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Missile Defense Acquisition: Failure Is Not An Option

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Technical Report

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Air War College Maxwell Air Force Base

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North Korea stunned the world in 1998 with the launch of a Taepo Dong-1 ballistic missile over Japan into the sea.1 With the nation already possessing weapons of mass destruction WMD, the test launch signaled their intention to develop an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile ICBM capable of reaching the Continental United States.2 In 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld made the decision to exempt MDA from the standard acquisition framework defined in the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System JCIDS oversight process and DOD 5000.02 Acquisition Instruction.3 In light of the exemption, critics view MDA as possessing limited accountability, transparency, and incomplete engineering. However, the agencys exemption from the standard acquisition framework enables the rapid delivery of critical BMDS capabilities, increased acquisition process agility, and improved engineering rigor over time. With the MDA Director serving as the Milestone Decision Authority and Senior Procurement Executive, the agencys acquisition process is tailorable, flexible, and more responsive than the typical DOD acquisition process. MDAs internal functional managers provide expert assistance and timely reviews to sustain momentum in the acquisition process. With the introduction of MDAs Acquisition Management Instruction, the agency created a more efficient acquisition environment by removing unnecessary reviews, documentation, and reporting requirements as characterized in typical DOD acquisition programs. Simultaneous BMDS development and operations provides opportunities for early learning, essentially establishing a self-correcting acquisition approach with emphasis shifting from research and development to performance and manufacturing quality. This paper recommends continuing BMDS deregulation as it preserves MDAs agility and flexibility in rapidly equipping the Warfighter with improved BMDS capabilities.

Subject Categories:

  • Defense Systems

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