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Col Roger Witek, USAF (Ret.)
Major defense acquisition programs historically have had difficulty controlling cost, maintaining schedule, and attaining performance due to various acquisition strategy challenges. Likewise, with previous joint aircraft programs (F-111, V-22, T-6) and now with the F-35 program, challenges associated with Balancing Requirements, Harnessing Technology, Demanding Commonality, Evoking Concurrency, and Encouraging Partnering have affected schedule, cost, and performance outcomes. This article summarizes the triangulated research analysis on the comparison of previous joint aircraft acquisition programs, the mining and coding of government agency/think tank reports and scholarly journals on the F-35 program, and the mining and coding of questionnaires given to subject matter experts working on the F-35 program. It argues that the F-35 program has relearned some old lessons and learned some new ones, and it makes recommendations on joint aircraft acquisition strategies for the future to avoid the perception of scandal and tragedy. Continue reading
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Fan T. Tseng, Laird Burns, James T. Simpson, and David Berkowitz
Army Materiel Command and the University of Alabama in Huntsville partnered to develop an integrated end-to-end performance metrics system. The integration includes data pulls from multiple data systems into a metrics calculation and aggregation system that generates strategic performance metrics such as Customer Wait Time (CWT), with capabilities spanning from bottom-up supply chain performance aggregation capabilities to in-depth traceability to source (tactical) level data and documents. To support the best national defense, we must ensure that our warfighters receive the supply support they need in a timely and efficient manner. Supporting this effort requires a near-real-time system that measures and reports on supply chain strategic performance characteristics such as CWT. Data integrity is an integral part of the process, as is reaching common agreement on appropriate data sources, algorithms to calculate metrics, and the design of a visual dashboard that supports leadership decisions and performance evaluation, with drill-down capability for lower level decision making. Continue reading
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Shelley M. Cazares
The Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security use many threat detection systems, such as air cargo screeners and counter-improvised-explosive-device systems. Threat detection systems that perform well during testing are not always well received by the system operators, however. Some systems may frequently “cry wolf,” generating false alarms when true threats are not present. As a result, operators lose faith in the systems—ignoring them or even turning them off and taking the chance that a true threat will not appear. This article reviews statistical concepts to reconcile the performance metrics that summarize a developer’s view of a system during testing with the metrics that describe an operator’s view of the system during real-world missions. Program managers can still make use of systems that “cry wolf” by arranging them into a tiered system that, overall, exhibits better performance than each individual system alone. Continue reading
Samuel H. Amber
The new U.S. Army vision contends that heuristics are practical tools for achieving innovation. Overcoming complex terrain and adaptive hybrid threats in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan requires technological innovation. Supportability issues result from modifying deployed weapon systems with new technology for countering these types of threats. Collecting detailed data on deployed weapon systems is constrained in combat zones. A solution for modeling supportability requirements of adaptive weapon systems in a constrained data environment involves heuristics. This modeling effort is achieved by modifying a decision matrix to include heuristics as an alternative field data source. Continue reading
Ronnie Schilling, Thomas A. Mazzuchi, and Shahram Sarkani
A key tenet of the Better Buying Power initiatives is to increase small business participation in Department of Defense contracting. The department has had mixed success in retaining small businesses and meeting small business contracting goals. Results of a survey given to 681 small business leaders show many factors commonly exist that prevent small businesses from pursuing defense contracts. Some factors are more common than others, with the most cited factors related to a lack of communication from government leads or to the government taking too long to give approvals and make decisions. Statistical evidence also supports the perceptions, of smaller and newer small businesses, that the defense business is more challenging for them than for their larger and more experienced competitors. However, this turned out to be the case for only a subset of the factors we explored. Continue reading
The theme for this edition of Defense Acquisition Research Journal is “Thinking Small in Order to Think Big,” as many of the articles drill down into the important details of processes and procedures in order to develop larger lessons for defense acquisition. The first article, “Survey of Small Business Barriers to Department of Defense Contracts,” by Ronnie Schilling, Thomas A. Mazzuchi, and Shahram Sarkani, examines the factors that small businesses see as inhibiting them from pursuing defense contracts, which Better Buying Power specifically attempts to encourage. They found that lack of communications and long timelines for approvals and decisions were some of the most important reasons cited by small business leaders. The next article, “Using Heuristics for Supportability Analysis of Adaptive Weapon Systems in Combat,” by Samuel H. Amber argues that, given the difficulty of obtaining supportability data on deployed weapon systems that often have been modified for combat, incorporating heuristics as an alternative field data source in the decision matrix can improve the development of supportability requirements. Continue reading