22 June 2009

Defense Acquisition Reform Panel @ HASC

I've been reading through the transcript of some recent testimony to the House Armed Services Committee's Defense Acquisition Reform Panel (3 June 2009).

I suspect the fact that I rose out of my chair and waved my fist in the air once or twice while reading it means a) I'm a hopeless geek and b) I'm in the right job.

A one-page summary that accompanied the 40+ page transcript offered these observations & themes:
Complexity drives the problems
Stability... counts
People make the difference

I'm encouraged by the recognition that complexity is a problem and people are a solution. Not much mention of the need for more rigorously-defined and vigorously-enforced processes. Whew! I particularly appreciated the comments by DARP Chairman Rep Robert Andrews (D-NJ):

Andrews: “There have been many instances where there has been very effective coordination. I think the bulk of the evidence is that that's more a function of the talents and commitment of the individual that are involved, not necessarily the administrative structure within which they are working.

One of the corollary hypotheses to this is maybe it doesn't matter much what the administrative structure is. It's entirely dependent upon the skills and personalities of the people involved and that there are very finite limits as to what we can do with manipulating an administrative structure. That may well be the case.”

Former SECDEF Gordon England: “The more complex the system, the more flexibility you need -- managers need. The trend is always the other way. That is, it gets more complex. We add layers of bureaucracy and regulation and control and that makes it almost impossible to run very complex programs.”

Now, these gentlemen aren't the first to say all this stuff, but I'm always encouraged to see that someone is saying it out loud. The trick is to make the leap from a House committee down to the actual project leaders who are doing the work... and perhaps more importantly, to the senior executives who provide direction to these project leaders.

More to follow tomorrow.

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