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Weapon System Acquisition Programs In The Usa

720 words - 3 pages

With a total cost of over $1 trillion, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) commits a significant amount of funds to its weapon systems acquisition programs (GAO 2012a). The sheer size (96 major programs in Fiscal Year 2012) and cost of weapon systems acquisition contributes to scrutiny of these programs within and outside of the government. In essence, government reports and academic studies are determining the effectiveness of weapon systems within three areas: cost, schedule, and performance. Ideally, weapon systems should meet their budget, schedule estimate, and performance requirements at the time of system delivery. However, given the complex scope of these weapon systems, all three pillars of effectiveness could be deficient.
Despite the differences among programs in total cost, procurement units, and technical objectives, DoD standardizes the weapon systems acquisition process via regularly updated directives (Ferrara 1996). Known as the Defense Acquisition Management System (DAMS), the formal process for the life cycle of a weapon system includes five phases and three milestone decisions (Department of Defense 2008). Given that each weapon system must adhere to the same policies and regulations, regardless of its scope or size, analysis across the entire DoD portfolio is feasible. In fact, research into the effectiveness of DoD weapon systems dates back to the 1950s (Marshall and Meckling 1959).
As part of the DAMS, weapon systems are required to publically release information regarding cost and schedule data via Selected Acquisition Reports and military budget requests. Cost and schedule data are tied to the development and production milestones outlined in DAMS. In contrast, performance data from weapon systems are generally classified, and not released to the public. Therefore, the majority of acquisition reports and scholarly research focus on analysis of the cost and schedule data. By investigating the difference in actual and planned costs between two milestones, the cost change of weapon systems is the primary metric to evaluate the cost effectiveness of a weapon system. In concert, by investigating the difference in actual and planned dates of milestones, the schedule change of weapon systems is the primary metric to evaluate the schedule effectiveness of weapon systems. By comparing the progress of weapon systems (both financially and...

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