Amid austerity, Army will ‘protect’ acquisitions workforce

Amid austerity, Army will ‘protect’ acquisitions workforce

The Army’s top acquisitions executive told an audience at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., on Tuesday that even as the Army keeps up its stringent new focus on acquisitions discipline, the service will continue adding workers, calling the acquisitions workforce “one of the areas “we’re trying to protect and grow.” According to an official story, Heidi Shyu, the acting assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, gave a rosy update about the state of Army acquisitions reform.

Big Army is “a poster child” for “successfully identifying opportunities for cost savings and cost avoidance,” Shyu said, per the story, and it has figured out the secret formula that will save the Pentagon: Competition. Getting vendors to compete for big contracts forces them to drive down costs, the thinking goes, and then pass the savings onto Joe and Jane Q. Taxpayer. And the Army has another key weapon up its sleeve: Communication.

“Open communication with industry can result in smoother processes and better targeted investments in current and future capabilities, she said,” per the story.  “‘They want more open exchange of information for them to judiciously invest,’ Shyu said.”


So — the Army’s plan to keep its big-ticket weapons programs in the face of a historic budget build-down is to hire more acquisitions workers and impress upon them the value of competition and communication. (This is the kind of edgy thinking that has earned the Pentagon the reputation it has.) Which is funny, because it’s not the prescription that the Lexington Institute’s Daniel Goure wrote this week for the same problem. Wholesome values alone won’t help the defense industry survive in Austerity America, Goure argues — what it needs is for the Pentagon to actually change its behavior:

Major defense programs take too long to reach fruition. The extended development process adds to total costs. More important, as time passes, circumstances change, threats evolve and technology advances (particularly in the commercial world). When a program takes ten or fifteen years just to get to a production decision is it surprising that it no longer meets evolving requirements or that it incorporates outdated technologies?

A related factor is the requirements process. Bluntly put, the Department of Defense (DoD) imposes too many requirements at every stage of the acquisition process. The more requirements imposed at the start of a program, the more time it takes to meet them all, the more resources are consumed and the greater the risk that the military environment will change — rendering the program irrelevant. Also, in many instances, the requirements are onerous and controlling, compelling companies to design and produce systems in ways that are inefficient, increase sustainment costs and may even compromise actual performance in the field.

Obviously, the galaxy of defense acquisitions is much bigger than Shyu and Goure, but their divergent points highlight a key point: Even though everyone agrees the system must be fixed, especially with the end of unlimited budgets, it’s apparently difficult even to agree about what’s wrong with it.

Given all the realities involved, can it be fixed?

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What kind of artillery peice is that in the picture? It’s not a paladin thay’s for sure.

I think it is NLOS from the FCS Program.

Of course they’re not going to cut any of the procurement bureacracy. We have a military where only 15% fight, so you figure out where the balance of power lay, with the soldier or the bureacrat? The bureacrats got to power thanks to the “profit on development” procurement fiasco. So now you think they’re going to kill that goose while it’s still laying golden eggs? Yeah, that could happen. Hey, here’s an idea, why don’t we pay contractors more to drag out development and jack up costs, then all sit around wondering why development takes so long and why costs are so high. The government and these defense contractors take your money because you are too stupid to be allowed to keep it, pure and simple.

ribby22 and Jerry

That’s the XM2001 Crusader, predecessor to the XM1203 NLOS-C. Considering the FCS vehicles were deemed too light, it seems the Crusader would have probably been our best choice to replace the M109A6 Paladin.

That picture is of one of the two Crusader prototypes.

I build stuff on contract for the military and we HATE lengthy development efforts because it makes the program so likely to get killed or reduced. We spend months and years trying to win a program (which also costs us a LOT of money) and want to BULD AND DELIVER product. We have a factory to keep filled and when these programs move out or go away, the money that we spent on bidding is gone and our overheads go up and up (because the factory is half empty)

It was a advance artillery prototype but it was canceled in 2004 why he used it for a pic I don’t know?

crusader, cold war relic

Probably did a google, picked up a nice looking illustration and not recognize it as one of the many icons of a failed (cancelled) program.…. Hmmmmmm……

Acquisitions personnel is actually where a portion of the cuts should come from.… If defense spending slows, so will acquisitions.

The acquisition Workforce/reform has been in process for over two years after signing into law. There is very little to show for it outside of some surveys and a massive amount of powerpoint presentations by the DoD bureaucrats. Meanwhile the old systems/developmental test engineers are still suffering as Program Management slugs and wanting to contribute their experience to rebuild the real systems engineering workforce.
Lately it seems that acquisition reform no longer mentions “engineering”. Maybe this now is all about budgets and schedules. The best budget and schedule in the world is still a complete waste if what you produce and send to the field is junk.

When you say, “we” I’m guessing you don’t mean yourself and Bob Stevens or yourself and Jim McNerney. Just a shot in the dark here.

Yeah, we could design these weapons better, but then we wouldn’t get that follow on contract to fix what we dorked up, so the benefit to the military contractor for engineering a better product is what? You seriously think we’re going to take it up the ass to be good Americans. Bah, ha, ha, ha. Yeah, that could happen.

“WE”? Do you have a mouse in your pocket? You continuously rant on about defense contractors, and now it’s “WE”? Do you somehow believe Jim McNerney is the anti-Christ?

No, I believe he’s a man who is much smarter than you. That’s why you give him so much money, and then thank him for taking it. Fools and their money should be parted in my opinion. Congratulations on achieving that lofty status.

Oh, I’d include them as well. One of the great “secrets” that isn’t understood is that EMD/Design contracts are usually Cost Plus and the fee structure for cost plus is understandably low. Fees (profits) capped at the CPFF rates are lower than wall street likes to see so the companies PREFER production contracts because they can be Firm Fixed Price which is allowed to have higher profits. Even better are export contracts where the effort is NOT FMS as Direct Commercial Sale contracts carry an even higher profit percentage.

What a bunch of crap.

This whole “Cold War relic” thinking is what gets us in these situations where the M109A6 will be serving on for another two decades or so.

What is being looked at but not fast enough is combining responsibility of programs into one office rather than four to 10 (each making their won decisions on design changes to their projects without learning how it could effect the others). Right now there are 6 different management offices for 5.56mm ammo even thoguh it is all made at the same place, making one responsible for all DoD 5.56mm acquisition rather than 4 army, 2 navy and so on will place better control on the product. Then personnel who are retained ( many older employees are being pressured to retire in the face of upcoming riffs) can be moved into critical areas where we are really short which is site QA’s, In some areas you have 1 QA responsible for inspecting product lines and acceptance of said product from 5 or more contractors spread out through 4 counties. Being able to place QA inspectors in permanent residence of contractors will improve oversight — corrective actions — and deliveries rather than having to wait days or weeks for a QA to arrive to address issues in person or sign for acceptance or witness a test.

We need a savior to come in and solve the Pentagon myth of needing hundreds of thousands of acquistion personnel to buy products. The top Army Acquistion team is a joke and they all should be fired. Lets bring in the corporate raiders and expert consolidation mergers folks that know how to take a dying corporatin and lean it back to life. WE do NOT need more acquistion personnel.

But where will we put all of those O-6s and SES’s if they dont have appropriately sized organizations to oversee? ROTFL! Only slightly more seriously, we DO need more FUNCTIONAL acquisition folk, not just those who are supposed to be capable of monitoring the contract to secure the necessary technical and managerial expertise necessary to do their assigned jobs! OOOOOps, did I really take a poke at the rice bowl for beltway bandit consultants? Id better duck quick! :-)

Totally seriously, if you want to look for waste and redundancy take a look at the number of folk hired by the procurement community essentially to do jobs that are already supposedly staffed on the org chart. That would be a very humbling experience if you remember that before being a government procurement person or a consultant you are first and foremost a citizen and a taxpayer, and it is VERY humbling to see the mote in my own eye on this one!

If we take a step back and ignore the sheer number of labor hours required to comply with all of the arcane procurement rules, can we actually be worthy of overseeing and approving a contractors’ product if we’re not competent to do the work ourselves?

That may be a fair label for Crusader though. The vehicle and ammo carriage were to weigh almost as much as an Abrams at a time when the Army was screaming for a “medium weight” highly deployable force. The crusader would have been great if they were only fielded to units in Germany and never left there.

You are pretty much right on — Thing is that you dont have to be an expert or have an engineering degree to have common sence or to be able to look at SPC data or reviews spec requirements. One big reason we dont find out we have issues with gear until its in the field is because we dont have enough people to cover all the contractors. While I was a QA at ARDEC I was on 8 different mortar teams, we had a bunch of program managers and engineers on each team but I was the only program QA for all of them, I had to do the audits — process approvals — selection boards — product test witnessing — corrective actions — an so on, they just went to meetings and vacations. We need lees HQ managment and more on the production floors.

You are a walking guide to waste and taxpayer abuse. Do you care about your country, or just your company,eh?

a monument to waste.

If you are right, the mfg firms do not care if they kill US troops and others. is it that bad?

I’m one vote. If you’re pissed off, then there’s 2 votes. If you tell someone about how this crap is being done, there’s 3. It’s slow and tedious, but sometimes that’s how democracy works. It would be nice to have enough people voting on this issue to get it fixed before we’re forced to learn Chinese and the Book of Mao in a forced labor camp in the state formerly known as California, but I don’t have the money to buy a senator or several like Boeing and Lockheed do.

It is that bad, but, naturally, no one thinks about it in those terms. They make all kinds of excuses. You see them regularly spouted here by the true believers and the program shills. We’re doing the best we can, it’s those other guys… That’s probably the most often cited excuse. The defense contractors love that one because it drives a wedge between groups of people who could be more efficient if they worked together, but since they’re spending all their time blaming each other for all that’s screwed up in the industry, they end up fighting and making things worse instead of better. The defense corporations cry about that all the way to the bank.

And that has exactly what to do with saying OldRetSWO is saying a bunch of crap?
I have known a couple of contractors that were AHs, but the vast majority were trying to problems to make things better for the war fighter. The process is hosed, but that is the one Congress and the politics made, and the contractors have to work in.
I’m glad your pissed, but you are pissed at the bullet, not the guy pulling the trigger.

No! No! we need more of them to make it more efficient!

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