Cover: The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm

The Goldwater-Nichols Act and Its Effect on Navy Acquisition

Published Dec 31, 2009

by Charles Nemfakos, Irv Blickstein, Aine Seitz McCarthy, Jerry M. Sollinger


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The defense reforms begun in 1986 with the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act ushered in an era of sweeping change in U.S. military acquisition policies and processes. Reform was necessary to correct genuine deficiencies in the Department of Defense's operational and acquisition practices, but implementation of the 1986 act — and subsequent legislation, including the National Defense Authorization Act of 1987 — resulted in a host of unintended and undesirable consequences, especially in the Department of the Navy (DoN).

Drawing on research, interviews, and their own professional experience, the authors examine both the climate surrounding the development of Goldwater-Nichols and each military service's implementation of the legislation. They trace the origins, construction, and fortification of the "wall" between DoN's military-run requirements process and the civilian-run acquisition process — a divide inimical to the efficient and effective support of military forces and antithetical to the spirit of the legislation — and investigate the legislation's adverse effects on DoN personnel policies. Their recommendations focus on breaking down the wall, changing obstructive personnel policies, re-involving the DoN service chiefs in the acquisition process, and restoring some institutional balance.

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

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