Issue Briefs

DoD Leaders’ Modernization Plans Will Require Rethinking How It Partners With Industry

DoD Leaders’ Modernization Plans Will Require Rethinking How It Partners With Industry

October 21st, 2019

By Daniel Gouré

The Department of Defense (DoD) is on a mission to transform the way it acquires advanced military capabilities. Each of the Military Services has stood up a special organization expressly for the purpose of shortening the cycle time associated with developing and procuring new weapons systems and promoting innovation. The U.S. Army has been boldest, creating a new four-star command, Army Futures Command (AFC), for the express purpose of speeding up all aspects of modernization. The aerospace and defense industry has a long history of operating special organizations devoted to pursuing innovative solutions to challenging technical and operational problems. Pratt & Whitney, one of the Nation’s premier developers of commercial and military aircraft engines, has responded to DoD’s imperative for rapid modernization by standing up its own innovation cell in Florida called GatorWorks. This new organization is already demonstrating the innovative thinking for which its military customers, particularly the Army and Air Force, are looking.

DoD recognizes that the traditional acquisition process takes too long. Modernization programs typically take fifteen to twenty years to bear fruit. The effort to define requirements for a new platform or piece of hardware alone can take as much as five years. Often, modernization programs have been burdened by the stultifying weight of too many requirements that overly circumscribe how a system or piece of hardware must be developed and built. The result can be an overly complex and costly solution. In addition, the acquisition system is overly bureaucratized and risk-averse. This hampers the ability of program managers and industry to take risks in order to develop innovative solutions.

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The views and opinions expressed in this issue brief are those of the author.

Dan Gouré, Ph.D., is a vice president at the public-policy research think tank Lexington Institute. Goure has a background in the public sector and U.S. federal government, most recently serving as a member of the 2001 Department of Defense Transition Team.