The problem is that no one wants to work with an acquisition system that’s so complex and so bureaucratic that only those like “the usual suspects” who’ve been enmeshed in it for years, ever really understand it. It can take a decade or more to get a large weapons program through the procurement cycle. Meanwhile, the technology is changing every two or three years: in the case of software, every six months. By buying software the same way it buys nuclear submarines, the Pentagon is simply sabotaging itself, especially in high-tech arenas like unmanned systems, robotics, and cyber-capabilities where the real future of military technology lies.
If you can’t actually reform the process — and God knows everyone except God has tried — it seems to me at least we need an alternate acquisition pathway that applies to those specific steep innovation-curve technologies. That’s something some of us are working on.
[T]he real key to that massive surge of wartime production — 70% of everything the Allies made during World War II — was unleashing the productive power of American private business and industry, which had just been waiting for a spark to get itself going. That spark was the initial funding for plant expansion and conversion in certain key industries like the aviation and automotive sector, that started in the summer of 1940 — most in the form of loans — and then orders from the British and French military, who went on a shopping trip around the United States in the early months of the war in Europe — a shopping trip that eventually grew into Lend Lease.
They wanted to buy American because they knew, even though we had a tiny military by comparison with their own (Holland had a bigger army in 1939 than we did), that American companies like Lockheed and North American and Chrysler and US Steel could make what they needed more quickly and efficiently, and in tremendous quantities. So they came to buy planes, tanks, machine guns, aircraft engines, and artillery, as well as the first Liberty ships, made in shipyards that had to be built in record time by men like Henry Kaiser–one of the main characters of the book.
So when Washington decided it needed to start rearm the United States that summer of 1940, it simply tapped into the same fountain of productivity and innovation–multiplied over time by thousands of companies large and small around the country. Even before Pearl Harbor there were no less than 25,000 prime and 120,000 subcontractors at work in wartime production.”
Arthur Herman, author of Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II. My granddad built Liberty ships in Baltimore. (via Time)