The Evolution of Air Force System Acquisition Management

by W. D. Putnam

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Describes the history of the system acquisition process from 1917. Originally, a project engineer followed design and manufacture of equipment. In the early 1950s, a project office managed acquisition of weapon systems acquired through a single prime contractor. The ballistic missile program had adopted the unique "package program," under which funding and programming decisions were made in concert and review channels abbreviated. In the late 1950s, system acquisition decisionmaking was centralized in the Department of Defense. In 1960, after an intensive study, an Air Force working group recommended the package program with one locus of responsibility for each phase of development. Residual functions were to be reduced and finally absorbed into a new Aerospace Weapons Command. An intricate compromise was struck in lieu of this drastic step. A major command realignment in 1961 created an interim organization. The procedures are currently being altered, but the central problems of reduction and recombination remain.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Report series. The report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1993 that represented the principal publication documenting and transmitting RAND's major research findings and final research.

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