The DoD is notorious for slacking at the front-end of R&D programs, preferring to punt and pray that it all comes together at the back-end. From a business perspective this is sheer insanity! The more thoroughly an organization identifies problems and solutions sets early, typically the more time and resources are saved with better solutions delivered.
The DoD, committed to the traditional one-size fits all highly-regulated purchasing system, has perverted prototyping, perceiving it as an early-stage purchase of a larger buy. By the time a prototype is delivered, it is already captured by the traditional procurement system. Since anything to do with the traditional system is a hassle, DoD is sparing in its prototyping endeavors. A number of acquisition authorities mandated by Congress, meant to support the DoD in doing smart business for R&D, including better prototyping and early stage efforts, continue to be irresponsibly handled by leadership. These purveyors of ‘old think’ refuse to educate themselves and the workforce on federal contracting innovations (again, mandated by Congress in 2018). The resultant lack of business ingenuity benefits the ‘entrenched interests’, the status quo and business-as-usual. Don’t believe hype! Much of the recent PR, rhetoric, and innovation theater has usurped real efforts to improve the acquisition system for delivering new capability.
In this episode Strategic Institute makes a case for the DoD to get serious about prototyping and front-end work. We advocate for prototyping prototyping, not just early stage buying. We want DoD leadership to be bothered to understand the potential of Other Transactions and related acquisition authorities… and, why not!? Assemble knowledgeable teams, empower them with education and leadership support, and compare the results with traditional DoD acquisition system. If status quo is superior and cannot benefit from flexibility or by approaching business differently, then the government can say earnestly they are doing their best. Maybe failing the warfighter, burdening taxpayers, shriveling the industrial base, inhibiting innovation, putting national security at risk, and unfathomable waste is the best result. That is likely not the case, but those invested in the current system (leadership, prime defense contractors, contracting offices, lawyers etc.) will have to loosen their grip and be open to something other – Other Transactions.