DoD is on a mission to transform the way it acquires advanced military capabilities. Each of the Military Services has stood up a special organization expressly for the purpose of shortening the cycle time associated with developing and procuring new weapons systems and promoting innovation.
The aerospace and defense industry has a long history of operating special organizations devoted to pursuing innovative solutions to challenging technical and operational problems.
The organization is already demonstrating the innovative initiatives its military customers require. DoD recognizes that the traditional acquisition process takes too long. Modernization programs typically take fifteen to twenty years to provide return.
The effort to define requirements for a new platform or piece of hardware alone can take as much as five years. Often, modernization programs have been burdened by the weight of too many requirements that overly circumscribe how a system or piece of hardware must be developed and built.
The result can be an overly complex and costly solution. In addition, the acquisition system is overly bureaucratized and risk-averse. This hampers the ability of program managers and industry to take risks in order to develop innovative solutions.
The Pentagon and the Military Services want to modernize faster and cheaper. This means reforming all parts of the acquisition process, from requirements definition and engineering development to contracting, testing and life cycle management.
Leaders expect new design processes such as digital engineering and open architectures will allow industry to develop and field a new airplane every five years.
DoD and the military have created specialized organizations to change the way acquisition is done and promote the faster development of new capabilities such as Strategic Capabilities Cross Functional Teams to oversee priority modernization efforts.
Critics often say DoD weapons systems programs can result in products being either too heavy to fly or too light to protect the troops. Many believe the military will likely in the future end up with vehicles relegated to the sidelines. DoD has mounted a defense to these criticisms with the establishment of a new, restructured Procurement Shop with ambitious Targets we list at the end of this report.
What follows in this Review is many criticisms of the DoD Acquisition process leading to problems in the fielding of key weapons system. At the end of this Review is a list of Pentagon Goals for improving what many critics have called a “Broken Process”.
Clearly, as outlined here, the current acquisition system at DoD has a history of problems, but with this set of new goals our Acquisition Executive Office may now be positioned to achieve marked success in the future.
Here are some attacks from the Critics:
Many “wonder” weapons are the ultimate bait-and-switch: We pay a premium for combat utility that too often evaporates on the battlefield. The only winners are the Pentagon weapons-buying bureaucracy and its contractors, who perpetually promise more than they can deliver.
With its continuing missile-defense dream of shooting down bullets with bullets or lasers while ignoring incoming decoys, the Pentagon is seeking to break the laws of physics. So too with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an elastic design stretched to fit the needs of the Air Force, Marines, and Navy.
Crammed with compromises to serve three masters, it isn’t optimal for any pilot. The F-35 echoes the 1960s’ failed TFX program, whose goal was to build an airplane with moveable, sweeping wings, and which the Air Force and Navy could share.
The Pentagon’s corner-cutting to try to meet the services’ conflicting range and speed requirements plus the Navy’s need for a beefed-up aircraft capable of punishing carrier landings proved too great. So only the Air Force ended up flying the TFX, which became the F-111. Because the U.S. military didn’t learn the lesson of the F-111, DoD is now burdened with the F-35, the most costly weapon system in history.
Another example are plans to build an Infantry Squad Vehicle designed to parachute onto the battlefield. The vehicle will almost surely end up facing the same fate as an earlier version the Pentagon tried to field.
Looks like we’re about to climb aboard for a similar ride, but this time it will be on the ground. The Army is pitting three companies against one another to see who can build the best truck to be pushed out of a flying helicopter and parachute to the ground, beyond the range of enemy missiles. It also needs sufficient protection for the nine-soldier squad who’ll climb into it and rush into combat.
Paratroopers still travel no faster than their boots can carry them. “The modernized vehicles will provide enhanced tactical mobility for an infantry brigade combat team to move quickly around the battlefield,” says the Army who wants to begin buying an initial batch of 650 of these Infantry Squad Vehicles soon, and ultimately buy more than 2,000.
But war can put its players into a box whose dimensions are dictated by physics. “It is unconscionable that we have gotten to the point where the assault load of an assistant machine-gunner is 170 pounds,” a Pentagon official said. “We have got to do something to reduce the combat load or we are going to be like knighted knights in armor walking around the battlefield with very little mobility.”
Beyond the problems of physics, an additional issue that could compound the program’s cost risk is procuring the prototypes and possibly follow-on production under other transaction authority designed to relax procurement rules. Its goal is to entice new and innovative companies to do business with the government. But in this case, the competitors are largely traditional contractors.
Critics say new Army vehicle has its own vulnerability. Let’s call it Achilles’ wheel: It has no armor. The truck will protect soldiers “by high mobility avoiding enemy contact.“If that proves insufficient, each soldier will rely on their “Personal Protection Equipment”—“helmet, body armor, and other accoutrements designed to protect against blast fragmentation and thermal threats
Use of “soft-skinned” vehicles in lower-threat areas has been cast into doubt. “The special operations component had done an assessment for armored vehicles, for example, and determined, a while back, that they weren’t necessary, but we immediately directed that armored vehicles be given to those teams as an option.”
For some of its ground forces, the Army wants to use existing designs “to reduce costs and the time it takes to field combat vehicles, watchdog report said. The Army’s plan echoes the same promise, ultimately unfulfilled, that the Marines made for their Growler 20 years ago.
The M1161 Growler, officially known as the Internally Transportable Vehicle [ITV], is the only military vehicle approved to fly aboard the Marines’ V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The Defense Department originally envisioned the Growler as a cheap vehicle that would use parts already being produced for existing military vehicles. But ultimately, much of it was built from scratch to make it light that is, armorless and small enough to be shoehorned into the V-22.
The Internally Transportable Vehicle’s cost ballooned by 120% over the original estimate and the watchdog blamed the Marines’ overly optimistic assessment of how much work would be required to fit the vehicle into a V-22, along with management that made that challenge even tougher.
“The Marine Corps underestimated the development effort required to modify the … ITV to meet size and weight limitations” for it to be transportable in a V-22, as well as the Growler’s “performance specifications for durability and reliability,” the inspector general found. “ITV subsystem design changes posed significant challenges because of minimum size, weight, and center of gravity constraints mandated by the MV-22 Osprey.” The Growler’s development, “was caught in a cycle of design, test, and redesign and test” that “caused repeated schedule delays and cost increases.”
“The vehicle is considered almost useless to the forward-deployed Marines who might use it, say some those with experience. “The vehicle has been deployed downrange and used to transportation to and from ranges, or as a daily driver on larger installations. It also has served as light security.”
Creating an acquisition system that delivers innovative products rapidly also means a different relationship between DoD and industry. In essence, DoD needs to be a better customer, one that encourages industry to take risks, limits the number of requirements it levies on developmental programs, doesn’t micromanage, and is willing to tolerate failure.
The concept behind advanced development and prototyping division is to develop new products faster by unburdening the research and development process from cumbersome, slow and largely irrelevant requirements and behaviors.
It is increasingly common for the design of a complex product to purchase half or even more of the content in the product from other sources. For example, an automotive manufacturer might buy seats from one source, brake systems from another, air conditioning from a third, and electrical systems from a fourth, and manufacture only the chassis, body, and powertrain in its own facilities.
The suppliers of major subsystems in turn purchase much of their content from still other sources. As a result, the "production line" that turns raw materials into a vehicle is a network, or "supply chain," of many different firms. Agent-based architectures are an ideal fit to such an organisational strategy.
It is as important for the engineers and technicians to think differently as it is for them to move fast. This is not traditional R&D. If we go into these programs thinking only about propulsion, for example, we all lose.
Teams have been challenged to think about the problem differently, because people can try out ideas in a way that is freeing them up and not so risk averse.”
The team’s model for rapid innovation in engines and associated equipment has shown some success. For example, the prototype for a new, more fuel efficient, low-cost 700lb-thrust engine for cruise missiles and drones was done quickly .
The idea is to iterate engine’s design, demonstrating to potential customers what results can be achieved by trading off requirements. This approach allows designers to experiment with different ways of designing and building products, exploiting new capabilities such as digital engineering and 3D manufacturing.
It also permits teams to develop multiple new propulsion systems and upgrade existing ones in the time it used to take to design and field just one.
The principles guiding efforts can be applied to the propulsion needs of the other Services if contract incentives are put into place.
"So the question is: How will installations & logistics organisations adapt to maintain the resiliency of our warfighters? What steps must we take to protect our installations & logistics chains? How can installations & logistics sustain warfighters when networks are damaged or degraded?
“Business as usual” is not an option in today’s budget environment."
“The message is clear: A process that features excessive layers, tremendous amounts of paperwork, and timeframes that do not fit the way most firms do business is off-putting to firms in the marketplace
DoD must develop the ability to be a savvy customer in the real-world marketplace, so it is able to purchase the technology and equipment it needs.
“Processes such as developing requirements, contracting, making investments, or obligating money are often driven not by a sound business case, but by arbitrary deadlines and outside pressures.”
“DoD could garner more from its funds if it functioned in a flexible system that allowed more effective resource allocation. An opportunity cost arises each time DoD makes a spending choice that could have been invested in developing other capabilities, delivering more units, or funding other critical requirements.”
“Many regulations can remove or dilute authority and accountability. Regulations that dictate contract type can deprive acquisition personnel of the discretion needed to get the best deal for DoD. Additionally, the management structure and decision-making process within DoD are too bureaucratic and encumbered by numerous layers of review.
Successive reviews do not necessarily add substantive value, but they do add time to the process and add to the number of people who can say no or influence a program, including people who do not have a stake in the outcome of the acquisition.
Because nobody holds actual authority to manage a program, there is no one to hold accountable. The fundamental reason for the continued under performance in acquisition activities is fragmentation of authority and accountability for performance."
“Defense acquisition is a human activity dependent on the judgments, considerations, interests, and decisions of people operating in the real world. Regardless of how impressive policy initiatives look on paper, or how effective the acquisition system is
in theory, the ultimate effectiveness and efficiency of defense acquisition depends on and is determined by the people who are responsible for all phases of acquisition.”
“The dynamic defense marketplace is vastly different from the defense-centric marketplace of the past in which DoD could set the rules of acquisition. To effectively benefit from and compete in the dynamic defense marketplace, DoD must understand where it fits into the current business environment and adapt to this new reality.
DoD needs to be a more sophisticated buyer, one that understands market dynamics, interests of companies—including cash flow, profit motive, and opportunity costs, as well as the broader economy."
“Systems and capabilities must be developed, deployed, and integrated into operations within the arc of the threat, not after the threat has passed or after DoD has spent billions of dollars on technologies or capabilities that already are obsolete or will be obsolete by the time they are deployed. The private sector now drives much of the technological innovation, which makes it difficult for DoD to keep pace.
1. Optimize value for all parties in both the short- and long-term
2. Exploit variability via adaptive responses to requirements as new knowledge emerges
3. Provide complete and continuous visibility and objective evidence of solution fitness
4. Provide a measured approach to investment that can vary over time and stop when sufficient value has been achieved
5. Offer the supplier near-term confidence of funding and sufficient notice when funding winds down or stops
6. Motivate all parties to build the best solution possible within agreed-to value boundaries
7. Identifying the Minimum Viable Product and additional Program Increment potential Features
8. Defining the initial fixed and variable Solution Intent and Prioritizing the initial Program Backlog for program increment Planning
9. Better predictability of estimates associated with a far smaller mimimum viable product than the full list of all requirements,, total control over the spend required for additional incremental features based on value outcomes
10. Establishing execution responsibilities Framework, including value trade-off parameters, the program increment funding commitment, initial funding levels, and other contractual terms.