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Intersection of the Requirements and Acquisition Processes

Intersection of the Requirements and Acquisition Processes

Bill Kobren

If you hadn’t seen it already, encourage you to check out a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report entitled “GAO-15-469 Defense Acquisition Process: Military Service Chiefs' Concerns Reflect Need to Better Define Requirements before Programs Start”, dated June 11, 2015.

According to the GAO, “most current and former military service chiefs and vice chiefs GAO interviewed from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps collectively expressed dissatisfaction with acquisition program outcomes and believed that the Department of Defense's (DOD) requirements development and acquisition processes need to be better integrated. The service chiefs are largely responsible for developing the services' requirements for weapon systems, while the service acquisition executives are responsible for overseeing programs to plan and develop systems. Most service chiefs told GAO they were concerned that after weapon system requirements are handed to the acquisition process, requirements are changed or added by the acquisition community (sometimes referred to as “creep”), increasing the capabilities and cost of the system. Some service chiefs stated that they are not always involved in the acquisition process and are frequently caught by surprise when cost, schedule, and performance problems emerge in programs. Current and former chiefs agreed that the chiefs should be more involved in programs, but their views varied on how best to achieve this.”


The report goes on to state “GAO analyzed requirements for all 78 major defense acquisition programs and found that creep—or growth—in the high-level requirements is rare. Instead, it is after a program has formally started development that the myriad lower-level, technical requirements needed to complete a weapon system's design are defined. It is the definition of these requirements—most of which occurs after the service chiefs' primary involvement—that leads to the realization that much more time and resources are needed to build the weapon system. The process of systems engineering translates high-level requirements, such as range, into specifics, like fuel tank size. GAO has previously reported on the importance of conducting systems engineering early so that the consequences of high-level requirements can be confronted before a program starts. When GAO presented its analysis of the problem to the service chiefs, they generally agreed with it. Several noted that trade-offs informed by systems engineering must take place before programs start so that requirements are better defined and more realistic cost, schedule, and performance commitments can be made.”


The GAO went on to recommend “that DOD ensure sufficient systems engineering is conducted to better define requirements and assess resource trade-offs before a program starts. DOD concurred with the recommendations, citing recent policy changes. GAO believes more focus is needed on implementing actions.”