Guinea Pigs

The first programs the Air Force will try its newly announced acquisition practices on will be the T-X jet trainer, Long Range Standoff Missile, Multi-Adaptive Podded System, and Space Based Infrared System follow-on, said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. Speaking on Jan. 14 at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., James said the four programs were picked as guinea pigs for a new approach because “they represent a range of use cases and segments of industry,” and the service hopes they’ll be pathfinders in their areas. The T-X is still two years away from a request for proposal and the others are “at different stages in their acquisition process, which will give us a powerful comparative for learning how to best engage industry around requirements,” she said. Industry will have more input in setting requirements, but doesn’t this create an opportunity for litigation down the road? Air Force acquisition chief William LaPlante told reporters after James’ speech “industry is going to do that regardless of what we do.” The new approach acknowledges that up front: “Let’s be transparent about this,” he said. The Air Force is trying to answer industry’s frequent request to “’just tell us what the darn thing is and give us a couple of years to prep for it,” he said. (Atlantic Council webpage of event with video of James’ speech.)