DOD acquisition system 'broken'

Transition of the armed services will be virtually impossible without a wholesale reform of the Defense Department's acquisition process, said Adm. Dennis Blair, commander in chief of the Navy's U.S. Pacific Command.

"In the last 12 months, I have become even more convinced that our current approach to transforming our armed forces must be changed, particularly the way we acquire systems. If we don't change it, it will break us," Blair said Jan. 15 at the West 2002 conference in San Diego.

"I believe that our acquisition system is fundamentally broken, especially in the area of information technology," he said.

Blair said he made his comments acknowledging that the armed forces are doing well, but he said that they have not done well enough and that there have been costs in missed opportunities.

The current acquisition system does not move quickly enough, fails to put engineers together with operators to address real-world problems or deal with emerging threats and fails to address evolving requirements, the admiral said.

The process is hamstrung by a bureaucracy that does not reward — or even make allowances for — innovation or modifications, he said.

"The bigger and more standardized the program, the better from the perspective of the program manager," he said.

Instead, Blair said that programs should be developed incrementally, testing projects in real-world situations.

DOD must institutionalize the links between joint operations and service acquisition centers, he said. Those can be improved dramatically by holding more exercises that require the military services to work together.

The department has created a so-called Rapid Improvement Team that is spearheading an effort to get IT projects into the hands of warfighters more rapidly — even within 18 months. DOD officials last month approved several pilot programs that will be used to test the concepts developed by RIT.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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