Defense Acquisition History

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 Logistics
Acquisition reform
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, Chapter VIII.
2. Office of Statistical Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Comptroller).
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 industry.

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 general-purpose technologies?

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 pp.

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 early 1960s.

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. Press, 1985.
Benson, Lawrence R. Acquisition Management in the United States Air Force and its Predecessors. Washington, D.C.: Air Force History and Museums Program,1997.
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, 2000.
Gansler, Jacques S. Affording Defense. Cambridge, Mass.: The M. I. T. Press, 1989.
Johnson, Stephen B. The United States Air Force and the Culture of Innovation, 1945-1965. Washington, D. C.: Air Force History and Museums Program, 2002.
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 Press, 1972.
Stevenson, James P. The $5 Billion Misunderstanding: The Collapse of the Navy�s A-12 Stealth Bomber Program. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2001.
Weir, Gary E. Forged in War: The Naval-Industrial Complex and American Submarine Construction, 1940-1961. Washington, D. C.: Naval Historical Center, 1993.
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.

Volume Updates
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 website.

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.

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