Gates on "baroque" defense procurement


Elise mentioned last week that procurement reform is a top priority for Defense secretary Robert Gates.

Gates expands on that idea in a lengthy article on defense strategy in the January/February issue of Foreign Affairs. He notes that “resources are not unlimited,” and argues that current procurement focuses on buying smaller amounts of more and more expensive military equipment.

The Defense Department has to consider whether in situations in which the United States has total air dominance, it makes sense to employ lower-cost, lower-tech aircraft that can be employed in large quantities and used by U.S. partners. This is already happening now in the field with Task Force ODIN in Iraq, which has mated advanced sensors with turboprop aircraft to produce a massive increase in the amount of surveillance and reconnaissance coverage. The issue then becomes how to build this kind of innovative thinking and flexibility into the rigid procurement processes at home. The key is to make sure that the strategy and risk assessment drive the procurement, rather than the other way around

The whole article is worth a read. Gates took a lot of criticism last year for halting the F-22 procurement program — but he seems willing to make more of those tough calls once President-elect Obama takes office.


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