You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

Buckminster Fuller

Defense acquisitions is a complex environment where programs must navigate a labyrinth of disparate policies, processes, documents, and reviews over a decade or more to deliver capabilities to the warfighters. The acquisition workforce lacks effective processes and tools to navigate the complex and evolving enterprise. As the Pentagon faces a diverse set of threats and a loss of technological superiority against our adversaries at a time when hundreds of billions are being cut from the defense budget, acquisitions is under tremendous pressure to perform. Digital solutions have disrupted many industries enabling new business models to deliver value at a fraction of the time and cost. As a knowledge enterprise, Defense acquisitions can leverage digital strategies and tools to integrate the vast information and knowledge to reduce the complexity and empower the workforce.

Program offices are on the front lines of designing, developing, and producing the next generation of warfighting capabilities and services. These should be vibrant organizations filled with innovative strategies to rapidly integrate the leading technologies via affordable, iterative solutions. Instead most program offices are grinding it out every day, struggling to advance their program through the system, seeking to keep up with the crushing amount of regulations, documentation, and oversight. While some progress has been made recently, defense acquisition remains a massive bureaucracy that hinders speed, agility, and innovation. Our primary goal is to help program offices navigate the acquisition lifecycle more effectively and efficiently. How can we automate the routine and laborious acquisition elements to free up time and energy to focus on cognitive thinking program strategies and execution?

How can programs develop and execute more comprehensive strategies sooner?

Digital technologies have transformed entire industries from finance, healthcare, legal, education, media, manufacturing, transportation, and more. Leading companies employ digital strategies to offer extraordinary new value to customers, often while cutting costs drastically. Doctors are able to treat patients leveraging an expansive knowledge base, electronic health records, and virtual services. Turbo Tax software enables people to accurately file complex tax returns without costly accountants. People get current news more from digital and social media than print newspapers and magazines. Amazon and other ecommerce sites have disrupted brick-and-mortar retailers providing a platform for small businesses to rapidly reach a global marketplace. A company’s workforce can collaborate more effective virtually and leverage the expertise of a professional network far beyond the corporation.

%

of US jobs could be automated in the next two decades.

Oxford University Study

Acquisition information is disorganized and distributed. Defense Acquisition is primarily a knowledge-based enterprise. Hundreds of thousands of acquisition professionals navigate programs through the acquisition lifecycle. There is a wealth of information for each step in the acquisition lifecycle spread across countless policies, guides, reports, articles, memos, research, and more. Yet most of this information is trapped in hundreds of static PDF files hosted on dozens of websites. Acquisition professionals struggle to keep up with all these documents, let alone read, digest, and apply the information.

ACQUIRE integrates and organizes vast amounts of acquisition knowledge in an online platform. Freeing the information from static PDFs to dynamic HTML pages enables hyperlinking knowledge for greater insight and impact. New information can be easily added to the platform generating a network effect for the acquisition enterprise. Integrating collaboration tools into the platform empowers the 300,000+ acquisition workforce to effectively share their knowledge, insights, challenges, and solutions. Organizing the knowledge via a suite of proactively tailored acquisition models empowers acquisition professionals with guidance on what is required for their type of program at their phase in the lifecycle.

One thing the DoD is very good at is creating bureaucracy.
New procurement laws lead to the creation of more bureaucracy.

Frank Kendall

Acquisition Policy & Guidance

DoD Instruction 5000.02 is the premier 150-page, policy that is updated every 3-5 years. Each Service and Agency have lengthy complementary policies providing the next level of detail, Service unique processes and responsibilities, and additive direction. Hundreds of policy memos provide the acquisition workforce with latest direction and requirements. Think about how much time and cost the acquisition workforce spends reading, interpreting, and complying with these policies? How many meetings and reviews debate policy interpretation, applicability, conflicts, gaps, or waivers?

The Defense Acquisition University (DAU) manages a portal of online tools. While there is a wealth of information on these sites, it can often be difficult to find the right information or know that the information exists. Nearly all the content is curated by DAU, AT&L, and selected subject matter experts. These tools lack sufficient integration, design features, and current content.

ACQUIRE seeks to build upon DAU’s suite of tools via a new platform to integrate policies, guides, memos, initiatives, templates, best practices, and lessons learned at the OSD, Service, and PEO levels. ACQUIRE seeks to provide a platform for executives to rapidly convey their latest polices, initiatives, and guidance to the acquisition workforce to faster awareness and broader adoption.

As Wikipedia radically disrupted the encyclopedia industry and fueled the growth collaborative knowledge sharing online, DoD must explore leveraging similar models. While policies must be controlled by the proper authorities, what acquisition knowledge could the 300,000+ acquisition workforce contribute to dynamically? Instead of a model where the Pentagon is the source of all authoritative acquisition knowledge, we must embrace models where SMEs curate the knowledge provided by thousands across the enterprise.

Program Documentation

Acquisition programs are required to develop 10-30 major documents for each major milestone. The intent is to ensure program offices have sound, comprehensive strategies before advancing to the next phase. Program documents are typically developed in Microsoft Word, some with a dated or incomplete template or guide. GAO recently reported acquisition programs spend over 2 years on documents for their next milestone, reviewed by up to 56 different organizations. Only half of the documents are regarded as high value and most program managers felt only 10% of the reviews added high value. Given this is 2015, it is shocking how grossly inefficient and ineffective DoD is in program documentation for billion dollar systems.

There are many commercial tools on the marketplace today to collaboratively develop, coordinate, and review information in program documents. DoD could tailor these tools via templates for each major required document to guide the program offices on expected content. The goal to drive cognitive thinking of PMOs to design a strategy tailored to their priorities, constraints, and objectives. Instead of strict templates and boilerplate material, templates should include key questions to drive PMOs to think through key elements of their strategy and address some major risks common to other programs. Templates should be kept current and reflect the latest statute, policies, guides, and initiatives (e.g. Better Buying Power). Services and Agencies should collaborate with OSD to develop a foundational set of templates, then tailor if needed for their Service/Agency specific requirements/expectations. Many of these templates should also be tailored to the type of acquisition program to reflect the differences between an aircraft, ship, ground vehicle, space, IT, business system, services, etc. If done effectively, they will ensure better strategies sooner.

Over the longer term, decision support software (think Turbo Tax) could be designed to develop program strategies and documentation. Software could be developed to collect required program information. While the software could allow for acquisition documents to be exported, similar to Turbo Tax and tax forms, the key would be to operate fully online. Program office staff could collaboratively contribute to program analysis and strategies and reference the current version via the online database. As these documents are intended to be living documents for use by the program office to manage their program, changes could be easily integrated to reflect the current risks, strategies, and status. Coordination of program strategies by subject matter experts and oversight executives could be done by accessing the online tool vice a static document. Workflow management software enables reviewers to provide comments, track updates, and approve their elements. This approach does NOT seek to automate key acquisition strategy decisions, but rather enable easier capture of program information and guide acquisition professionals to develop comprehensive strategies in compliance with current policies and statutes

“Pessimists are usually right and optimists are usually wrong, but all the great changes have been accomplished by optimists.”

Thomas Friedman