'Agility' and 'DoD procurement' can co-exist, think tank says

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The Department of Defense's ponderously slow acquisition planning and decision-making process leaves the Pentagon unable to respond to a rapidly changing security environment and stuck with expensive equipment that's outdated by the time it hits the field, says a new think-tank report says.

But there's a solution, or several, the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security argues in its Oct. 26 report, "Driving in the Dark: Ten Propositions about Predictions and National Security."

First, Pentagon leaders need to recognize that predictions about long-term national security challenges inherently fail, and that trying to plan for a range of scenarios won't necessarily prevent predictive failure. That's the first five propositions in a nutshell.

The second five propositions suggest introducing flexibility into the planning, acquisition and development process so adjustments can be made as circumstances change. Specifically:

  • Dramatically reduce the time between concept and realization, and allow the deferral of some decisions into later stages of development.
  • Redesign "ponderous" defense manufacturing systems for agility, incorporating adaptive manufacturing techniques allowing products to be switched and models modified.
  • Modify equipment requirements to reward operational flexibility instead of narrowly defining them for niches, and develop new "metrics of merit" to measure success.
  • Acquire more equipment for the short term, as consumers do, as a balance against the unpredictability of technology development and combat environments.
  • Promote competition and technological diversity to create a valuable range of potential responses to unexpected challenges.

The Pentagon is "overly dependent on successful prediction," writes the author, Richard Danzig, a former secretary of the Navy under President Bill Clinton. "Correcting this imbalance requires a clear-eyed recognition of the problem, challenging changes in processes, new incentives and investment in strategies, and tactics that better prepare for predictive failure."

For more:
-download the report (.pdf)

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