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The US Department of Defense's (DoD) process for allocating resources for acquiring weapons systems is optimized for long-term investments, guided by the DoD's forecast of future threats, conflicts, adversaries, and possible US responses to them. This dissertation examines how the DoD acquisition bureaucracy responds to unforeseen conflicts and adversaries by making immediate procurement investments.

This dissertation uses the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to examine the DoD's bureaucratic response. The dissertation analyzes the DoD's policies for making immediate investments by comparing them to a framework for organizational flexibility. Next, the dissertation examines the DoD's ability to make the best use of those policies by using examining changes in the DoD's procurement budget during the wars. This is done using a framework for categorizing the DoD's procurement investments based on their immediacy. Lastly, the dissertation examines six individual immediate investment cases to understand how DoD policies, bureaucratic behavior, and technological capacity interact to meet these immediate operational demands.

This dissertation finds that the DoD was developed a surprisingly nimble and risk-tolerant process for making most immediate investments. The DoD did require extensive senior leader intervention to make investments that were previously judged to be unnecessary. The dissertation also found that the DoD's process relied on the entrepreneurship and organizational savvy of individual program officers to identify funding sources and enlist stakeholder support. This research concludes by recommending marginal changes to DoD policy, including granting greater flexibility to DoD components to spend previously allocated resources, allowing more bottom-up input to the immediate investment process, and anticipating the need for single-purpose task forces to provide senior leader intervention in contentious cases.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Exploring Rapid Acquisition Policies

  • Chapter Two

    Immediate Investments in the DoD Procurement Budget

  • Chapter Three

    Rapid Acquisition in Practice

  • Chapter Four

    Recommendations and Conclusions

  • Appendix A

    Rapid Acquisition Policy Scan

  • Appendix B

    PRC-117G Case Study

  • Appendix C

    Palantir Case Study

  • Appendix D

    Predator Case Study

  • Appendix E

    MRAP Case Study

  • Appendix F

    CREW Case Report

  • Appendix G

    ABIS Case Study

Research conducted by

This document was submitted as a dissertation in April 2016 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Christopher G. Pernin (Chair), Igor Mikolic-Torreira, and Matthew W. Lewis.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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