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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Who is Watching the Watchers?

A question posed by the Roman poet Juvenal.

I am sure it is just a quirk, but I think that changing the name of the GAO from General Accounting Office to Government Accountability Office was a major mistake.  The Constitution of the United States makes the US Congress the Government Accountability Office.  Those 535 (soon to be 537 if we don't wake up) legislators on Capitol Hill are charged with Legislating and the power to legislate is the power to investigate.  So, I am hoping our Congresswoman is reading and taking a note to fix the name of the GAO.

At any rate, someone I know found a bit of irony in a recent report out of the GAO. This person will remain anonymous, except to a few who will say, that is .... So be it.  If the New York Times can do it in violation of their own policy, I should be able to in compliance with my own policy.  Be warned, it is all inside baseball (DoD Acquisition) from here to the bottom.

PUBLIC LAW 110-181, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, contained, among many, many other provisions, SEC. 813. COMPTROLLER GENERAL REPORT ON DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE FOR MAJOR DEFENSE ACQUISITION PROGRAMS, which required, in part, ". . . Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report on potential modifications of the organization and structure of the Department of Defense for major defense acquisition programs."

As a result of the above requirement, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued GAO-09-295R, "Defense Acquisitions:  Perspectives on Potential Changes to Department of Defense Acquisition Management Framework."  The report was dated February 27, 2009.

The irony is that the Comptroller General, who has been critical of Department of Defense Acquisition for failure to meet cost, schedule, and performance requirements on acquisitions, appears to suffer from the ailments that it claims for DoD.  P.L. 110-181 became law on January 28, 2008, which means that the GAO report was required to be submitted no later than January 28, 2009.  The report, a mere 25 pages in length [CRK Notes that the person writing is generous--there is a lot of fluff in the report and 16 pages, filled with notes, is closer to the truth], and presumably based on a good deal of prior GAO work, was almost a full month late.  My initial scanning of the report makes it unclear as to whether even the "threshold" requirements for the report(i.e., ". . . feasibility and advisability . . . at a minimum . . . .") were met.  As GAO made its response overly complex, relying on narrative alone and not providing a simple tabular summation, a more detailed review (OT&E) will be needed to assess meeting the requirements.  There is no way to tell how GAO did against cost goals, but we can only surmise, based on performance against the other two key parameters . . .

Two additional thoughts.

The report, on page 4, states:
COCOMs are responsible for conducting combat operations and, ultimately, ensuring that the warfighter has the capabilities needed to defeat threats.
That is half correct and half wrong.  The Combatant Commands, the warfighting organizations such as US Central Command or US Pacific Command, are the ones to conduct combat operations.  The Service Chiefs were excluded from that by law 50 years ago, including the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Ensuring that the warfighter has the capabilities needed to defeat threats is the job of the Services--by law.  They are to "Organize, Train and Equip." (e.g., Title 10, Subtitle B, PART I, CHAPTER 307, § 3062).  The Services have the long term view that ensures that procurements that will take ten or 15 years to field are fielded. There is insufficient cohesion within a COCOM to do that.  People come and go, but there is not coherent, consistent cohesion, no loyalty to the COCOM.  The loyalty is to the Service.  The GAO is just wrong here.

As an additional comment on the COCOMs, if things have not changed, and I suspect they haven't, the COCOM Integrated Priority List (the IPL, pronounced EP-L) is not prioritized.  It wasn't when I was on the Joint Staff and all my begging didn't change a thing.  It probably isn't now. Integration of the IPL--forcing people to make choices, would go a long way toward improving the system.

The second thing is that JCIDS will not work until the Services and the Combatant Commands develop an effective system of comparing capabilities.  In saying that I acknowledge that I am part of the team that developed such a system and the Joint Community took it on board and promptly trashed it.  Mark me down as biased.

Regards  --  Cliff

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