In February 2006, “New Stryker Variants Gear Up for Testing” described the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System, and the M1135 Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle. The vehicles passed testing and have been fielded to Army units, but Military.com reports that the M1128 MGS is experiencing serious problems in the field. Comments like these are not what a manufacturer like General Dynamics, or a military, wants to hear:
“I wish [the enemy] would just blow mine up so I could be done with it,” said [4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment] Spec. Kyle Handrahan, 22, of Anaheim, Calif.”
On Feb 7/08, the USA’s Congressional “Government Accountability Office” auditors released report #GAO-08-298, “DOD’s Practices and Processes for Multiyear Procurement Should Be Improved.” Multi-year procurements are used for a number of key projects, including the F-22A Raptor fighter, H-60 helicopters, and more. Official reports have cited it as a helpful factor in a number of past programs, which has kept costs down by facilitating bulk buys, plant investments, timely hiring and training, greater employment stability and hence better learning curves, et. al.
“Although the law has clear requirements for stable, low risk programs with realistic cost and savings estimates, lack of guidance and a rigorous process is not achieving this. It is difficult to precisely determine the impact of multiyear contracting on procurement costs. GAO studies of three recent MYPs identified unit cost growth ranging from 10 to 30 percent compared to original estimates, due to changes in labor and material costs, requirements and funding, and other factors. In some cases, actual MYP costs were higher than estimates for annual contracts. Although annual contracts also have unit cost growth, it is arguably more problematic for MYP’s because of the up-front investments and the government’s exposure to risk over multiple years. MYP savings were on average higher before changes in law called for “substantial savings” rather than a specific quantitative standard. Other factors–lower quantities of modern systems procured, stricter cancellation liability allowances, and contraction in the defense industrial base–may have also impacted savings by lessening opportunities for more efficient purchases, a key attribute of MYPs. DOD does not track multiyear results against original expectations and makes little effort to validate if actual savings were achieved. GAO’s case studies indicate that evaluating actual MYP results provides valuable information on the veracity of original estimates in the justification packages, the impacts on costs and risks from internal and external events, and lessons learned that can be used to improve future multiyear candidates and savings opportunities.”
It has been said that Power Point slides have become the primary communication tool in the US military, and in other militaries, too. It’s certainly endemic in the corporate world, and quite a few folks are less than thrilled with the results. Information presentation guru Edward Tufte’s “PowerPoint is Evil” article in WIRED’s September 2003 issue presented a powerful argument, and Proceedings’ December 2004 issue featured a plea from a retired US Navy captain for a military-wide stand-down.
It may be that, to quote the semi-joking adage, “No bastard ever won a war by making viewgraph slides for his country. He won it by making the other poor bastard make slides for his country.” The truth is, slide presentations are here to stay. Alternatives should indeed be encouraged – but when slides must be used, it is possible to use them well.
As a service to our readers in the military and the corporate world, here are a few links designed to help make you better presenters…
Releases or articles that clearly explain a contract or product milestone make a big difference to media pickup, and organizational branding. DID supports the Plain English Campaign, which counts the UK Ministry of Defence as an official member who has benefited from applying their principles. QinetiQ North America’s subsidiary Westar Aerospace & Defense Group Inc. hasn’t earned the same Crystal Mark, but their recent release provides another example of Plain English at work. The firm recently received a one-year, $13.3 million task order to provide “technical services, and systems engineering and management expertise to the Apache Attack Helicopter Project Manager’s Office (PMO).” Westar’s release explains in plain English:
“Westar, which has been fulfilling Army Aviation task orders for more than 18 years, will… support the PMO to ensure that all software (i.e. weapons, navigation, radar, flight control displays, countermeasures and on-board mission planning systems) have the most relevant and safest software available for use throughout the Army Active, Reserve and National Guard components. “Before any changes are made to the Apache, whether it’s a modification to the entire fleet or to a single aircraft, our job is to support engineering recommendations that ensure the strictest of system specification requirements are met. That’s our area of expertise,” said Kurt Heine, Vice President, EXPRESS Programs, Westar Aerospace & Defense Group.”
Crystal clear communication of competence. Congratulations.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Fort Belvoir, VA leads US Department of Defense efforts to stop the global spread, transfer, and usage of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
Recently, they issued a $6.1 million contract to Dyncorp’s CSC Systems & Solutions, Inc. subsidiary in Alexandria, VA, to support the “International Counter Proliferation Program.” Work will be performed at Fort Belvoir, VA, and is expected to be complete by Aug 27/08. One bid was solicited on Jan 2/08, and 1 bid was received (DTRA01-02-D-0064).