Last week, at the hub of the nation’s Missile Defense Engineering and Research community, the newly appointed Under Secretary position by the Department of Defense for all Research and Engineering – to include the Missile Defense Agency – the Honorable Dr. Michael Griffin put forward why our nation is failing to compete with our near peers of China and Russia in defense acquisition and challenged the missile defense community to get new technology into the field faster.
Here are some highlighted quotes from Dr. Griffin’s speech last Wednesday (8/8) evening at the Von Braun Center during the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.
“Whatever we are getting done today, the outcome we are getting today is that the average defense and aerospace program, NASA or DoD makes no difference, takes 16.5 years to get there from stating a need to initial operation capability, 16.5 years, that’s the programs that don’t get cancelled. That’s just an appalling statement. So if we don’t behave differently, we should not expect a different outcome.”
“That is a true statement, it is almost trite and it is embarrassing because this is a country that once knew how to turn all the inside pieces moving. This is a country that dropped the first atom bomb in the three years after the people were first told to start on it, designed not just one but two kinds with three different methods of uranium and plutonium extraction. This is a country that went to the moon in eight years and two months after JFK said to do so and at the time we did it some people in this room participated in that, and many of us have older colleagues that participated in it. At the time JFK laid down that challenge, we had fifteen minutes of human space flight under our belt. Right now, the branch of the Washington metro that goes from Dulles to the Vienna airport has been under construction for nine years. I am not done. They project they will finish it in another seven. This is to build a train track. It is a good thing that we are a rich country because poorer countries could just not afford to waste this kind of money. This is a country that, from a concept on a piece of paper and an idea that had never been tried, a stealth aircraft, built and put on a ramp the first stealth aircraft thirty-two months after the contract is signed. It would take us thirty-two months today to hash out what the requirements would be.”
“In my first hearing after taking this job I was asked to testify in front of the full House Armed Services Committee chaired by Congressman Thornberry, and at one point in our discussion he asked me why, in my opinion, we were so slow. I told him we were mired down in the process, we can retain either our preeminence or our process but we cannot keep both.”
“I will be asking you at every chance I get to look at what you are doing and find ways to either eliminate it or shortcut it. Most of what you are doing by definition is not value-added and that sounds harsh, but the Chinese are testing on test centers, calendar centers of months and we are testing on calendar centers of years. They are not inherently more skilled, more bright, or work harder than we do, what are they doing differently? They are not doing a lot of things that in the end, and they are achieving success, not doing things in the end that do not need to be done. They are not consulting a lot of people that just do not need to be consulted. We need to identity all of you who need to be key decision-makers in your chains of command, and empower them to decide quickly. This is not an open book exam, this is a closed book and you bring to the decision space the knowledge that you have accumulated over your career. You use that knowledge and experience to make decisions quickly. You must not seek out committees of people to verify and validate your decisions so no one individual can be wrong. You must look at the boxes you are checking, the paperwork you are filling out, you must look at the boxes and ask if they need to be checked in order to accomplish the goal. In every Congress meeting that I have, and I have never seen Congress more on our side than it is today, in every meeting I am asked, “What relief do you need? What legal remedies do you require? What can we do to help you move faster?” So, if you are bound by legal impediments, if you are anywhere in any chain of command I need you to bring those forward and I am perfectly willing to bring those to Congress and say “Sirs and Madams, I need relief from… “ It can only come from you, who are day to day involved in details of how programs are run and what is being done. Only you can surface these things so those who are in leadership positions can try to fix it.”
“So I chose tonight to devote most of my comments to picking up on one of Gen Hyten’s short segments, that we need to move faster. Yes we do, and that means each of you at every single level look at what you are doing and weed out that which you do not need to do, and weed out the people that do not need to be consulted and let them go add value somewhere else. That is the only way we will save time.”