In performing its many civil-military
missions throughout its history, the U.S. Army has often been a pioneer on
the frontiers of technology.
Army engineers in particular have been preeminent in developing and using
new technologies to carry out their assignments. Even predating their
organization into a separate branch in 1838, the Army's topographical
engineers carried on civil works programs, their work in road and harbor
construction, waterway charting, and all the great innovations involved in
creating a continental infrastructure quickly elevating them into a kind of
quasi-independent federal civil works organization.
Defense Acquisition History
Providing the Means of War
Critical acquisition decisions
Defense Research and Engineering
Research, Development and Acquisition
Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and
Original audio cassette(s), signed legal release forms, and
edited interview transcripts are on file in the Defense Acquisition History
Oral History Collection, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Leslie
J. McNair, Washington, D.C.
Production of theDefense Acquisition History newsletter has
stopped. All available issues are posted on this page.
1. Office of the Secretary of Defense, Procurement Training Handbook, 1970,
2. Office of Statistical Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary of
3. U.S. House of Representatives, Government Operations Committee,
Commission on Government Procurement, Report 92-468, 91st Cong., 1st Sess.,
August 12, 1969.
To be continued in the next issue, the article will explore changes to the
Federal Acquisition Regulations since 1984, and the effects of those changes
on contracting and procurement practices.
Books of Interest�
Vernon W. Ruttan. Is War Necessary For Economic Growth?: Military
Procurement and Technology Development. New York: Oxford University Press,
2006. ISBN 0195188047. 232 pp.
With a provocative title that belies a provocative thesis, Regents Professor
Emeritus Vernon Ruttan, on the faculty of the department of applied
economics at the University of Minnesota, explores six general-purpose
technologies and questions the importance of government � and especially
military � support for the scientific, technological, and industrial
advances associated with each. Prof. Ruttan examines interchangeable parts
and mass production; military and commercial aircraft; nuclear energy; the
INTERNET; computers and semiconductors; and the broadly defined space
According to Prof. Ruttan, in each of these examples, technological
development would have been stunted without military support, both in the
basic research arena and in the procurement of systems that applied
discoveries underwritten by federal research funds. After a review of these
cases, the book considers three key questions: in the future, will recent
changes in the composition of the U.S. defense industrial base hinder the
development of advanced technologies, especially those with general uses?
Will public support for commercial (as opposed to military) technologies be
enough to promote the creation of new general-purpose technologies? And will
the outbreak of a major war � or the threat of a major war � be the
necessary impetus for a general mobilization of U.S. science and
technologies resources to bring about significant leaps in key
Prof. Ruttan compares the dramatic advances in science and technology in the
1950s and 1960s with the relative stagnation of the late Cold War and the
post-Cold War (with the notable exception of the 1990s information
technology boom), and questions whether commercial support for science and
technology � and waning public finding of the same � will guarantee
America�s future as a science and technology leader. As a new interpretation
of the sources of innovation, this book is a thoughtful contribution to the
literature on the history, politics, and economics of government spending
and defense acquisition, and as such should find an audience among defense
resource managers and policymakers.
Also Worth a Look...
David H. Guston and Kenneth Keniston. The Fragile Contract: University
Science and the Federal Government. MIT Press, 1994. ISBN 0262071614. 270
Laurence R. Newcome. Unmanned Aviation: A Brief History of Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles. Washington, D.C.: American Institute of Aeronautics and
Astronautics, 2004. ISBN 1563476444. 170 pp.
Based on requests received through the Defense Acquisition History website,
the following bibliography is provided as a convenience to those interested
in defense acquisition history and policy. The books and articles identified
below are not canonical texts, but will provide the reader with a good
representation of the scholarship that has appeared on the subject since the
Acker, David D. �The Maturing of the DoD Acquisition Process.� Defense
Systems Management Review, 3, no. 3 (Summer 1980).
Allison, David K. �U. S. Navy Research and Development since World War II,�
in Military Enterprise and Technical Change: Perspectives on the American
Experience, ed. Merritt Roe Smith. Cambridge, Mass. and London: The M. I. T.
Benson, Lawrence R. Acquisition Management in the United States Air Force
and its Predecessors. Washington, D.C.: Air Force History and Museums
Brown, Michael E. Flying Blind: The Politics of the U. S. Strategic Bomber
Program. Ithaca, N. Y. and London: Cornell University Press, 1992.
Coulam, Robert F. Illusions of Choice: The F-111 and the Problem of Weapons
Acquisition Reform. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977.
Fox, J.Ronald, with James L. Field. The Defense Management Challenge:
Weapons Acquisition. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 1988.
Friedberg, Aaron L. In the Shadow of the Garrison State: America�s Anti-Statism
and Its Cold War Strategy. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press,
Gansler, Jacques S. Affording Defense. Cambridge, Mass.: The M. I. T. Press,
Johnson, Stephen B. The United States Air Force and the Culture of
Innovation, 1945-1965. Washington, D. C.: Air Force History and Museums
Jones, Wilbur D., Jr. Arming the Eagle: A History of U. S. Weapons
Acquisition Since 1775. Fort Belvoir, Va.: Defense Systems Management
College Press, 1999.
McNaugher, Thomas L. New Weapons, Old Politics: America�s Military
Procurement Muddle. Washington, D. C.: The Brookings Institution, 1989.
Nagle, James F. A History of Government Contracting. Washington, D. C.:
George Washington University, 1992.
Nelson, J. R., and Tyson, Karen W. A Perspective on the Defense Weapons
Acquisition Process. IDA Paper P-2048. Alexandria, Va.: Institute for
Defense Analyses, September 1987.
Peck, Merton J., and Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process:
An Economic Analysis. Boston, Mass.: Harvard University Graduate School of
Business Administration, 1962.
Roland, Alex. The Military-Industrial Complex. Washington, D. C.: American
Historical Association, 2001.
Sapolsky, Harvey M. �Equipping the Armed Forces.� Armed Forces and Society,
14, no. 1 (Fall 1987).
Sapolsky, Harvey M. The Polaris System Development: Bureaucratic and
Programmatic Success in Government. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Stevenson, James P. The $5 Billion Misunderstanding: The Collapse of the
Navy�s A-12 Stealth Bomber Program. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press,
Weir, Gary E. Forged in War: The Naval-Industrial Complex and American
Submarine Construction, 1940-1961. Washington, D. C.: Naval Historical
York, Herbert F., and Greb, G. Allen. �Military Research and Development: A
Postwar History.� Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
The members of the Defense Acquisition History Project continue to research
and write as winter draws to a close. Several changes to the line-up of the
historical team took place during 2006. Two historians, Dr. Walt Moody and
Dr. Andrew Butrica, departed the project. They were replaced by Dr. Tom
Lassman, who first became involved with the Acquisition History Project in
2005 as a supporting researcher, and Dr. David Allen. Details about the
responsibilities of these new project members can be found below.
Work on the six acquisition history volumes continues. Dr. Elliott Converse,
author of the first volume in the series, has completed seven chapters, most
recently �OSD and Acquisition, 1953-1958.� He is currently writing an eighth
chapter, �The Air Force and Acquisition, 1953-1958.�
Dr. Walter Poole is now in the process of writing a chapter on space-related
acquisition, tentatively titled �Space Ventures.� With the assistance of Dr.
Elliott Converse and Dr. Walt Moody, he conducted an interview with Brig.
Gen. Alfred Esposito (USAF, Ret.), former project manager for the F-111 and
advisor to Deputy Secretary of Defense William P. Clements Jr. This and
other project interviews, once edited and approved for public release by the
interviewees, will be available on the Defense Acquisition History Project
Before retiring from the Defense Acquisition History Project, Dr. Walt Moody
completed five chapters of his volume on the 1970s. His final chapter, �New
Directions for the Navy,� will be revised and integrated into the volume
that is now the responsibility of Dr. David Allen
Following Dr. Butrica�s departure from the project in mid-2006, Dr. Tom
Lassman assumed responsibility for the fourth volume of the Defense
Acquisition History series. Dr. Lassman recently completed a study, �Sources
of Weapons Innovation in the Department of Defense: The Role of Research and
Development,� which will be published by the U.S. Army Center of Military
History in 2007. Working from a revised volume outline, Dr. Lassman has been
reviewing the chapters that were prepared by Dr. Butrica with an eye toward
revising and integrating them into a new framework.
Dr. Phil Shiman, the author of volume five spanning the 1990s, recently
completed a chapter on the post-Cold War drawdown and its effect on defense
acquisition strategy. He is currently drafting two chapters: "A Mandate for
Change, 1993-1994," which explores OSD acquisition organization and the
initiation of acquisition reform; and "Reinventing Acquisition," which
addresses the substance of acquisition reform and specific reform
initiatives from 1993 to 2001.
The first three chapters of volume six, an edited volume of acquisition
history-related primary documents, are nearly completed. The first chapter
compiles the federal statutes and executive orders related to contracting,
research and development, and procurement before World War II. The second
chapter consists of primary documents related to the creation of the
Department of Defense in 1947 and the passage of the Armed Services
Procurement Act, also enacted in 1947. Dr. Elliott Converse has provided
source material that will be the basis for a chapter on defense acquisition
during the 1950s. Additional primary materials have been provided by the
other volume authors, and many of the documents that will be included in
this volume are being digitized for public release on the project website.
Other Project Activities
In the summer of 2006, the members of the project team had a daylong meeting
with Dr. Frederic Scherer of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
University. The co-author of the landmark study The Weapons Acquisition
Process: An Economic Analysis (Harvard University, 1962) and author of a
follow-on volume, The Weapons Acquisition Process: Economic Incentives
(Harvard University, 1964), Dr. Scherer provided the team with valuable
insights into how and why those two books were researched and written. He
spoke at some length about the consolidation of the defense industry, the
role of small business in defense acquisition, the structural features of
the present defense acquisition system (rising costs and longer cycle times,
for instance), and the state of the industrial base today. He also provided
the team with a collection of documents from the Harvard University
acquisition project. His engagement with the project team added considerably
to their understanding of defense acquisition, both past and present.
A transcript of his discussion with the acquisition history project team has
been prepared and reviewed, and will soon be released to the public on the
Defense Acquisition History website.
An Overview of Methods of Government Procurement: Negotiated Procurements
Contracting is the foundation of defense acquisition. The paper that appears
below is the second part of a synopsis prepared by Dr. J. Ronald Fox of the
Defense Acquisition History Project. This overview describes the basics of
negotiated procurement, along with the application of this method of
contracting. The third installment of this paper � to appear in the next
issue of the Defense Acquisition History project newsletter � will address
changes to the federal contracting system after 1984.