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Restructuring the Weapon Acquisition System

Solutions for restructuring weapons acquisition should begin at the top, with the Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR. The QDR should include a thorough review of the Pentagon investment program to ensure that budget decisions are aligned with the current military needs and priorities.

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A blue-ribbon group of former Pentagon acquisition officials concluded in late 2007 that the military contracting process was plagued with systematic problems and failures. The investigators found that acquisition and contracting procedures were inadequate to support U.S. military forward deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the blue-ribbon group concluded, “the most notable characteristic of the testimony is a nearly unanimous perception of the current problems, their gravity, and the urgent need for reform.” This panel of experts report is the starting point for examining acquisition and contracting needs.

Solutions should begin at the top, with the Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR. The QDR should include a thorough review of the Pentagon investment program to ensure that budget decisions are aligned with the current military needs and priorities.

The review should include all weapons programs, joint combat and network systems, intelligence and information assurance, a full examination of space programs, and missile defense research and development. The procurement and research and development component of last year’s defense budget was $183.8 billion, more than one-third of the defense baseline. Appropriately, this QDR portion will be particularly important because significant budget realignment and redirection is likely.

Related to this area, the QDR must also examine the availability of critical technical personnel, especially government executives who serve as program managers for these Pentagon programs. The government needs highly skilled people who understand the technology, and can make high-tech trade-offs to get taxpayers good return for their investment and the right equipment to our troops.

The American defense workforce— public and private— is a critical national security asset. The preservation of these advanced technology skills in the engineering, manufacturing, and system integration areas is a national priority. The Pentagon and private sector must work together to preserve and regenerate these critical skills for the future.

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