Tuesday, August 7, 2018

CDR Salamander slams the military procurement process

CDR Salamander excoriates the USAF's recent light attack experiment, and in the process has some harsh words for the entire military procurement process.

When we actually have a no-kidding shooting war on our hands, our Soldiers and Marines die because they don’t have the support they need and have to execute missions with more risk. We expend untold millions of additional monies and airframe time shoe-horning other assets to do a job they are not designed to do, and they do it in a suboptimal manner when they do.

. . .

Taxpayer money wasted and their sons and daughters die unnecessarily because we have a procurement system that does not support the military; the military supports the procurement system.

That is our shame.

Rip it up root-and-branch. Like an untended and neglected garden, it is overgrown with vines, weeds, and saplings – holed and corrupted by burrowing vermin.

There's more at the link.

Certainly, we've seen enough boondoggles, inefficiencies and downright disasters in the military procurement process to justify his criticism.  (LCS, anyone? - or just ask the GAO about the F-35!)  I think the good Commander is right on the money.  The question is, how can the problem be solved?  There are tens of thousands of entrenched bureaucrats, running a system strongly supported by the contractors who benefit from it - and the latter aren't afraid to spend their lobbying dollars influencing our politicians to let things continue as they are.

I think CDR Salamander's final paragraph may be the only way forward.  Destroy the existing military procurement system, because it's too far gone to be salvageable or fixable.



C. S. P. Schofield said...

Everything I have read about the F-35 tells me that an important first step in resolving the procurement process is to find everybody who has ever had anything to do with continuing to work on the stupid thing and crucify them along the important commuter routes in DC.

Will said...

don't forget to include those who first agreed that a 3 service design was do-able. AFAIK, the last aircraft that kinda-sorta fit that designation was the F4 Phantom. For various levels of "kinda-sorta".

It seems one of the glaring deficiencies of our procurement process is the lack of user experience input to the generation of ideas for weapons. What seems to be the biggest driver is having someone of a high enough military rank to push it through the procurement gauntlet with the guarantee of a retirement job with that company. That sort of thing needs to be outlawed, with the possible exception of a patent holder/designer.

There was a really neat weapon system some years ago that was obviously killed due to lack of big money needed for production, along with the possible loss of our armor due to being obsoleted to a large extent. Two soldiers (driver and shooter) in a Jeep with a small box launcher filling the rear seat area would have ruled a battlefield. They were launching small missiles vertically, that were trailing a fibreoptic cable. Launch it above a battle, nose over and look for a tank, and decide what specific item of that tank you want to destroy. Joystick and screen for control. Designed by a couple grunts, IIRC. Maybe 25 small missiles per box.

Will Brown said...

As regards destroying the .mil procurement system, you would of necessity have to destroy the portion of government that created, operates and profits from the existing model. I have serious doubts the surviving remainder would comprise sufficient framework to reconstitute either another procurement system or a functional government.

HMS Defiant said...

In 2002 Wolfowitz tried. He canceled the DOD 5000 Acquitions Instructions and provided the following acquisition guidance:

The highlights of the interim documents are:

They are streamlined. The Defense Acquisition System is six pages, versus the 12 pages of the DOD Directive 5000.1; Operation of the Defense Acquisition System is 34 pages versus the 46 of the DOD Instruction 5000.2.

They emphasize evolutionary acquisition and cost realism.

The basic acquisition model is retained -- no new phases.

An Information Technology Acquisition Board (ITAB) is created.

"Evolutionary acquisition" and "spiral development" definitions have been revised.

The Joint Staff will provide details of the new requirements process with the new DOD Directive 5000.1 and DOD Instruction 5000.2.

A new "Software Resources Data Report" is required.

The War with Iraq killed the initiative, nothing ever happened and the thousand page Acquisition Manual DOD 5000 stayed in place.

You can see what would have happened if not for OIF. I was a CDR working at a SYSCOM back then and really thought we'd see some needed changes. Just look at what he proposed.
We should also bring back the old rule, long gone, that forbade any flag officer to take any position with any company that did business with the Defense Department for 5 years after retirement. Nowadays they walk out of the Pentagon and go right to work as Exec Vice Pres for Lockheed, GD, Northrup, hell, all of them.

McChuck said...

Will - That was the FOG-M, Fiber Optic Guided Missile. It was invented by an NCO and a Warrant out of spare parts. I saw it on "60 Minutes" back in 1985 or 86. Big Army refused it, because it was made by dirty filthy enlisted pukes, it was inexpensive yet effective, and no General was going to get kickbacks. Even after Congress ordered the Army to acquire it a decade later, the Army slow rolled the process and expanded the scope (must launch and auto-guide 12 missiles simultaneously) so that there was no chance of the project ever actually being completed.

McChuck said...

I've worked in the Pentagon. Acquisitions is where they put the particularly stupid and incompetent people, so they won't hurt anything important. They're mostly passive stupid, with a leavening of active stupid to really screw things up.

I wish I were kidding.