Controlling Risk in Defense Acquisition Programs: The Evolving Decision Review Framework

John T. Dillard


In the last three years, there has been a great deal of turbulence in U.S. defense acquisition policy. This has contributed to confusion within the acquisition workforce in terminology, major policy thrusts, and unclear implications of the changes. The new acquisition framework has added complexity, with more phases and delineations of activity, and both the number and level of decision reviews have been increased. Decision reviews are used as top management level project control gates, and are also a feature of centralized control within a bureaucracy. Although the current stated policy is to foster an environment supporting flexibility and innovation, the result is a continuous cycle of decision reviews. Program Managers may now have fewer resources to manage their programs as they spend much of their time, and budgets, managing the bureaucracy. Moreover, the implicit aspects of the still new model have not been fully realized, and may result in policy that actually lengthens programs -- counter to goals of rapid transformation. The framework, and its associated requirements for senior level reviews, are opposed to the rapid and evolutionary policy espoused, and are counter to appropriate management strategies for a transformational era.

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