Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009

A good friend of mine pointed me to this news item just now hitting the News circuits. Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee and senior Republican panel member John McCain of Arizona introduced bipartisan legislation, called the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, which would make it easier to kill weapons programs that spawn runaway development costs, while taking steps to improve competition in the heavily consolidated industry. If you read the Government Executive article you’ll find this great quote from Levin, "The key to successful acquisition programs is getting things right from the start with sound systems engineering, cost-estimating and developmental testing early in the program cycle." Can I get all my engineering friends to shout a hardy AMEN! But it gets better. The article also explains the “The Levin-McCain bill also would require Defense to:
  • Re-establish systems engineering organizations and developmental testing capabilities.
  • Introduce trade-offs between cost, schedule and performance early in the program cycle.
  • Use prototypes more often, including competitive prototypes, to prove that new technologies work before attempting to produce them.”
Just as I pointed out in my blog post “SE to the rescue?” it will fall on the Systems Engineers to see this through. Are we up to the challenge?

By the way, it really is strange that this legislation is coming out just a few months after DoD revamped their Defense Acquisition Management System with a major update to DoD Instruction 5000.02, Operation of the Defense Acquisition System, dated December 2, 2008. It grew from 37 to 80 pages – that’s about 116%. It incorporates new policies that originated from a very active Congress from 2004 thru 2008, including six National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) for FY’s 2004 through 2009. The update includes a new emphasis on:
  • Technology Development: This phase now includes a mandatory requirement for competitive prototyping of the system or key-system elements.
  • Integrated System Design. This effort is intended to define system and system-of-systems functionality and interfaces, complete hardware and software detailed design, and reduce system-level risk. Integrated System Design includes the establishment of the product baseline for all configuration items.
  • System Capability and Manufacturing Process Demonstration. This effort is intended to demonstrate the ability of the system to operate in a useful way consistent with the approved KPPs and that system production can be supported by demonstrated manufacturing processes.
All of this points to DoD’s desire to put a greater emphasis on doing Systems Engineering upfront and early. They even include an Enclosure 12 -- Systems Engineering -- which proclaims:

SYSTEMS ENGINEERING ACROSS THE ACQUISITION LIFE CYCLE. Rigorous systems engineering discipline is necessary to ensure that the Department of Defense meets the challenge of developing and maintaining needed warfighting capability. Systems engineering provides the integrating technical processes to define and balance system performance, cost, schedule, and risk within a family-of-systems and systems-of-systems context. Systems engineering shall be embedded in program planning and be designed to support the entire acquisition life cycle.

Don't these senators or staff read this stuff? Isn’t the Levin-McCain bill just preaching to the choir? Just wondering.