Last year I had the pleasure of attending NTSA’s 2012 Modeling and Simulation Multi-Con at the Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center in Suffolk, Virginia. As I listened to one of the keynote speakers (from OSD) discuss the challenges and potential solution sets facing DoD in the coming years, I thought, “sounds easy enough, let’s get crackin’”. Cloud computing, rapid technology transfer – I have been reading about this stuff for the past few years. It can’t be that difficult. Technically, I am probably right. Culturally, I couldn’t be more wrong.
The DoD’s PPBE (Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution) process is a behemoth that takes years to understand and often half a decade to execute. At its core, it does have the benefit of oversight, checks and balances, and financial accountability. Yet it also lacks agility and timeliness. And in an age where technology changes at an unprecedented pace, the PPBE process has become an “elephant in the room”. In a fiscally-constrained and technologically-driven environment, DoD must adapt to a rapid and agile acquisition cycle, or be left in the dust. Again, sounds easy.
(This is the point in the conference when my face contorted and my eye began to twitch.) DoD was soliciting industry’s help to identify strategies and methodologies that could help validate that the transition could be done intelligently and with low-risk. What I thought I would hear the folks in the room say was, “you bet, let us put the screws to it and we’ll make this happen”. What I actually heard was, “It’s too hard. Accreditation (referencing Cloud) would be a nightmare. We don’t have the resources to make that happen.” I nearly fell out of my chair. Upon reflection, I realized that what I was observing was that some of these participants had been in Shawshank too long. Who can blame them? It’s been the reality for several decades. Let me be clear. I am not criticizing the inmates. Nor am I thrusting criticism at the institution. In the world of DoD acquisition, you either conform to the rules or you don’t get to play.
So what to do about it? Prepare. We (industry) must develop strategies that will allow us to continue to participate in the PPBE cycle and additionally be poised to “help” DoD transition to rapid acquisition methodologies when and if it happens. I would submit that if we show them that it CAN be done, they will be more likely to force the change. It will undoubtedly require the dedication of resources and that SHOULD be okay. My guess is that “if it happens” there will be some folks who just simply won’t want to leave the institution. We at ProModel intend to be on the bus when it pulls away from the building.
(Postscript. It’s a little ironic that I spent some time in my last Blog entry extolling the adoption of LEAN, CPI, Six Sigma, etc. in the Department of Defense. I wonder how much effort has been dedicated to applying the same principles to the PPBE. Hmmmm…)
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