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21 November 2012

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Jim,

BBP is merely more happy talk proceduralism, another dusting of supposed business process improvement atop the mountain range of fossilized and active DoD policy and process. Per this and your previous post, I am unconvinced that any type of modifications to doing business in DoD will lead anywhere other than toward further sclerosis and acquisitions ineffectiveness, as has been the trend - there's always some kind of 'New Coke' initiative every several years, at least since the early 60s. I don't know what either BBP 1.0 or 2.0 meant or means; I'm standing by for the new DoD 5000 and maybe we'll hear something about the ultimate fate of JCIDS sometime soon. In any case, it means nothing at the working level where we have no discretion to avoid the policy and process clutter with the exception of some relative simplicity in rapid acquisitions that apply to few active programs.

Policy, process, and organizational structure dies hard in DoD. Aside from the usual, useless form of DoD BPI - the episodic deck chair rearranging and policy new boss replacing the policy old boss - only a substantial restructuring of DoD roles, missions, business areas, and management & worker bee incentives & punishments (i.e. tangible consequences for performance), in other words, a fairly substantial cultural replacement, could possibly make any difference in US military procurement.

As for this idea of tangible consequences, note two of the major impediments to cultural change:

(1) The juicy contractor & consultant gigs for the GOFO and civilian leadership ranks are the goto sanctuary for all but the most Druyunesque acquisition malfeasance so any possible consequences are easily sidestepped. It is impossible to discount the conflicts of interest and while private sector upper management may be sacked from time to time, there's no comparable this side/that side dynamic. Indeed, there really isn't one for the upper orders in DoD.

(2) As for the worker bees, recall the hullabaloo surrounding NSPS not that long ago, the uproar about being measured for performance to some theoretically greater and richer degree than previous measurement systems. At the worker bee level, NSPS was no more that just a more complicated way of doing the same old nominal performance measurement. The personally observed whining from colleagues and the outcry, writ large, says everything about the philosophical pestilence that a great chunk of noisy DoD employees and their agitators find the idea of improved scrutiny of job performance.

Thus, the system of incentives and disincentives for all levels of acquisition employees is rather different from the private sector and this cultural, organizational, and legal body of differences is the root of why repeated attempts to unscrew the development and procurement of warfare systems continually fails.

Notably, Fox, et al. make the basic point in their conclusion of 'DEFENSE ACQUISITION REFORM An Elusive Goal – 1960 to 2010':

"There is little doubt that acquisition reforms produce limited
positive effects because they have not changed the basic incentives or pressures that drive the behavior of the participants in the acquisition process."

Indeed.

BBP x.0 is ambiguous happy talk that will add nothing tangible to the acquisitions business.

It would be a great thing if Kendall and that crowd picked up your book and had a deep think - 'Arms & Innovation' is valuable study.

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My Photo
James Hasik is a political economist. He serves as a senior research fellow at the Center for Government Contracting in the School of Business at George Mason University, and a non-resident senior fellow in the Defense Technology program at the Center for European Policy Analysis. Since September 2001, he has been studying global security challenges and the economic enterprises that provide the tools to address them.

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