“Rules for thee but not for me.” – DoD
The Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition system can be defined by its separateness. It is a whole universe unto itself, walled off and apart from the rest of industry and the ways other organizations work. In a similar vein, when Congress passes a law on citizens and corporations they are expected to comply, with threat of punishment, but DoD acquisition leaders simply ignore laws that they don’t like without worry of being held accountable. Are they above the law? It looks that way.
Congress continues to boost the power and potential for using flexible “commercial-like” contracts, Other Transactions (OT) and related authorities, that are superior for engaging and doing the business of R&D and delivering new capability, which the DoD desperately needs. Yet, DoD remains committed to the thinking and a system that failed a long time ago – a highly regulated purchasing system completely ill-suited for the mission of R&D. According to former USD R/E, Mike Griffin, the system survives on tremendous “waste.” To keep pace with its near-peers and now peers, DoD needs a big change. Congress has directed the DoD to ensure ‘management, technical and contracting’ personnel receive the education to make the best use of the authorities, leading to the virtuous cycle of student turning into teacher, growing a community, and learning and expanding ideas by doing. The only way. Despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, meaningful OT education, therefore the workforce is not being supported. DoD acquisition leaders say they want more effective, streamlined, and outsider friendly approaches to doing business for delivering new capability faster, but their actions do not match. They resist, even undermine, the hard-fought for and generous authorities created to do what they say they want and more.
Why? Who knows; it could be egos or wanting notoriety for the new thing over doing the next right thing, as the recently resigned Air Force Chief Architect suggested. Maybe it is “entrenched interests” like Professor Steve Blank said. Maybe it’s the ridiculous amount of fear, myth, lore, and superstition that runs amuck in the DoD and defense industry in lieu of empowerment and education and training.
For 30 years Other Transactions authorities have been misunderstood, they have been resisted, and subverted by business-as-usual. Congress directed DoD leadership 4.5 years ago to support the workforce and new ways of getting capabilities to the warfighter by ensuring they have the tools, structure, and education they need to thrive in a completely different environment, so that we all may realize the benefits. Education should not be seen as a threat; it should only be viewed as an opportunity.
This episode is based on the article: Appropriate Contractual Instruments for R&D