5000 series, a Systems of Systems Guidebook, and the Systems Engineering Plan Guidebook.2

The individual services and intelligence agencies have also published policies and guides to supplement the DOD policies and to develop service- and agency-specific processes. For example, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has made attempts over the past few years to address some of the acquisition difficulties that it has experienced. It has emphasized a more rigorous adherence to milestone decision gates and has made the extensive use of independent reviews of program readiness a necessary step before proceeding to the next phase of a program. It has also modified its acquisition schedules to align major decisions more closely with the results of major design reviews, and mandated more frequent post-Milestone C reviews by the decision authority. On a more technical level, the NRO, in cooperation with its industry team members, has reinstituted a minimum essential set of specifications and standards on such diverse topics as systems engineering (SE) and the qualification of key components.

Yet despite the myriad of new and revised processes throughout government acquisition organizations, there is little sign that performance is returning to the development productivity that was achieved decades ago. Indeed, one is tempted to conclude that performance diminishes as procurement organizations mature and their processes become more complex. This is counter to the trend in the private sector, where automobiles, commercial aircraft, commercial spacecraft, and consumer electronics have experienced 50 to 70 percent reductions in cycle times.3

Recent studies done by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have expressed continuing concern about program cost and schedule growth problems, even under the revised policies being promulgated by the DOD. As the GAO stated in 2006:

Changes made in DoD’s acquisition policy over the past 5 years have not eliminated cost and schedule problems for major weapons development programs. Of the 23 major programs we assessed, 10 are already expecting development cost overruns greater than 30 percent or have delayed the delivery of initial operational capability to the warfighter by at least 1 year. The overall impact of these costly conditions is a reduction in the value of DoD’s defense dollars and a lower return on investment. Poor execution of the revised acquisition policy is a major cause of DoD’s continued problems. The DoD frequently bypasses key steps of the knowledge-based process outlined in the policy, falls short of attaining key knowledge, and continues to pursue revolutionary—rather than evolutionary or incremental—advances in capability. Nearly 80 percent of the programs GAO reviewed did not fully follow the knowledge-based process to develop a sound


Defense Acquisition University, 2007, Systems and Software Engineering Publications and Documents. Available from http://www.acq.osd.mil/se/publications.htm. Last accessed on May 2, 2007.


See Defense Science Board, 2007, 21st Century Strategic Technology Vectors, Vol. I: Accelerating the Transition of Technologies into US Capabilities, April, Washington, D.C.: OUSD (AT&L).

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