Pentagon Doubles Down on JCIDS
A chorus of military officials and defense experts has called on the Pentagon to do away with its byzantine review practices for defining what weapons it should buy.
But the complaints have fallen on deaf ears. The much-vilified process, known as the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System, is not only alive and well, but was just updated last week with a whole new batch of Joint Staff directives.
The latest update, published Jan. 19, includes a 220-page manual, and two 34-page sets of new instructions from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The revised manual provides instructions to the JROC (Joint Requirements Oversight Council), a panel led by the vice chiefs of each of the military services. The JROC is the gatekeeper that must approve all major procurement programs before they can move forward.
Defense business insiders have for years regarded JCIDS as one of the most inscrutable strands of Pentagon red tape that has ever been produced. A flow chart that maps out the process speaks for itself.
Before he retired last summer, Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was among the champions of the JCIDS-must-go movement.
JCIDS, which has been in place since 2003, has outlived its usefulness, Cartwright said last spring at an industry conference. "It has been gamed to death. … We're going to throw it away," he asserted.
Cartwright contended that the policy, rather than help the military modernize its equipment, has become an impediment to innovation and one of the reasons why it takes decades to field new weapon systems.
Retired Army Gen. Lou Wagner — who co-wrote a major study on weapons procurement reforms for the secretary of the Army — also lambasted JCIDS in a speech a year ago at the Association of the U.S. Army convention. He called the process “broken.” Because of these time-consuming procedures, he said, it takes between 15 and 22 months to approve a requirements document. “It was well-thought out when it started but it has turned into a tremendous bureaucracy today,” Wagner said, and suggested that the Pentagon should consider nixing JCIDS.
Shortly after he retired in 2010, former Air Force Vice Chief of Staff for Intelligence Lt. Gen. David Deptula, also called for JCIDS' demise. As originally conceived, the policy was a “good faith effort to assure that we would make deliberate and informed decisions as it pertains to the acquisition of major weapon systems,” he said. The Air Force’s next-generation unmanned aircraft, for instance, if it followed every major tenet in the JCIDS process, would not be ready until 2021, Deptula said. He said the U.S. military cannot afford that long of a process in this era. “Al-Qaida doesn’t have a JCIDS process,” he said. “And we need to be able to operate much quicker and inside our adversary’s decision loop.”
Since its inception, JCIDS also has been unpopular with defense contractors because it limits companies’ ability to influence the process, military officials have said.
JCIDS was born under the administration of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who wanted to bring about more “joint” thinking into the weapons development process. It was designed to make military programs more relevant to the needs of joint commanders and to eliminate wasteful redundancies and duplications among programs.
The joint staff set up an elaborate evaluation system, composed of “functional review boards” led by one-star officers, which focus on key areas of war fighting, such as command-and-control, logistics and force protection. At the helm of the entire process is the JROC. Before any new program can proceed with development and production, it must clear the entire JCIDS review process.
The rationale for JCIDS is valid, experts have said, because the services must be able to fight in a joint force and ensure that their weapon systems are interoperable. It also provides a method to de-conflict programs that two or more services may be pursuing independently and instead should pave the wave to consolidation.