Magazine article National Defense

Blue Ribbon Panel Helps Create Modern Testing and Evaluation

Magazine article National Defense

Blue Ribbon Panel Helps Create Modern Testing and Evaluation

Article excerpt

A chronicle of Defense Department's Operational Test and Evaluation dates back less than three decades, but, as Dr. Lawrence G. Starkey, defense analyst for the Institute of Defense Analyses, Alexandria, Virginia, said "In the military time scale, that's ancient history."

Starkey shared his account in a tutorial conducted as part of NDIA's 14th annual Operational Test and Evaluation (OT & E) Conference in San Diego, California.

Three decades earlier, Starkey was selected to head the OT &E research staff for President Nixon's Blue Ribbon Defense Panel.

Nixon created the panel in response to the disastrous Tet offense and the growing dissatisfaction in the United States with the Vietnam War. It was a civilian panel and, said Starkey, made up of a "cross section of America." The panel made test and evaluation a priority.

"There was a military testing and evaluation before the panel," said Starkey, "in fact, I was involved in it for 15 years, but OTE was in a sorry state in 1969."

One reason test and evaluation was of such concern to the panel was "the sad case of the M16 rifle," said Starkey." [The rifle] was introduced in Vietnam, and its malfunctioning was responsible for many U.S. casualties. Congress received numerous complaints. Studies proved there were some very serious problems with the rifle. There had been inadequate, unrealistic OT&E before putting the weapon in the hands of the troops. It had been a tragic mistake."

Starkey named other reasons why OT&E was of such prominent interest to the panel: There was a small OT&E organization in the Pentagon, but is seen as ineffective. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had little involvement and "even less desire to be involved."

Starkey and his staff interviewed more than 80 military and civilian "experts" in OT&E. "We found that few of these experts were still involved in testing, because it was perceived that OT&E was not the way to get ahead," said Starkey. …

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