Growing Technical Excellence in the AEDC T&E Workforce
U.S. Air Force T&E Days 2009
I. Introduction IMELY and cost-effective acquisition of military systems has deteriorated significantly over the last two decades. Despite numerous attempts at acquisition reform, the number of acquisition programs behind schedule and over costs continues to escalate. Behind the deterioration is a convergence of factors including increased complexity, unproven technologies, low-balled cost projections, politicization of the technical process, and a shortage of skilled engineers and program
... rs and program managers. 1 The shortage of technical expertise in the acquisition community not only compounds other factors such as technical maturity, complexity, and cost realism, but is also reaching a crisis condition because of a retiring workforce and limitations in attracting entry-level scientists and engineers. Solving the shortage of technical talent in acquisition will not be a quick fix, but will require a persistent and comprehensive approach. The Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) identified revitalizing the technical excellence of its workforce as a crucial strategy for not only reinvigorating the mission and viability of the Center, but also increasing the effectiveness of test and evaluation (T&E) in support of acquisition programs. 2 Clearly, systems acquisition will be more effective when a highly skilled and experienced technical workforce in the T&E community is an integral part of the process -from initial program planning, through development and testing, all the way to fielding and sustainment of the resulting system. AEDC recognized there is not a top-down, "silver bullet" solution to technical excellence; instead, AEDC has chosen a bottom-up, focused approach. The purpose of this paper is to reinforce the vision AEDC has for technical excellence and to highlight progress made in achieving the turnaround toward an innovative technical staff creating a value-added role for AEDC's capabilities in the acquisition process. II. Background In the past twenty years, DoD programs have steadily suffered from increasing costs and schedule slippages resulting in fewer systems actually being delivered to the warfighter. Following the end of the "Reagan buildup" in the 1980s, the DoD acquisition community took a procurement holiday resulting in fewer programs and significant reductions in the infrastructure and intellectual capital used to develop new systems. Staffing across the Major Range and Test Facility Base (MRTFB) was reduced by over 30% in the 1990s. Likewise, industry undertook similar reductions.