A long-time U.S. Air Force veteran of the Pentagon’s acquisition wars is categorizing the proposed Senate Armed Services Committee plan as “Good”, “Bad” and “Ugly.”
“The Good is [a renewed] emphasis on systems engineering and developmental planning,” he says. But he also points out the proposal’s irony given that the Senate Appropriations Committee killed that capability ten years ago.
The plan is being pushed by Senators Carl Levin and John McCain who contend that 95 major programs have an average cost overrun of 40%, acquisition cost growth of 26% and a two-year schedule delay.
Also getting high marks is revitalization of influence for the director of developmental test and evaluation (which had been largely torpedoed by recent acquisition chiefs), cost estimating, in-house analyses and early prototyping.
Falling into the Bad category is the “myriad of reports” that will add “little value” but require huge increases in personnel.
The Ugly file includes re-competition at major milestones that will be a major disincentive for company investments, usurping of the prime contractor’s role in sub-contractor management by government and defense officials who are not held contractually responsible.
“No sane prime contractor will accept program responsibility and then have the [Pentagon] attempt to micro-manage sub-contractors,” the Air Force official says. “It would have [been better] to reinforce the need for qualified personnel in key jobs and discontinue waivers of qualifications.”