The new millennium has not been a good time for the Air Force’s acquisition community. Lack of funding, doubts about requirements, and a contracting scandal have made it hard to execute a balanced modernization program. However, a new generation of Air Force leaders now seems to be getting the acquisition system back on track, and is implementing imaginative measures to keep it there. One such initiative aims to “bend the cost curve” on future weapons purchases by anticipating problems in advance and mapping out plans to avoid them. Another seeks to restore organic capacity to rigorously estimate costs and understand engineering tradeoffs. A third series of measures based on “strategic agility and adaptability principles” embraces the use of modular designs, open architectures and block buys so the service doesn’t get locked into high-cost dependence on a single contractor team for the entire life-cycle of a program. These and other measures seem to signal a new day is dawning for the Air Force’s acquisition community. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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