August 6, 2020
by Terry Marlow and John Douglass
Our national elections are an opportunity to correct mistakes in political leadership and reset national goals. Let’s make sure we take advantage of the opportunity in November with a clear-eyed understanding as to what needs to be done, today. As former DoD acquisition officials, we have direct experience with many techniques for reducing the cost and improving the quality of military procurements. If the nation has ever needed to reduce costs and improve quality without reducing capability, it is now.
The most successful technique in this regard is what DOD calls “civil — military integration.” As the term implies, the objective is to combine the knowledge and capability of our military acquisition professionals and traditional defense contractors with our outstanding civilian industrial base. DOD has some notable experience with successful civil-military integration in the area of electronic parts. In the mid-1980s, the Defense Science Board (DSB) recommended the use of commercially developed and produced integrated circuits in its weapons systems and other defense products. Despite the DSB demonstrated savings of as much as 90% when commercial integrated circuits are used, there was considerable internal DoD resistance. It took strong, forceful leadership to overcome the resistance and years of fighting the entrenched bureaucracy to finally prevail.
Most recently, we have seen how successful commercial industry can be when working alongside the government as we watched the amazing feat of the commercially developed SpaceX capsule in delivering and retrieving U.S. astronauts from the space station. This was a huge accomplishment by a commercial company that was in the works for many years over several administrations. Not only was it a technical accomplishment, it was also a political accomplishment by a determined company. While all Americans should be proud of this accomplishment, those of us who have a special connection with the Florida space coast, have reason to be particularly proud of Florida’s contribution to another space first.
These types of successes require leadership within the government, from the top down. We need more of these successes, and we need them now to take advantage of commercial innovation and ingenuity in getting more bang for the buck from our tax dollars.
As we approach the presidential election in November, it is important to recognize that Joe Biden’s strategy to use “American Made” products and components will work, and work well. The U.S. has all the necessary civil-military industry ingredients to make his strategy work — skilled workers, world class scientists and engineers, advanced materials, modern robotics, and adequate financial resources. Let’s put Joe Biden to work for us as President to strengthen government and industry relationships and take advantage of the best aspects of our traditional military contractors and our world class commercial technology companies to make “American Made” even better.