Cover: Are Ships Different?

Are Ships Different?

Policies and Procedures for the Acquisition of Ship Programs

Published Nov 3, 2011

by Jeffrey A. Drezner, Mark V. Arena, Megan McKernan, Robert Murphy, Jessie Riposo


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The management and oversight of a major defense acquisition program are exceedingly complex processes. The U.S. Department of Defense has a well-established set of policies, procedures, and organizations for program management and oversight, described in the "5000 series" of directives and instructions. Not all weapon systems fit comfortably within this framework, however. In particular, ship acquisition programs have characteristics that deviate from the normal framework, including concurrency of production and subsystem development, low production quantity and rate, varied test and evaluation procedures, and a unique relationship between milestone decision points and actual construction status. The authors explore these differences in detail, suggesting policies that can better account for the differences in ship acquisition programs without compromising oversight or establishing an entirely separate process.

The research described in this report was prepared for Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the United States Navy. The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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