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"Cheap, Ugly" = Good

The Army's Future Combat Systems overhaul is FUBAR, we all know. But it's just the latest in a long line of big-ticket Pentagon programs to burn cash and squander expectations.fcs_t_300.jpgSo it there any way for the Defense Department to buy next-gen gear without picking taxpayers' pockets and leaving soldiers ass-out? Pentagon insider Dave has a few new rules on his blog, Garfield Ridge.

-- It has to be cheap...-- Only one, maybe two, leap-ahead technologies allowed per program. The rest of the program has to rely on stuff we've already done before...-- Congress must not care about it. If it hates it, it will cut it and ruin program stability, particularly in the early years where it's needed most. If it loves it, it'll add unneeded money and unrealistic demands on the program. The best programs are always the ones that Congress keeps their noses out of.-- The program must be small enough to fail.
That last one is probably the most important one of all.Most of the Pentagon's acquisition trouble in recent years has occurred on programs that are quite simply too big to fail. Either the requirement is one that can't be ignored, thus forcing the development program into a fixed schedule -- never a good idea to do this stuff on a deadline -- or the program reaches a point where so much money has been spent on it that in the event of failure no one wants to cut their losses and try something new. The moment the contractor smells fear on the part of the Pentagon, once it knows no one in the Building has the guts to cancel the program as it goes south, that's when the Pentagon takes it in the wazoo from industry, often willingly.FCS, for all its necessary wisdom -- after all, it makes no sense to modernize the Army one little piece at a time -- FCS is precisely one of the complex systems that the Pentagon can't seem to run right anymore, if it ever could.Welcome to the ugly. And read the whole thing.
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