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In his President’s Perspective column, “Budget Pressures Beg for a Serious Look at Overhauling Acquisition System,” May 2012, Lawrence Farrell suggests that budget pressures should lead to an overhaul of the acquisition system. This is a quixotic call that will not be heeded since the acquisition morass has nothing to do with the budget. Not only does the acquisition bureaucracy not know what it wants, but in the interest of streamlining, it closes off options.
For a perfect example, consider the effort to acquire Special Operations Command trucks (May 2012, p. 44). The vast difference in the potential candidates immediately suggests that the actual requirement is very vague. According to the article, the program is using a two-phase approach. First, written proposals and test data will result in an award of up to two contracts for further evaluation. The second phase includes purchasing two prototypes from each vendor for testing. A single winner will then get the full contract.
So with no clear requirement, SOCOM is only shopping for proposals and yet will immediately narrow down to only two, from which one will eventually be the winner. So two vendors that have divined correctly SOCOM’s nebulous and evolving desires get chosen while all the potential expertise and capabilities of others are ignored, eliminated by their inability to read the mind of a SOCOM evolving-requirements writer.
This is stupid. SOCOM should only consider these first-round proposals and prototypes as “what is available and feasible” and use that information to then revise its operational and technical requirements. That next revised requirement document should then be put out for another round of proposals. Only then should the competition begin. You have to let industry know what you want before you can get successful, creative solutions.
I found Lawrence Farrell’s June 2012 editorial, “New American Oil Boom: Will it Slow DoD’s Renewable Energy Momentum?” both interesting and concerning. It appears as if we are in a petroleum dilemma with production on the increase, yet our dependence on it holds fast, and will likely require us to continue to do business with those who wish to do us harm, no matter how much we produce at home because of the way the global oil market operates.
One of the reports mentioned in the article says that the desire is to push the use of electric cars and also increase the use of natural gas for heavy trucking. I wonder if it will be the private sector that will drive the behavior change to use diverse transportation energy sources, or could the military help influence a civilian mind-set change? In addition, if we were to move toward alternative transportation fuel sources, particularly electricity, with several coal-fired power plants slated to shut down and with a near halt in nuclear power plant construction, will we be able to keep up with the demand for electricity?
We are fortunate to have time to work on this problem and I am confident that as we see technological advances, being the ingenious populace that we are, we will find adequate solutions to these challenges. It would be nice if we could extract ourselves from the petroleum stranglehold while at the same time finding new ways to improve our economy.
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Lawrence Farrell’s April 2012 President’s Perspective, “Defense Budget: Some Clues Have Emerged, but More Uncertainty Ahead,” makes several good points.
The Defense Department has had to make cuts everywhere to meet lower than expected budgets. Some accounts like procurement have taken larger proportional hits. A continuing resolution is likely as the stalemate continues. If sequester is required, then the strategy will need to be changed again.
But the numbers are a bit off. Farrell cites $525 billion for fiscal year 2013, which is correct (for base discretionary spending). He says this is down from $541 billion in fiscal year 2012. That’s not correct. Defense Department spending in 2012 was $531 billion ($646 billion, which includes $115 billion in overseas contingency operations. Subtract the OCO, and that equals $531 billion).
Also, TRICARE Prime and TRICARE For Life are not technically entitlements in the legal sense that Social Security is. Although regarded as entitlements by military personnel, they are budgeted annually. The Defense Department comptroller “Green Book” has the relevant tables.
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