History of Acquisition in the Department of Defense. Vol. 1, Rearming for the Cold War, 1945-1960

By Gentz, Richard | Naval War College Review, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

History of Acquisition in the Department of Defense. Vol. 1, Rearming for the Cold War, 1945-1960


Gentz, Richard, Naval War College Review


Converse, Elliott V. History of Acquisition in the Department of Defense. Vol. 1, Rearming for the Cold War, 1945-1960. Washington, D.C.: Historical Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2012. Available at history.defense.gov/resources/ OSDHO-Acquisition-Series-Vol1.pdf. 784pp.

It is immediately obvious that the effort put into this work was monumental. The foreword by Dr. J. Ronald Fox states that "management of defense acquisition has slowly improved, but not without painful periods of recreating and re-experiencing acquisition management problems of the past.... It is my belief that the painful periods have resulted to a significant degree from the absence of a comprehensive history of defense acquisition or even a formal record of lessons learned."

The initial volume covers the twists and turns of the politics of the post-World War II transition from total war to a situation where a single, powerful adversary possessed the very same weapon that had ended the earlier conflict. The newly conceived Defense Department was required to oversee this problem.

Technology was accelerating across the entire spectrum in the 1950s. The newly constituted U.S. Air Force first fought in the Korean War with the short-legged Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star and ended up with the North American F-86 and the "century series" of operational fighters from the F-100 to the F-106. The Navy started out with the Grumman F8F Bearcat and ended up with the F8U Crusader, which set a record in 1956 at one thousand miles per hour.

The multiple external, real-world steering currents must be placed in historical context. There is no question that during the early 1950s, following the Soviets' demonstration of nuclearweapons capability in August 1949, the U.S. Navy had to fight for a place at the table. This situation was exacerbated when Louis A. Johnson, the second defense secretary (28 March 1949 to 19 September 1950), canceled the construction of the carrier United States in what was for a very short time a period of untimely total-defense-budget reductions. It was to be British and U.S. carriers that provided air support for the ever-shrinking Korean "Pusan Pocket."

The relevance of these comments ties to the Defense Department's acquisition and the troubled development and operational life of the Navy's North American AJ nuclear bomber. World War II ace Jimmy Flatley called this period "the bad old days." It was a time when the naval aviation accident rate peaked for all high-performance aircraft. …

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