The theme of this issue of the Defense Acquisition Research Journal is derived from the excellent review by Eunice Maytorena of Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition (Flyvbjerg, Bruzelius, & Rothengatter) for the Defense Acquisition Professional Reading List. The book examines very large projects (characterized by major expense, complexity, innovation, and impact) and why they so often run over budget and schedule. Although the authors look at civilian projects, their findings on the role of risk and stakeholder accountability in decision making are directly applicable to major defense acquisition programs.
Authors: Donald Birchler, Gary Christle, and Eric Groo
Developing a weapon while in production does increase program risk and is sometimes cited as a reason for cost growth. This article explores the relationship between concurrency and cost growth in large weapon programs. The authors defined concurrency as the proportion of research, development, and test and evaluation appropriations authorized during the same years in which procurement appropriations are authorized. Their results strongly indicate that concurrency does not necessarily predict cost growth. Using classical regression techniques, the authors found no evidence supporting this relationship. To investigate other relationships between cost growth and concurrency, they also used a smooth curving technique. These experiments showed that, although the relationship is not strong, low levels of concurrency are more problematic than higher levels.
Authors: Zoe Szajnfarber, Matthew G. Richards, and Annalisa L. Weigel
This article uses innovation theory to identify five core challenges of generating national security space innovation: (a) generating bottom-up push in a top-down environment; (b) integrating fragmented buy-side knowledge; (c) integrating fragmented sell-side knowledge; (d) matching the innovation environment to the development stage; and (e) balancing risk aversion with the need for experimentation. An analysis of how the current two-tiered process, which separates technology development from project-based acquisition, addresses these challenges, reveals that this method of separation is not a complete solution because it: (a) fails to value architectural innovation; (b) creates a disaggregated knowledge base, which exacerbates the difficulty of top-down specification and bottom-up integration; and (c) fails to generate an entrepreneurial supply-side spirit. Recommendations for improvement are provided.
Cost growth in defense acquisition is both a problem in its own right and part of the larger phenomenon of programs that fail to perform as intended or desired. It is a limited but persistent phenomenon, which has not improved in any material respect over at least the past four decades; nor is it unique to defense, and it can flow from a variety of causes. A limited group of similar remedies have repeatedly been tried, but achieved very little success due to lack of clear analysis of underlying causes. Research points to a corrective technique, “taking the outside view,” or “reference class forecasting,” with clear promise for attacking the root problems.
U.S. history is replete with enterprises that succeeded due to effective partnerships. Today, the nation’s most complex partnership is the joint pursuit of the world’s best combat capabilities by the U.S. Department of Defense and the defense industry. These two complex enterprises, on behalf of the nation and its allies, are actively developing, producing, fielding, and sustaining combat systems for joint warfighters that are second to none. Does this shared interaction form an effective partnership? In this article, the authors analyze private industry’s perception of the challenges/opportunities that exist in the shared relationships with their government counterparts. Their findings pinpoint five focus areas, with corresponding actions, which can improve the partnership between government and the defense industry.
Authors: Nada Dabbagh, Kevin Clark, Susan Dass, Salim Al Waaili, Sally Byrd, Susan Conrad,
Ryan Curran, Shantell Hampton, George Koduah, Debra Moore, and Capt James Turner, USMC
The Defense Acquisition Workforce is getting younger, and its educational expectations include using advanced and innovative learning technologies. The Defense Acquisition University (DAU) has fully embraced this generational trend and has partnered with several institutions to conduct research on Advanced Learning Technologies, or ALT. One such partnership is with George Mason University’s Instructional Technology Immersion Program. The partnership’s goal was to examine DAU’s current learning assets and identify processes and methods for utilizing innovative learning technology designs. This article summarizes this effort and describes the resulting online performance support tool called LATIST (Learning Asset Technology Integration Support Tool) developed to facilitate the understanding, selection, and integration of ALT by DAU faculty and staff.