Friday, April 15, 2016

Military innovation

John Hamre, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense and now head of a leading think tank, has an important suggestion for Pentagon reform.

He wants to reverse the 1986 decision making the head of defense acquisition the # 3 job in DOD and bring back to that senior slot what used to be called the DDR&E [the director of defense research and engineering].
Sadly, though we didn’t intend it, the DDR&E was greatly diminished by the Packard Commission recommendations that were adopted in the Defense Authorization Act of 1986. We didn’t appreciate it at the time, but we effectively decapitated DOD’s innovation ecosystem by elevating the mechanics of defense procurement over the imperative of defense innovation. In essence, we made gunsmithing superior to marksmanship. The DDR&E was focused on marksmanship—hitting a strategic target to make America’s military successful against the Soviet Union. The under secretary for acquisition was dedicated to gunsmithing—perfecting the mechanism for buying kit over the process of developing strategic capabilities designed to transform power on the battlefield.
As someone who worked R&D issues on the Senate Armed Services Committee in the golden 1970s, I agree. I hadn't realized that the contract management mindset of the acquisition executive had taken over from the innovative excellence of DARPA and DDR&Es like Johnny Foster Harold Brown, and Bill Perry. But their creativity and tough management gave us stealth and precision weapons and much more.

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