Frank’s Insomnia

It’s not the acquisition system that most worries the Pentagon’s chief buyer, it’s how fast America’s adversaries are catching up technologically. “I stay awake at night … worried more about air superiority than how we do business,” Pentagon acquisition, technology, and logistics chief Frank Kendall said at the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Kendall said he’s had posters made up for senior leaders showing the many new military projects underway in China and Russia. The posters, which are classified, are “dense” with new programs, while a comparable poster of US investments “shows a lot of white space,” Kendall said. Most of the Pentagon’s R&D money is going toward upgrades of existing systems because “we’re keeping them longer.” To pay for readiness and operations, though, modernization and “risk reduction” R&D—what Kendall calls “new products”—took a hit. He’s tried to swing it back the other way, boosting the risk reduction and engineering and manufacturing development accounts, but he said the sheer “depth and breadth” of new adversary programs will make it tough to stay ahead. The risk reduction account has been given an extra $3 billion, and this is where the “third offset” technologies are. For “the next two or three years” there will be a major push at doing demonstrations and prototyping, Kendall said.