Maximize Innovation with a 'Bridge of Life'.

Author:Kovnch, John

In August, the office of the secretary of defense delivered its report to Congress on "Restructuring the Department of Defense Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Organization and Chief Management Officer Organization."

Adversaries catching up in advanced technologies and the ever increasing cost of major weapon systems were cited as a catalyst for the change. The ensuing reorganization looks to embrace "a culture of innovation" and "willingness to take risk" in the newly created office of the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, while reducing timelines and cost via the undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment.

As the National Defense Authorization Act conference report stated, "the technology and acquisition missions and cultures are distinct." This could easily be exacerbated by the organizational separation of Research and Engineering and Acquisition and Sustainment. The roles and objectives of the two organizations are clearly stated, but the report does not specify how they will work together to achieve the ultimate objective of effectively and efficiently providing capability to the warfighter.

There are certainly benefits in separating the cultures to enable each to align management to different phases of the product development lifecycle. The research-and-engineering community can organize to steer investment in the right directions using cross-functional teams and learning-based metrics to navigate the extreme uncertainty of innovation and advanced technologies.

Meanwhile, the acquisition-and-sustainment community can implement structures to maximize the capability return on product investments by managing design, employment and acquisition trades. However, there is inherent risk that the differences in focus and objectives across the two organizations could pose significant challenges to "accelerating delivery of superior technologies across the entire acquisition spectrum."

This natural divide has been referred to as the "valley of death" for science and technology efforts. Rather than exacerbating this issue with the division of AT&L, the department should implement an organizational construct that provides a bridge over the valley between the development and acquisition organizations.

This organization or management structure should be designed to steer viable products of the visionary research-and-engineering community into the product development phase managed by acquisition and sustainment...

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