You Can’t Skip Steps

The long process of fielding new weapons can be cut, but it’s often a risky move, Pentagon Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Chief Frank Kendall said Sept. 3. Speaking at the COMDEF 2014 conference in Washington, D.C., Kendall said “I’ve come to the conclusion that, by and large, the acquisition system is not the problem” when it comes to procurement speed. In any product development, he said, technology must be matured, there must be detailed design, prototypes built and tested, requirements met, and production ramped up. “Now, it is possible to take more risk … than we customarily do” in that process, Kendall said, but “when you do that, as often as not, you have a disaster.” Accelerated programs wind up taking just as long—or longer—and costing more due to unwise shortcuts, he said, “So there’s no panacea here in terms of doing these faster.” Kendall has talked about using smaller development teams, having fewer reviews, doing away with mountains of unnecessary reports, and applying other efficiencies to tighten the process as much as possible. He also noted that recent analysis shows “very strong correlation between our disastrous programs and tight budgets.” Lack of adequate funds tend to push budgeteers to take risk by cramming “as much into their budget as they possibly can,” talking themselves into accepting optimistic estimates.