Kendall: Riskier Business Needed

After years of preaching a mantra of “leave it alone”—avoiding program changes to reduce uncertainty and lower costthe Pentagon’s top weapons buyer thinks the pendulum may have swung too far toward risk avoidance. In his latest annual report on the performance of the defense acquisition system, Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall worries “we may not be pushing the state of the art.” In his foreword to the 210-page document, Kendall worries that “our new product pipeline is not as robust as it needs to be.” He explained that it’s been hard to distinguish cost growth caused by “overly optimistic planning or poor execution” from that stemming from “needed design changes that address evolving threats, technological opportunities, or other prudent factors.” The Long-Range Strike Bomber, for example, has had no requirements changes since 2010 to ensure that it hits schedule and cost targets. Now, Kendall fears, “simply delivering what was initially required on cost and schedule can lead to failure in achieving our national security mission.” Kendall concludes that “not all cost growth is bad” as long as it arises strictly from a response to “changing and emerging threats.” Toward that end, new programs are being organized to include frequent block upgrades.