Readers Sound Off On Recent Stories
Why Not SCRUM?
The May 2010 article, “Without Radical Change, Many More Defense Programs Will End Up Like JSF,” looks at JCIDS (joint capabilities integration and developing system) and REF (rapid equipping force) as alternatives, or as if we have to give up the quality of JCIDS to gain the time efficiency using REF.
However, private industry and academia are providing an alternative that may be of even higher interest, as it ensures high quality services allowing agile systems that react almost immediately to changing requirements: SCRUM.
[SCRUM is a framework for project management and agile software development widely used in the software industry.]
While the traditional approach still taught in most systems engineering schools evaluates requirements in the beginning, starting with deriving the system requirements from operational requirements, resulting in system architectures and specifications that then are the basis of a contract and that are followed through, SCRUM accepts from the premise on that requirements will change. Instead of waterfall solutions, gradual and spiral developments are supported and enabled by the SCRUM project management.
In particular the software industry found out that SCRUM enables the benefits of rapid prototyping (similar to REF) without sacrificing the quality aspect of traditional approaches.
Andreas Tolk, Ph.D.
Old Dominion University
The May 2010 article concerning the need for radical change in acquisition, “Without Radical Change, Many More Defense Programs Will End Up Like JSF,” presents illustrative points comparing various programs, but it misses the key cause for failure. The services, the Defense Department and Congress have all confused “development” with “acquisition.” At all levels, they address the two interchangeably, which is the source of the problem.
The military does not acquire technologies. In fact, except for a few government laboratory exceptions, it doesn’t develop them, either. Instead, the military contracts for equipment which is produced by industry. Though the names have changed through various reformations, the process is straightforward: Combat development studies past experience and future expectations and produces operational needs and requirements. Materiel development then converts or translates those needs and requirements into designs and specifications. Acquisition then contracts with industry to purchase equipment that meets the requirements.
If satisfactory equipment is not obtainable, especially if the required technology is not yet mature, acquisition is impossible. Either the combat developer’s requirement is reconsidered or reduced, or the materiel developer determines an alternative design. Failing that, the entire effort goes to research and development. Until those technology solutions are developed, matured, and transitioned for production by industry, acquisition remains impossible.
Stew Magnuson’s article, “Army Seeks to Quiet Skeptics as It Tries New Acquisition Strategy,” hits these points well. Congress rightly asks why the Army would ask for an additional $600 million in the fiscal year 2011 budget request on top of the $400 million allocated this year if the technologies were not ready to go into production, and there are no products available to buy. GAO states that the Defense Department approved low-initial production lots despite having acknowledged that the systems and networks were immature, unreliable, and not performing as required.
For an illustrative example, consider Grace V. Jean’s story, “Improvements to Discontinued Army Humvees May Last Another 20 Years.” The vehicle started as a tactical utility truck, essentially an unarmored, soft-skinned pickup. It was sent into combat alongside armored vehicles to face enemy fire and explosive devices and the military was surprised, perhaps shocked, at its vulnerability. Since then, the humvee has been locally improvised or professionally upgraded, incrementally protected and armored but also overburdened and overloaded. It was urgently replaced altogether in some units by other explosive resistant vehicles. Now, as part of its life-extension recapitalization program, the Army intends retrofitting worn out tactical vehicles into armored fighting vehicles. Various uparmoring kits and technologies are being competed for contract award. Worse, the various kits and capabilities are being competed against each based on their relative merit while ignoring the actual operational need. This is acquisition run amok.
The correct solution is to determine the operational requirements for and then identify appropriate armored fighting vehicles with which to replace the humvee fleet. Then either redistribute the remaining available humvee fleet to its original utility or tactical roles, or dispose of it as obsolete or surplus.
If a contractor proposes a remanufactured and uparmored humvee to satisfy the new requirement, well then it could be considered as a competing proposal. If deemed superior, then and only then it should be acquired. Otherwise, buy the proper armored fighting vehicle instead. In fact, this should have been done when the first humvee was wrongly assigned to a fighting role.
Finally, I have a comment on the May 2010 article, Army Resuscitates Mobile Artillery Program.” You state that the new PIM howitzer uses a Bradley chassis. Yet the illustration suggests nothing of the kind. It shows the existing M109 chassis.
I suspect that what was meant was that the M109, while being modernized, is using Bradley-compatible automotive components (engine, road wheels, suspension, track). This makes perfect sense as it simplifies maintenance and reduces the variety of repair parts.
Your allusions to Frankenstein are unfair. The M109 has been evolving and improving for decades. The failed interlopers like Crusader and FCS NLOS-C are the real monstrosities — sired by committees with unclear purpose or technologies only to divert funding from and delay true proven war winning designs like the M109 series.
Chester A. Kojro