Having tried just about every other approach to reforming the Pentagon’s much-reviled system for purchasing weapons, Congress is now moving to embrace the lessons of the marketplace. That’s the implication of news this week that a House-Senate conference reconciling competing versions of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act will adopt sweeping changes to the defense acquisition system. “Acquisition” is the term bureaucrats use for buying stuff. But judging from the reports the armed services committees in each chamber produced in preparing their defense spending plans for the fiscal year beginning October 1, Congress has had enough of bureaucrats. It is looking for a wholesale change in the culture of the acquisition system.
Senator McCain tends to be wrong on individual acquisition programs, but in this, he is correct, the current DoD acquisition model is a dumpster fire, and so sclerotic that it is virtually impossible to develop anything more complicated than a paperclip in less than two decades. That simply must change.
The F-35B Joint Strike Fighter will likely be declared Initial Operational Capability within the next few days. Literally, the program has taken longer than a typical full military career!
Some of that is because of the complexity of new aircraft design. But much of it is because of the terrible way the Pentagon buys weapons.