Bill Sweetman and Francis Tusa let me tag along with them on this piece in DTI’s March issue about how and why so many major acquisition programs fail. Here’s a bit:
Programs do not get launched if planners do not expect them to meet all criteria. Rather, the pathway to failure is gradual, and the timescales differ for each criterion. Development delays and overruns can manifest themselves early in the program, but non-relevance may not be obvious until after initial operational capability (IOC).
There is also a cascade effect in that measures to avert failure in one area may cause problems in another. In the case of the JSF, it became apparent around 2003 that the F-35B was on track to miss its KPPs due to weight gain. A rapid weight-reduction effort followed but it increased development time and cost, while also leading to more complex and less common designs that cost more to build.
Nevertheless, while the “how” of failure is one concern, what military planners the world over would like to know is “why?” Here we find that seldom is it a matter of unexpected technical problems—indeed, often the reverse is true.
You can read the whole thing here.