A Reservist, 30 days & $45K – How a reservist outprocured a $15M Defense Program

Air Force by on February 12, 2007 at 12:23 am

The military has some of the most inefficient procurement systems I’ve ever seen. I’ve commented before on how federal acquisition laws primarily benefit contractors, but the inefficiency of these systems is staggering.

There was a great article this week in the WSJ (this one appears to be free) about:

a Marine officer in Iraq, a small network-design company in California, a nonprofit troop-support group, a blogger and other undeterrable folk designed a handheld insurgent-identification device, built it, shipped it and deployed it in Anbar province. They did this in 30 days…

30 days. Yeah, there were several herculean efforts that made this possible, but um, this is a war.

There is an existing government program to do exactly this. It was established in 2004 and funded $5M in its initial year, and who knows how much in subsequent years. As far as I can tell, the system is far from operational, and far from being useful in Iraq.

Maj West, the reservist mentioned in the WSJ article, is an energy trader for Goldman Sachs in his real career. Most government lifers (military, civilian and contractors), don’t think the same way that the private sector does. Designing, building AND delivering a biometric device like this in 30 days is outside anything the lifers could ever conceive. I’m fairly confident that this would never have been done by a traditional military officer.

Most active duty generals and civilian leaders look at the reserve forces as simple manpower. However, the backgrounds of the reservists are far more diverse than anything else you find in the military and they bring far more creative solutions to problems than is taught to career officers.


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