Conversation Starter: Defense Acquisition

Posted: March 30, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , , ,

From DoD Buzz, reporting on Ash Carter’s appearance before the Commission on Wartime Contracting:


Calling the Pentagon’s annual budgeting process a relic of the Cold War designed to “prepare for war not to wage wars,” Carter reiterated the calls for a streamlined acquisition process that can rapidly deliver the goods and services needed.

Ah yes, the non-vestigial legacy of Robert McNamara.  Of course, this Cold War relic of McNamara’s was itself the perceived solution to problems within the Department, including duplication, high costs, and a lack of visibility into DoD programs by smart guys like himself.  So now, DoD needs to fix the “solution” (I think there’s some sort of lesson in here about unintended consequences).  DoD Buzz goes on to explain:

This means the Pentagon must establish permanent ways of giving contracting officers all the power they need to implement contracts fast, and that Congress must develop a quick way of approving the Pentagon’s wartime budget reprogramming requests. He also called for faster methods for fielding weapons systems once they are purchased.

So it seems there is a responsibility/authority disconnect.  I’m shocked, shocked!

And yet, a commentator, changing the issue from the DoD planning, programming, and budgeting “system” towards acquisitions puts the booger back on Carter’s finger:

The politicians make the laws & rules that govern these processes and they lead the bureaucracies. They are accountable for acquisition failures, schedule, delays and cost overruns. They are the ones with the authority and power to produce better outcomes. Instead they often force ridiculously constrained programs and foolish concepts forward. Ashton Carter is the USD (AT&L). Why is he saying “DoD must institutionalize a rapid and flexible acquisition process” he should be saying “I am institutionalizing..” or better yet “I HAVE..”

Another commentator opines that what’s good acquisition-wise for the GWOT Overseas Contingency Operations may not be good for a near-peer.

In the mean time, everything he is talking about doing is what is wrong in the first place – especialy (sic) considering he seems to be locked into thinking this is the only types of wars we will ever face again.

How about competitions in acquisitions?  You know, to the winner go the spoils and all that about survival of the fittest?

…competitions? There are no competitions. There are Requests for Quotes and Requests for Proposals, but competitions, those are long dead.

“Systems?  We ain’t got no systems! We don’t need no systems. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ systems!  But I do have a proposal for a system neatly assembled in this colorful binder…”  But why is it so?  Because that’s what the government asks for.

And then the real cynicism starts to get laid in:

As long as these contractors, big or small, can get free money from the government to do development work, there is no incentive for them to do incremental improvements. There is no incentive for them to fix anything. The incentive is all to drag out development and jack up its cost. The bigger the program, the better the chances for dragging it out longer and jacking the prices higher.

Still, there is good news here: you can’t get sprayed with a commentator’s spittle flecks on a web page.

Is defense acquisition like the weather?  Something everyone talks about but no one does anything on?

  1. Coyote says:

    I imagine 12th century kings complaining about the delays and cost overruns associated with making swords out of Damascus steel. There were probably investigations, media ridicule by town criers, accusations of pay-offs to evil sheriffs, and even firings. They probably complained about the runaway bureaucracy and the endless sea of red tape.

    It is the stuff worthy of a Monty Python movie.



  2. […] will the DoD attempt to move to firm fixed contracts improve any of this?  Or the Air Force’s move to do block […]

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