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FCW : May 30, 2015
AJ CLARK is president of Thermopylae Sciences and Technology. Commentary | AJ CLARK The basic military ri e, the M16, and its derivatives --- including the M4 carbine that today's infantry troops use --- date back to 1963 and the jungles of Vietnam. Devel- opment began in 1949. USS Nimitz, the Navy's rst-of- its-class carrier, was commissioned in 1975. The next carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, will join the eet in 2016 after construction began in 2005. The F-15E, the Air Force's workhorse in Iraq and Afghanistan, goes back to 1984. The develop- ment contract for the F-35 was signed in 1996, and the rst sched- uled deployment will be in 2018. My point is this: An acquisition process designed for large and unique weapon systems is becom- ing harder and harder to apply to technologies in the Informa- tion Age. The challenges that the Pentagon and Congress face with defense IT acquisition will con- tinue to grow if the system for buying airplanes, ships and ri es is applied. There is a need for a cultural shift in government procurement and in the defense industry that can allow an informed series of vendors to anticipate needs and shorten the acquisition cycle so the Defense Department doesn't buy mobile and Web applications the way it builds ships and airplanes. The current acquisition process --- see a problem, craft what the required solution looks like, com- pete the solution, buy the solution, build the solution --- is so cumber- some that it has reversed develop- ment from government stimulation to business fomentation. Where once DOD's need drove IT develop- ment, which then spun off to com- mercial use, now we in the software industry build our products as com- mercial technology. It's the reason research and development money from Ama- zon, Samsung, Google and others in the IT world dwarfs that of U.S. defense, and it's the reason com- mercial capability drives solutions for government need. Is it any won- der that, when the CIA went shop- ping for cloud computing capability for the intelligence community, it turned to Amazon with a $600 mil- lion, 10-year contract? We in industry want to align ourselves with a new, modern, agile acquisition process to build things at our own expense so that when government sees technology it can use, it can buy that technology quickly and get it to the eld, where it can save lives. That approach allows smaller companies with specialized IT capabilities to solve DOD problems now. War ghters see capabilities that are available commercially and wonder why those capabilities are not adapted to military use in the eld, where they can bridge existing capability gaps. The need for a culture change in defense acquisition was addressed at length in the National Defense Industrial Association's "Pathway to Transformation" report. "NDIA does not believe there is a 'one size ts all' approach that will uniformly deliver the best acquisition out- comes," the report states. "Differ- ent kinds of acquisition programs require different kinds of tools, authorities and oversight to ensure integrity in the process." The report also said: "Culture eats strategy for lunch." That's only one of the reasons to applaud the con rmation of Ashton Carter as secretary of Defense. Carter led a march toward acquisi- tion reform as undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics in 2010, and his suc- cessor in that post, Frank Kendall, has continued that march with his legislative proposals to streamline the complex acquisition process. It's a blueprint for a culture change, one that both DOD and the defense industry can get behind to reward vision, accountability and reason. n DOD needs a change in acquisition culture The Pentagon needs a modern, agile acquisition process that can get technology into the eld faster --- and industry should take the lead An acquisition process designed for large and unique weapon systems is becoming harder and harder to apply to technologies in the Information Age. May 30, 2015 FCW.COM 15
May 15, 2015
June 15, 2015