Here’s a snippet from an interview with Neal Blue, the Chairman-CEO of General Atomics, makers of (among other things) the Predator UAV. It appeared in the 11 Feb issue of Defense News (subscription only).
Q. Is DoD’s acquisition system broken?
A. The longer-term trend, over the last 40 years, has been toward a version of sclerosis in the military procurement system, and the problem with that is that it shouldn’t take a quarter-century to design, develop and deliver a sophisticated military capability like an advanced fighter.
Yet the trend line demonstrably has moved in that direction, and that is in the support an anachronistic system of obsolete capabilities. If you’ve read Augustine’s laws — and Norm and I were classmates at East Denver High School — he made the observation that if you followed the trend line, you would be able to afford one fighter with the entire defense budget by 2050.
This won’t happen because it’s unsustainable. You can’t deliver the relevant capability in a timely fashion. Now, what will happen?
The Congress, the parties and the people will address the military force structure, and the subset of that is the procurement system.
Q. So how do you reform it?
A. To us, that is the Advanced Capability Demonstration Program under which the Predator was finally developed and delivered.
Instead of taking 25 years, it took about six months, and in this case the industrial party, GA, was ready because we invested our own funds long before there was a measure of respectability in the procurement community for General Atomics as a provider of aircraft systems. That’s because we had a good feeling what was worth investing in and were ready for it.
So industry, if it’s going to survive over the longer term and prosper, has to be materially more innovative and rely less upon trying to feed into a big trough of legacy systems procurements.
He didn’t vocalize the word, but I think he was saying “Yes. Yes it is.”