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2016-04-27
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Failure of Defense Acquisitions

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Defense acquisitions may be the most disgusting process anyone in the military can be subjected to. In the past 20-30 years, hardly anything comes to mind as a great program. Despite being a comic farce, "The Pentagon Wars" is the often cited example of exactly how awful the procedures are and the cause behind the poor quality of the final products.

Today, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter represents the latest failure of the government to produce a meaningful product, on time, on budget. The program is blasted all the time, but lately Senator McCain has joined the bandwagon against the F-35 as he discusses the $400 billion price tag (double) and complete failure to deliver. Not only are the aircraft not in the hands of the end user, they’re demonstrating an inability to defeat the 40 year old vehicles they meant to replace. The F-35 failed against both the F-16 and the A-10.

Why is the government so tied to a system that continually fails to produce. It really boils down to a requirement of fairness to competing manufacturers so as not to show preference (e.g. promote capitalism) towards any single company. By doing so, requirements for the future get defined before the DoD knows what it really needs so that proposals can be made, product demonstrations fielded, and scored tests evaluated such that, in theory, the final contract is awarded in a fair and unbiased manner. The procedures to do all of this basically create the lumbering beast known as defense acquisitions.

That beast is so awful, the process to replace the Army’s pistols became so arduous that General Milley declared, “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.” Even if his math were off, the act of simply purchasing the firearms over the counter would be so dramatically cheaper than going through the process conducting endless suitability tests, fielding tests, managing contracts, etc. that it really begs the question whether that fairness to industry (and American jobs) is worth the impact to the public (American taxes).


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