The opening words of one of Thomas Paine’s essays captured the spirit that guided the founders of a fledgling nation as they resolved challenges they faced in 1776.
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love of man and woman. (Paine, 1776, p. 1)
Ironically, these words hold true for contemporary acquisition professionals. To garner the best possible return on public treasure invested, acquisition professionals must continually strive to deliver cost-effective systems and services that meet users’ needs. The challenges inherent in achieving that outcome become more difficult whenever defense budgets contract, as they do on a cyclical basis. The word ‘crisis’ seems appropriate when shrinking budgets are squeezed further with the uncertainties of continuing resolution and sequestration.
Authors: Col Robert L. Tremaine, USAF (Ret.) and Donna J. Seligman
The success of the Defense Acquisition Workforce depends on experience, and since the majority of what it learns is on-the-job, a wide array of learning techniques dominates. Together, they behave as a learning ecosystem full of opportunities—and even learning hazards. While all these learning techniques jockey for the fastest learning lane amid variable workplace demands, proven learning methodologies help form the foundation of an organization’s learning faith. Many organizations already promote learning in the workplace. But, what have Department of Defense acquisition organizations that operate as Learning Organizations (LOs) implemented to achieve performance gains? The authors of this research sought out such organizations to better understand the key ingredients that make them authentically high-performing and appropriately armed LOs.
Authors: Ginny Wydler, Su Chang, and Erin M. Schultz
Research shows that continuing competitive pressure applied during development and production leads to better industry performance, often at reduced cost. However, the entrenched practice of one-time competition for an entire program life cycle often endows the winner with a very strong monopolistic power that lasts for decades. This article describes continuous competition as leverage to acquire more effective results. It offers an alternative method for continuous competition—Competitive Multisourcing with Distributed Awards—under an applicable set of conditions and an appropriate business case.
The federal contracting process should enable a government organization to select a contractor that will become a true business partner. Today’s source selection processes evaluate how well a contractor proposes a solution; however, the government’s processes are ill suited to evaluate how well a contractor can deliver on its proposal. The Department of Defense (DoD) relies too heavily on the contractor’s proposal versus evaluating past performance. The lack of past performance data and processes to evaluate companies’ qualifications has contributed to program failures, cost overruns, and schedule delays. Without adequate data and processes, the DoD increases its risk of duplicating previous program failures and misses the opportunity to capture this information, thereby preventing repeated mistakes with the same contractor.
Program stability and funding stability are continuously promoted as key to successful acquisition reform. Funding stability, according to prevailing wisdom, leads to program stability. Unfortunately, the dynamic, evolving, and methodical requirements generation, technology enhancement, and resourcing processes prevalent throughout the Department of Defense (DoD) are not conducive to funding stability. This article discusses results from a survey of financial management practitioners that provide insight into factors that both enable and detract from achieving funding stability. The author presents program stability as a myth in the real world environment where the “norm” is characterized by changing program requirements, technologies, and funding. He further hypothesizes that stability cannot occur without major change in the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution, and Congressional Enactment processes.
Authors: Patrick R. Cantwell, Dr. Shahram Sarkani, and Dr. Thomas A. Mazzuchi
Project management has been a constant challenge for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition community. While most DoD projects are technologically advanced, the tools and methods to manage these projects are the same as for simple, repetitive projects. The authors argue that traditional approaches fail because they only evaluate the relationships between two of the three elements of cost, schedule, and performance. Instead, they have developed a system dynamics model that allows cost, schedule, and performance to interact and influence one another. This model is complementary to other research and intended to be usable by the practicing project manager. The results from model runs will provide consequences for three potential control alternatives in DoD project management.
Reviewed by: Professor David Andrews, FREng, RCNC, Professor of Engineering Design, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University College London, and former Project Director, Defence Procurement Agency, United Kingdom, Ministry of Defence