Want to know how to fix acquisition of complex systems? Look no further than the military and engineering expertise espoused by the Father of Aegis.
The quest for defense acquisition reform has been pursued for decades, always with more regulatory changes, new buzzwords, borrowed practices from successful businesses, and ever-increasing layers of oversight—but not much success. Too often, major system developments continue to overrun their budgets and schedules. In fact, it sometimes seems that the more we’ve reformed, the worse the results have been. Conventional wisdom holds that the acquisition “system” is broken and requires major repair. Two legislative initiatives—Public Law 111-23: “The Weapons System Reform Act of 2009,” co-sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI), and House Bill HR 5013, “The IMPROVE Acquisition Act,” sponsored by Representative Ike Skelton (D-MO)—are some of the more recent attempts to fix the perceived breakage with prescriptions for yet more oversight, better metrics, and even participation by private accounting firms. Ironically, the general obsession with fixing acquisition ills was never shared by one of the most successful program managers in history, Rear Admiral Wayne E. Meyer, who passed away in September 2009. Known as the “Father of Aegis,” Admiral Meyer was for 13 years the project manager for the versatile and highly adaptable Aegis Weapon System and then the founding project manager of the Aegis Shipbuilding Project, which commissioned its first ship, the USS Ticonderoga (CG-47), on time and under budget—an elusive achievement for any major procurement today.