I found this article today written by Frank Kendall, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. He talks about when it is,
and isn't a good time to accelerate procurement programs. In many cases, it's because programs are expected to last 30-40 years after development,
and that requires a much higher quality of program and development. Lead time for a program can take up to 18 months, or twice as long as even 20
years ago. During that time, the Pentagon is usually working the RFP, source selection, and other milestones to be prepared for when they have
funding from Congress.
For technology demonstrators or experimental technologies, they use Rapid Prototyping. This usually leads to a few of whatever is developed being
built, and tested. This is useful for developing new capabilities, and for things that don't require long term usage. Sometimes, those prototypes
work out so well, they buy more of them and make them operational. An example of this is the Global Hawk. The problem with these is that their long
term life generally isn't as long as something that took longer to develop.
Then comes the items that they need quickly, with only a few specific parameters. Sometimes it's because they were surprised by a threat, and need
something to help alleviate that threat. A good example of this is the MRAP. It was introduced in decent numbers, but now that the threat (IEDs) is
mostly gone, the vehicles are being phased out in favor of the JLTV. The JLTV has many of the same features of the MRAP, but will serve much longer,
as it's a higher quality vehicle..
Last on the list, are items like the F-35. Items that require top of the line technology, and ability to be upgraded through their life, high
reliability, and time to develop. They can do risk reduction before designing them for production, but that adds about three years to the process.
The examples he used included the F-18, C-17, Aegis, M-1, and F-15. Every one of those programs, came close to being cancelled during their
When and when not to accelerate
Why don’t we do all our acquisition programs faster? What keeps us from having all acquisition programs be “rapid” acquisitions? The short
answer is that, if we choose to, we can trade quality for time. Sometimes that is smart, and sometimes it isn’t.
Often, and for good reasons, we demand high quality, and that takes more time. What I mean by “quality” in this case is the suite of features we
want in the equipment intended for a large fraction of the force and that we keep in our inventory for a long time — 30 or 40 years, in many
cases. Quality includes high reliability, maintainability, operation in a range of climates and terrains, modularity and upgradability, well-designed
user interfaces, cybersecurity, robustness against responsive threats, and effective training and logistics systems. None of these things is free, and
they all take time to design for and test.
edit on 1/14/2017 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)