Officials: DOD acquisition system weak

Adm. Dennis Blair's speech

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

The existing process is slow and overly bureaucratic, stifles creativity and is in desperate need of an overhaul, he said.

"I believe that our acquisition system is fundamentally broken, especially in the area of information technology," Blair said during a speech at the West 2002 conference in San Diego. "If we don't change it, it will break us."

Others agree change is needed. "We have to sharply decrease our capability cycle time," retired Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, director of DOD's Office of Force Transformation, said at the conference.

Reforming the way the armed forces buy systems is critical to the success of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's efforts to transform DOD, Blair argued.

Cebrowski said that project development needs to follow an ongoing process of experimentation, prototyping and deployment. By quickly rolling out systems, users will take more ownership of those systems and help develop improvements, he said.

Some good systems have suffered because of problems with the acquisition process. One system was designed to create a secure, wireless wide-area network over a joint battlefield covering 20,000 square miles. But that system has floundered as development slowed and key personnel left.

"Had we made the progress...we would have had the technology, organization and procedures to use an early version of the system in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan," Blair said.

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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