defensive line
The Pressure for Defense Procurement Reform is Building
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  • Andrew Allison

    I wouldn’t be too sure about politicians jostling to be at the front of the pack to lead an upcoming push to reform defense spending: the recommendation that “. . . military service chiefs to have greater authority in the acquisition process.” is code for the fact that politicians persist in initiating and continuing programs which the service chiefs neither want nor need. The solution, of course, is to give service chiefs authority to decide what to do with their budgets, and responsibility for the results. It’s part of their job!
    It’s an open secret that many bids made by defense contractors, sometimes with the connivance of procurement officials, assume that the amount will be increased via change orders. The solution is truly fixed price contracts, with serious penalties for delays orr changes in requirements which should have been foreseen.

    • Corlyss

      “It’s an open secret that many bids made by defense contractors, sometimes with the connivance of procurement officials, assume that the amount will be increased via change orders. The solution is truly fixed price contracts, with serious penalties for delays orr changes in requirements which should have been foreseen.”

      As a 35-yr professional in that field, I can say your solution have been tried before and found dangerously and greatly wanting. Firm fixed price contracts are great for known products produced by known processes. They are wholly inadequate for developmental projects like new weapons platforms. What occurred when Congress mandated the use of firm-fixed price contracts for everything in the late 70s (driven largely by the massively ignorant soft-triangle Dems in the House and Senate), few companies would assume the cost risk of producing something they can’t sell to a viable market, and the process slowed down and still went over budget because when the thing has never been built before, and you have government dweebs speculating on how much it would cost and what it would look like (when it has never been built before), late and over budget is what you’re going to get. If it is a critical system, the tinkering with process becomes dangerous.

      The fact of the matter is the DoD procurements system is as it is because too many stakeholders demand that it serve too many purposes, all of them deemed worthy at one time or another by Congress, which passes laws that make the system slower and more expensive with each “reform.” It’s the nature of the beast. Congress will never remove itself from the process, so expectation of change is naïve.

      • Andrew Allison

        I bow to your superior knowledge and experience. I guess Ike was right :<((

  • Corlyss

    As a survivor of several “reform” movements in Defense procurement, I can safely say that this effort will fare no better than the others. The consequences are simply too uncertain. The stakeholders are too numerous. The money from the next build up that will surely follow the incompetence and downsizing policies of this administration is simply too great for the results to be different.
    If the powers that be really wanted to do something to improve procurement, they should make it easier to sole-source, end the obsession with competition especially developing two sources for major weapons systems, and most certainly dump the socio-economic programs that produce iconic moments such as nitwits like Karen Hastie Williams telling procurement executives that the main purpose of the Defense Budget was to promote minority contracting,
    The fact of the matter is Defense procurement it largely controlled by the bulls in Congress. If it is needlessly complex and inert and in flexible, it’s because of Congress, period.

    • B-Sabre

      Depending on what you mean by “sole sourcing” I think that would make things worse. During the development phase, having competition is (or at least supposed to be) a driver for cost containment and performance. Once the contract is awarded, having a sole source for the parts required to support and sustain a system is one of the major reasons we see cost escalation in the later years – all the support people I talk to say the Gov’t needs the rights to technical data for spares in order to foster competition and keep prices down.
      The Air Force had some success with competing their fighter engines each year between GE and P&W – They would award a 60-40/70-30 split to the company that delivered the best performance on quality, delivery and cost savings each year. This imposed some infrastructure costs (two training programs for maintainers, two sets of spares, having to structure their fighter force around having two different engines) but they apparently found it worth the effort.

  • Corlyss

    Marketplace will have an insight into the problem on their show today 10/9/14

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    There is no way to make the Government Monopoly better. It will always lack the “Feedback of Competition” which forces continuous improvements in Quality, Service, and Price in free markets. Despite all of the efforts to improve the Government Monopolies around the world, they still continue to fail miserably in comparison to the free market. Therefore the only way to limit the waste, decay, and corruption of the Government Monopoly is to limit it to only those tasks that only a Government can perform (Defense, Justice, Foreign Relations), and let the free market do everything else.

  • Nathaniel Greene

    Would the AI please hire some interns who are even remotely acquainted wit the subject about which they are writing. Whoever wrote this doesn’t have a clue about modern defense procurement but compensates by throwing around some cool sounding things he may have heard some other intern pick up someplace.
    “We spend gobs of money trying to fit new technology into platforms that were built for the WWII era.” Good Grief! The writer doesn’t know an F-16 from an M-16.

  • rheddles

    First published in 1986 Augustine’s Laws remain current and in a sixth edition because they document the eternal truths of defence acquisition with wonderful humor. There is nothing new under the Sun.

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