The defense industry’s new favorite buzzword

The defense industry’s new favorite buzzword

You remember “transformation.” And “balance.” Well now there’s a new buzzword in town, and it goes like this: “reversibility.”

That is the doctrine born of Thursday’s comprehensive strategic review, which calls for DoD to be mindful that anything it stops, delays, breaks or undoes, it needs to be able to restart, accelerate, repair and redo.

“The concept of ‘reversibility’ — including the vectors on which we place our industrial base, our people, our active-reserve component balance, our posture and our partnership emphasis — is a key part of our decision calculus,” DoD’s new strategy said.

Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would be DoD’s focus on “avoiding departmental hubris.” Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter invoked former Secretary Gates’ warnings that “we might get it wrong.”

This is an official-language adoption of something we heard a lot last year from defense and aerospace industry advocates — that cutting too much, or not being mindful about the long-term consequences of eliminating certain programs, could mean they might go away forever. Or cutting something today could make getting it back so much more expensive that a future Pentagon or future Congress might balk.

Even before we had “reversibility” under this name, it’s the basic argument for why the Aerospace Industries Association and other groups wanted DoD to have an “industrial strategy,” to determine what should, can and must survive. If the Army stops buying socks, it can probably start buying them again in big quantities without too much inconvenience. But if it eliminates Brigade Combat Teams, it should so with a view toward theoretically reconstituting them sometime down the road.

Nowhere would “reversibility” seem to apply more than to combat aircraft. As we heard last year, the defense industry is worried about the future of its advanced design teams, which today, for the first time in years, have no new-generation manned fighter to work on or fight over. There’s the Air Force’s new bomber, sure, but that’s not going to be enough gruel to around. Under “reversibility,” Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Marin, Boeing, General Dynamics and others could argue that they need subsidies to keep around at least a kernel of their advanced teams, in case the U.S. wants new tactical aircraft for tomorrow.

“Reversibility” even applies to concepts, such as counterinsurgency warfare. DoD’s strategy Thursday said it will no longer preserve the standing force structure for “large-scale stability operations,” but it’ll institutionally remember how to do them, officials promised. That way the U.S. can just plus up its ground forces as needed and dust off its COIN handbook in time for America’s inevitable next Asian land war. See? Easy!

It may not be long before the brand-name contractors and Hill advocates begin describing potential cuts to their programs or pet projects as “irreversible,” much as the sexy programs of yesteryear all became “transformational.” “Irreversible” would have made sense before, but now that it’s in the official lexicon, users may hope it gives them a little extra sparkle.


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Do they learn about Sterility? .…. when they deliver a product more expensive, less robust!

Newspeak for “we know we promised you ____, but times have changed.”

what has been done, cannot be undone! Did they not learn anything on acquisition reform? They got rid of proper technical oversight and developmental testing years ago and since the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act was signed back in May 2009, they still have not gotten very far in getting the knowledge base back to a functioning level.

Looks like nobody learns lessons anymore.

“Failure will get you promoted. Success is too much work” should be the new motto.

I think aircraft will be sea from cuts the deterrence for China and Russia need them and for at least keeping production lines open for the Navy’s new subs and ships.Most of the junk that needs to go is the Army’s crap like ICC, and GCV which we don’t need now.

I can hardly wait for the next Parkinson’s Law study. This study was originally based UK Admiralty which showed even though the number of Ships was reduced the number of Admirals actually increased between the WWI and WWII.

Inventory is reversable, bureaucracy is not.

Will we have to expand the Boneyard to hold the reversable aviation inventory?

I believe that the modern US version of the Admiralty’s study has already been done! :-) http://​www​.airforcetimes​.com/​n​e​w​s​/​2​0​1​1​/​0​5​/​a​i​r​-​for

And the Brits have their own update, fresh off of the analysts’ desks! http://​www​.dailymail​.co​.uk/​n​e​w​s​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​-​2​0​4​5​2​2​6/B

What you want to bet that the AF takes the same tack as the USN with their “surplus” Spruance DDGs? Once they were converted into beercans and fishing reefs those very capable ships could never rise as ghosts from the Reserve anchorages to haunt and endanger any new procurement program! :-)

Why is it that I keep imagining some poignant John Belushi skit covering this stuff on Saturday Night Live?

Reversability = No accountability.

“So what if I was wrong. I can always change my mind”. Never mind that I am paid by tax payers to get it right and be held accountable. I have never heard a term that defines a total lack of leadership better.

Shades of the Post WW 1 Woodrow Wilson era.

Those folks were assured that the USA could instantly recover the capabilities of WW 1 expertise. Woodrow, the Naval Nations, all concieved the Naval Treaty under just such foolishness.

As December 7, dawned we again reaped what we sowed in the 1910,1920,1930 period.

As December 12, 2012 dawns we may well again reap what we are sowing now, December and January 2011,2012.

It is simply not possible, in almost any time frame imaginable, to Reverse production lines to their high state of excellence, it is not possible to field a Brigade Combat ready troops in any time frame that will allow for success on the battle field.

Legions of Historical lessons lie on the DOD fiscal cutting board, all in the name of austerity.

We NOW are reaping what we sowed for the past 60 odd years, and it appears that we have not learned one blessed thing.

Semper Fi

Reversibility=Can be corrected by the next Administration and Congress beginning Jan 20, 2013.

Agreed. Seems to reflect lack of commitment to a strategy, with undesirable implications. Retaining a capacity to “reverse” may be a hedge against risk, but it will surely divert limited resources from priorities.

Cut baby cut. The fewer bureaucrats we have to pay for in Washington the better off everyone will be.

I caught the new term too, “reversibility”. And I’d like to cite a couple more lines from the original strategy document to help your readers put this in the right context. “.…an accounting of our ability to make a course change that could be driven by many factors…” and “differentiate between those investments that should be made today and those that can be deferred”.

Let me take issue with one of your statements. WE HAVE in fact learned something, a new word! “Reversability”! Its a new word, certainly a new definition for an old word, and the definition is something like, “responsilbity avoidance”, or “we know better, but we are going to do it anyway!” or .… .

Aside from that, the US has TRADITIONALLY been caught with its pants down when wars pop up primarly because we are essentially a non-military society and rush to demobilize as soon as victory, or even the vague preception of victory, is at hand. We have found ourselves playing catch-up in practically every conflict that we have fought since the Revolutionary War, and it has been a successful strategy, even if in some examples very expensive in terms of lives and treasure. Of course it is a strategy based on the transportation and communications technologies of a different world; one where there were months if not years to “spin up” to a wartime economy instead of the minutes, hours, and at most, days available today to accomplish the same thing!

One man’s “reversibility” is another man’s “pork-barrel jobs program”.

NASA and SLS are an example of “reversibility” in action. Pay all the rocket scientists to do make-work rocket science, because otherwise they’d quit and become model railroaders or work for Google or something.

It is the motto from NAVY Acquisition

Have we fought our large, recent conflicts with our Navy? No f-ing way. With our Air Force? Yes, but we didn’t need nearly as an advanced an arsenal as we used. So why do we keep feeding these fat, irrelevant or over-teched (respectively) forces? Because the button pushers can’t accept that it takes boots on the ground to be decisive in a conflict of any size, and ships and airplanes are cool. Boots on the ground gets it done though.

Excellent comment. I have been studying the document now for days and specifically both “reversibility” and understanding why we are at an “inflection point” more so today than at other times? Thanks for the comment.

“Reversability?” Short for “we have to play catch up in a time of emergency because we didn’t invest in our defense and oh, sorry the Army’s going to pay the price the most”.

makes the Army’s dogged pursuit of FCS and LandWarrior at taxpayer expense even more tragic. so much for the theory of making the nation/taxpaying public’s unwillingness to invest in defense as the scapegoat for the Army’s woes.

Yes! Let’s include that in the letter to tomorrow’s Army widows.

Yes, “Reversability” for when saying, “we are willing to pay tomorrow’s defense bill in blood versus curb our out of control gov’t spending today” just takes too long.

USAF — Exactly!

“Reversability” for when saying, “we are willing to pay tomorrow’s defense bill in blood versus curb our out of control gov’t spending today” just takes too long.


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