IEEE originally stood for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, but the organization's scope of interest has expanded into so many related fields that it's now known only by its acronym. One field of intense interest to many IEEE members is the defense industry, and a recent IEEE Spectrum Magazine special offers a number of features that attempt to come to grips with current trends.
Right now, the current trends are not good. The US Navy is smaller than it has been in decades, currently has no viable shipbuilding programs for surface combatants, and has credibility issues in Washington. The US Army has a clear modernization strategy, but faces a maintenance overhang, challenges with both program management of its $160 billion Future Combat Systems meta-program and the very premises behind it, and other issues. The USAF has become concerned about its institutional future, even as its aircraft continue to see their average ages rise and respected outside organizations slam its procurement plans as fantasy. A recent Pentagon Defense Business Board report that examined programs from 2000 - 2007 throws the problem into stark relief: cost increases on 5 major weapons programs accounted for $206 billion, or 22%, of the total jump in spending for new arms so far this decade. The Defense Procurement Death Spiral is biting, hard, across the board.
There is plenty of blame to go around, from requirements definition problems and skewed incentives within the Pentagon, to Congressional interference and overhead - though the latter isn't discussed much at Capitol Hill hearings. The IEEE Spectrum articles in this series offer a quick third party view. They are all relatively short, and include:
- What's Wrong With Weapons Acquisitions?
- Advice for the Next U.S. President: Fix Military Acquisitions
- The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Intellectual Disconnect
- Weapons Acquisition Problems Span the Globe
- F-22: Success, Failure, or Both
- Some Recent U.S. Defense Programs in Trouble
- The More Things Change…
- Understanding Failure by Examining Success