DoD Problems.. Challenge… How to..


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    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.

What’s next?

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.

5 thoughts on “DoD Problems.. Challenge… How to..

  1. Howie, this is very good, as always. But if you want to go behind the symptoms, you have to dig deeper. For example, the question I would ask about your prototype Janitor is: “Why should he?”. Is it effective to tell people what they should do? Should not the real question be “Why are you not doing this…?”. Then you run into REAL issues.

    The culture of milking the government, of making a quick buck, of profiteering, of not giving a damn about the common good, etc. you know the story.
    You say “I believe in Americans”, but what makes americans different from any other people? Greed is not a unique American creation, sadly enough, many culture accept greed as a basic dogma. Because greed is the underlying principle of capitalism.

    I think only a few religious communities have banned deliberately greed from their credo, who else is ready to face this issue? So if you can´t erradicate it, then you may have to learn to live with it, and then you are left with control issues, which is where IT comes in to the rescue and we are back to square one.

    Still, it was fun! as always, with you. Now tell me where my reasoning is wrong. I already know I am oversimplifying, but am I wrong? I have the same issues in my own country, so I would really like to hear your opinon.
    (By the way, greed is not the only tricky issue in the world, what about population overgrowth as the source of most of the planet problems?)


    1. Yves,

      The reason I mentioned Americans specifically here is because I am addressing the Department of Defense and the problems related to the norms in the DoD. Of course, I think greed is a global issue, after all if we spent as much time finding ways to work together this world would be a better place. A few nights ago I when my children went to bed and the house was quiet, I watched the most recent version of Rambo. I think it was meant to be a statement as opposed to just simple fun at the movies. The characters dealt with raw class warfare and travesties against human kind. It was disgusting and plain wrong but I said to my wife, this could be Somalia or other countries where people don’t have any consideration for life. What kind of world is it that we step on each other to climb? So, what can we do? I just try to help in small ways by writing on weekends or the space between dinner and bedtime as precious as that time is. I do this because I want to have a positive impact even if it is only one person at a time. Maybe one day I will get lucky and find the result of paying it forward and seeing that love will make a difference.



  2. Greed is a byproduct of fear. I know there is a perception that greed drives capitalism but that perception is only in the eyes of the beholder. Capitalism is motivated by profits for without profits; you cannot maintain or expand a business. The key to why capitalism somewhat works within the American structure is that you need FREEDOM to really make capitalism work.

    There are two sides to religion, government and science, the positive and the negative. If we take the negative approach we then assume that capitalism grows by greed which undertone is fear or selfishness because the person with the greed is afraid that they don’t have enough… not satisfied with what they have. We know what happens to a selfish node in a form free network, it eventually dies because the other nodes quit clustering on it when they don’t see any pass through. But when you put a positive spin on it you are looking for how to expand your world to share with others ideas, goods and materials…increase the clustering and pass through.

    Without a majority of people being classified middle class, you really cannot experience true capitalism. The old saying rising tides lift all ships is true with capitalism. It is when we try to control our outcomes like when communism did that we take away freedom and give power to a few to direct the many. Communism in a pure form might be thought to be beneficial to mankind but it takes away what dreams people have of becoming whatever or whoever they want to become. Freedom of choice and the understanding that we are all interconnected is the areas we need to focus.

    Just as was mentioned about population growth affects so many things. On the negative side it affects raw materials, food production, etc. But on the positive side it also establishes growth in ideas and promotes innovation and more jobs as we need to have more to support it.

    Part of the problem within the world now, in my opinion is that we are out of balance. Developed countries don’t need as much to sustain a net zero population growth and now cannot expand much except with quality of life products or products that give us more efficiencies (there are limits on how efficient we can get) while the true growth now is in underdeveloped countries however they don’t have the financial backing to grow a middle class. The redistribution of labor within the world has a lot of folks talking about manufacturing losses in developed countries, but we are learning that labor is becoming whiter collar or service oriented as our technology can do more of what man/woman use to do by hand.

    The good news for underdeveloped countries is that they can get into this game without having legacy systems to tie them down (comfort zones like what we see in some of the developed world), but they need a strong educational base and freedom of choice to get in the game. I am optimistic about what is happening in the Middle East as it is an outcry for freedom of choice. Now we need consensus building on that freedom and not have a few selected leaders try to control it as some fanatical religions what to do.


  3. Hi Howie;
    So always interesting to read you. But my point was not about greed per se, nor population growth control, but rather the fact that although our capacity for analysis is able to reach back some amount of causal iterations, we eventually reach a point at which we can´t do anything nor design any IT solutions (see Douglas Hofstadter). So eventually, we are left with those things that we can do something about, with IT.
    It is the problem with us analyst, where do we exit the cause-consequence iteration?

    And pointing at how Americans can solve things -or not- versus the rest of humanity, was just a way for me to raise the level of the iteration. Nothing really personal about your argument. Just trying to point out some of our difficulties as analysts… 🙂

    Very best to you


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