Feb 16 2015

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Just words until they actually get it to work

Industry: Risk aversion costs more than ‘fast failure’. The part of this mostly non-space article that caught my eye was this:

Citing the need in recent years to present “zero-risk” proposals for defense acquisitions, they said getting cutting-edge science and technology to operational status takes far longer, and costs far more.

In a speech at the same event, Dr. William LaPlante, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, explained new “Better Buying Power” initiatives to increase innovation while decreasing costs.

“Failing slow is bad,” he said. “Failing fast is OK.”

In an effort to reassure industry, LaPlante said he wants to bring the 17-month average time it takes to award a single-source contract from initial request for proposals “down to single digits.” Part of that will include fewer requirement changes mid-process.

“A lot of money is spent by industry,” he acknowledged. “A lot of frustration on all sides.”

LaPlante said the Air Force is going to take a “page out of the DARPA handbook” and expand the use of challenge-based acquisition for innovative experimentation and rapid prototyping.

One such challenge currently underway is for industry and academia to produce what will “almost certainly be a turbine” engine with high efficiency and a high power-to-weight ratio.

Speaking from personal experience, 17 months from RFP to contract award is an optimistic estimate. We’re seeing delay times of over two years — heck even if you win a contract, you still have months if not years of protests ahead of you before you actually begin work. It’s absolute insanity.

I do applaud the Air Force (and believe me, it pains this old sailor plenty to say it) for at least trying to address the issue by using challenge-based acquisition. You know me, I’m a *huge* proponent of having the government offer prizes and challenges to get the innovations it wants. However, unless the FAR is gutted so that Program Managers, not Contract Officers, are driving the award decisions, (oh, and holding the managers responsible with firings, loss of pensions, and jail time for contract shenanigans — don’t even get me started here) nothing is really going to change.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/02/16/just-words-until-they-actually-get-it-to-work/

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