Earlier this week I published a commentary at Forbes.com suggesting that national strategy, changing threats, electoral politics and excessive oversight were the main culprits driving up weapons costs at the Pentagon — not corruption or mismanagement. A reader working inside the defense department responded with these first-hand observations about why weapons are so costly. — LT.
I appreciated your article today discussing defense acquisition. As someone who has worked in acquisition for over 10 years, I wanted to let you know my perspective.
Strategy and threats aren’t the issue in my opinion. That is the “what.” The problem is the “how.” The problem is basically about 15% politics (furloughs, shutdowns, continuing resolutions, etc.), 35% complexity (technologies, people, organizations, customers, geographies, processes, security, etc.), and 50% oversight/bureaucracy (DoD 5000.02 spaghetti chart) in my opinion.
Lack of empowerment, a risk-adverse culture, tremendously long feedback loops given very lengthy project/contract timelines, as well as lack of both (business) innovation and personnel performance incentives are also all contributing factors.
It is difficult to see the big picture with all this going on, and many get lost in the details. Very few people understand the process we use for defense acquisition, let alone have the capability and position to successfully implement it, given its inherent deficiency of being way too complex.
When I presented the process that DoD [uses to buy] systems, my graduate-school professor thought I was kidding…I wasn’t. I applaud your furthering the conversation on this important topic with this morning’s article.
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