Given current and even more severe future budget constraints, the nation will have to respond to a growing range of security missions with declining resources, as well as shed outworn, Cold War-era defense acquisition practices to meet these emerging challenges.
The new threats are all too familiar: worldwide and regional instabilities; domestic and foreign terrorism; violent religious extremism; rogue nuclear states; struggles for scarce resources (such as energy and water); pandemics; cyber attacks against civilian and military targets; piracy at sea; and on up to nuclear Armageddon.
We must have an extremely flexible and responsive governmental and industrial capability in order to handle these missions in an affordable fashion — a capability we currently lack.
We can begin by enhancing cooperation. First, at the national level, we should create incentives for multiagency activities — combining “soft power” (of State, AID, etc.) with the “hard power” of the Defense Department. Then, since none of the future security problems can be solved by a single nation acting alone, we must shift to multinational solutions.
The most obvious — and most challenging — international collaboration would be with China. We must make every effort to work with them as a partner, not as a future adversary. Together, the two leading economic and (in their case, future) military powers in the world must work together to address these global issues.
Finally, the U.S. government must change the way it does business. We can’t hope to get increased national security capability at a reduced cost without reforming the full acquisition process for military goods and services (i.e. what we buy, how we buy, who does the buying, and from whom we buy).
What to Buy (“Requirements Process”): We must shift to buying equipment for 21st-century needs, while simultaneously making “unit cost” a part of the military requirements process. Remarkably, this is not currently a requirement; thus, limiting the number of individual items the military can purchase.
Also, as the military moves toward “net-centric warfare” — relying on integrated systems-of-systems — we must optimize the system, not each node (weapon platform) within the system and recognize that key elements of this net-centric “system” will be lower cost, unmanned platforms.
Finally, we must recognize the role of contractors in the warzone — they are necessary and currently represent more than 50 percent of the deployed “total force.”
How We Buy: The most glaring shortcoming here is that we buy more services than goods. (Last year, services represented 57 percent of total acquisition dollars.) Yet, the government’s policies are based solely on the purchase of goods! Also, the benefits of buying off-the-shelf commercial goods are widely acknowledged, yet we have legislative and regulatory barriers to doing so. Furthermore, where speed is critical for operational needs, our system is burdened with inflexible, time-consuming processes.
Who Does the Buying: The acquisition workforce has been grossly undervalued and cut in both seniority and numbers. So, without “smart buyers” provided with flexibility, authority and experience, there is no way we can meet the demands of the rapidly changing environment.
Producers: President Dwight Eisenhower, after warning of the “military-industrial complex,” stated we could not have won the war without them. Yet, in 2008 the Defense Science Board stated “we currently have a consolidated 20th-Century Defense Industrial base; not the required, transformed 21st-Century Industrial base.” To get state-of-the-art equipment quicker at lower cost and higher quality, we must be able to draw on both a competitive defense industry and on commercial and global markets. We will have to remove current policies that block access to these additional markets.
The growing economic, geopolitical and national security challenges we face require deep changes in the way we arm and defend ourselves. Former DoD Secretary Robert Gates has started this effort. Now, it is up to Secretary Leon Panetta to continue it.
— Jacques S. Gansler, Ph.D.