Cover: Is the Defense Acquisition System Postured to Solve National Defense Strategy Operational Problems?

Is the Defense Acquisition System Postured to Solve National Defense Strategy Operational Problems?

Published Sep 20, 2021

by Joel B. Predd, Irv Blickstein, John Birkler, David A. Ochmanek, Chad J. R. Ohlandt

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Research Questions

  1. Can the DAS be managed to specifically produce systems and support capabilities that solve problems outlined in the 2018 NDS?
  2. Is it important that the DAS is managed in this way?

The U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD's) acquisition system has undergone significant reform. The authors of this report propose that DoD leaders manage the defense acquisition system (DAS) according to its ability to develop and produce capabilities that solve operational problems outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), discuss why this perspective is warranted, and suggest steps that the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment (OUSD [A&S]) could take if it wishes to pursue this approach. The authors recommend that OUSD (A&S) engage DoD's force planning and development apparatus, develop and institutionalize a mechanism to inform OUSD (A&S) leadership and staff on emerging operational and solution concepts, and conduct an experiment to understand the opportunities and limitations of this new approach.

Key Findings

  • The DAS should be able to cost-effectively develop and produce systems that support capabilities that overcome the operational problems outlined in the National Defense Strategy (NDS).
  • The DAS should prioritize a set of discrete operational problems; survey and select from the joint community a set of operational concepts that could solve the problems; identify enabling programs for the selected operational concepts; identify, monitor, and manage the risks for the selected programs; and assess the overall health of the DAS by its ability to deliver the capabilities to solve the operational problems.

Recommendations

  • OUSD (A&S) should engage DoD's force planning and development apparatus to clarify and elaborate the role of the DAS in solving NDS operational problems.
  • OUSD (A&S) should develop and institutionalize a mechanism to inform OUSD (A&S) leadership and staff on emerging operational and solution concepts as a forum to explore adaptations of acquisition policy and bridge the force development and acquisition communities.
  • OUSD (A&S) should conduct a prototype to understand the opportunities and limitations of this new approach.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Acquisition Resources and Analysis Directorate and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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