The Department of Defense recently published “National Defense Science and Technology Strategy 2023” that contains ZERO consequential strategy and parrots what others have said ad nauseam. The document correctly identifies that there is a very serious problem with the government system for delivering the fruits of taxpayer funded R&D efforts. It identifies point A and points to B, but offers absolutely no practical guidance or ideas of how to get there. In the case of contracting and the business of taxpayer funded, government administered R&D activities, it’s always groundhog day. Each workforce generation does something similar to the last, but pretends this time it is innovative. The result over time is 1 step forward and 2 steps back… a big fat “L“.
The problems are known, remedies have been provided, even mandated, in policy and law. Solutions and potential solutions are known or are waiting to be explored. Yet, the DoD remains entrenched in business-as-usual, as insiders are extremely invested and well furnished in the status-quo. Leadership, lawyers, and academia generally admonish innovative contracting and business practices, instead they actively instill fear, road block, and narrow the thinking within the workforce… obey and comply, do not think! They venerate the current system as the “gold-standard” and think everything else weird, evil, or illegal. They stick with what they know, the “Soviet-style” acquisition system for R&D, the epitome of institutional corruption. It is a system of controls contrived by bureaucrats lacking in practical and applied business experience, or an appreciation for the gestalt. The worsening trajectory, the extraordinary waste of the system will continue unabated until leaders are held accountable and take some ownership and responsibility. It shouldn’t be too much to ask that government leaders follow the law. For if they did, many problems and issues highlighted in this document would already be solved, and our Nation would be in much better place to meet current and future challenges.
It’s time for action! The talk, incessant rhetoric, and never ending analysis is a doom loop. Who will take up the mantle for positive change, returning value, and providing timely and appropriate solutions to benefit something greater than self? It could be you. Don’t be afraid to take a little risk or fail, that is how we improve and learn, plus the status quo fails the warfighter, taxpayer, industrial base, and national security every day.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Krishnamurti
“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage, than creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
Related Document: National Defense Science and Technology Strategy 2023 (pdf)
I’ve lived this at NAVAIR… the so called future “SES” GS15 are the worst for interpreting the FAR and bullying if you try to contract 8(a).