As a disclaimer, my views do not represent in any way the view of Booz Allen Hamilton.
I am just one person but I think it is pretty interesting that I can walk into any defense industry space and talk about the same issues and concerns and get exactly the same response. What is the number one problem in the Department of Defense ? Is it the war efforts? Is it the lack of technology? Is it our efforts in cyberspace? Is it our loss of troops? Is it a systematic and holistic failure to meet the many missions of the Department of Defense? The number one problem that most people I encounter is acquisition. From civilian senior leadership, military leaders, middle managers down to the staff and action officer level most if not all people identify the business management and acquisition process as being the number one problem in the Department of Defense .
As an Analyst I ask questions that are by design aimed to root out the “real” problem. Most problems have a tendency to be people or situation based. In other words, problems are normally masked by symptoms. We have a tendency to address symptoms because it is what we see and normally because we can work on symptoms with some form of technology. If you are still reading this I am most likely preaching to the choir and since this is a blog entry, I am not going to go into analogies. Simply put we generally address the wrong areas when trying to accomplish our goals. So, I am moving back to what I started talking about which addresses acquisition being one of if not the most important problem to deal with first. In actuality, acquisition itself is a symptom of the real problem.
In the past our government was an economic juggernaut and could handle wasteful spending and inefficient behavior. I recently read an article that Apple computer has more money than the US Treasury Department http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/07/29/the-u-s-treasury-has-less-cash-on-hand-than-apple-inc/. This isn’t an “apples to apples” comparison but it does tell us that as a country we are fiscally and economically challenged and failing to properly manage our money. This is nothing new here right? I am simply telling you something that you most probably already know.
That is my point. If you know this and I know this and they being the government leadership and people that can make a difference by addressing policy, governance and enforcement know this, why isn’t anything being done? So, what is the problem we actually need to solve? The people of this country need to address the behavior that is causing this failure. I don’t think politicians will make a difference. Calling your Senator won’t help us here. Congress and the President are busy; just give them a call to see how accessible they are.
There are various missions in the DoD that tackle the many challenges our war fighters, military leaders and civilian leaders face. From my experience the mission, vision and scope of work is well justified by program leaders. When I say “well justified” it doesn’t mean I personally agree with it, just that these things are scripted to be important.
So far, I have discussed a symptom of a significant problem (the handling of money and our business practices), my perception of the real problem (behavior) and the fact that people can justify their current behavior. I have also identified the people that should be able to help solve this problem but for one reason or another don’t.
Well.. I believe in Americans. I believe that when we see various challenges that we individually step up and out to deal with them. We have put our faith and trust in leadership and leadership has been pounded with more work than they can handle (yes, I am being nice). That being said, it is up to us individually to lead where we are. We must individually work to change our own behavior and look to influence others by leading from where we are. If I am a Janitor, then I look for ways to be efficient in cleaning and thrifty in spending for supplies, or find ways to reuse supplies. If you are an Executive Assistant, find ways to make a difference in the office. If you are a Technical Strategist, teach everyone everything you know about Service Orientation and Trusted Computing and technical reuse models. It doesn’t matter who you are, it matters what you do. Our jobs do not define us holistically. In recent days I have seen civilian leaders (you know who you are) step up to the plate and take risks in order to share their ideas on how to create a more effective and efficient acquisition solutions. It isn’t only up to them. We will find more success together by working to change these behaviors and tackling the challenges we can see one person and one problem at a time.
It is difficult to understand how we affect each other and how our behavior can become viral. People can become rock stars overnight or become known for many reasons good or bad. It doesn’t matter why, it just matter that it is possible and we see it every day. It can be you, it can be me, and we can make a positive difference.