Estimated time to read: 3 minutes
Excerpt: The defense acquisition system fails to deliver on the promise of equipping the warfighters with an advantage over the enemy.
By Rick Kelly
The Turing design “bombe” was not a notable advance in computer technology. It was an electromechanical device with relay switches and rotors rather than vacuum tubes and electronic circuits.
— Walter Isaacson, Innovators, 2014
Alan Turing arrived at Bletchley Park in the fall of 1938. The world was on the cusp of a devastating war. Less than two years later, his team of mathematicians unraveled the German War machine by disrupting Nazi strategic command and control. There is nothing spectacular about the efforts of the small group of dedicated professionals but they changed the face of cryptology in the computer age. It was a simple formula – clear requirements and unrelenting commitment to delivering capability – not to mention the unmatched motivation that can only come when death is at your door.
In our current global environment, the enemy deliberately obfuscates the true threat to the western world. Hybrid warfare makes large scale war a thing of the past by removing the existential threat from the minds of the populous writ large. World leaders exacerbate this issue with cavalier decrees – reaching so far as to say they have “invincible” missiles that “can pierce U.S. defenses.” The U.S. military cannot focus its efforts on one type of warfare, let alone one area of the globe. Our force struggles to define the long-term mission and motivate the whole-of-government to dedicate necessary resources. The DoD faces the challenge of efficiently developing effective systems to counter an amorphous global threat.
Although our enemy does not represent the foe of the 1980s, our acquisition paths maintain their footing in the Cold War era. The epoch of a single, clearly defined threat has passed. This makes acquisition decision making difficult, but not impossible. Bold leadership is required to decipher the enemy’s capabilities from the treasure trove of data provided by the global intelligence community. Indecision breeds procrastination. The military industrial complex feeds on circular development processes costing the taxpayer trillions to meet the wavering direction of the DoD.
Bold leadership is the only way to regain the technological edge – on the battlefield and in advanced technology. A requirement decision must be made and adhered to early in the acquisitions process. This is an insurmountable task in the face of an amorphous threat. Every day that goes by is another day we fall behind our dynamic enemy. Similar to innovative development in the private sector, failure has to be an option. Our current system cannot take risk due to the lack of bold leadership, which prevents the revolutionary breakthroughs that make the U.S. military indomitable.
Join us next week as OTH focuses on arming the strategic vision for the tactical task.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.