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New Survey Shows Defense Acquisitions Process Inefficient, Efforts To Fix Changing

Over half of federal managers describe the defense acquisitions and procurement process as “not at all efficient,” according to a survey released this month by the Government Business Council (GBC), Government Executive’s research division, and Booz Allen Hamilton. Defense managers cite numerous challenges in procuring or acquiring weapon systems, and feel recent efforts to improve the process, including the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 and internal DoD efforts, have been ineffective. In lieu of new budget allocations and reforms, defense managers show strong support for upgrading existing systems and using supplementary acquisition tools, such as rapid prototyping.

The report, “Streamlining the Process: Improving Defense Acquisitions through Rapid Prototyping,” assesses the perceptions, attitudes, and experience of defense employees regarding the use of prototyping to ease the process of defense procurement. The study is supported by extensive secondary and primary research including interviews with leading prototyping experts. Booz Allen and the GBC surveyed defense employees, including a random sample of 474 Government Executive’s subscribers from both the civilian and military staffs of the DoD, encompassing civilian grade levels of GS-11 through SES and equivalent military ranks.

“We’re seeing an increased need for speed within prototyping defense systems and the reason is the world is changing so fast. Not only is it changing rapidly in terms of the kinds of challenges and threats to national security, but also the opportunities as well as the problems posed by new technology," says Booz Allen Hamilton Vice President, Dr. Allan Steinhardt. “So it’s a confluence of changing political and strategic alliances combined with changing technology that means you quickly need to get something out there. If you wait, it may be too late.”

Some key report findings include:

  • Half of managers believe the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 has not improved any major acquisition areas.
  • Fifty-three percent of respondents rated the requirement generation phase of acquisitions as challenging, more so than any other phase of the procurement process.
  • Seventy-one percent of federal managers note schedule/cost estimation as one of their greatest challenges in the process of procurement.
  • Nearly one-third of respondents have employed rapid prototyping to quickly develop new systems, and 93 percent of those have experienced some benefit as a result.

“According to our study, requirement generation is noted as one of the most pressing challenges to defense managers. Prototyping may help alleviate some of the strain by giving defense employees the opportunity to procure systems that are not complete, but allow for iterations until they meet all needs," says Dana Grinshpan, Research Manager at the Government Business Council.

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