Throughout the study, the committee met with numerous Air Force stakeholders to gain a fuller understanding of the sponsor’s needs and expectations relating to the elements contained in the statement of task. The full committee met four times to receive briefings from academic, government, and industry experts in technology development, and it conducted a number of visits during which subgroups of the committee met with various stakeholders. The committee met two additional times to discuss the issues and to finalize its report. Appendix B lists specific meetings, individual participants, and participating organizations.

The almost absurd complexity of Figure 1-1 illustrates how daunting the DoD acquisition system is. A clearer image is not available. Given the incredible intricacy of the system, coupled with the relatively short time line of the study, the committee endeavored at the outset to distill this complexity into a basic touchstone mission statement: How to improve the Air Force’s ability to specify, develop, test, and insert new technology into Air Force systems.


The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight, and win … in air, space, and cyberspace.17

This mission statement, set forth in a joint September 2008 letter from the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff, emphasizes the importance of all three domains in which the Air Force must operate. Each domain involves special considerations and challenges. Consequently, each of the three domains represents a unique environment in terms of science and technology (S&T) and major systems acquisition.


The air domain is perhaps most frequently associated with Air Force major systems acquisition. It is characterized by relatively low (and declining) numbers of new major systems, with a relatively small number of industry contractors competing fiercely to win each new award. In this realm, relationships between government and industry tend to be at arm’s length and sometimes adversarial. The duration


“U.S. Air Force Mission Statement and Priorities.” September 15, 2008. Available at Accessed May 19, 2010.

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