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September 14, 2009—Paul Kaminski, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics in the Clinton Administration, said there are five interrelated problems with defense acquisition today that must be fixed or the system will continue to falter.

Speaking at AFA's Air & Space Conference Sept. 14, Kaminski identified the problem areas—and his "prescription" for a cure.

First, system engineering and program development planning requires people with "domain experience," practical knowledge of the area in which their product will function, to better understand how to organize and schedule new projects, and more money should be put in up-front to map out the course of programs.

Second, the Pentagon needs to "align program responsibility, authority, and accountability," so that managers aren't serving conflicting masters and requirements. Managers should also be given greater authority to manage their own programs, be allowed to adjust schedules, and be given a 10- to 20-percent management reserve to cope with the inevitable problem of developing new technology.

Third, programs need funding stability, and Kaminski said both Congress and the Pentagon need to give up some of their "flexibility" to tinker with funding so that cash flow and program burps can be handled.

Fourth, there must be "early and serious attention" to test and evaluation. How programs will be judged and proven needs to be part of the contract and needs to be adequately funded.

Fifth, Kaminski said the development time of programs must be shortened from 15-20 years to five or less … by doing everything else. The lengthy program time has created a generation of program managers who have worked on only one program—or less—in their careers. Success in future defense technology hinges on growing managers who have experience in several programs and from the component level up to a full system, Kaminski said.