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Taming the Tigers: Recapturing the Acquisition Excellence of Our Planning, Programming, and Acquisition Three-Ring Circus

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Journal article

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We in the Air Force have adopted an approach that suboptimizes our Big A acquisition triad of requirements, budget, and acquisition processes and that lacks a sufficient trade space analysis to maximize the benefit of our dollars. Trade space, which combines the terms trade-off and play space, refers to the leader s options and the consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of those choices. The objective of considering the trade space is to expand the envelope of potential options to identify the best alternative. Failures to develop our trade space have diluted the quality and timeliness of decision making by the secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff. Our core problem involves a systemic failure to create trade spaces that integrate the information used in our separate planning, budgeting, and acquisition processes to holistically inform the Air Force s decisions. The inability to successfully integrate these processes creates programmatic instabilities that lead to cost and schedule overruns, reinforces political vulnerabilities which undermine our ability to implement a path forward, and, ultimately, limits our capacity to maximize delivery of war-fighting value. This situation is of particular concern as we face a significant budget crisis and imminent reductions in defense spending. Figure 1 illustrates this point by presenting a notional benefit versus cost chart that defines value as benefit at cost. Our fear is that, for the amount of money we spend on our Air Force, we are not maximizing the benefit. If we continue on our current path, we run the risk of diminishing our capabilities at a time when we face increasingly compelling and diverse security issues that will undoubtedly require a full range of leading-edge air, space, and cyber capabilities. Reversing these effects demands new thinking and a new approach.

Subject Categories:

  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies

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