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Guest Vern Edwards

I posted this legislation on Sunday and I found it interesting that he griped before the House Armed Services Committee which then gave him:  H.R.4741 - Acquisition Agility Act.  That bill is an example of future sections "to improve and perfect" the acquisition process in the next version of the NDAA.  Of course, there was "improvement and perfection" in the long list of prior NDAAs with more "improvement and perfection" to come. 

That is the product of Congress:  "endless improvement and perfection."  At least in the collective mind of Congress.

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The General does not know how good he has it. At least he has weapons available for use.  Cannot say the same for some of the US Allies.  For example, the General should be thankful that he is not in the German Army.  "Recently a German battalion assigned to NATO's rapid response force used broomstick handles instead of guns on a joint exercise due to chronic equipment shortages" -

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/11420627/German-army-used-broomsticks-instead-of-guns-during-training.html

 

 

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Guest Vern Edwards

policyguy:

Well, I suppose a U.S. Army general officer is grateful that he's not in the German army, or the British Army, or the French army. But it sounds to me like a client is unhappy with the service he is getting from acquisition professionals. Are you saying that he should be satisfied with the system that we have because it doesn't perform as badly as someone else's badly performing system? Is that how acquisition policy people think?

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Guest Jason Lent
1 hour ago, JMG said:

$365 M, for what appears to be a commercial item, and two years of testing? Terrible. 

Did you head down to Ruminant Procurement to see how they were coming along on the sheep specs?

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When I hear pistol procurement, I think of this:

http://www.gao.gov/assets/500/492927.pdf

I can purchase a pistol within 2 miles from my house. 

However, I don't need to use it in extreme temperatures, I don't need it to fit a wide variety of hands, I don't need to train thousands of different people on how to use it,  and I don't need to incorporate it into a complex logistical system for ammo/spare parts.  The General is making a decision that the advantage of purchasing Glocks off the shelf outweighs these considerations (and many more I cannot think of).

I think the root of his objection is the one-size-fits-all mentality which leads to the large spec-book and consequential customization and marathon testing.  Does the military need to standardize to the degree it does?  Is the perfect pistol for the Middle East the same as the perfect pistol for South America?

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5 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

policyguy:

Well, I suppose a U.S. Army general officer is grateful that he's not in the German army, or the British Army, or the French army. But it sounds to me like a client is unhappy with the service he is getting from acquisition professionals. Are you saying that he should be satisfied with the system that we have because it doesn't perform as badly as someone else's badly performing system? Is that how acquisition policy people think?

He is a major player in the "system", he should know better.  He is the Army Chief of Staff and did not come to that office without having some experience with the DOD/DA acquisition system.  You have previously written yourself that  "..contracting with the U.S. government is the most complex business in the world. It’s right up there with trading derivatives."  

If he has a problem he has courses of action to pursue such as he can submit to Congress a legislative proposal to make changes to the acquisition system to his liking and then press the FAR System and the Army to implement them in the Army supplemental regulations; he can submit to Congress a request for an supplemental appropriation for Glock pistols of his liking, he can do, as one of the articles mention above, seek to add the requirement for Glock pistols to an existing contract, etc.   

As you have previously written "by the spirit of John Galt (Ayn Rand’s fictional hero in Atlas Shrugged) If you can’t play with the big boys you should have stayed off the field...".

I'm sorry but I don't have much sympathy for this General.  He reminds me of the General  in a book and movie that HBO made from it called "The Pentagon Wars" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pentagon_Wars). 

Perhaps that is not how policy people should think but I try to do the best I can with the acquisition system that we are given. 

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Guest Vern Edwards

policyguy:

Screw sympathy. Who cares whether you sympathize with the general? He hasn't asked for sympathy. He's complaining, which is every soldier's right. He sees a problem and he wants it fixed.

The system he is complaining about was constructed mainly by DOD, not by the Army. Moreover, he is a new chief of staff and to my knowledge has not previously had acquisition authority or responsibility and wasn't responsible for the requirement. (I could be wrong about that, but he was just appointed Chief of Staff.) In any case, he is happy that acquisition management authority has been returned to the services by Congress. Now we'll see what the Army will do with it.

The truly interesting question is not whether the general deserves sympathy, but whether his complaint is valid. I've looked at the RFP: 351 pages, not counting attachments. We could discuss why the requirement is not for a commercial item, and what is the justification for imposing design and performance requirements that are not commercially available. The general seems to be asking that.

So, now that you've vented, what do you think? As an acquisition professional, what would you say to the general? Would you defend the current system or would you say, "I'll fix the problem if you'll give me authority, a free hand, and the go-ahead"? If he gave you the authority, a free hand, and the go-ahead, what would you do?

 

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It seems that we aren't even doing the best we can with the acquisition system that we've been given.  After reading about this requirement a couple of weeks ago I could not reconcile the approach the Government is taking with what I've read in the FAR, particularly the following:

FAR 1.102 (b) "The Federal Acquisition System will -- (1) Satisfy the customer in terms of cost, quality, and timeliness of the delivered product or service by, for example -- (i) Maximizing the use of commercial products and services..."

FAR 7.102 (a) "Agencies shall perform acquisition planning and conduct market research for all acquisitions in order to promote and provide for -- (1) Acquisition of commercial items or, to the extent that commercial items suitable to meet the agency's needs are not available, nondevelopmental items, to the maximum extent practicable (10 U.S.C. 2377 and 41 U.S.C. 3307)"

FAR 12.101 "Agencies shall -- (a) Conduct market research to determine whether commercial items or nondevelopment items are available that could meet the agency's requirements; (b) Acquire commercial items or nondevelopmental items when they are available to meet the needs of the agency..."

I've read case studies of past procurements where the Government found itself in a poor position by stretching the definition of "commercial item" to use FAR Part 12 procedures (http://www.dodig.mil/audit/reports/FY06/06-115.pdf).  Here the Government appears to be doing the opposite.

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I think the general is qualified to be the source selection authority -- so he is qualified to select the evaluation criteria and the members of the evaluation team and make the best value selection decision.  And he could hold both program management and contracting authority as a PEO does.  If I was his contracting officer and he gave me authority, I could make him happy and have the contract awarded quickly and fairly.  The acquisition system should be serving him (see Matthew's post above and FAR 1.102( b )).

 

The Air Force is doing its B-21 bomber acquisition in its Rapid Capabilities Office reporting directly to the Secretary instead of using the normal organization Air Force Materiel Command.  Good for the Air Force -- if AFMC cannot deliver, let someone else do it.  

 

http://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/news/local-military/new-bomber-built-in-secrecy-outside-of-wpafb/npSrW/

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Guest Vern Edwards

If you read many of the dozens of articles about this matter, the real laugher is all the GIs talking about wanting "stopping power." I can understand wanting a pistol that will knock a big man down like in the movies, but it's mostly hooey. A .22 can stop a man if you hit him in the right place under the right circumstances. But that's the rub, isn't it. For most soldiers the handgun works like a pacifier. You'll never do anything with it, but you feel better having it than not. Buy a good commercial one. Of course, the Army wants it to work under salt water and wants waterproof cartridges. Seriously.

Read this; http://www.policemag.com/channel/weapons/articles/2013/01/stopping-power-myths-legends-and-realities.aspx

Be sure to read the comments.

WARNING: Graphic photo on first page.

(Now EVERYONE will read it.)

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Is the requirement really for it to work under salt water and use waterproof cartridges? You may be joking but your point is valid. The procurement process gets a bad reputation for taking too long, but if you peel back the onion a lot of times it comes down to ridiculous specifications pushing the edges of technology, perhaps the new weapon calls for it to use a smart cartridge that will go around corner's, too. So the General should look first at the requirement writers before blasting the entire procurement process.   A little off topic, but my father a WWII vet, tells the story of preparing to ship out without a revolver, his squadron commander bought every one of his troops a revolver with his own money before they deployed. None of his men were going without a side arm.  That 38 is still in the family today, and is pretty darn accurate. Where are those leaders today??   

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If I worked for that General I’d be drafting a sole source justification.  I’m pretty sure he’d sign off.

 

The difference in stopping power is marketing nonsense.  To put it in acquisition terms, accuracy and quantity when combined are significantly more important than caliber (within certain parameters).  The 9mm has less recoil than a larger caliber weapon meaning follow-on shots are easier to put on target when firing in rapid succession.  And, comparably sized and weighted, the magazine for a 9 holds a greater quantity of rounds than the magazine of any larger caliber.

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As at least one other has poster noted, this isn't 100% about picking a handgun. It's about ammunition and holsters and webgear, and training and maintenance, and likely several other things I'm too unqualified to list. If it were only about a firearm, we could set up a website and pre-select which of several choices were available to a soldier, based on MOS and assignment, and some other factors. Each choice would have a negotiated price. The soldier could log onto the website from an authorized terminal (or via phone with appropriate authorization/authentication) and choose which firearm they personally preferred to carry. It could be drop-shipped from the supplier to the soldier's local armory and an invoice would be automatically generated. Easy peasy. Just like Amazon or a host of other sites. Heck, you could even set up options, such as ivory handles (not pearl) or special sights, and those would be billed directly to the soldier's personal credit card.

But because it's also about those other things, it can't work that way. A general ought to understand that.

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Guest Vern Edwards

Full and open competition is not the problem. Requirements and source selection procedure are the problem.

Most soldiers who are issued a pistol will never use it in action, and if they use it they won't hit anything with it.

Maintenance? Keep your ammo clean. Clean the piece after use, otherwise, once a week. According to the general, they'll cost about $500 each. 86 it if it breaks.

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I don't know all the testing that is being contemplated, but it sounds like somebody may have pulled out an old after action report on the fielding of the M-16 and is not wanting to repeat those problems.  Maybe an issue of applying lessons learned to the wrong problem.

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You want a new pistol? Send me to Cabelas with $17M.

~CoS

Here are some of my favorite statements the General had made concerning acquisition:

“You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”

"It’s not a lack of oversight. We’re not asking for free rein, let’s go party, I’m saying: Let me — and then hold me accountable — figure out what type of pistol we need, and let me go buy it and not go through nine years of scrutiny.”

He blamed layers upon layers of processes, where centralized and bureaucratic lawyer-guided solutions to accountability problems have gummed up the system. Milley said the best fix is to “empower and decentralize” while maintaining accountability.

“I think I should be able to look at someone and say here’s your task, here’s why you’re doing it, here’s the purpose. Here’s the end-state I want you to achieve by such-and-such a time. Go forth and have at it. If you succeed, you’re promoted, and I give you a medal. If you fail, you get fired. And you hold people accountable,”.

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