Do we need a better defense acquisition system to exploit the fruits of R&D and deliver new capabilities? While the often mouthed rhetoric says “yes” actions by leadership send the opposite message “NO!” The piece parts of what can easily be understood to be an alternative acquisition system for R&D exists! These authorities, that provide contract flexibility and much more, permit the DoD to approach the business of R&D in different ways, even radically different ways. Though Congress pinned the responsibility on DoD leadership to ensure the workforce receives adequate training and education to make the best use of these authorities, years later that remains largely unsupported, perhaps even opposed.
DoD: The system is terrible. We need an alternative to do all these things we need to do.
Congress: Okay. You got it. Make sure you educate and support the workforce.
DoD: Maybe the current system isn’t so bad after all.
Congress, Warfighter, Taxpayer, Industry: Seriously?!
Defenders of the status quo, old think are a domineering force. But maybe, just maybe, those of us who advocate for doing things differently and supporting the workforce to do so are not the crazy ones after-all.
After watching senior people try very hard, with the best of intentions to “reform acquisition”, nothing has really changed in the 48 years I have been involved in defense, both in uniform and as a contractor. Right now, we are putting a band-aid on a steadily-worsening cancer wound. The entire DOD needs to first be audited by an independent 3rd party firm that does not presently do serious business with the DOD. Then once we see where the waste and corruption is, and some people in Congress go to jail, we need to rebaseline the size of the DOD (waaaaay too many staffers), and then right-size its budget. We should use a multi-year funding construct and a porfolio approach to building and maintaining capabilities. Then follows a new, blank-sheet-of-paper plan for an agile defense acquisition system that recognizes the value of small businesses, not just the heavies, and empahizes RAPID development work for key capabilities. The commercial world could not – – – would not – – – tolerate the Byzantine layers of Pentagon bureaucracy and Congressional micro-managing that our Warfighters endure.