Use of Immature Technologies: Consequences
Four examples of conclusions from major studies of the consequences of using immature technologies are noteworthy.
1. The “Streamlining Study” of the Defense Science Board was never published, but the Institute for Defense Analysis (1991) produced IDA Paper P-2551, which covered some 100 major defense acquisition programs, reached a firm conclusion that failure to identify technical issues, as well as real costs, before entering into full-scale development—now referred to as engineering and manufacturing development—was the overwhelming cause for subsequent schedule delays and the resulting cost increases.
2. The U.S. General Accounting Office (1992:49) stated: “Successful programs have tended to pursue reasonable performance objectives and avoid the cascading effects of design instability.…”
3. More than a decade later, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (2004:2) found: “FCS [Future Combat System] is at significant risk for not delivering required capability within budgeted resources. Three-fourths of FCS needed technologies were still immature when the program started. The first prototypes of FCS will not be delivered until just before the production decision. Full demonstration of FCS ability to work as an overarching system will not occur until after production has begun.” The report also concluded that based upon the experiences of past programs, the FCS strategy was likely to result in cost overruns and delays. In fact, the FCS program was terminated about 6 years later.
4. At a November 30, 2005, meeting of the Naval Studies Board of the National Research Council, the then newly appointed Department of the Navy acquisition executive, Dr. Delores Etter reported that she had just attended her first Defense Acquisition Board review, which was for the DDG-1000 (guided missile destroyers) program. She had anticipated that technologies for the program would be an issue with the Undersecretary of Defense (AT&L), DOD’s top acquisition executive but they were not. The acquisition team had identified 10 high-risk areas that would have to mature in parallel for the acquisition program to meet its performance goals, and the program was approved for entry into engineering and manufacturing development. About 3-1/2 years later, in the summer of 2008, the Department of the Navy requested, and received approval for, termination of the prohibitively expensive program after having spent $10 billion on the first two ships.
slippage and cost growth in DOD program acquisition, and it often results from the overly optimistic confidence of developers in their abilities to convert technological advances into developing reliable components and subsystems and doing so in a timely manner. The terminations of the FCS (the Army’s future combat system) and DDG-1000 (the Navy’s Zumwalt class of guided missile destroyers) programs years after their entry into