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Military Acquisition: a political process?


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If acquisition is a political process (and it should be since the military is subordinate to the civilian, AND is in support of the values of the political system), then  effectiveness is probably more important than efficiency.  Effectiveness is may have to be defined as the “best” political compromise, ie one in which all parties are equally irritated, but not so much that they decide to secede.  You will see this sensibility reflected in the Colin Powell approach to “equally shared pain” in budget cuts, as opposed to engineering approaches which aim for optimised force structure which leaves some parties frustrated or out in the cold.

Our own political structure, arguably the most successful experiment in democratic self-government so far, is characterized by heights of inefficiency and bureaucracy, partisanship, checks and balances, and an open press to embarass anyone who gets overly greedy.  There isn’t a lot of overt trust in there, although I am not cynical enough to say that somewhere in the deepest recesses of the governing class there surely is a spark of love of country and patriotism. Even the Grinch had that.

“In God we trust,” all others pay cash; or “Trust but verify” are more likely to be principles of enduring organization for our acquisition process.

Every element of the DIME conspires to muddy up the waters of “perfect” acquisition stategy. Administrations change faster than major equipment programs.

Resourcing levels will always be driven by economic necessity, and economic variability will always put the revenue stream in jeopardy. So, turbulence will be par for the course. MIlitary innovation is happening faster every year as technological change accelerates; The Information Age creeates uncertainty all of its own due to the shrinking half-life of knowledge  while the increasing number of channels of discovering and disseminating infomation becomes a battlefield variable all of its own.

So, if uncertainty is given, a political process of muddling through, and following MAJ Robert Rogers‘ advice to “dont take no risk you dont have to” creates an acquisition system pretty much like what we have; one that requires idealists and purists to struggle mightily for the best of all possible solutions in order to come up with something that will do in a pinch.

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