Application of F-117 Acquisition Strategy to Other Programs in the New Acquisition Environment

by Giles K. Smith, Hyman L. Shulman, Robert S. Leonard

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The argument is frequently made that special access or "black" programs accommodate more efficient and effective ways to buy weapon systems than do conventional acquisition programs. If so, perhaps some of the characteristics of these covert programs could be transferred to the more conventional procurement programs to enhance their efficiency. That hypothesis is what Project AIR FORCE researchers wanted to test by examining the F-117 Stealth Fighter acquisition program. They concluded that, although it was unlikely that the special set of circumstances surrounding the F-117 procurement could be fully replicated for many other programs (nor should they be), two elements of F-117 program management not only could be but also should be applied more broadly: greater delegation of authority to the program office and requiring only a very few performance requirements by contract. Applying these features to other programs requires considerable mutual trust among the government agencies involved and between the government and the contractor. The absence of such trust spawned many of the controls specifically waived for the F-117 program.

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