Essay about Weapon System Acquisition Programs In the USA

Essay about Weapon System Acquisition Programs In the USA

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With a total cost of over $1 trillion, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) commits a significant amount of funds to its weapon systems acquisition programs (GAO 2012a). The sheer size (96 major programs in Fiscal Year 2012) and cost of weapon systems acquisition contributes to scrutiny of these programs within and outside of the government. In essence, government reports and academic studies are determining the effectiveness of weapon systems within three areas: cost, schedule, and performance. Ideally, weapon systems should meet their budget, schedule estimate, and performance requirements at the time of system delivery. However, given the complex scope of these weapon systems, all three pillars of effectiveness could be deficient.
Despite the differences among programs in total cost, procurement units, and technical objectives, DoD standardizes the weapon systems acquisition process via regularly updated directives (Ferrara 1996). Known as the Defense Acquisition Management System (DAMS), the formal process for the life cycle of a weapon system includes five phases and three milestone decisions (Department of Defense 2008). Given that each weapon system must adhere to the same policies and regulations, regardless of its scope or size, analysis across the entire DoD portfolio is feasible. In fact, research into the effectiveness of DoD weapon systems dates back to the 1950s (Marshall and Meckling 1959).
As part of the DAMS, weapon systems are required to publically release information regarding cost and schedule data via Selected Acquisition Reports and military budget requests. Cost and schedule data are tied to the development and production milestones outlined in DAMS. In contrast, performance data fr...

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...t would measure the fulfillment of the knowledge points. GAO considered the fulfillment of each knowledge point to be analogous to the achievement of maturity for the weapon system. Technology maturity, as measured by Technology Readiness Levels (TRL), should be achieved by the program start to fulfill Knowledge Point #1 (GAO 1999). Design maturity, as measured by the number of releasable design drawings, should be achieved by the critical design review to fulfill Knowledge Point #2 (GAO 2002). Production maturity, as measured by the statistical control of critical manufacturing processes, should be achieved by the production start to fulfill Knowledge Point #3 (GAO 2002). Partly based on GAO recommendations, DoD has embraced the concept of weapon systems maturity within its acquisition guidance (Department of Defense 2008; Defense Acquisition University 2012).

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