Capability gaps

by reader ilsm

If the capability “gaps” were properly characterized, the whittle this week demonstrates that technical processes are not executed to deliver the capability to close the “gap”.

GAO again gives some findings to work from. “A Knowledge Based Funding Approach Could Improve Major Weapon System Program Outcomes”. July 2008.

The finding include: “For a majority of the weapon system programs GAO reviewed, costs have exceeded the funding levels initially planned for and reflected in the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP)—DOD’s investment strategy. To compensate for these shortfalls, DOD makes unplanned and inefficient funding adjustments, like moving money from one program to another, deferring costs into the future, or reducing procurement quantities.”

This sometimes happens because the programs are started without enough money is not in the 5 year budget. I have seen that more often than I care to remember, objective evaluations asked the questions but no one wanted to see or acknowledge that there was not enough money. Failed development occurs because of other issues as well.

A few lines later: “DOD’s flawed funding process is largely driven by decision makers’ willingness to accept unrealistic cost estimates and DOD’s commitment to more programs than it can support. DOD often underestimates development costs—due in part to a lack of knowledge and optimistic assumptions about requirements and critical technologies.”

The technical manager comes to the civilian decision makers; Service Acquisition Executives who are sponsoring their folks to get their share of the big bucks, and Defense Acquisition Executives equally motivated to waste the taxpayers scarce resources, with wildly understated cost estimates, supporting equally ,underfunded budgets to deliver ill suited performance specifications, to design something to fill the “gap”. The result will not deliver any combat capability to fill the “gap”. The program manager, making wild and often misleading statements, tells them his team can meet the “gap” just trust them.

In the end the decision makers do “trust” them. They go off and spend a lot of money and when they run out they come back for more money with nothing to show for the expenditure.

This is accomplished by no one questioning the program manager and criticizing their assumptions about the job and their ability to do the job. The estimates are wishful thinking and their budgets are inadequate. It is very much like ignoring the elephant in the room. The elephant is the lack of knowledge in the decision process that can be seen concerning the technology to be applied, whether it can close the capability gap, if it can be manufactured and if it could be integrated with other systems and the battle plan. All of those unasked concerns have consequences which make costs rise and take more time to do the work, if it is ever completed.

Management by wishful thinking and casting the dice rather than knowledge is the hallmark. The civilian decision makers are complicit rubes being taken by the program office con men.

GAO continues to see the “conspiracy of hope” described by the Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment of Mar 2006: See Pg 46/157

Might as well whittle beaks than send a group of defense complex elite out to try and fix their own mess.

I find this quote appropriate in the ongoing mess; the management of the US “regard inexcusable failures and errors with too tolerant an eye……” Ike Oct 1942 from An Army at Dawn pg. 60

Next week I shift from wishful thinking in budget reviews to wishful thinking in technical reviews! Warning could be Tanta style wonky.