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Authors: Chad Dacus and Col Stephen Hagel, USAF (Ret.)
Conceptual models based on economic and operations research principles can yield valuable insight into defense acquisition decisions. This article focuses on models that place varying degrees of emphasis on each objective of the defense acquisition system: cost (low cost), schedule (short cycle times), and performance (high system performance). The most appealing conceptual model is chosen, which the authors posit that, if adopted, would lead to shifts in priorities that could facilitate better outcomes, as empirical results suggest. Finally, several policy prescriptions implied by the model are briefly explored.
Program managers typically focus on controlling costs and delivering a quality product. The acquisition stool’s third leg—program schedule—appears to be a resource that can be slipped to accommodate unstable funding or technical difficulties. Despite studies linking high program cost and long schedules, few major defense acquisition programs are completed in less than a decade. Programs with longer schedules experience further schedule slips, exacerbating the problem. This article is based on research presented at the 2012 Naval Postgraduate School’s 9th Annual Research Symposium. It includes a review of the extant literature on cost and schedule relationships, presents analysis of a survey of program manager perceptions and master schedule usage, and examines why schedules may be problematic to acquisition success.