Readers Sound Off on Recent Stories

On Wasteful Spending

Two important issues in the January 2011 issue of National Defense. In “Defense Watch,” (p.8), Ms. Erwin was trying to provide some useful advice to the defense industry, but the first sentence implies that the Pentagon and the defense agencies are really the problem. While the Department of Defense may be larger than most other federal departments, the biggest slice of the federal budget is for entitlements. The problem with entitlements is that they are spread over most of the other departments.

One of the biggest ways for the Defense Department to spend less is to let generals and admirals conduct wars and police actions without the interference of politicians on a daily basis.  
The second issue concerns the article, “Weighed Down by Heavy Hardware, Marine Brigades Go on a Diet.” (p.24) While I have done only a little consulting on Marine Corps programs, I do understand the issue. I know the problems with the weight of personnel transport. In one of my incarnations, I supported an Army project office involved with crew-served weapons. One of my areas was vehicle weapon mounts.

I used master gunners from a handful of Army divisions for input. One of the divisions wanted the Humvees to be stripped down with the doors removed so the double-articulated swing-arm mounts could be used everywhere in the vehicle. They wanted the light and medium machine guns to be removed from the mount instantly so the ground troops (acting as infantry) could take the weapons into buildings to complete the missions. Another master gunner said that his division wanted the Humvees to be fully armored and completely buttoned up so that war fighters were free from harm. They wanted to be an armored fighting force not an infantry force.

The difference between the two groups it is that the fully armored Humvee with a four-person crew and a full complement of guns, ammo, water, and fuel weighs more than the vehicle can support without an upgraded transmission, upgraded axles, upgraded engine, bullet-resistant windows, and air conditioning. The division that thought they were supposed to be infantry was my idea of what the Marine Corps should be. The other division has its place, but it is not in the USMC. Since Ms. Erwin has identified the USMC mission correctly — quick reaction, expeditionary force — we need to ensure that the USMC from the commandant on down understands what their mission is. I agree with everything in the article. I think that given the budget constraints, it might be wise to work on one issue at a time and solve all the problems eventually.
Michael E. Harris
Harris & Harris Associates, LLC

The January Defense Watch article, “You Want Government to Spend More Wisely?” is right on, but does not tell the whole story, because the issues are more complex.  

As a member of the International Council on Systems Engineering, I attended a working group on affordability earlier in the year. Having worked most of my 30 engineering years on the commercial side, it became quite obvious after noticing only government/defense contractor participants and listening to the conversation, that although the commercial side of the house can slay the affordability dragon, the government/defense side is unaware of what it takes and may be reluctant to begin acting like commercial entities for numerous reasons.

Does the government understand the impact to suppliers? Going from “cash cow” to “lean” won’t happen overnight. Those companies that excel at quicker culture change might be the only survivors.  

“It’s the requirements” is a favorite target. We indeed don’t know what we want, since “we” are many stakeholders, not a united one. What we want also changes as new personnel, new wiz-bangs, knowledge and perspectives, how much funding come into play. Evolving requirements not aligned to technological maturity, government budget timing, products that have been developed only to sit idle since there is no funding to purchase the more expensive improvements are all impacts to address. Not an easy job, of course.  

We spend billions on multi-layered requirements that go so low as to define exactly one way of implementing the actual design lock-in. Instead of paying for four or five layers, consider refining the real, long-term need at the highest level, then determining the feasibility over the budgeting lifecycle.     

Eileen Arnold
Minneapolis, MN


The January 2011 article, “Cyberattacks Reaching New Heights of Sophistication,” (p.33) was definitely a wakeup call. Information security is a must have on every level. However, with all the advances in technology and hardware security devices, why are we not forcing the ISPs to implement front-end security?

Companies tried this many years ago but failed because of cost and support but they were on the right track. Simply, we need to segregate the functional networks on the Internet by creating a physical Gov net, Health net ... etc., and keep them off the Internet. It’s either that or force the ISPs to encrypt all outgoing and incoming traffic to and from the clients.

A virtual private network hardware security appliance on the front end would allow for traceability, filtering and monitoring. The technology to prevent these attacks is available but it will take radical ideas to make it happen.

As a researcher and a doctoral student in InfoSec, I can say that if we force businesses to be compliant then we need to ensure the ISPs are compliant rather then just providing the signal. The United States is like a large LAN, we need to manage it and protect it from the outside and make appliances that come with the right security measures in place prior to releasing it to the public.
Josh Johnson

Army Acquisition Woes

In reference to the article, “Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle Stirs Confusion in Industry,” (January 2011, p.26) you think that industry is confused by the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle? The Army itself obviously has no clue as to what it wants or needs.

Your article quotes Maj. Gen. Walter L. Davis, deputy director and chief of staff of the Army capabilities integration center at the Army Training and Doctrine Command: “The Army is seeking a “capability for combined arms maneuver and area security over wide areas…a single ground combat vehicle that incorporates protection against [improvised explosive devices], tactical mobility and operational agility.”

First off, the Army should have started with an analysis of what exactly is wrong with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the system to be replaced.

Next, they should have considered if any doctrine, training or organization fixes might resolve all or some of the issues. Had they done that and are absolutely certain that a new system is required, the same analysis should readily have figured out what they want it to do and what characteristics it needs (size, weight, range, level of protection, weapons).

Concurrently, they should have figured out the integrated logistical support package and its operational mode summary and mission profile: Will they transport it by tractor-trailer, railroad, airplane or ship?  Will it be air-dropped? What restrictions are they willing to accept?

They should also know how many they need based on the current and planned unit equipment lists and the Army’s force structure, which would determine how many such units to fill. Given the fact that the Army just spent a decade on these very same issues while working Future Combat Systems, I would expect that all of this should have long ago been worked out.

Yet instead, I read that the Army is simply throwing up its hands and asking industry to figure it out for them. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea, after all. Only let’s get it right. Start by contracting out TRADOC. Then there might finally be some progress.

Chester A. Kojro
Rolla, MO

Having been around the Army’s supply and acquisition community for many years, there is an ongoing phenomenon that I can only describe as a long slow train wreck of supply readiness. This train wreck has little to do with budget constraints, technical challenges, or even the simultaneous execution of two wars. It’s a wreck of our own making.   

Prior to the 1990s, the organizations tasked with ensuring supply readiness in the Army rested with Major Subordinate Commands (MSCs), under the auspices of the Army Materiel Command (AMC).  Each MSC had a group of products it was responsible for. They were typically headed by a two-star and organized in a matrix fashion.

Matrix organizations have their drawbacks. However, at least they were organizationally coherent, mostly co-located, and reported to a single general officer. Given that most problems are cross functional, the matrix organizations could at least bring these functional elements together in a single Integrated Product Team (IPT) to address the problems. IPTs also fostered a sense of unit cohesion.

In the mid 1980s, the program executive office structure was established. The PEOs pulled the program management function out of the AMC framework and created a separate chain of command for program managers.

The functional elements from which the PMs depend for matrix support remained on the AMC side of the house.  Nothing in the original AMC command structure was eliminated, the PEO structure just created a new, separate command chain laid parallel to the existing command structure.

The complications added by the PEO structure pales in comparison with complications imposed by another organizational decision made in the 1990s and accelerated with the 2005 BRAC.

This was the transfer of the supply and procurement functions out of the services to the Defense Logistics Agency. The other functions such as engineering, ILS (integrate logistics support) and program management remained with the services.  DLA, prior to this time, was a supplier of cross service, widely used items like nuts, bolts and washers.  Studies had shown that, on an NSN by NSN (national stock number) comparison, DLA was a much more efficient buying activity than the services.  

The fact that a bolt or washer is a simpler item to buy than a complex electronic, aircraft or weapon component seems to have escaped those conducting these studies. Regardless, the decision was made that consumable items would be transferred to DLA, thereby creating yet another chain of command and further ripping the IPT structure apart.  

The implications of these organizations constructs are that almost every problem requires a host of organizations to solve. These organizations are neither co-located, organizationally coherent or report to a single commander. Gone are the days when a single IPT could consistently be brought to bear on a problem, or failing to solve the problem, a two-star could be called to the carpet since every function needed to solve the problem was under his command.   

DLA established the Form 339 process as a means for their buyers to communicate to the engineering, ILS, PM and quality functions which were left in the services.

The 339 process, although better than nothing, leaves much to be desired. If the buyer of an item understands nothing about an item beyond numbers and codes on a computer screen, any business process is doomed to fail.

DLA’s buyers are unfortunately left in this predicament; without an IPT or single chain of command which understands the product from all aspects, they are in a no win situation. And so our problems in supply readiness continue to mount up, with even the simplest of issues requiring herculean effort to resolve.

Our soldiers deserve better. They deserve to be backed up by a supply system that has a clear chain of command, is organizationally coherent and looks like it was designed on purpose.  

Jeff Windham
U.S. Army Rock Island Arsenal, IL

Topics: Business Trends, Mergers and Acquisitions, Cybersecurity, Defense Department, DOD Budget

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