There was a time when the Pentagon’s idea of smart acquisition practices meant things like multiyear contracts and avoiding excessive testing. Not now. The current approach to promoting efficiency in weapons purchases is mainly about shifting risk to industry and cutting the performance of next-generation weapons. Last month members of Congress beat back a half-baked idea to make contractors cover all the financial risks of building the F-35 fighter while it was still in development — an unbounded liability that could have wiped out any profits on the program. But it’s already too late for programs like the Army’s Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles and the Air Force’s KC-46 tanker, where the “winning” contractors are sure to lose money on the early years of the projects. Policymakers say they are attacking costs rather than profits, but that’s not the way industry sees it. I have written a commentary for Forbes that you can read here.
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