Young’s push to make prototyping the norm will not be easy. It will add costs up front, when money is scarcest and support is weakest. And it may run up against a belief that certain programs must be pushed at great speeds to fill capability gaps—exactly the reasons behind the Alabama lawmakers’ interest in moving forward quickly with JAGM. “John Young recognizes that there is a major cultural bias against competition that is ingrained in the [Department of Defense], and he’s trying to change that culture,” Coyle remarks.
Defense spending will likely plummet during the next few years, Gansler says, so acquisition reform will become more important than ever. Instilling a competitive environment should be given high-level support even if the result is that some initiatives have to go back to the drawing board. The Pentagon, he says, “can’t afford not to.”
Attracting the Next Generation
The Pentagon’s John Young believes that competitive prototyping will not only yield better weapons systems but will also help alleviate a problem facing both the military and the defense and aerospace industry: a paucity of young scientists and engineers. According to a study by Aerospace Corporation, the number of master’s degrees in science and engineering awarded to U.S. residents has been falling by an average of 5 percent a year since 1995. Young’s memo on prototyping states that more competition during the early research stage could entice “young scientists and engineers to apply their technical talents to the needs of our nation’s warfighters” and could “inspire the imagination and creativity of a new generation of young students.”
This article was originally published with the title Proactive Prototypes.