The Army’s recommendations recommendations

The Army’s recommendations recommendations

The Army’s leadership still hasn’t decided how it’s going to act on the recommendations of a scathing report, filed seven months ago, that found its dysfunctional acquisition system has wasted billions of dollars, two top officials said Thursday.

In a sometimes confusing roundtable discussion with reporters, two senior Army Department officials said that a panel of top leaders would recommend how to implement the recommendations of the acquisition report to Army Secretary John McHugh, who was first briefed on the study earlier this year. The team will report back before the end of the year, and then McHugh will decide how to implement its recommendations on the earlier recommendations.

The original study, submitted in January by the Army’s former acquisition chief, Gilbert Decker, and the former head of Army Material Command, retired Gen. Lou Wagner, found the service’s inability to plan, manage and execute has had an enormous cost. Here’s one highlight from what they wrote:


“Owing to its sheer size, the now terminated Future Combat System (FCS) program can overshadow debates about challenges in the Army acquisition system; however, it is important to note that the Army’s challenges predate FCS. Excluding the funding spent on FCS, the sunk costs have been approximately 25 percent per year. Every year since 1996, the Army has spent more than $1 billion annually on programs that were ultimately cancelled. Since 2004, with FCS, $3.3B to $3.8B per year, or 35 percent to 45 percent per year, of Army DT&E funding has gone to cancelled programs.”

Decker and Wagner’s report, unveiled publicly for the first time on Thursday, includes 76 recommendations for how to improve Army acquisitions. But Army officials decided to release it after a roundtable with reporters, who were not able to review it before meeting with Deputy Undersecretary of the Army Thomas Hawley and Heidi Shyu, acting assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.

Hawley and Shyu said the service already has decided to reject 13 of the report’s 76 recommendations, including that it disestablish Research, Development and Engineering Command, which the report’s authors consider a failed agency. But even though RDECom will survive, and the Army won’t follow the other points, officials said they get the message. Now, they say, they “want to look forward,” not back.

How did the service get here? The Army’s requirements process got out of control, Shyu said, taking too long and involving too little collaboration between the various fiefdoms in its vast bureaucracy. By the time doctrine, requirements, acquisitions and budget officials got through with their portions of the things they wanted the Army to buy, it caused schedule delays, which caused budget overruns, etc. It’s a familiar Pentagon story.

Hawley and Shyu said the Decker-Wagner report didn’t tell the Army anything it didn’t already know, but now that it has “confirmed” the situation, officials have adopted many of its precepts in today’s big acquisition programs. For example, the Army has already exercised “discipline” in its Ground Combat Vehicle program; Shyu said she was “optimistic” about the prospects for building a GCV in seven years, as the Army wants, and about the odds the program will survive under austere budgets.

But things started to get confusing. Buzz asked for another example: As the Army tries to build a new, armed helicopter, how will it proceed differently from the way it handled its failed Comanche program?

Here’s the exchange that followed:

Hawley: I wouldn’t say Comanche was necessarily a failure of procurement, but it was costing so much it, it was eating up too much money. We were at a point where we needed to recapitalize our existing fleet. Part of what has been pointed out as our difficulty is we came up to a war and we needed to adjust to a war and not spend money on … now we’re coming through another war and we need to look at recapitalizations of things … but, Comanche was a good program.”

DoDBuzz: “You don’t have any helicopters. If you develop a helicopter that’s the most incredible armed helicopter in the world, but you can’t afford it, as a question for acquisition reform, that seems like a valid thing to feed in your future programs.”

Shyu: “I would say, just because a program is cancelled doesn’t mean all the lessons learned and the technologies we developed doesn’t spiral into the next generation of the design … I come from industry, so I know from the programs that are under design and development, even when the program ends or is terminated, you’ve learn all the technology and designs during that time phase and you literally spiral your knowledge onto the next generation of design, so it’s not wasted in that sense, and that’s never, ever captured, the knowledge that’s gained.”

Did you copy all that? We never did learn how the lessons of Comanche were going to help the Army field a new combat helicopter. In fact, Hawley and Shyu don’t even agree that Comanche, which cost $7 billion and yielded no aircraft, counts as an acquisition failure — Hawley explicitly called it “a good program.”

This apparent unwillingness to accept a major premise of the Decker-Wagner report — that it’s a waste to spend billions and not end up fielding a new weapon — could be why Big Army has tried to keep it under wraps, although the trade publication Inside the Army and others have described its contents. But as you’ve read here on Buzz, the Army is in a tight spot: It stands to lose the most after the American withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, so its leaders need to show Congress they’ve learned their lesson about wasting money and from now on, they’ll be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Hawley defended the Army’s track record over the previous decade, returning to the Comanche example.

“We don’t agree that we didn’t get anything,” he said. “No we didn’t get a completed Comanche, but we did get benefit from the program, but I wouldn’t say we didn’t get anything out of it … We’re trying to invent things here. We’re trying to invent systems of systems. You start off trying to do your best for soldiers, and sometimes you bite off more than you can chew … When you try and integrate complex systems that work in austere environments it can be a tremendous challenge. We’ve learned from each acquisition, but we go on from there.”

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great reporting

We would be better off if we had the Comanche now.…

“We’ve learned from our mistakes and we can repeat them exactly.“
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore Comedy Skit

But seriously, sometimes it IS smarter to cancel a program that has become unexecuteable and unaffordable. How much will F-35 end up costing for SDD, 2443 aircraft and support? Estimates now exceed atrillion dollars. And what that means is that a lot of highly needed new programs will never start because like a black hole JSF has sucked up all the funds.

Crusader/Comanche were cut in part due to the Cold War ending. A failed OIF deep attack probably did not help although a successful one occurred 4 days later using lessons learned. The Army could have cited the same rationale Marines used for needing an amphibious assault capability…that it tied down Iraqi divisions in Kuwait. Likewise the threat of Apaches altered tactics of the Iraqi Army due to Desert Storm lessons.

But Marines are different. They embrace their air-ground task forces rather than viewing their air arm as a budgeting liability. They get away with spending $70 million each per V-22 and who knows what for F-35B (money well spent) whereas the Army could not convince its own to spend less than half the cost of a MV-22 on each stealthy Comanche for similar aircraft numbers. The ARH-70 similarly cost only around $12–14 million each but was killed due to cost.

The Army did get to modernize UH-60s/CH-47s/Apaches using monies originally intended for Comanche. Current conflicts would have been far bloodier if not for those current aircraft. You also saw what appeared like a Comanche ducted fan tail rotor in the bin Laden raid. Obviously, Sikorsky learned something possibly useful for other aircraft to include avionics for a possible X2 that has already flown 250 knots.

How would the Comanche be any use in the current operational requirements of Afghanistan? Post Cold-War, stealth is a white elephant and the reason all the fancy “invisible” technology is either a museum piece or a program threatened by budget cuts.

The money spent tinkering with stealth in the 80’s could have been fed straight into modernizing the existing UH60 and CH47 fleet and the spare change would come in pretty handy now, considering the risk of military pay cuts on the horizon. Learning new things and adjusting or modernizing tried and tested tech is one thing. Trying and failing to reinvent the wheel is a waste of time and cash. Do we even need to refer to the joke that is Army camo patterns? Luckily that isn’t nearly as expensive as a 7 Billion dollar lame duck.

ROTGLMAO! Another very interesting report to file on top of the Packard report and a host of others investigating DoD procurement processes. Sadly, the bottom lines always seems to be the same. Requirements development is botched up, there is no consistency in guidance (and funding), and risk management is woefully executed. Include the fact that “creative spin” courtesy of program advocacy and career advancement takes a couple of front row seats that should have been reserved for professional integrity and accountability and the orchestra just keeps playing the same music, and the parade of failed acquisitions continue. Technical challenges can just about always be solved. Policy shortfalls, philosophical deficiencies, rejection of accountability, and personal lapses of honesty and professionalism, deep rooted in a bureaucratic culture are danged near impossible to change, and additional “oversight” has been shown to be if anything counterproductive. If we continue with the same “inputs” how can we expect different outputs, but how can we really break the cycle?

I have no idea what aircraft conducted the raid on bin Laden. But several articles seem to indicate items added to aircraft possibly involved to make them more stealthy. We saw pictures of the tail section. That was not from a normal Army aircraft.

There are no radar air defenses in Afghanistan. There are everywhere else in Korea, Iran, Libya, and Russia/China that could invade neighbors. Army aircraft fly very low (which requires flying slow) to defeat them but things like the MV-22 fly too high to survive against many radars. F-15s/F-16s/F/A-18s would be toast against modern S-400 and other radar missiles. Jamming can only do so much, but jamming and stealth together is a winner.

Very nice quote! In a Hollywood comedy, it would bring down the house. Unfortunately, in the realm of DoD acquisitions, its a sadly humbling and undeniably true statement. Same inputs = same outputs, and we should be shocked if that were not the case. If the “priority mission” and OER criteria for PMs was the skill with which they managed the public tax dollars that they are given instead of “program continuation”, if they were graded not on the amount of money spent but on the amount saved and returned to the treasury (not just re-obligated and MIPered prior to Sept 30! LOL!). But it seems to all be part and parcel to a system that rewards “spin” and appearances instead of the delivery of performing systems to the guys out on the edge. CPI and SPI RULE, accountability be damned, and when is my O-6 board? Sorry, no LOL on that one!

Yeah guess that old horse cavalry would still be around, the machine gun never would have existed, and nothing would be flying with an attitude like that. No nuclear subs, no carriers…someone has to break new ground and initial problems are to be expected. It still makes more sense than buying more 4th gen fighters to take on threats of the next 50 years.

There is nothing wrong with Army camo as is but they are making attempts to improve it more. Too bad the Marines wouldn’t let them use their pattern.…kind of selfish don’t you think?

I suggest appointment of Boyd’s Acolytes for senior defense posts — SecDef, USD AT&L, DOT&E, etc.

If you are refering to followers of Col. John Boyd, certainly his dedication and “clear communication” of his intent would be a major improvement. Just as a point of curiosity, have you ever noticed how easy it is for the current generation of “managers” to work inside a bureaucracy, and difficult it is for true “leaders” to do the same? His ideals of dedication to purpose and not promotion, personal accountability, and leadership as manifested in the “OODA loop” just falls flat in the face of ricebowls, egos, careerism, and the currrent principles of program management! But.… if nothing else, it sure as bejesus would be interesting to see the effect of a bunch of the “Ghetto Colonel’s” followers on the Puzzle Palace! LOL! His genius and tender touch is sadly missed every day.

The leadership of this country, right up to the President & Congress, are so kluged up that they only survive through groupthink and team player mentality. They are not agile nor smart enough to develop wise courses of action nor change courses of action because they are too stubborn, narcissistic, and corrupt to admit past mistakes.
True objective change agents do not work well in these conditions. Somewhere between Boyd strategic thinking and a shrewd political thinker might make an excellent senior leaders. Boyd’s personal skills were surely lacking. But it’s sad to think that if he had been treated and counseled better, and been promoted for merit, how much more good he could have done if he had made General. Then again, in the long run, maybe Boyd will have accomplished far more through his intellectual legacy than if he had been promoted.

Lets just say that he is sitting somewhere (and there are plenty who would argue for both locations) chortling and saying “I told you so!”.

Amen. Too bad we didn’t get him more leadership roles and give him more credit when he was with us, though.

the Comanche was incapable of performing Amry armed earial reconnassiance and security. Too big, poor visibility and wouldn’t be able to operate in the field. It became obsolete as soon as the cold war ended or when it became the size of an apache. Commanche represents 20 years of failure. An aricraft that was suppose to be smaller than a UH-1 became almost the same size as an AH-64. Had it been fielded, it would have had LESS capability compared to the OH-58D in the Iraq invasion at a considerable higher pricetag in dollars, warfighting capability and lives.

Hopeful thinking I don’t see any new army program going anywhere till the budget crisis is fixed that will take years to do. As per new attack helo upgrade the AH-64 like the Marines did with the AH-1W to AH-1Z. If Therese no real need for a stealth helo since no other country has or developing one either.

The UH-60M and CH-47F are already fully modernized helicopters.

The money to modernize UH-60A to UH-60M and CH-47D to CH-47F level came from Comanche. There was insufficient money to fund both Comanche and modernization of other aircraft.

Implement the minimum so as to maintain the status quo.

Agreed, that’s what I’m saying. Instead of fapping over stealth choppers, army could have started straight away improving the UH60 and CH47 fleet back then. That project would have been finished ahead of time and new research into other technologies could have begun. I’m not for the total halting of “breakthrough” tech. But if it is less of a breakthrough and more of a wet squib then I am more for consistent maintenence of proven equipment. On the subject of the Marines, they have such a sh!7ty budget as it is, they are proof positive that you can have an exceptional expeditionary force operating out of their comfort zone with a high degree of success despite low cash flow. Also, why should they allow their camo to be poached? They’re still lugging M16s!

I agree. Dust off that bird, fix what was wrong with it, update the thing and run it.
That would be cheaper than starting over.

In its reconnaissance configuration the RAH-66 actually had a smaller visual signature (looking at them both head on) than the OH-58D does. Plus a smaller radar and IR signature.

It didn’t have a mast-mounted sight (supposedly they were going to put a new version of the Longbow radar there eventually). However the failed ARH-70 which was also supposed to replace the OH-58 had the optics under the nose since that location is better for today’s operations.

The RAH-66 got some things right, and while perhaps we are better off having canceled it, it’s a damn shame to not have flying today.

But consider the ARH-70, the “cheap, off-the-shelf” reconnaissance helo that was supposed to replace the OH-58. Screwing that up was not a matter of “reaching too far”.

I’ve read the Army Acquisition Review. It’s a wide-ranging document to which some very knowledgeable people contributed — including some folks who contributed to the problems which it reports. Though the report pays more than lip service to the broken military requirements process, we still have too many senior DoD and Army decision makers whose careers were founded upon ignoring the elephant that grazes in the middle of our living room: If the requirement isn’t right, then the acquisition never will be! Almost everything else revolves around that.

From 42 years experience as an Air Force acquisition officer and later industry technology analyst, I would love to rip two phrases out of every DoD document in which they appear together in common: “advanced technology” and “seven-year program” are a gross oxymoron — an internal contradiction that dooms programs from the get-go. To support soldiers, sailors, and airmen in the field, we need to back up and face reality: high performance technology equates to high cost and long development cycles — no exceptions, no excuses. No amount of executive oversight can change that reality. The more reviews we have, the longer it takes.

We need to replace (re-capitalize) existing worn-out equipment in a current era of shrinking budgets. The only way that I know of approach that task is to establish unit production and life-cycle sustainment costs per vehicle as the number one “requirements” around which everything else is traded. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Task industry to show military leaders how much they can buy, and engage combat-experienced military officers in a collaboration before Milestone A to allocate that buy cost between subsystems founded on proven technologies. If there isn’t enough money to buy what we want, then either back off on requirements (and reshape war fighting doctrine) or down-size the force.

Such discipline is simple enough in principle. It’s just hard in practice. Magical thinking is ever so much (apparently) easier. But magic doesn’t produce anything.

LOL… Mr. Rumsfeld revamped the Army Acquisition process and it works worse than it did before. How is this new? ACAT I programs consume the vast majority of the R&D funds and more times than not fail the Budget/Schedule/Performance requirements and get cancelled. Yes there are requirements creep problems but when you spend five plus years in development, all the original faces have disappeared from the program. Add in the subordinate agencies putting their fingerprints and spin on it trying to maximize their OERs and Evaluation Reports and the late comers signing in and it gets more FUBAR. The fact that we ever get anything done is remarkable on it’s own.

Not just the Army, all services and other agencies, i.e FAA after the fact new/bogus requirements, results in redoing hardware and retriggers qualification, certification, testing, manufacturing, specifications etc… As a results in additional funding for support contractors (thousands) involved in fielding and logistics (installing new/modified systems on platforms and supply support). One cash cow, Apache helo, any change to systems, wiring, vendors, triggers multi-million additional dollar costs (Boeing/support personnel), another cash cow IFF (Interrogators/Transponders) installed on most weapon platforms (air/land/sea), it’s in the process of upgrading hardware/software to add Mode 5 and ADS-B functions, in process and on-going for over 14 years, to date, has resulted in 100’s of millions, if this program is completed or cancelled a lot of personnel (thousands) would have to move on and or rely on unemployment benefits!!!

Let’s not forget the Triple Army Audit Agency’s reports about the money wasted in conjunction with the Army’s Body Armor purchases. Cited not once but Twice is the incompentence of the personnel in charge of the effort; lack of requirements (documentation) — the reliance on Operational Needs Statements. Check out the MILLIONS of dollars wasted — and now they’re “Relooking” body armor once again? Fraud, waste and abuse…but nothing happened to the incompetent personnel involved. Also, how many folks have noticed the tendency of personnel who worked on the PM Acquisition side — now working for the vendors who received the contract? I remember years ago where that was a “No No” — check out who got the awards and see who’se on their staff.…big dealing with folks located in Virginia Beach.

The only thing wrong witht he Comanche was the requirement for stealth. While stealt would be handy for fighting the Russians or Chinese, it really was not a useful requirement, and cost billions. The useful aspects of the aircraft were its slim design, and excellent reconnaissance systems. The only stealth aspect I would have kept was the lower noise and IR signature. The slim design would have eben especially useful in getting the aircraft to a theater of war on C-17 or C-5 aircraft. The improved sensors and communications systems have already been backfitted to the Apache, but the Apache is an attack system, and not a reconnaissance system.

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