Magazine article National Defense

To Meet War Equipment Needs, Commanders Continue to Bypass Pentagon Acquisition System

Magazine article National Defense

To Meet War Equipment Needs, Commanders Continue to Bypass Pentagon Acquisition System

Article excerpt

* They are perennial requests that the Pentagon receives every year from military commanders deployed around the world: More intelligence-gathering systems, and better information technology so U.S. forces can communicate with allies.

The wish lists are supposed to influence the military services' buying decisions, but often do not. The defense procurement bureaucracy is too inflexible, and even when commanders' requests do make it into the services' budgets, it takes years for the system to deliver equipment.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates frequently says that the U.S. military has been at war for almost a decade, but the procurement bureaucracy never followed. "Particularly since 2001, in the Department of Defense, people have acquired some bad habits. They probably had them before 2001, but I think they've gotten worse," Gates tells reporters in response to questions about how to reform defense programs.

For combatant commanders, this means they typically pursue nontraditional means for getting the equipment they need.

Navy Adm. James Stavridis, supreme allied commander of NATO and head of the U.S. European Command, last year appointed a special assistant for innovation and technology precisely to help find equipment needed for the war in Afghanistan.

Stavridis is seeking "rapid implementation of innovative technology," says Navy Capt. Jay Chestnut, who is currently the special assistant in charge of this project.

"Adm. Stavridis instinctively knows that "big acquisition' is trying to do the right thing but sometimes you need someone working on the side, looking innovatively," he says in an interview.

Commanders at war can't afford to wait for the Pentagon's acquisition system to produce hardware. "Our system is very risk averse," says Chestnut. "We work on a 12-month horizon."

EUCOM looks for new ideas everywhere, he says. …

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