Opinion: There is an unjustified poor regard for defence program acquisition costs and delivery dates. What the general public fails to understand is that in many cases the process to achieve the program goals are imperfectly understood from the beginning, and only become apparent as the program moves on, writes defence industry analyst and former naval officer Chris Skinner.
In the United States Department of Defense Instruction 5000.85 ‘Major Capability Acquisition’ Change 1 dated 4th November 2021 the likelihood of changes to both schedule and deliverables are expected and catered for in the processes to be followed. The nature of programs themselves can vary greatly and DoDI 5000.85 caters for six widely dissimilar approaches, ranging from Urgent Capability Acquisitions through Major Capability Acquisition to Defense Business Systems.
It says that ‘(US) DoD policy (is) to deliver operationally effective, suitable (ie it is sustainable), survivable, affordable, secure and supportable solutions to the end user in a timely manner.’
The US Defense Acquisition System adheres to six tenets: 1. Simplify acquisition policy; 2. Tailor acquisition approaches; 3. Empower program managers; 4. Conduct data-driven analysis; 5. Actively manage risk; and 6. Emphasise sustainment (in design and production).
One statement in the DODI really appealed to me: ‘Acquisition decisions will be made at the lowest authorised level, commensurate with the (Acquisition Category) and program risk, to ensure they are timely, and made by those with the greatest knowledge of the program.’ No mention there of the political spin that may be applied to the decisions!