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The Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986: 30 Years of Acquisition Reform

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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Thirty years after the implementation of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, congressional andmilitary leaders are calling for a revision of the act that will posture the Department of Defense DOD to meet uncertain and increasingly challenging threats. This project researched the environment leadingup to Goldwater-Nichols, the impacts of implementing the act, and the acquisition reform efforts over the past 30 years in order to understand the current calls for acquisition reform, and the potential impacts of proposed legislation. Many consider Goldwater-Nichols to be the most significant contribution to defense acquisition reform in modern history. Goldwater-Nichols attempted to target big A acquisition by considering all three components of the systemPlanning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution PPBE, Defense Acquisition System DAS, and requirements generation. However, research shows the Packard Commission was significantly more influential in affecting long-term improvement efforts. In 1985, the Packard Commission made nine categorical recommendations to improve defense acquisition. These recommendations, if fully applied by Goldwater-Nichols, would have generated a legitimately revolutionary reform to big A acquisition. Instead, 30 years of legislative acts and DOD policies have incrementally addressed the recommendations. Legislators and senior DOD leaders are again seeking revolutionary acquisition reform, calling for a Goldwater-Nichols II with significant restructuring and realignment of priorities. Research indicates that in order to conduct a legitimate overhaul, DOD and Congress must target all three components of big A acquisition in a holistic and integrated effort.

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies

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