean you own. So in some circles it is not the submarine that is going to waste it is all the money going to carrier groups that could keep those subs out of mothballs.

      As for overbuying Main Battle Tanks, if there is any weapon that is more than worth the money spent on it, it is heavy armor. There is no substitute for armor on the battlefield. Why the service thinks they have enough tanks is the notion that there are substitutes with a higher price tag and thus higher profits.

      The Abrams needs a diesel engine but other than this one fixable weak spot it is the most cost effective and war winning machine in production. I have to go against the Army on this one simply because I know armor is not popular with the officer corps or industry- but that is not because it is not effective in battle.

      IMO the Junk Strike Fighter and V-22 osprey are prime examples of stupidity- NOT tanks ready for battle.

  • Reginald Bronner

    The army has said they do not need the tanks. The navy does not have the crews for the submarines, particularly the SSBN’s. Ignoring the customer’s needs is a time-honored way of “armchair admirals”.

    • Gary Church

      Aint no customers Reginald, just the victors and the victims. Thanks for the insult- that usually means I won the argument.

  • Harold

    You forgot to mention that the 2021 budget will be larger than the 1988 budget, even after adjusting for inflation.

  • mark

    Quite simply….A RECIPE FOR DISASTER!! I pray that no major conflicts develop should this come to pass. These force levels by their very nature will force the USA into a much more, if not fully isolationist posture with barely adequate force levels to defend the continental USA and this hemisphere with possibly the occassional incursion to protect some vital distant foreign interest. I know many will be happy with a USA foreign policy such as this and there are certainly some points to argue for it such as our precarious financial posture (which incidentally could be mostly corrected withn 10-20 years, except maybe the full debt, or so with certain drastic measures–among other things such items as energy independence, ending outsourcing, closing unnecesary Federal Depts like Education, the EPA and others, massive fining of manufacturing companies trying to move out of the USA, improved corporate incentives to remain in the USA, breaking Union strangleholds on business but not doing away with Unions just significantly reducing their power as workers rights deserved to be protected within reason we don’t want a return to the first 30 labor years of the 20th Century, reducing government regulation on businesses especially the EPA and especially on small business startups, protecting and militarizing our porous borders mainly with Mexico with one warning shot and then shoot to kill, using the military,police, National Guard, Reserves, and hiring at least 50-75,000 more INF officers to start rounding up ILLEGAL ALIENS not PC-termed undocumented workers, I’m sorry this is not the America of the 1870s of Emma Lazarus anymore. If people want to emigrate they come in legally, learn the language, adopt and assimilate the culture and customs, F%&k all our forebearers did this and gleefully.This whole amnesty BS is nothing more than the Democratic Party attempting to wrest permanent control of all 3 branches of government reducing Conservatism/Republicanism to nothing more than regional influences, it has nothing to do with benevolence.) However, I am sorry American history has repeatedly demonstrated that isolationship only ends up with us getting into wars where we are woefully prepared and end up sustaining more casualties and prolongation of the conflict then we would have had we been properly prepared at the onset. In WWI and WWII the nature of combat in those days (especially the lag time to the entry of the USA into actual combat from when hostilities bewtween the other belligerents first commenced) allowed some measure of time for us to start our military buildup and draft/training until we actually engaged in direct combat and even then we didn’t perform to optimal ability due to our inexperience– remember Kasserine Pass, or the slug match in Sicily and the Italian boot, or Savo Island and other assorted early Pacific naval battles where the Japanese basically cleaned our clocks (Please forget Midway that was the biggest luck job in USN history, a great valorous victory to be sure brought about by our code-breaking technology and radar in essence, but still very, very lucky with G-d flying in the cockpit of the lead SBD and Coral Sea was basically a fairly major tactical defeat because had the Japs won at Midway they would have been right on back at the door to Australia). We will not have that luxury in future major wars in all likelihood, but will have to fight with what is on hand. Additionally the development of modern weapons like airplanes take 2-3 decades nowadays. Gone are the days when the P-51 was developed and deployed in 2 years as was also the P-38 and the P-47 in around 1 year or so. Other weapon systems, artillery, tanks, missilery, warships, electronic systems/ECM/ESSM all require prolonged developmental histories. Maybe we have to take a step or two back temporarily(except from some vital foreigh interests) for a reasonably short period of time while we strive to get our economic house and political house in order (like getting the Democrat control of the Senate out, keeping Repub control in the House, and getting a reasonably conservative President but not a fanatic who will not appeal in blue and purple states and thus lead to another Repub loss). I understand and sympathize with alot of what the Tea Party says but they need to understand that a Repub/Conserv from S. Carolina or Georgia is going to be somewhat different than a person of the same political affiliation from NY, or Penn, or New Jersey, or California who might be a RINO of sorts or more correctly more moderate. But he/she is still a Repub and 85-90%+ will vote with the Party in Congress. The way back to power is to win elections. Once we’ve attained that then we can go about purifying the party over time as the nation is reintroduced to true American values, customs, and mindset via a more balanced education and journalist/media industry. But understand one thing if we fully step back from the international stage and create powwer voids, history clearly illustrates that some one else comes into fill the void– likely the ChiComs, Russians, N. Koreans, Iranians, Venezuela, and possibly others. If we go away too long it’s going to cost us exponentially more to return and restore some semblance of order. But I ultimately agree that we need to roll up our sleeves and get America in order NOW (as partially outline above) for our own sakes but also for the greater sake of freedom and liberty, the rights of MAN (as a broad term not sexual for all you violent femminists out there), and the ultimate geo-political stability of our planet. I know I’ve rambled alot, but all of this ties into the problem of growing isolationism and decreasing force levels.

    • Gary Church

      Sorry, too long to read; if nobody is going to waste their time on you why should I?