AF/DoD Acquisition Leadership – Rhetoric vs. Reality

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The United States Air Force was once a leader in technological developments.  Before WW2 Assistant Chief of Staff for Procurement Maj. Gen. H.H. “Hap” Arnold took advantage of commercial developments that increased the octane-rating of aviation gasoline to ensure that the U.S. led the world in fuel for high performance aero engines.  Those commercial developments were spurred by Army Air Force reservist Jimmy Doolittle. The 100-octane story (Richard Dunn).  After the war Arnold created the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board headed by Theodore von Karman with Jimmy Doolittle as a member.  Support staff included Col. Bernard A. Schriever.  Bennie Schriever later headed the organization that developed and fielded an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) in just five years.

In retirement, Gen. Schriever was a key ally in helping me get Other Transaction authority enacted for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  That authority was later expanded to all of DOD. Maj. Gen. Claude Bolton, USAF, was an advocate in getting the Air Force to recognize the utility of OTs.  The first major system developed using OT authority was a joint project of DARPA and the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office.  Developed in record time Global Hawk was used operationally during its demonstration phase and later transitioned to the Air Force where it is still in operational use.  Current Air Force and Space Force leadership needs to overcome the inertia of “costs too much, takes too long” business as usual.  Leadership needs to execute the mandates of Congress to adopt a preference for using OTs, exploit dual-use as its default approach to R&D, and get serious about educating management, technical, and the contracting workforce in the use of OTs and related authorities.  Cut out the “just another tool” rhetoric and create the alternative acquisition system to benefit the warfighter and tax payer!

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