account for about 80 percent of the acquisition budget.1 These programs are large weapons systems programs such as those for the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35), the Future Combat Systems, the Ballistic Missile Defense System, and the SSN 774-class fast-attack submarine. Perceived weaknesses in the DOD acquisition process have included the following: an inadequate assessment of technological maturity before beginning system development; insufficient government reviews and oversight during the multiyear design and development phases; and inadequate preparation for and execution of operational testing.2,3 In revising the DOD acquisition policies and procedures over the years, the DOD has attempted to address these perceived weaknesses by including more process steps and additional reviews.

Many argue that these reforms, especially the introduction of more oversight, have not improved—and may well have further burdened—the acquisition system. In particular, these changes, aimed primarily at challenges related to large, weapons system programs, have had noteworthy adverse implications for IT programs. IT program managers who provided briefings to the committee during the course of this study indicated that DOD 5000 processes dramatically increase the time to deliver solutions, especially those available as commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions. In addition, the DOD 5000 processes result in the creation of larger formal acquisition programs that, by their very nature, increase documentation requirements and the associated sizes of the support teams.

A recent review conducted by the DOD Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team noted unanimous agreement among the chief information officers (CIOs) of the DOD and the Military Services that the ability of the DOD acquisition process to deliver needed IT systems was “fundamentally broken.” The CIOs cited the inability of the DOD acquisition system to field systems based on commercial technology while it was still state of the art. With commercial IT technologies evolving on 18-month cycles, taking 6 to 8 years for a large IT program to field initial operating capabilities (IOCs; see Chapter 1) is a clear indicator that the defense acquisition processes are not matched to the fundamental characteristics of commercial technology. The CIOs suggested an urgent need to be


 Nancy Spruill, Director, Acquisition Resources and Analysis, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Department of Defense, “Defense Acquisition from a Management Perspective for the NRC Study on IT Acquisition,” presentation to the committee, September 2008, Washington, D.C.


Moshe Schwartz, Defense Acquisitions: Overview, Issues and Options for Congress, Congressional Research Service, Washington, D.C., June 2008.


Assessment Panel of the Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment Project, Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment Report, Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., January 2006.

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