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Extreme Cost Growth: Themes from Six U.S. Air Force Major Defense Acquisition Programs

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RAND recently analyzed cost growth trends in current U.S. Air Force Major Defense Acquisition Programs MDAPs using Selected Acquisition Report SAR data.1 As a companion to that analysis, this report identifies and characterizes conditions present in six recent Air Force MDAPs that experienced extreme cost growth.2 It is intended to supplement the quantitative analysis of 36 programs from the RAND SAR database reported in the companion document with a deeper detailed case-study examination of six of the most poorly performing programs to add specific program circumstances to provide a richer context for the quantitative analysis. This research was commissioned by the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition Integration, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.3 It is important to note that these programs are not typical or representative Air Force programs. Rather, they are the worst of the worst in terms of high cost growth and schedule slippage. Since these types of programs cause the most budgetary and programmatic disruption to the entire Air Force portfolio of development programs, we felt it should be our highest priority to assist the Air Force in avoiding these types of extreme outcomes in the future. And they are not complete outliers. As our companion document shows, the typical recent Air Force MDAP experiences substantial cost growth. It is therefore important to identify the characteristics and conditions of the worst of the worst-performing acquisition programs in terms of cost growth. We believe this in-depth qualitative case study analysis, read in conjunction with the quantitative analysis of 36 programs provided in the companion document, assists in providing a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of current MDAP acquisition trends.

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  • Economics and Cost Analysis

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