24 May 2010

Brownies, military-style

A buddy recently forwarded me the 26-page recipe for military brownies. Yikes!

To be fair, these are MRE-style brownies, so they need to be able to sit on a shelf for a thousand years and still be moist and delicious. And many of the pages refer to the packaging. But still, it does seem excessive, doesn't it?

Now, I'm no brownie expert. It's entirely possible the 26-page spec is exactly the simplest, shortest and most concise recipe possible, given the rigorous operational demands we place on these combat brownies. We certainly don't want a situation where a dude in combat opens his MRE brownie and discovers it's inedible, moldy, etc. Eating MRE's sucks enough in the first place, and no doubt brownies are the highlight of the meal.

But when the AF built the F-16 Falcon, the Request For Proposal was 25 pages long. Proposals were limited to 50 pages. Should the explanation of how to make and package a brownie really be longer than a statement of need (and more than half as long as the proposals) for an advanced fighter jet?

I bet we could do better than that.


Glen B. Alleman said...

Just a bit of fact checking. According to "The Lightweight Fighter Program," David C. Aronstein, Albert C. Piccirillo, AIAA Press, the RFP had either 20 pages or 50 pages, there are differing sources.

But the important fact is the initial LWF procurement did not require full milspec compliance, only satisfaction of the overall intent of the relevant specifications. (Page 11). This allowed the contractor (GD) to build an aircraft to their internal documentation standard, without replicating the unneeded government documents.

The choices made for the F-16, the brownies, the NASA programs and Aramy programs we work are highly dependent in the style of the PEO, the mood of OSD, and of course the capabilities of the contract to "keep the program sold."

It is true we've gone way overboard on the procurement processes - sometimes for good reasons. But reform is certainty needed.

The Dan Ward said...

Thanks for the checking! My sources were Col Burton's book "Pentagon Wars" which was confirmed by a couple guys I met at Wright-Patterson AFB who worked on the project back then.

But whether the RFP was 20, 25 or 50 pages, spending 26 on detailed brownie design does seem a bit excessive, no?

Glen B. Alleman said...

Yes, way over the top. Maybe they should have just bought the brownies from Sara Lee and saved lots of effort.