The March of Folly: DoD Acquisition for R&D and New Capability

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Folly:  1) Lack of good sense, understanding, or foresight 2) a costly and foolish undertaking; unwise investment or expenditure.

Few subjects have been the focus of more study than DoD acquisition for R&D and the delivery of new capability.  The resultant body of insight is comprehensive, expert, unanimous, and spans decades.  The findings?  The traditional acquisition system sucks!  It fails the warfighter, taxpayer, industrial base, puts national security at risk, and is stealing prosperity from future generations through massive debt spending.  This, for a system that is foremost characterized by wastefulness.  It wastes talent, time, and resources which could be applied elsewhere.  Despite the self-serving rhetoric and modest attempts to reform the system, it continues to get worse with each passing year.

“The DoD violates pretty much every rule in modern product [capability] development… we have terrific people stuck in a very bad system.”  – Eric Schmidt, fmr. CEO, Google; Chair, Defense Innovation Board 

In response, the people via Congress, have provided highly flexible and potentially powerful acquisition authorities to the DoD so that they can better deliver the fruits of R&D.  DoD leadership has been less than visionary, remaining wedded to business-as-usual.  Congress directed and recently reemphasized that DoD leadership take this seriously, get educated, and support the workforce.  Indeed, policy is light-years ahead of practice.  Instead of exploring business process innovation, bureaucrats and defense industry insiders poo-poo the potential benefits.  What’s worse, is the degradation of the authorities in service to the status quo.  Sadly, evident is leadership’s near total lack of support for education, experiential learning, building expertise and networks, and clearing the way for creativity.  Leadership’s failure has become a feature.  Remedies and solutions have been provided, however they require doing the next right thing, then the next and the next.  Remaining fixated on an institutionally corrupt system, despite all, is simply folly and foolish.

The purpose of Other Transactions and Middle-Tier Acquisition is to remediate the problems that are rife within the current system.  They are about innovating, and yes, disrupting how business, strategy, and goals are accomplished for better delivering the fruits of federal R&D.  They can be nothing short of revolutionary.  However, it takes motivation, conceptual understanding, and rolling up sleeves and doing it.  It is not difficult to orient the workforce toward achieving goals.  That the system is not oriented toward that IS the problem.  The most notable hurdle is getting over previous learning and how things have always been done.

Special Acquisition Forces – Assemble smart program teams to operate in different, more sophisticated, and expansive business environments to best exploit the acquisition capabilities the DoD already has to accomplish mission goals.  





3 Responses

  1. Tom Bruneau

    Rick, Just to be sure I understand what you said. That DIUx wasn’t doing much until it began to use OTAs in implementing what they called CSO. Also, and this is my query regarding the present, that DIU is still using OTAs in its work. Do I have this right?

    Thanks, tom

    • admin

      Yes, to both. OT’s and CSO went together. The CSO was the term DIUx coined to describe their approach to soliciting and evaluating industry ideas that would be executed as OTs. Subsequently, some dufus decided to create something also called a CSO as an approach to acquiring so-called “innovative products” under FAR.

  2. stan sansone

    Rick, I have a technology slated for Rapid Development from a CSO but it fell through a black hole. Any suggestions?