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Shake Up AF Acquisition

If you wanted to put words in Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula's mouth, that headline would work.  Sitting down with reporters today for his last official press conference as an Air Force officer at the Pentagon, Deptula was not quite that direct but the message was unmistakable.

The current Air Force acquisition system was born of the industrial age of warfare, not the current age, he said, noting carefully that his views on acquisition were "personal.” Instead of relying on that system, Deptula pointed to the Liberty program and the Big Safari office as examples the service "should adopt as the norm rather than the exception." Big Safari is an independent office that has helped develop Air Force RPVs since the early 1960s.

During a recent meeting with his staff during a meeting to discuss Remotely Piloted Vehicle capabilities, Deptula asked them when a program might make it to Initial Operational Capability if they started work on right away, they told him it would take until 2020, not exactly the sort of quick solution that the Pentagon has increasingly sought since the departure of Donald Rumsfeld.

Deptula pointed to one of the most complex and disliked parts of the acquisition process -- the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System (JCIDS) -- and gently ridiculed it, noting that "Al Qaeda doesn't have a JCIDS process."

Many service officials, acquisition experts, industry mavens and independent observers would say "Amen" to that.

In addition to his comments on how best to buy the best gear, Deptula addressed a range of hot button Air Force issues. As the first Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, he said RPVs (as the Air Force insists on calling UAVs) are "not a panacea" for air warfare. The Air Force will still need people in cockpits to exercise judgment and to make decisions. The next generation bomber (or whatever we're calling it this week) will definitely have pilots, for example, since Deptula said he "could not imagine" sending nuclear weapons aboard an autonomous RPV

Finally, Deptula said he did not think the WikiLeaks documents on Afghanistan would have any chilling effect on intelligence sharing with allies or moving intelligence down to the front ranks of troops on the ground.

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