Pentagon & beyond - view of DC over river - 032113-Pentagon-full

This is the second of three op-eds by acquisition guru Bill Greenwalt. Since the devil is often in the details of improving how America buys its weapons, Bill delves deep into those details in this piece, arguing that the acquisition system is really so bad we just need to figure out how to get around it most of the time in the long run. Then we need to figure out immediate palliative measures to cope in the short run with declining budgets and the need to still buy top technology. Next Wednesday, Frank Kendall will be testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on this very topic. Congress and the Pentagon could do much worse than to take some of Bill’s ideas and build them into whatever new system they build. The Editor

The first question Congress and the Pentagon should address as they try to reform the acquisition system is: what has really worked in the past.

Bill Greenwalt

One of the truths of the last 50 years of acquisition practice is that whenever the military really needed something it bypasses the traditional acquisition process and uses a more streamlined approach. Recognizing this reality is the first step in building an acquisition system that works.

During the Cold War when America really needed an important strategic or intelligence capability, the Pentagon and the NRO emulated a more streamlined 1950s version of acquisition that empowered entities like Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works to build operational capabilities faster than the traditional acquisition process.  While DARPA’s unique acquisition approach led to the development of the Internet, its use of authorities such as Other Transactions Authority (OTA) was instrumental in the development of unmanned systems among other technologies. During the 1990s, when Silicon Valley decided it didn’t want to sell commercial information technology (IT) and services to the Pentagon because of the burdens of the acquisition system, an exemption was created to let them bypass government-unique procurement requirements.

In the early 2000s, missile defense deployment was sped up by special legislation granting the Pentagon greater budgetary and acquisition flexibility. And, in the most recent example, when former Defense Secretary Robert Gates decided our troops needed better protection from IEDs, acquisition rules were waived under new rapid acquisition laws to get MRAPs, counter-IED equipment, and surveillance assets into Iraq and Afghanistan. As Gates points out in his memoir, he often had to be the catalyst to provide the political cover and will to get around the system.

The need to completely circumvent the acquisition system has become essential if the Pentagon wants innovative, fast, cheap weapons that work. Congress has responded to this over the years with a number of exceptions to acquisition laws, policies and rules to help the Pentagon.

However, the use and composition of these exceptions has come under increasing threat as we move to the more rules-based, compliance-focused, acquisition system that has developed during the Obama Administration. Reinvigorating procurement exemptions would send a clear signal that Congress and the Pentagon are serious about significant acquisition reform. While there are several authorities in law that allow for greater acquisition flexibility and could be improved upon, three merit immediate consideration and expansion: OTAs, commercial contracting and rapid acquisition. If these were sufficiently used they could radically change defense acquisition for the better.

OTAs allow the waiver of most acquisition rules by starting off with a clean sheet of paper in determining the relationship between the government and industry. Unfortunately, OTAs have been in decline since Congress objected to the Army using a broad-based OTA with Boeing and SAIC to develop the Future Combat System (FCS). Still, OTAs are the single best tool to bring non-traditional companies and ideas into the defense marketplace, as has been seen with unmanned systems, robotics, IT and advanced materials. OTAs could also be the testing ground for new acquisition procedures with traditional defense contractors if the Pentagon learns from the FCS experience and first obtains Congressional buy-in before using them for this purpose.

NASA’s Space Act of 1958 is the original source of OTA authority.  This authority was first given to DARPA in 1989 and later expanded to the rest of DoD.  NASA is now light years (no pun intended) ahead of DoD in the use of OTAs. For example, NASA used its OTA authority to waive procurement rules that allowed SpaceX and Orbital to develop and deliver new lower-cost commercial launch capabilities. Current restrictions on defense OTAs should be removed and new authority provided for a more expansive production OTA authority. This expanded production authority would allow companies who develop technologies in an OTA to sell these products commercially to the US military just like SpaceX and Orbital are now doing with NASA.

The statutory commercial item exemption has been another useful tool in getting non-traditional companies to participate in the DoD marketplace. Unfortunately, this exception, established in 1994 to a broad range of legal and regulatory requirements for commercial products and services (most significantly unique cost accounting and audit requirements), has been undermined as new restrictions have been applied to commercial contracting in the last decade. Some of these address issues related to the globalization of the commercial supply chain, but others represent a growing distrust by DoD’s oversight community of commercial competition and profit margins.

These new restrictions and regulations have incentivized many emerging commercial companies to stay out of DoD contracting. And those commercial companies that currently sell to the military are now faced with the choice of opting out of the government marketplace or radically changing their structure to conform to these requirements. Such changes would result in these companies looking even more like defense unique firms both in cost to the government and in reduced innovation potential.

A first step in reinvigorating commercial contracting authorities would be to roll the clock back and prohibit any regulatory requirement added since 1998 to be applied to a commercial item. The vast majority of these new requirements have been put in place by the executive branch, but a few are based in statute and might require legislation to overturn. Other actions that would support commercial contracting would include strengthening the current commercial item preference and grandfathering in past commercial items from any new regulatory commercial item determinations.   The application of ITAR and new defense-unique intellectual property and supply chain mandates has had a chilling effect on commercial contracting; exempting commercial items from these requirements should be considered. Finally, thought should be given to establishing a definition for a commercial entity that would allow all products and services delivered by that entity to be covered by the commercial item exemption.

Rapid acquisition authorities that were enacted after 9/11 led to the creation of a number of rapid acquisition entities and processes. Many of these emulated the acquisition buying practices of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), which has had its own long-standing special acquisition authority. Now that hostilities are coming to an end these ad-hoc organizations and processes are in danger of winding down. Immediate steps should be taken to ensure that these organizations and processes are not dismantled and become absorbed into the traditional acquisition system.  As a way of maintaining these capabilities, current rapid acquisition authorities should be expanded to apply beyond wartime requirements and be targeted at supporting combatant commanders needs that can be deployed in less than two years.

Expanding and reinvigorating these and other exceptions to the traditional acquisition process can either be the primary focus of near-term acquisition reform efforts or a positive first step before enacting more comprehensive reform. When it is necessary to go around a system to make it work, there probably isn’t much of that system that needs saving. Still, because of the time it would take to dismantle and replace the current acquisition system, immediately expanding exemptions, exceptions and carve-outs would at least allow a workable alternative while Congress and the Pentagon approach the long-term task of building a much-needed new acquisition system from the ground up.

Comments

  • CynicFan2

    The Commercial Item exemption was the worst possible decision for the military. Commercial items are sold without data for their long term maintenance. Military keeps items a lot longer than the commercial customer and needs to repair and maintan the items.
    First thing that needs done is to outlaw supplements to the FAR. The FAR was a great idea, but immediately became burdened with specific rules for each and every agency which was the primary thing the FAR was designed to remedy.
    Stop allowing any exceptions and simply make the process efficient. As soon as there is an exception, everyone tries to avoid the rules and cram through the exception, effectively busting it. Recognize that many Acquisition Plans are just plans-they won’t always be right and modifying them constantly wastes time and money.

    • Dennis Griffin

      Agree with you Cynic, the maintenance of commercial items are killing us, same with costs of commercial software without rights/access to source

      • Jon

        F-35…unless I’m mistaken, for which the government is funding the R&D, but owns none of the rights.

    • Jon

      I’d disagree about COTS equipment in many instances. Is it a durable item or not? Is long-term maintenance going to be an issue or not? Why spend additional money on something designing (or over-designing) it to MILSPEC, that is just going to be quickly expended? There’s a time and place for everything.

      • CynicFan2

        If our tendency wasn’t to shoehorn everything into an exception, I might agree, but as soon as we see anyway to get something purchased easier or faster all other considerations get wiped out. Three days faster when the PM is screaming because a captain is yelling because an Admiral has called make a huge difference. What happens in five or ten years is not given any consideration because none of them will be around. It will be someone else’s problem

        • Jon

          “because an Admiral has called”

          There’s an enormous part of the problem right there; more Admirals than ships. Idle minds…

          • Gary Church

            Anyone who has ever had to give an intel brief knows the drill. You can see those gears turning as they try to think of a question you can’t answer. Ridiculous games. The legions of desk driving officers and do-nothing civil servants pulling down 80 grand a year and doing little besides emailing each other about football is…mind boggling. I have seen it. I have seen the new broom sweep clean. I have seen people pushing hare brained schemes for no other reason than to recommend themselves in their “input” to their boss. I have seen them screw over their troops to look good time and time again- whether to cut some good deal they had going or forbid them some liberty they had been enjoying. It is a disgusting good ole boy club and the people that did all the work never forget and will never forgive. If their gaming the system falls apart we will have no mercy on them at all. And we shouldn’t.

  • DDT

    I don’t see how any of these proposed ‘fixes’ are going to address the root problem, which is that the Services insist on starting the wrong programs at the wrong time (i.e. before they know what they want or how to do it). Until you can avoid wasting hundreds of billions of dollars to get nothing of use — FCS, TSAT, DDX, JTRS, Comanche, Crusader, AAAV, Presidential helicopter, SBIRS Low, etc. etc. — the last thing you want to do is grease the wheels.

    Holding up MRAP as an example is pretty weird, when we spent $40B to get 3 years of use for a system we then threw away. If that were the norm, we’d be down to knives and arrows pretty soon.

    • Gary Church

      The MRAP was damage control for people so busy making money off worthless junk they had to come up with something that worked or go to jail. The whistleblowers finally could not live with their consciences and made sure we would not be feeding soldiers to IED’s. It took a couple thousand soldiers to die and tens of thousands maimed and brain injured for that to happen. Now we are back to unarmored vehicles- the cheapest way to move troops while the big profit projects continue to transfer tax dollars into shareholder pockets. Absolutely criminal.

    • WeirdLore

      MRAP is a horrible example for long term reform. MRAP was an expensive approach to a wartime problem. The acquistion system should be such that you don’t need to crash and burn on a system like MRAP. You should already have sytems in place to meet your needs…

  • simcha chamberg

    Hi Folks,
    I am the new kid on the block and as you can see from my picture, I may the first one that looks like me and I aim to rake up the debate as never before…

    Yes, I am a US citizen born in Jamaica and schooled in Europe and love it here in America is why I have remained here in over 35 years. I knew only brutal, knock-down step-in-your face, performance-based competition until I came to America riddled with alumni set-asides, gender and race-based set aside, SBIR and I observed with horrow how politicians who have never lifted a screwdriver ever, have come to dominate and control technological systems they have no idea how they work.
    When we are able to solve how Boeing Osprey can consume $40-50 Billion over a twenty year period, kill off 30 of America’s finest young warfighters in peace-time flights, fails to meet any kind of performance standards than consume oodles of tax dollars, is too big for regular aircraft carrier deployment/hangers, FAIL TO SELL EVEN A SINGLE V22 to a paying customer AND gets $Billion additional contracts AND continue to place global US aerospace prestige at risk with unaccounted-for malfunction of Dreamliner airframes and continue to be supported to the tune of 60-70% of its stockholder revenue base from federal coffers and goes into Chicago and scoops up $40 Billion air tanker business AND an additional $40 Billion in aircraft supply to Indonesia ($80 Billion +++ from Obama Administration) and build not a single manufacturing facility in Illinois, gets fined and not decertified and jailed for selling used parts-for-new AND falsifying worker time sheets to the Pentagon…then we know corruption and bribery trumps everything else…

    GM is paying $7000.00/day for their alleged wrong-doing..
    F-22 will cost $1.5 Trillion and counting..
    NASA was involved into world class, life robbing disasters…
    Aerospike propulsion failed and took away $2Billion in tax revenues..

    We need some new players who refuse to pay-to-play and are willing to work independently and then sell their goods on the Global market, however even when the Federal government refuses to put not a single dime of support in any American company, it wants to ‘license’ and manipulate those sales and hand over privately discovered technologies to legacy players….

    • PolicyWonk

      The Osprey is being sold (in a manner of speaking) to Israel, and now the Japanese are seeking to purchase them for use on their “helicopter destroyers” now that China is become more diplomatically belligerent, and claims Islands that the Japanese currently possess (and intend to keep).

      The US navy is also considering buying V-22’s to replace the Greyhound fleet, which would be a vastly more efficient vehicle (in many respects).

      New aircraft often have teething problems, and the V-22 certainly had more than its share. But there haven’t been any accidents in quite a while, and it has been proving itself very effective in more recent years.

      BTW – the F-35 is whats costing $1.5T – not the F-22.

      Cheers

      • Gary Church

        The Osprey is junk Wonk. The operating cost of 10,000 an hour is being brought down by cooking the books and will inevitably go through the roof. At some point in the near future they will be suddenly retired. Unavoidable. It is an unmaintainable almost useless monstrosity. A bastard combination of airplane and helicopter with the disadvantages of both and none of the advantages. It cannot autorotate like a helicopter and if it loses power descending into an LZ or climbing out of one it falls out of the sky. It is sensitive to the turbulence of other Ospreys and prone to going out of control. With over 12,000 horsepower it cannot lift anywhere near what a comparably powered cargo plane or helicopter can. It cannot fly above bad weather because it is not pressurized and cannot effectively do the hoist and sling work that helicopters do because of the prop-rotor blast. It is an unbelievable rip-off and like the space shuttle, 20 years from now everyone will wonder how we could have been so gullible.

        • PolicyWonk

          That is possible, Gary.

          But only time will tell. The reports that I’ve seen are indicating its not as bad as you say (I’m merely telling you what I’ve read).

          But all I said in my comments is and remains true: The Israelis are “buying” V-22’s (i.e. its a gift from the US taxpayers), but the Japanese are actually planning on buying them to help them hold onto the Islands the Chinese are trying to reclaim (after hundreds of years).

          I found that ironic, b/c of the uproar over the basing of V-22’s on Okinawa.

          • Gary Church

            It is just a back room deal Wonk. More money going into pockets for favors. A handful of tilt rotors is all they can afford and that will have absolutely no effect on anything that happens. It’s a scam.

        • Gary Church

          If you think no one knew the shuttle was a bad idea before it flew then read this;

          http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/8004.easterbrook-fulltext.html

          Some people can see through all the hype. David Axe is one of a few journalists who have been writing about the Osprey. But 99 percent of anything anyone reads is the canned PR story of how great it is.

      • Jon

        Replacing the Greyhound with the V-22 is actually being pushed by the USMC IIRC, who want to reduce the cost of their airframes. It’s a stupid idea…V-22 doesn’t have the range, the load capacity, the interior cubes, or the reliability of the Greyhound. Greyhound is one of the most successful albeit non-sexy aircraft in history.

        IIRC, taking retired low-hour S-3s and widening the cabin is probably the better of the replacements ideas being floated.

        • Gary Church

          Always liked S-3’s. Very cool plane. Not that I am a fan of the no-longer-survivable carriers but a good plane is a good plane. Wiki says they only built 188. I wonder how many survived and they could put back in service?

          • Jon

            A bunch, and a lot of them are low hours. Also has a lot of commonality for parts/engines, and far lower maintenance requirements.

    • Gary Church

      Some of what you say is true and most of it is not.

  • Don Bacon

    The counter-IED program never solved the IED problem and circumventing the test-evaluate-procure acquisition process won’t solve any problems either. The process isn’t the problem. There are some inherent problems in the process regarding requirements and implementation that have not been identified, and should be.

    Why has the F-35 been in development for twelve years with nothing to show bur dozens of faulty prototypes and no end in sight?
    How did a worthless turkey like the V-22 Osprey (to mix bird metaphors) get developed and procured?
    Ditto for the LCS.
    etc.
    We need to find the answers.

    • Don Bacon

      On the F-35, there may have been an over-reliance on simulation testing which proved not to work out in the hardware. I don’t know, but we need to find out.

      from the archives:

      The JSF Program Utilizes Real-time Man-In-The-Loop (MITL) and Hardware-In-The-Loop (HITL) Simulation & Systems Integration Laboratories to Support all Phases of Air System Development and Sustainment
      –Design Evaluation

      and on the bulkhead cracks:

      “The crack was not predicted to occur by prior analyses or modeling,” she said. “We can’t know all the changes that must be made to the structures until the testing is complete, and it is not surprising when discoveries like this occur.”

      Again, there is no proper substitute for the hardware test-evaluate-procure acquisition process.

    • Gary Church

      The solution to the IED problem was tracked vehicles; wheeled vehicles were restricted to roads and that made them easy targets. But armored tracked vehicles are very expensive to operate; mostly due to the manual labor involved in maintenance on the tracks; can’t make much money off of that. Rummy’s reign was ended by a lowly army specialist speaking up at a press conference and finally exposing the scam.

      The F-35 was the follow on the V-22, which had parts made in so many congressional districts it could not be killed- even by Dick Cheney. This simple formula was not so easy to implement until the recent mergers and the result of that is the most expensive program in DOD history. The death spiral will begin when the international customers start backing out. And they will. They will finally refuse to be blackmailed into buying it and that will be that.

      The V-22 was a win as a huge moneymaker by hyping a single performance increase; speed. Fly like an airplane but land like a helicopter was a PR goldmine. The arcane in’s and out’s of vertical flight meant it was easy to B.S. people questioning it’s practicality and who could doubt the honor of the Marine Corps officers promoting it? We doubt it now. It will be retired suddenly sometime within the next decade when the operating costs inevitably become astronomical.

      The LCS also took a page from the V-22 and hyped the speed angle. What could be more impressive than a ship that could go as fast as a speedboat? Unfortunately 100,000 horsepower in a 3000 ton hull means there is no room for anything else- not even enough crew to keep it running. Minor detail.

      At some point you would think all these rip-offs would push the public over the edge. When you consider what could be accomplished with the vast treasure that has been poured down the drain flowing into shareholder pockets, there should be a huge outcry. Americans must be the stupidest creatures in history. Ballistic Missile Defense is proof of it.

      • Gary Church

        I wrote, ” It will be retired suddenly sometime within the next decade when the operating costs inevitably become astronomical.” Actually I meant the V-22 will be retired by the end of THIS decade IMO. They are consuming such huge amounts of money I suspect the next commandant will shut it down out of necessity. Then it will become the most infamous defense project in history- if the F-35 does not get a stake driven through it’s heart first.

  • Bradd Buckingham

    The bureaucracy that created the system cannot be expected to fix the system. This is not a matter of opinion, but that of fact, as 65 plus years of reforms have done little or
    nothing but create the need for more reform.
    What would be nice is an Aerospace and Defense Industry Coalition New Business Model where Aerospace and defense industry come together and propose a commercially-based approach to the development and production
    of major defense items. Provide weapon systems in five years based on their own
    internal resources to meet recognized military requirements. Companies would
    compete to win a contract at the five year mark. The Department of Defense
    could say yea or nay at the outset, but if it likes what it sees, then the
    government has to commit to buy a minimum number from whoever wins the
    competition. If DoD doesn’t want to buy the item or platform then it must allow
    the company to sell it internationally.

    • Don Bacon

      hmmm- commercially-based approach, eh?

      There is a Bradd Buckingham who is Senior Market Research Analyst at Lockheed Martin Logistics and Sustainment.
      http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Bradd/Buckingham

      in other news–
      Apr 23, 2014
      LOCKHEED’S PROFITS CLIMBING: Despite a decline in sales, defense contracting powerhouse Lockheed Martin said yesterday its first-quarter profit jumped nearly 23 percent.

    • PolicyWonk

      In short, what you’re saying is that if you’re part of the problem, you’re unlikely to be part of the solution. My industry experience has found this to be 99.99% true.

      IMO, if the current system is to remain in place, then Congress should remove sequestration limits, but only approve the DoD budget requests IF and only IF the DoD agrees to put the entire acquisition system (such as it is) under receivership.

    • Gary Church

      What if we don’t really need that many new weapons? What if the weapons we really need are the ones you cannot make huge profits off of?

      Uh-huh.

  • Kryptonite

    I
    agree with Mr. Bacon with an emphasis on the test-evaluation part. I have been
    involved with the test- evaluation part for over 10 years. The tester/evaluator
    have specific standards to test too, have extensive experience and knowledge in
    the environment that uniformed personnel will be operating in the equipment in,
    yet when they identify an issue, they are told that they don’t understand that
    system and the item is procured with the defects. The IED fix: tester
    identified that, if it was working in an environment all by itself, works just
    fine. However, used in an environment with other systems (i.e. radios), it was
    broke. Soldiers had to make a decision if the wanted to use either the
    counter-IED device or their radios, couldn’t use both. I had a recent
    experience where I observed a minor defect in software that was delivered.
    Wasn’t anything major or would cause the software not to be accepted but did
    need to be corrected in a later version of the software. Error was identified
    on the spot when that functionality of the software was checked. Material
    Developer Rep only stated that I didn’t understand how the software works (even
    though I have been testing that particular software for at least 8 years) and
    it was going to be documented as an error in my judgment and not the software.
    I had to spend 80 man-hours to provide all the documentation and
    instrumentation data to show that I what I had determined was an error on the
    spot was a correct evaluation. Sorry, until the system reverses that, there
    won’t be any type of real fix for the Acquisition Process. The only focus is to
    get the money and whether a system actually works or is use to the nation’s
    service men and women will be irrelevant.

    • Gary Church

      Once they are done with something and have figured out how much profit they will make then finding something wrong starts making people yell at other people and threatening to fire them. We all know how it works. If your customer wants to come work for you like his or her friend did then it is far more likely nothing is going to be found wrong or complained about. I saw this with the automatic blade-fold equipment on the rescue helicopter I worked and flew on for several years; I was with the program from the beginning and myself and several other mechs all voiced our concerns about several features but the most obvious problem we foresaw was the blade fold system which was a real monster. We knew it was unnecessary. The higher ups would not listen- they did not see a problem. I brought it up again in a question and answer session with an Admiral several years later and almost ended my career with one sentence. Once you are identified as a troublemaker everything goes downhill quick. Years after that they finally removed the blade fold system after hundreds of millions of dollars had been wasted for no reason. This happens all the time and endlessly in the military.

      • Don Bacon

        This is an example of the problem with the military culture of: You go along to get along. It works fine in the infantry but in materiel acquisition it results in going down a wrong path without questioning where the path leads.

        I was heavily involved in such a program.

        Years ago, when computers first arrived on the scene, the USArmy used the new technology to decide on a replacement for the M37B1 3/4 ton truck. One of the candidates was an aluminum-bodied swimmer, a complicated articulated vehicle which — behold! — was the only vehicle able to traverse a deep watercourse embedded in the deciding computer program. We had a winner!

        So the Army (and Marines) ended up with a completely impractical vehicle which was soon sold off to Mexicans and others. Swimming utility vehicles haven’t been a requirement since that exercise, for good reason. It was the Gama Goat, a goat to be sure..

        What happens after a mistaken start is that the “can-do” attitude takes over, and dissension in the ranks — based on actually thinking about what is being done — is never an option. Never. It doesn’t even have to be big, to be too big to fail. It just has to be. There are a few instances when people at the top canceled a program, but very few, and probably never have the ranks done so.

        • Gary Church

          I rode in gamma goats a couple times. You are right- it was a completely impractical and absolutely hated piece of junk.

          • Don Bacon

            My personal experience in this M-561 debacle inspires me against similar, and grander, mistakes such as the F-35, Osprey and LCS, in a similar manner to General Butler–

            “I spent 33 years and 4 months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force–the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to Major General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I suspected I was part of a racket all the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession I never had an original thought until I left the service.”
            Smedley D. Butler (1881-1940)

            Which is why I started the Smedley Butler Society ten years ago.

  • PolicyWonk

    The above article is all well and good, but the base problem isn’t being addressed in any meaningful way.

    The “solutions” outlined above clearly lack any coordinated effort or combined acquisition strategy *across* service branches:

    – What are the threats are they looking to counter?
    – What weapons are required to defeat those threats?
    – What strategy will be used to defeat those threats?
    – What should the force structure look like to defeat those threats?
    – What new weapons/research projects are required to develop the weapons and or leverage the strategy that was developed?

    Without answers to the above, or the above happening, we’ll save *some* money (assuming the everything mentioned in the article/editorial above occurs), but will still waste a lot because the weapons purchases, research programs, etc., will be done without the benefit of having a coordinated strategy for defeating the threats or purchasing the tools required to get the job done.

    We still need a threat analysis board similar to that used by the British that fills the tremendous gaps I’ve outlined above. Otherwise, we’re still wasting a tremendous amount of money.

  • Gary Church

    “What are the threats are they looking to counter?
    – What weapons are required to defeat those threats?”

    Missiles and IEDs. Moores law and cheap sensor technology means on the sea and in the air the missile will rule and the only answer is the drone; cheap enough to be shot down in numbers and still accomplish the mission. Submarines can still hide in the ocean but on land the super heavily armored vehicle is all that is left.

    The defense industry is not facing reality- they are making money. And people are going to die because of it. But since the people responsible are fairly sure there will be no consequences, nothing is going to stop this. Any attempts at reform will be answered with the funding of efforts to stop said reform. Funding commiserate to the profits being made makes we the opposition laughable. “We” as in We the people concerned about this, are a joke. Only when we start scaring them by marching in the streets will anything happen. And it will probably happen to us and not them.

  • Don Bacon

    –full disclosure–
    William C. ‘Bill” Greenwalt
    Director, Federal Acquisition Policy, Lockheed Martin Corporation, 2009–11
    http://www.aei.org/scholar/william-c-greenwalt/

  • Don Bacon

    re: Lessons Learned on F-35

    Testimony at SASC April 8, 2014
    pp 8-11

    Senator MCCAIN. This is the first trillion dollar system that we have ever had. What are the lessons learned in this imbroglio where we have gone from $233 billion in 2001 to over $391 billion this year? What are the lessons learned here, General?
    General BOGDAN. Sir, we could probably, you and I, get together and write a book about this. But I will give you a couple of the things from my perspective on some good lessons learned.
    The first lesson is we tend to be overly optimistic when we start programs in terms of how much they are going to cost, what the real risk is, and how long they are going to take. We need to do a better job up front of being more realistic and more honest with ourselves about how much programs are really going to cost and what the real technical and fiscal risks are. I do not think we did that on this program. That is one.
    Two, it is very, very hard to run a program when you start production before you have ever tested a single airplane because every time you find something new in flight test, you now have to not only go back and fix airplanes you have already produced, but you have to cut all those fixes into the production line. That creates a complexity that is pretty significant and it costs some money.
    Three——
    Senator MCCAIN. Has anybody ever been held responsible for that decision that you know of?
    General BOGDAN. Sir, I do know one of the previous PEOs on this program was asked to leave the program.
    Senator MCCAIN. Certainly Lockheed Martin has not. They have just jacked up the cost.
    General BOGDAN. Well, sir, what I can tell you is from my perspective, I promise you that I am doing everything I can to hold Lockheed Martin and Pratt accountable and balancing the risk on this program because I think the third thing I have learned from the program in your lessons learned is you have to have a balancing of risk. When we started this program, all the risk was on the Government. Every cost overrun on this program was going to be borne by the Government. Today, at least, when we build airplanes—
    Senator MCCAIN. Well, at least we ought to know the names of the people made this kind of cockamamie agreement to start with because there were many of us that—you forgot the fundamental that we adopted during the Reagan years: fly before you buy. Fly before you buy.
    General BOGDAN. I do not disagree with you, sir.
    Senator MCCAIN. If we had adhered to that principle, we probably would not find ourselves in the situation we are in.
    http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/14-35%20-%204-8-14.pdf

  • NAA

    I’ve spent over 30 years in acquisition, and anyone who uses NRO (who exercise little to no oversight or accountability for cost and schedule delays on all their satellite programs) as an example of good acquisition practice is not to be listened to. And this is the guy that gave us Clinger-Cohen. He’s a former staffer, not an engineer or an acquisition professional. He’s never actually ran a successful acquisition program. He has no credibility. All he is preaching in this article is to throw out all good systems engineering discipline and let the contractor “good idea factory” run rampant.

    • Don Bacon

      Excellent.
      I see a move to go beyond having consultants tell the military what to do, to having consultants (i.e. corporations like LockMart) actually perform the whole process. It’s all being preached about by revolving-door MIC profiteers.