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The Historiography of Programming and Acquisition Management since 1950,
with a Focus on the Navy


Military systems acquisition does not command public attention the way that combat operations always do. For example, there are several very good novels about the modern Navy, but I know of only one about modern Navy acquisition: The Minotaur (1990), by best-selling author and Navy veteran Stephen Coonts.1 Many readers consider it the weakest of his novels featuring Navy Captain Jake Grafton, first introduced to the public in The Flight of the Intruder in 1986. Why do many of those who like the Jake Grafton stories not like The Minotaur? The answer is that it lacks the riveting action scenes of the first novel of the series. Unfortunately for authors of novels, the acquisition of a major military system is a complex, time consuming, and often tedious process. To be sure, there is often drama to the process, but not necessarily the heart-pounding type so often found in combat operations.

In some cases, the congressional debates over a specific system such as the Joint Strike Fighter grab the headlines, but acquisition, like budgeting, usually gets media attention only when there is immediate drama—some deviation from routine. In short, topics such as programming, budgeting, shipbuilding, and the cost of preserving the Navy’s industrial base are usually left to journalists, analysts in organizations such as the Center for Naval Analyses or the RAND Corporation, and those who work in watchdog agencies like the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Note that I have not mentioned academic historians.

That isn’t to say that useful and insightful scholarly histories of military acquisition haven’t been written since World War II. Some have, and this paper will cite them. I will also explain why the lines separating history from journalism and from analysis have been difficult to draw—why the post-World War II history of military acquisition has been a mix of the products of historians, journalists, and analysts. Finally, I will explain why, with the publication in the last decade of serious, detailed histories of the military acquisition process, this situation has changed, and changed very much for the better.

Why the History of Military Acquisition Is Important

Since World War II, military acquisition—which includes military research and development—has been a major political issue. For example, is there a military-industrial complex? If so, just how does it operate? Why, if it exists, is it influential? And if indeed it is influential, then does its influence create problems new to the constitutional order of the United States? These questions


have stimulated both public discussions and expert analysis since former President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the nation about the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address on January 17, 1961. There also have been fierce debates since the beginning of the Cold War about whether the armed services can obtain the equipment—the “systems”—they believe that they need at a cost that the nation can afford. These debates have drawn on case studies of acquisition management (and mismanagement). Many of those studies have not been written by historians but by journalists, or scholars who are not historians, or consultants, or faculty at Defense Department schools.

The history of military acquisition since World War II has been difficult for historians to write for two reasons. The first is that military acquisition has mattered politically, economically, and socially; therefore, studying it and writing about it has drawn scholars into the world of policy analysis and into public debates about national military policy—places where scholarship is often dominated by the urge to influence opinion. The second reason is that its study has posed methodological challenges to historians. How should its history be studied? Is it a type of business and therefore the province of the professional students of business and management? Can historians gain access to the information that they need, or must the historical profession wait for key records to be declassified? Can you write history without all the relevant records?

How Should the History of Military Acquisition Be Studied?

In an essay published in 1978, the highly regarded historian John Lukacs argues for history that is “microcosmic and sociographic, not sociological and generalizing.” By that he means history from the viewpoint of the participants.2 But just how close must the historian be to the people that he or she is studying? To write a useful history of acquisition, must the researcher be or have been an active participant in the process? Is the field so arcane that only insiders can really understand it? Is the history of military acquisition therefore like the history of science, where the historian needs special preparation in order to work successfully?

Adding to the historian’s task is the fact that elements of specific acquisitions—stealth aircraft designs, for example—often have been highly classified, creating a significant barrier to researchers who want access to the relevant records. At the same time, acquisition professionals and senior executives in the Defense Department often want reliable lessons learned that they can use to improve their own work. To be useful, those lessons may have to be written and then briefed by people who can be trusted to prepare and handle classified information. So should at least some acquisition histories be classified? If not, then how should sensitive information be used, and how should it be cited? Moreover, in the absence of official, unclassified documents, what is the value of oral histories or of interviews and memoirs in studying both classified and unclassified military acquisition projects? And what is the proper way to study the relationship—


obviously important—between acquisition and programming and budgeting? How do you study in a rigorous way activities that are both the province of specialists and highly classified without becoming part of the organizations that conduct these activities?

I believe that historians and other researchers are getting some serious studies that will help them answer the many questions that have been raised about military acquisition in the United States since the end of World War II. I also believe that some of the recent studies do what John Lukacs argued had to be done if history is to be trusted. In supporting my claim, however, I first have to review the existing literature and then show why recent work is a major step forward.

To Understand Acquisition in the Cold War, Go Back to World War II

Perhaps the best book ever written on military acquisition in the United States came out of the Army’s World War II history program: Buying Aircraft: Materiel Procurement for the Army Air Forces, written by Irving B. Holley Jr. and published by the Department of the Army’s Chief of Military History in 1964.3 Buying Aircraft shows that most acquisition practices in place during the initial decades of the Cold War had their roots in World War II, when the emphasis was primarily on the mass production of essential items such as combat and transport aircraft, armored vehicles, and amphibious assault ships like the landing ship tank (LST). Research and development also mattered in World War II. As much as possible, the mass produced conventional weapons had to incorporate the latest technology, as in airborne radars. But to produce thousands of tanks, amphibious craft, and planes, the World War II acquisition workforce had to adopt planning, manufacturing control, and inspection practices borrowed from private industry, especially the automobile industry.

The strength of Buying Aircraft is the way that it links War Department procurement policy with actual practice. Holley recognizes the truth of the cliché “The devil is in the details,” and masters the details, preserving them for later generations. Buying Aircraft combines an insider’s understanding of details of procurement with an historian’s broader perspective. It is the sort of history that John Lukacs argues is essential. An essential precursor to Buying Aircraft was Holley’s wonderful Ideas and Weapons, published in 1953.4 The theme of Ideas and Weapons is clear from the book’s subtitle: “A Study in the Relationship of Technological Advance, Military Doctrine, and the Development of Weapons.” Ideas and Weapons is a work of historical investigation; it tells you what happened. It is also, however, a work of analysis; it tells you why things happened the way they did. It is also a study that encourages the reader to consider whether the patterns of the past might actually be repeated in a somewhat altered form in the future.5 Holley shows the way in the field of acquisition history. In a sense, he created it. Could others follow his example?


After World War II, military—and especially naval—historians tended to bypass acquisition and focus on operations. Samuel Eliot Morison’s multivolume history of the Navy in World War II, for example, is a history of operations. The Navy Department did compile administrative histories in World War II, but what we today call acquisition was mainly covered in the histories of the Navy’s bureaus.6 There was no overall study of Navy procurement or acquisition, and no special, focused study to rival Holley’s Buying Aircraft. There was also no Navy analog to the War Department’s Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940–1943 and the follow-on volume covering the years 1943–1945, both of which intelligently and thoroughly take on the subjects of strategic and operational logistics.7

More Background: Cold War Studies of Acquisition

From the perspective of historians interested in military systems acquisition, the Cold War was both the best of times and the worst of times. It was the best because so many new systems were developed and fielded. Each new system could be thought of as a case study in acquisition management, and some management (such as that leading to nuclear-powered attack submarines) was very impressive.8 However, it was also the worst because the military acquisition process developed for World War II was in some ways an actual obstacle to creating and sustaining an approach specially designed for the Cold War. How could a process suited to directing mass production be replaced by one dedicated to scientific research and to the rapid development of technologically sophisticated systems? How could the military services successfully drive innovation and then integrate innovative systems (such as powerful turbojet engines) into existing forces?

Fortunately, enough of a foundation for doing this development and integration had been created during World War II to carry the nation through the lean defense budget years after the war. There was no great failure of wartime acquisition to capture the attention of Congress, citizens, and historians, and so wartime acquisition was assumed to have been a success. In addition, the postwar years were filled with other issues concerning the management of national defense, including the debate over unifying the armed services, the proper control of atomic weapons, and the relationship between Navy and Air Force aviation.9 As Holley’s Buying Aircraft shows, producing a detailed history of wartime acquisition took time—years of careful research and writing. What university history department could wait that long for a younger faculty member to produce such a study? Moreover, the major issue confronting those seriously concerned about national defense after World War II was the role of nuclear weapons in national strategy. Other topics accordingly received much less attention.

Despite these obstacles, there were eventually a number of Cold War studies of military systems (aircraft, submarines, radars, etc.) and even some very useful accounts of the processes through


which these systems were developed and fielded. However, the routine classification of documents during the Cold War years often restricted what information was available regarding the costs of systems, their characteristics, how they drew on advanced technology, and—especially—how they were manufactured and tested. Despite routine secrecy, there were numerous journalists’ accounts of specific weapons and their genesis and development; some of the stories were thorough enough to be called histories. One example is Orr Kelly’s Hornet: The Inside Story of the F/A-18, published in 1990. Another example, and one that is both history and analysis, is Glenn Bugos’s Engineering the F-4 Phantom II: Parts into Systems, published in 1996.10

There were also historians of weapons and technology who combed the available records to describe what was developed, when it was procured, and then deployed. For example, there is a large audience of readers from many nations that is fascinated by military aircraft, and it has been well served by—among others—Barrett Tillman, author of many books on aircraft and aircraft carrier operations.11 For those fascinated by warships, there are the illustrated design histories of U.S. battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers by Norman Friedman.12 Historians intent on understanding acquisition should not bypass these publications. They contain reliable information and insights related to acquisition (including logistics), as well as information about how aircraft and ships performed in combat.

Much military acquisition is about things, from infantry weapons to huge warships. If you want to understand where these come from and why they do what they do, you need to start with the things themselves. That means reading the books prepared for the audiences that are fascinated by the machinery of war and willing to pay for reliable guides to that machinery. If you do that, you can retrace the steps of researchers such as Norman Friedman, who began studying U.S. Navy ship designs and where they came from and progressed to studying the processes of warship design used in other navies, the technology of weapons design and support, the history of command and control systems used by modern navies, the military uses of space, and the development of unmanned air vehicles.13 In effect, Friedman built up knowledge and research expertise from the bottom by studying the particulars of weapons, sensors, and command and control systems. Over time, his studies have become more strategic and insightful, and his research interests wider—to even include an award winning study of the Cold War.14

There were also useful official histories produced during the Cold War years. Examples include a three volume history of the Atomic Energy Commission, histories of the Naval Weapons Center and the Navy’s White Oak, Maryland, laboratory, and U.S. Air Force history office studies of the development of Air Force aircraft and ballistic missiles.15 The Air Force History and Museums Program also released a history of acquisition management in 1997, and the service published an official history of the Air Force Materiel Command in 2006.16 In 2003, the


U.S. Army Materiel Command’s (AMC) history office published A Brief History of AMC, 1962–2000, and in 2006, the Department of the Army issued U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command: Chronological Highlights. In 1983, the Center for Naval Analyses published the proceedings of an interesting conference on the Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS), and in 2004, the Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation (PA&E) presented a “historical perspective” on PPBS at the 37th Annual Department of Defense Cost Analysis Symposium.17

The RAND Corporation also produced a number of studies of military research and development (R&D) and acquisition. Economist Burton H. Klein and his colleagues at RAND wrote a series of interesting papers on military R&D and acquisition over a 13-year period from 1958 to 1971.18 The analysts understood that the mass production models of World War II had been superseded by a new model of constant, routine R&D and production. That new model, however, had to be made up and refined as time passed. It could not be borrowed—as the mass production model had been borrowed—from existing organizations like the automobile industry. Accordingly, the analysts drew on concepts from economics, operations research, and academic studies of decision-making. These nonhistorical concepts were useful because major acquisition decisions were essentially political and bureaucratic ones.19

Under the auspices of the Business Executives for National Security, retired Army Colonel M. Thomas Davis, who had headed the Army’s Program Development Division, wrote two thoughtful studies of the planning, programming, and budgeting process in 2000.20 In 2003, the Institute for Defense Analyses issued a study entitled “Exploring a New Defense Resource Management System” (IDA Paper P-3756), and the Army War College published “PPBS to PPBE: A Process or Principles,” by Colonel Steven R. Grimes in 2008.21 Though quite useful, these studies tend to focus on how management processes work and not on the histories of their development.

David D. Acker, who served as an engineer and manager in the aerospace industry and was a specialist in aircraft and missile guidance systems, also helped draft the first major system acquisition directive while working in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He eventually produced what might be considered the first comprehensive participant’s history of post-Cold War military acquisition, Acquiring Defense Systems: A Quest for the Best, in 1993, while teaching at the Defense Systems Management College.22 In 1996, Wilbur D. Jones, also a member of the faculty of the college, supplemented Acker’s history with From Packard to Perry: A Quarter Century of Service to the Defense Acquisition Community, which describes the creation and operation of what is now the Defense Acquisition University.23 Another participant-historian was Dov S. Zakheim, who served as Defense Department Comptroller from 2001 to 2004. Zakheim wrote an engaging and revealing memoir of his involvement, as the Deputy


Under Secretary of Defense for Planning and Resources (1985–1987), in the project to produce Israel’s ill-fated fighter, the Lavi.24

Other relevant Cold War studies include the assessments of defense resource management by economist Charles J. Hitch,25 who is acknowledged to be the father of the Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS) when he served as Defense Department Comptroller under then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. There is also the classic study of the Navy’s Polaris program by MIT political scientist Harvey M. Sapolsky,26 and quite a bit of research by management analysts, especially J. Ronald Fox of the Harvard Business School.27 Sapolsky’s analysis of the Navy’s ballistic missile submarine program was a model of its kind. However, its focus was not historical but instead (as the title makes clear) bureaucratic or—to use a less offensive term—organizational.

In 1962, Harvard Business School economists Merton J. Peck and Frederic M. Scherer produced The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis, a detailed study of a dozen major defense acquisition programs and of the interaction of industry professionals with their military counterparts. Their economic analysis identifies the three major factors in any major acquisition program: cost, schedule (or time), and product performance.28 It also shows that trade–offs could be made among the three major factors, and it was their analysis that stimulated the use of quantitative metrics (such as cost/schedule control systems) in program management.29

In the 1980s, researchers not then employed by the Federal Government or by a university also wrote very useful books and articles on military acquisition. Gordon Adams produced The Iron Triangle: The Politics of Defense Contracting for the Council on Economic Priorities in 1981. Thomas L. McNaugher, then on the staff of the Brookings Institution, published New Weapons, Old Politics: America’s Procurement Muddle in 1989.30 Both books, as well as a number of articles, popularized the metaphor of the iron triangle, the three-sided political relationship among defense contractors, military requirements officers, and members of Congress, and the way that the relationship dominated the military acquisition process. Along with studies done by the GAO (now the Government Accountability Office), these publications highlight the continuing problem of rising costs for military systems.

However, then-Rear Admiral Donald L. Pilling (later the Vice Chief of Naval Operations) argued in his insightful Competition in Defense Procurement (1989) that the available evidence failed “to demonstrate statistically that procurement competition,” a key piece of acquisition reform, did “in fact reduce program cost.”31 Like I. B. Holley, Pilling was historian John Lukacs’s model investigator—an experienced, highly educated (PhD in mathematics) officer with an insider’s view of how decisions were made in the field of military acquisition. Pilling’s conclusions are sobering, though not quite as dramatically negative as those of Franklin Spinney


in his Defense Facts of Life: The Plans/Reality Mismatch, published in 1985.32 Spinney argues that the Defense Department, given the way it practiced the acquisition of major systems, was on a sort of treadmill. The military services and the contractors they worked with would develop overly optimistic estimates of acquisition costs in order to gain a place in a service’s budget. Later, when the costs proved (almost always) to be higher than initially estimated, the number of systems procured would be reduced, leading to a military force with a smaller and smaller number of major systems.

Complementing these studies was the writing of journalist George C. Wilson, who for many years covered the Pentagon for The Washington Post. In 2000, he wrote a fine study of the defense budget process entitled This War Really Matters: Inside the Fight for Defense Dollars.33 This slim volume, based on a series of interviews he conducted of Pentagon officials, was overshadowed by the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001. It remains, however, a useful historical snapshot of defense budgeting because it illustrates the maneuvering over resources that took place within the Pentagon and among the military services before the terrorist attacks.

Another interesting memoir describing the interaction of the Executive Branch with Congress is James R. Locher’s Victory on the Potomac: The Goldwater-Nichols Act Unifies the Pentagon.34 His perspective on civil-military relations and on the optimal chain of military command can be contrasted with that of former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman’s as presented in Command of the Seas or that in former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger’s memoir, Fighting for Peace.35 Moreover, what might be called “the Reagan years” or, for students of the Navy, “the Lehman years,” can be compared with a later time as presented by Robert M. Gates in his Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, published in 2014.36

Historians Rediscover Acquisition

To get an insightful and comprehensive historian’s view of military acquisition, we had to wait for the publication of Paul A. C. Koistinen’s Arsenal of World War II: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1940–1945, in 2004. The subtitle is revealing. Koistinen defines the “political economy of warfare” as “the interrelations of political, economic, and military institutions in devising the means to mobilize resources for defense and to conduct war.” He identifies four types of factors that shaped how the United States mobilized in wartime: “the level of maturity of the economy,” “the size, strength, and scope” of the Federal Government, “the character and structure of the military services and the relation between them and civilian society and authority,” and “the state of military technology.”37 He carried forward this perspective of political economy from his previous volumes, which covered the years from the


creation of the American republic to World War II, and he also applied it to the Cold War years, in State of War, 1945–2011.38

Koistinen chose the analytical perspective of political economy because military procurement (later more broadly defined by those doing it as “military acquisition”) unavoidably involves the interaction of political and economic organizations (such as trade unions and industrial associations) and political and economic institutions (Congress, the defense bureaucracy, and the military services). Military acquisition is complex because it is a political as well as an economic and technical activity. This mix of politics, economics, law (especially contracting law), and technology is why Paul Koistinen chose to approach military acquisition from the perspective of political economy.

But is political economy history? Perhaps not. For example, in his survey of military acquisition from 1945 to 2011, Koistinen argues that the main lesson to be learned is that the military-industrial complex is “so entrenched in the economic, political, and social lives of the nation that it is nearly impossible to downgrade, let alone root out.”39 Koistinen agrees with Seymour Melman’s argument that “the inefficiency and incompetence of the military-industrial sector inevitably spread out to affect, directly and indirectly, most functions of the civilian economy.”40 The result, according to Koistinen, has been a loss of American economic vitality and hence American power. This is obviously a very serious charge, and it illustrates how closely the study of history can be related to polemics about the meaning of history.

Economist Vernon W. Ruttan presents a very different perspective on the political economy of defense acquisition in Is War Necessary for Economic Growth? Ruttan argues in this book that Department of Defense investment had in fact promoted technological advances in the following fields: jet aircraft, commercial nuclear power, semiconductors, mainframe computers, the internet, and satellite communications and navigation. Indeed, Ruttan’s argument is that the U.S. economy is losing its vitality—despite the boom in personal digital devices—because the Defense Department is not investing in basic research the way it did during the early years of the Cold War.41 Whose assessment is correct? How can historical studies lead to an answer?

If John Lukacs was correct, if “Historical knowledge . . . is participant knowledge,”42 then how can one researcher get “participant knowledge” of a process that is so complex, so large, and that changes over time? The task is daunting, if only because—for the years since World War II—there is so much primary and secondary source material. This challenge of trying to survey such a huge mass of relevant material is perhaps the main reason why the literature on Cold War military acquisition contains interesting case studies of particular acquisition programs (like the F/A-18) and surveys of the development of specific types of systems, such as armored vehicles, but not many overarching historical assessments. Participant knowledge may be essential for


detailed histories of specific programs, but it’s almost impossible for anyone to participate in military acquisition at multiple levels in both government and private industry.

The Recent Department of Defense Acquisition Histories

There is a way to tackle this methodological problem. At the end of the administration of former President William J. Clinton, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Dr. Jacques Gansler, noted that “during the more than fifty years since the National Security Act of 1947, the Department of Defense acquisition function has experienced great change and received extraordinarily high public visibility and congressional attention. We are missing, however, a comprehensive record of Defense acquisition accomplishments and failures from which we may have an opportunity to learn.”43 To remedy this problem, Gansler authorized funding for “The Defense Acquisition History Project,” the purpose of which was to cover in detail the history of military acquisition since World War II. Under Secretary of Defense Edward C. Aldridge continued the project, and it led to a symposium—“Providing the Means of War”—held at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF) in September 2001.

At the symposium, historians and military analysts presented 15 papers of basically two types covering the years from 1945 to 2000.44 The first surveyed the changes in military acquisition taking place across time. How did the laws governing acquisition change? How did military service acquisition organizations change? The second type dealt with specific acquisition programs or with issues identified as critical to the acquisition process. J. Ronald Fox, a distinguished student of acquisition on the faculty of Harvard Business School and a former assistant secretary of the Army, gave the keynote address at the symposium, and B. F. Cooling, an experienced historian and professor at ICAF, delivered the closing remarks. The symposium also included a panel discussion among Gansler; Paul Ignatius, a former secretary of the Navy; and Paul Kaminski, who preceded Gansler as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology.

The goal of the symposium was to discover what the various researchers could produce in a relatively short time. From the papers presented, it was clear that they had captured the major changes in military acquisition since World War II and had explored several of the most important acquisition issues. In short, the plan for the papers broke the history of military acquisition since 1945 into manageable pieces, relieving the historians brought into the project from the almost impossible task of trying to understand the whole history of military acquisition since the end of World War II.

Authors of the papers broke the chronology of acquisition into the following pieces: 1945–1958, 1959–1968, 1969–1980, 1981–1990, and 1990–2000. Specific acquisition programs addressed


included the Navy’s underwater sound surveillance system, early Air Force efforts to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the Navy’s DASH maritime unmanned aerial vehicle, the Navy’s FFG-7 frigates, the Army’s Bradley fighting vehicle, and the Brilliant Pebbles missile defense system. Issues covered were the adequacy of contracts as the bridge between the military and industry, the value and potential drawbacks of concurrent development in a weapons program, the origins and effects of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act, reducing acquisition schedules, and moving a system from research and development to initial production. The symposium papers and commentaries were published in 2005 as Providing the Means of War: Historical Perspectives on Defense Acquisition, 1945–2000.

In my view, Providing the Means of War is an essential publication for any historian interested in military acquisition since World War II. The papers and commentary in this volume tell you what acquisition is, how it differs from procurement, how it is governed by laws and regulations, and why it is a complex enterprise. As mentioned, the post-World War II disputes over service roles, the control of nuclear material, the proper authority of the Secretary of Defense, and the nation’s relationship with Europe and the Soviet Union overshadowed a series of changes in acquisition laws and organizations in the late 1940s and early 1950s.45 In effect, changing the procurement model to an acquisition model was an incremental enterprise, if only because of the country’s need during the initial stage of the Cold War to sustain a large conscript force that was equipped with adequate numbers of modern weapons.

One post-World War II lesson learned by the Air Force (an independent service as of July 26, 1947) was that it needed to abandon its wartime concept of acquisition as the mass production of aircraft and weapons and adopt a strategy of continuously developing technology and then integrating that technology into the service’s organizational structure. But what way of doing that would be both effective and efficient, especially given constraints in defense funding? In short, how could the Air Force promote what came to be called an aerospace industry without creating a system of aircraft arsenals?46 This was a major issue for the Air Force, which on its creation had inherited the Army Air Corps Materiel Division (for research and development) but did not inherit an in-house acquisition organization like the Naval Aircraft Factory.47

The existing acquisition model was sequential. First a service conducted or sponsored research; then, based on that research, it explored the potential of an as yet undeveloped system. After exploratory development, a service acquisition organization could move ahead with prototype production and then, if the prototyping were successful, with quantity production. Once it was clear, however, that there was in fact a “cold” war between the United States and the Soviet Union, the model of sequential development and production was called into question, just as it had been in World War II. The practices put in place to deal with the drawbacks of the model of sequential development and production therefore mimicked somewhat the practices of World


War II—parallel development (the USAF’s decision to pursue simultaneously the Atlas and Titan ICBMs), concurrent development and production (used in missile and jet aircraft programs), and upgrades of existing systems.48

What about the control and direction of acquisition inside the new Department of Defense? The 1958 Department of Defense Reorganization Act gave the Secretary of Defense real formal authority over military service budgeting and hence acquisition. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara chose to use that authority aggressively. He and his assistants reduced the use by the services of cost contracts, created the Defense Supply Agency to procure items common to all the services, and championed the concept of Total Package Procurement, where one contractor would develop, produce, and support a major system across that system’s lifetime. But his major achievement in the field of acquisition was in structuring the development of the nation’s nuclear forces, where he and his staff linked national strategy to nuclear war doctrine and then to acquisition.49

There is no need to describe for military historians the political and bureaucratic backlash to Secretary McNamara’s initiatives. But if he had been too strong an executive, infringing on the traditional—and perhaps even the legal—prerogatives of the military services, then what was the alternative? David Packard, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, provided the answer in 1970. It was a formal sequential process, mandated by the Secretary of Defense that was based on milestone reviews, and it became the basis for the 5000-series of Department of Defense Directives that still govern the process of acquiring major military systems. Under Packard—or because of Packard—the services adopted life-cycle costing, parametric cost estimating, and the idea of designing to cost, which made cost as important a governing factor in acquisition as schedule and performance.50

The adoption of these initiatives did not fix military acquisition. It was one thing to develop and promulgate a logical, sequential acquisition process, but that process did not guarantee that what started it off—the adoption by a military service of a formal requirement—would lead to something that was both affordable and militarily effective. In the case of what became the Bradley fighting vehicle, for example, the General Accounting Office accused the Army of pushing ahead with a new system while it was still trying to figure out just how that system would be used. As critics of the Bradley pointed out, how could the infantry-carrying vehicle accompany the new M-1 tank when the tank was far better protected than the Bradley?51 The fracas over the Bradley ran right into the middle of the 1980s.52 Critics of the Army’s acquisition process considered Bradley just another mistake like the reputedly failed Sheridan antitank tracked vehicle from the 1960s. Thoughtful critics saw the problem as one where the requirements process was not properly disciplined and therefore pushed unrealistic requirements on the Army’s acquisition officials.


The solution to this sort of problem was a new round of legislative action. Congress funded the additional and modernized forces requested by Presidents James E. Carter and Ronald R. Reagan, but along with the increase in funding came new legislative mandates, including the Gramm-Rudman Deficit Reduction Act of 1984, the clause in the 1984 Department of Defense Authorization Act that required an office in the Defense Department to oversee operational test and evaluation, the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984, the Defense Procurement Improvement Act of 1985, and the Defense Acquisition Improvement Act of 1986.53 David Packard was recalled to Washington to oversee yet another study of military acquisition. His study commission issued three reports between February and June 1986. Those reports argued that the acquisition process was still flawed, and Packard’s group singled out a lack of cooperation between the services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a major source of problems. But Packard and those members of Congress who shared his views gained a victory in 1990 with the passage of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act. The new law treated the acquisition workforce as a cadre of professionals who required special training and retraining as they advanced in their careers.54

There was another wave of acquisition reform in the 1990s, this time triggered by the end of the Cold War and the need to shrink the size of the military and reduce the cost of acquisition. When he became Secretary of Defense in 1994, William J. Perry began a process of major acquisition reform. His initiatives included tailoring or even abandoning military specifications and standards in contracts, championing the use of “total quality management,” fostering “dual-use” technologies, and writing solicitations to industry that were based on desired performance in order to push defense firms away from coming back to the Defense Department with only modifications of what they had already developed. He also created the post of Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Reform and gave the job to an experienced appointee. Congress weighed in with more legislation: the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994, the Federal Acquisition Reform Act of 1995, and the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1995. Perry’s successor, William Cohen, inaugurated the Defense Reform Initiative in 1997, kicking off an effort labeled “the revolution in business affairs.”55

Providing the Means of War, which documented these and many other developments, was a success, and soon it was complemented by other studies. In 2008, the U.S. Army Center of Military History published Thomas C. Lassman’s very useful history of research and development done by the military laboratories and research centers between 1945 and 2000.56 Lassman’s study methodology was innovative. He relies almost completely on unclassified sources, most from the national security trade press. He demonstrates that trade press publications can serve as a reliable and accurate source of changes within the services and the


defense industry. In doing that, he highlights one way to overcome the unavoidable obstacles to research created by the classification of primary sources.

The historians executing the acquisition history project continued to produce fine studies. J. Ronald Fox, the dean of acquisition historians and analysts, cooperated with others involved in the project to produce Defense Acquisition Reform, 1960–2009: An Elusive Goal, in 2011.57 Though this book focuses more on the 1990s than on earlier decades, it is wonderfully detailed and contains four excellent appendixes, one of which tracks changes to Department of Defense Directive 5000.1 from 1971 to 2008 and another that provides a chronology of 63 defense acquisition reforms from March 1966 to May 2001. The highlights of the acquisition history project, however, are four detailed acquisition histories. The first two are in print: Elliott V. Converse III’s Rearming for the Cold War, 1945–1960, and Walter S. Poole’s Adapting to Flexible Response, 1960–1968.58 As of this writing (June 2015), three additional detailed studies are in draft form: Department of Defense Acquisition History, Vol. III, 1969–1980, with five chapters drafted by Walton S. Moody and the rest being prepared by David G. Allen; Vol. IV, 1981–1990, by Thomas C. Lassman and Andrew J. Butrica; and Vol. V, 1991–2000, by Philip L. Shiman.

These volumes, along with a separate compilation of primary source documents related to military acquisition, are the very useful and often insightful products of the Defense Acquisition History Project. Students of acquisition finally have detailed and thoughtful histories. The whole project is a credit to former Under Secretaries of Defense Jacques Gansler and Edward Aldridge and to their successors. Moreover, the project has come along like a deliberately planned and well-managed acquisition project. First was the symposium, which tested whether there was the talent available to produce excellent histories and whether a chronological organization would be suitable for a multivolume study. In effect, the symposium was a prototype, but it also produced some interesting and relevant case studies and, in that sense, it was like an advanced concept technology demonstrator. One of the better case studies is that of the Brilliant Pebbles project in the Strategic Defense Initiative Office, in which Donald R. Baucom, who had served as the official historian of the Brilliant Pebbles effort, shows how the same general policy guidelines could set the Office of the Secretary of Defense and a dedicated and innovative program manager at odds.59

After the symposium came the 2008 study, based on what might be called the military-industrial complex’s trade press. This was followed by J. Ronald Fox’s 2011 effort to understand why defense acquisition reform was “an elusive goal.” Now we also have two of the detailed acquisition history volumes and can look forward to three more. The success of the acquisition history project shows why it had to be a group effort. The subject—across time and multiple administrations and congresses—is just too large for one individual to comprehend. But the two


volumes in print so far also show what good historians can do even if they lack an insider’s or participant’s perspective. One weakness of Paul Koistinen’s volume on the years 1945–2011 is his reliance on secondary sources, especially those that do not necessarily throw light on the day-to-day workings of military acquisition. The two volumes of the acquisition history project do not have that same weakness. They were written by historians who are more familiar with the details of the acquisition process and are therefore better able to understand and describe it.

The Study of Innovation as a Subset of the Study of Acquisition

Innovation in military acquisition forms an important subfield of the study of military acquisition in general. In the case of the Navy, both those with and without participant knowledge have produced such studies. Serious studies by insiders range from a detailed discussion of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover’s administration of the nuclear-powered submarine program60 to Admiral William Owens’s account of how he and Admiral Frank Kelso altered the workings of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the wake of the Cold War.61 Other studies of post-World War II naval innovation include Owen Cote’s The Third Battle: Innovation in the U.S. Navy’s Silent Cold War Struggle with Soviet Submarines, James Blaker’s Transforming Military Force: The Legacy of Arthur Cebrowski and Network Centric Warfare, and Innovation in Carrier Aviation, by the author of this paper and his coauthors, Norman Friedman and Mark D. Mandeles.62 In 1998, Mandeles also wrote a useful and insightful study of innovation in the development of the design of the U.S. Air Force’s B-52.63

Robert O. Work, a retired Marine colonel who served as Under Secretary of the Navy and is now the Deputy Secretary of Defense, is also a prolific writer and careful student of the Navy. While serving as an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments prior to being appointed Under Secretary of the Navy, he wrote unclassified but very detailed studies of the genesis of the littoral combat ship and the concept of seabasing.64 There is, however, room for more research on innovation—assuming that there is adequate unclassified information to sustain a serious inquiry. Are there really general guidelines for promoting innovation in military acquisition, or does the field change all the time, blocking the utility of inferences often referred to as lessons learned? Joy D. Mikulcik addressed the issue of organizational culture and innovation in a 2004 study of the Air Force Materiel Command, and John T. Dillard took on the issue in 2003 of whether “centralized control” of acquisition programs was in fact beneficial or harmful to innovation.65 The products of the Defense Acquisition History Project will strengthen future versions of these sorts of investigations.

Programming and Budgeting


The fields of programming/budgeting and military acquisition, though intimately related, are different, attract different types of people, and have spawned their own literatures. But what about the issues? Do these bring the two areas together? One major issue is methodology: how can two different areas of professional work that interact be systematically studied? Programming is supposed to bridge the gap between the different fields of budgeting and acquisition. Programmers are supposed to do the reviews that are so essential to the management of acquisition. But studies of the relationship of programmers to budget staffs on the one side and acquisition managers and their staffs on the other side tend to be done by management specialists and not by historians. Does this mean that historians have little to offer?

Likely making matters worse is the recent insistence by members of Congress that the Department of Defense empower “chief financial officers” to promote accrual-based accounting at the service level and “chief management officers” to do the same for “performance-based management.”66 The pressure to make the military services (and the Defense Department generally) more like businesses has been steady, but it is not based on evidence that moving ahead with these changes will make the acquisition and programming/budgeting process more effective and efficient.67 This is, I believe, one area where historians can contribute. To do that, however, they will have to study whether management innovations have been effective in private enterprises, and that is something the private sector may not allow.

Obstacles to Research

Historians cannot do their work if they cannot see official papers, especially those that are generated in interactions between a government acquisition office and a private contractor. A good illustration is the story of the A-12, the Navy’s stealth carrier attack aircraft. Though canceled in 1991 by the Navy, the program’s legal issues dragged on for more than two decades and, because the government and the Navy’s contractors were at odds, it could not be clear to historians just which pieces of evidence (including interviews) were reliable.68 Moreover, the A-12 program was classified above top secret, and therefore it was going to take some years for all the pertinent information to become known. Classification obviously impedes research. In addition, far too little is known about the histories of the major defense firms. There are a few biographies that focus on key individuals, and a few case studies that cover specific systems, but nothing I know of to compare with Peter Drucker’s Concept of the Corporation, a classic study of management in General Motors.69 Some journalistic accounts of management in defense firms, however, suggest that the area is well worth scholarly study.70

What Questions Should Be Asked of the Data?


Despite these obstacles to historical research, some questions are obviously important. Does it make sense to talk of a military-industrial complex? Is it a useful concept in studying military acquisition? If not, have historians developed a better concept? Has program budgeting been a useful, effective management tool? Is it still? How would we know? Do major military systems, such as ships, aircraft, missiles, and fighting vehicles, cost too much? If I compare the constant dollar cost of a ship today with the constant dollar cost of a similar ship from 50 or 75 years ago, what will I find? Is that sort of comparison even a historical exercise? Or is it a form of analysis that belongs to some other discipline, such as operations research or economics? What is the most effective way to study the influence of science and technology on the military services? How reliable are the oral histories of individuals involved in military acquisition or defense programming and budgeting? Was the Goldwater-Nichols legislation effective? How has implementing it influenced the planning, programming, budgeting, and execution process, or the defense acquisition process?71

The Navy embraced the Maritime Strategy in the 1980s. The literature on what the strategy was, who developed it, and how it was tested in exercises is large,72 but how exactly did it shape programs and budgets? According to Navy Captain Peter Swartz, who certainly possessed what historian John Lukacs called “participant knowledge,” the essential historical records are those of OP-603, the Strategic Concepts Group in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. As Swartz observed in his 1987 Addendum to “Contemporary U.S. Naval Strategy: A Bibliography, the “operator-strategists” in OP-603 worked almost entirely out of sight of “the general and national security affairs academic publics,” and what they produced was “largely classified”73 and adopted by senior Navy officers and civilians such as Navy secretary John Lehman. This poses a very real problem of access for researchers, though the recent publication of Toward a New Maritime Strategy: American Naval Thinking in the Post-Cold War Era, by Captain Peter D. Haynes, shows what a careful researcher can achieve with the information that is available.74


So where are we? First, I think that Lukacs has a point. Historians who write about programming or acquisition will find it easier to master the subject if they have experienced these processes first hand. But how can historians gain this knowledge? Even if they have firsthand knowledge, what historical concepts can they use to organize their knowledge? Second, the questions that matter to historians may not matter to the people and organizations that they are studying, and that may make it difficult if not impossible for historians to obtain the access to records that they need. If they or their students do eventually gain access to once classified records, how will they know that their reconstructions of events, motives, and the views of participants are correct? Third, researchers (and not just historians) always run the risk in investigating activities such as programming and acquisition of missing the point or of drawing questionable inferences. I


believe these are the reasons why—for the Navy—there is no history that quite compares with I. B. Holley’s Buying Aircraft.

However, the Defense Acquisition History Project has shown that there are historians capable of conducting the research, and the Federal Government has a good track record of releasing once classified documents. One of the major insights from such research is the deliberate development by the Cold War Navy of digital systems that allowed its antisubmarine forces to switch from active sensing and targeting of enemy submarines to passive sensing and then passive targeting of submerged enemy submarines.75 This was ambitious and creative technological development, and now we know what was done and why it mattered. Just how it was done and who specifically did it is an area of study open to the next generation of historians.



1 Stephen Coonts, The Minotaur (New York, NY: Dell, 1990).

2 John Lukacs, “The Historiographical Problem of Belief and Believers: Religious History in the Democratic Age,” reprinted in Remembered Past, ed. by Mark G. Malvasi and Jeffrey O. Nelson (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2005), 128.

3 Irving Brinton Holley Jr., Buying Aircraft: Materiel Procurement for the Army Air Forces (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, Office of the Chief of Military History, 1964). This volume was reprinted by the Office of Air Force History in 1989. Compare it with H. C. Thomson and L. Mayo, The Ordnance Department: Procurement and Supply (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1960). The latter lacks the detail and the insights found in Buying Aircraft.

4 Irving Brinton Holley Jr., Ideas and Weapons (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1953). This volume was reprinted in 1983 by the Office of Air Force History.

5 Other related volumes in the U.S. Army’s series on World War II are: C. M. Green, et. al., Planning Munitions for War (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, Office of the Chief of Military History, 1955), and H. C. Thompson and L. Mayo, The Ordnance Department: Procurement and Supply (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, Office of the Chief of Military History, 1960).

6 See Rear Adm. Julius Augustus Furer, Administration of the Navy Department in World War II (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, 1959); Buford Rowland and William Boyd, U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance in World War II (Washington, DC: GPO, 1954); Duncan S. Ballantine, U.S. Naval Logistics in the Second World War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949); Robert H. Connery, The Navy and the Industrial Mobilization in World War II (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951); and Archibald D. Turnbull and Clifford L. Lord, History of United States Naval Aviation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1949).

7 Richard M. Leighton and Robert W. Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940–1943 (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1955), and Robert W. Coakley and Richard M. Leighton, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1943–1945 (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, U.S. Army, 1968).

8 This notion that each new acquisition program was a case study in the acquisition process is one developed by Norman Friedman. In a conversation with me, he noted that the many comparisons of different acquisition programs by analysts (especially at RAND) were based on the assumption that each was a particular case of a general process, and that studying the cases was the key to better understanding the process.

9 See Jeffrey G. Barlow, From Hot War to Cold: The U.S. Navy and National Security Affairs, 1945–1955 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009), and Barlow, Revolt of the Admirals: The Fight for Naval Aviation, 1945–1950 (Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, 1994).

10 Orr Kelly, Hornet: The Inside Story of the F/A-18 (Shrewsbury, England: Airlife Publishing, 1990), and Glenn E. Bugos, Engineering the F-4 Phantom II: Parts into Systems (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996).

11 Barrett Tillman, Hellcat: The F6F in World War II (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2000); Tillman, Wildcat: The F4F in World War II (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2001); Tillman, Dauntless Dive Bomber of World War II (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2006); Tillman, Corsair: The F4U in World War II and Korea (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014); and Tillman, MiG Master: The Story of the F-8 Crusader (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014). This is just a sampling of Tillman’s books in print. He also has numerous articles to his credit. See also Tommy H. Thomason, U.S. Naval Air Superiority: Development of Shipborne Fighters, 1943–1962 (North Branch, MN: Specialty Press, 2007); and Thomason, Strike from the Sea: U.S. Navy Attack Aircraft from Skyraider to Super Hornet, 1948–Present (North Branch, MN: Specialty Press, 2009). Thomason, an experienced flight test engineer, is another student of aircraft development. See also Dennis R. Jenkins, F/A-18 Hornet: A Navy Success Story (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2000). This is an interesting account of a controversial aircraft and the development of modern fighters by another engineer who has written about contemporary Navy aircraft. This book is one of a series edited by the accomplished aerospace historian Walter J. Boyne.

12 Norman Friedman, U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1983); Friedman, U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1984); Friedman, U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1985); Friedman, U.S. Amphibious Ships and Craft: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2002); and Friedman, U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, rev. ed. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2004). As in Tillman’s case, this is just a sampling of a long list of books, some of them quite analytical, such as Network-Centric Warfare: How Navies Learned to Fight Smarter Through Three World Wars (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2009). See also Norman Polmar, Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events, Vol. II, 1946–2006 (Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2008); and Polmar and K. J. Moore, Cold War Submarines: The Design and Construction of U.S. and Soviet Submarines, 1945–2001 (Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2005). Polmar, a contemporary of Friedman, has also published a number of books about naval warfare.

13 Norman Friedman, U.S. Amphibious Ships and Craft: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2002); Friedman, Submarine Design and Development (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1984); Friedman, The Postwar Naval Revolution (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986); Friedman, Unmanned Combat Air Systems: A New Kind of Carrier Aviation (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2010); Friedman, Seapower and Space (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2000); and Friedman, Network-Centric Warfare: How Navies Learned to Fight Smarter Through Three World Wars (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2009). Friedman also wrote what is likely the classic description of the trade-off process involved in setting warship requirements: Modern Warship Design and Development (New York, NY: Mayflower Books, 1979). He also wrote US Naval Weapons: Every Gun, Missile, Mine and Torpedo Used by the US Navy from 1883 to the Present Day (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1985).

14 Norman Friedman, The Fifty-Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2000). You can see some of the roots of The Fifty-Year War in Friedman’s The Postwar Naval Revolution (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986).

15 See Richard G. Hewlett and Oscar E. Anderson, The New World, 1939–1946 (vol. 3, A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission) (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1962); Richard G. Hewlett and Francis Duncan, Atomic Shield, 1947–1952, (vol. 2, A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission) (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1969); Richard G. Hewlett and Jack M. Holl, Atoms for Peace and War, 1953–1961, vol. 3 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989). Also see Albert B. Christman, Sailors, Scientists and Rockets: Origins of the Navy Rocket Program and of the Naval Ordnance Test Station, Inyokern, (vol. 1, History of the Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California) (Washington, DC: Navy Department, Naval History Division, 1971); Joseph P. Smaldone, History of the White Oak Laboratory, 1945–1975 (White Oak, MD: Naval Surface Weapons Center, 1977). Also Jacob Neufeld, The Development of Ballistic Missiles in the United States Air Force, 1945–1960 (Washington, DC: US Air Force, Office of Air Force History, 1990) and Marcelle S. Knaack, Encyclopedia of U.S. Air Force Aircraft and Missile Systems, vols. I and II (Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, U.S. Air Force, 1978, 1988). These are just some of the official histories produced, although most of those focused mainly on operations and policy-making.

16 Lawrence R. Benson, Acquisition Management in the United States Air Force and Its Predecessors (Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, 1997), and Department of the Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command History (Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, 2006). See also Stephen L. McFarland, A Concise History of the U.S. Air Force (Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, 1997), and Daniel L. Haulman, One Hundred Years of Flight: USAF Chronology of Significant Air and Space Events (Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, 2003).

17 Center for Naval Analyses, Naval Study Group Proceedings, Conference on the Defense Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS): Past, Present, and Future (Alexandria, VA: Center for Naval Analyses, 1983). Program Analysis and Evaluation staff created a briefing entitled “DoD’s Planning, Programming and Budgeting System (PPBS): A Historical Perspective,” for the 37th Annual Defense Department Cost Analysis Symposium, 23 Feb. 2004.

18 Mark D. Mandeles has carefully studied the many RAND papers. The more significant ones from Klein and his associates include: Burton H. Klein, “What’s Wrong with Military R and D?” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1958); Klein and William Meckling, “Applications of Operations Research to Development Decisions” in Operations Research, vol. 6 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1958); Klein, William Meckling and Emmanuel G. Mesthene, “Military Research and Development Policies” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1958); Klein, “The Decision-Making Problem in Development” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1960); Klein, William Meckling, and E. G. Mesthene, “The Nature and Function of Military R&D” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1960); Klein, “Policy Issues Involved in the Conduct of Military Development Programs” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1962); and Klein, Thomas K. Glennan Jr., and G. H. Shubert, “The Role of Prototypes in Development” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1971). Other related RAND papers include: Andrew W. Marshall and William Meckling, “Predictability of the Costs, Time, and Success of Development” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1959); Richard R. Nelson, “Uncertainty, Learning, and the Economics of Parallel Research and Development Efforts” in Review of Economics and Statistics 43: 351–64 (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1961); Thomas K. Glennan Jr., “Policies for Military Research and Development” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1965); Robert L. Perry, “The Mythography of Military R&D” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1966); Perry, “Innovation and Military Requirements: A Comparative Study” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1967); Perry, Giles K. Smith, Alvin J. Harman, and Susan Henrichsen, “System Acquisition Strategies” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1971); and Perry, “American Styles of Military R&D” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1979).

19 See Jacob A. Stockfisch, Plowshares into Swords: Managing the American Defense Establishment (New York, NY: Mason & Lipscomb, 1973).

20 M. Thomas Davis, Framing the Problem of PPBS (Washington, DC: Business Executives for National Security, Jan. 2000) and Davis, Planning, Programming and Budgeting System (PPBS) Study Report (Washington, DC: Business Executives for National Security, Nov. 2000). See also Davis, Managing Defense After the Cold War (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 1997).

21 Exploring a New Defense Management System, Paper P-3756 (Alexandria, VA: Institute for Defense Analyses, April 2003). Col. Steven R. Grimes, “PPBS to PPBE: A Process or Principles?” (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Army War College, 2008).

22 David D. Acker, Acquiring Defense Systems: A Quest for the Best, Technical Report TR 1-93 (Ft. Belvoir, VA: Defense Systems Management College [now Defense Acquisition University], 1993). Acker served as a system designer, project manager, and senior technical manager at North American Aviation, which became while he was employed there Rockwell International. He also served on the staff of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and taught engineering at both Rutgers University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

23 Wilbur D. Jones Jr., From Packard to Perry: A Quarter Century of Service to the Defense Acquisition Community (Ft. Belvoir, VA: Defense Systems Management College Press, 1996).

24 Dov S. Zakheim, Flight of the Lavi: Inside a U.S.-Israeli Crisis (Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 1996).

25 Charles J. Hitch and Roland N. McKean, The Economics of Defense in the Nuclear Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961). Also Hitch, Decision-Making for Defense (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1965). Hitch was head of the economics program at RAND from 1948 to 1961, when he was appointed the Comptroller of the Department of Defense by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. It is worth finding and reading his four lectures on “Decision-Making in the Department of Defense,” April 59, 1965, published by the University of California at Berkeley. Also see his “Management Problems of Large Organizations,” Operations Research Vol. 44, No. 2 (MarchApril 1996), 25764.

26 Harvey M. Sapolsky, The Polaris System Development: Bureaucratic and Programmatic Success in Government (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972). Also see Sapolsky, Science and the Navy: The History of the Office of Naval Research (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), originally published in 1990.

27 J. Ronald Fox, with James L. Field, The Defense Management Challenge: Weapons Acquisition (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1988). Also see Fox, et. al., Defense Acquisition Reform, 1960–2009: An Elusive Goal (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 2011), and Fox, Edward Hirsch, and George Krikorian, Critical Issues in the Defense Acquisition Culture (Ft. Belvoir, VA: Defense Systems Management College [now Defense Acquisition University], 1994).

28 Merton J. Peck and Frederic M. Scherer, The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (Boston, MA: Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, 1962). Peck was a former Navy Supply Corps captain and Scherer was a young scholar. Together, with Scherer doing the bulk of the writing, they produced this book plus separate volumes of the weapons systems studied. See also Scherer, The Weapons Acquisition Process: Economic Incentives (Boston, MA: Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, 1964).

29 What we now call “cost/schedule control systems” were pioneered during World War II, but it was the work of Peck and Scherer that showed their value. See Erik G. Cummings and Kirk Schneider, Cost/Schedule Control Systems Criteria, A Reference Guide to C/SCSC Information,” Air Force Institute of Technology and Air University (September 1992).

30 Gordon Adams, The Iron Triangle: The Politics of Defense Contracting (New York, NY: Council on Economic Priorities, 1981). Thomas L. McNaugher, New Weapons, Old Politics: America’s Procurement Muddle (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1989).

31 Donald L. Pilling, Competition in Defense Procurement (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1989), 15.

32 Franklin C. Spinney, Defense Facts of Life: The Plans/Reality Mismatch (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985). Spinney was an analyst in the program analysis and evaluation office in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His book was based on a Pentagon briefing that he had given for several years.

33 George C. Wilson, This War Really Matters: Inside the Fight for Defense Dollars (Washington, DC; CQ Press, 2000). Wilson’s other books include Supercarrier: An Inside Account of Life Aboard the World’s Most Powerful Ship, the USS John F. Kennedy (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1986); Mud Soldiers: Life Inside the New American Army (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1989); and Flying the Edge: The Making of Navy Test Pilots (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1992). Wilson’s work resembles that of famous New York Times reporter Hanson W. Baldwin. Baldwin and his colleagues did an excellent job reporting on the Navy between World War I and World War II. See Hanson W. Baldwin, What the Citizen Should Know about the Navy (New York, NY: Norton, 1941).

34 James R. Locher III, Victory on the Potomac: The Goldwater-Nichols Act Unifies the Pentagon (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2002).

35 John F. Lehman Jr., Command of the Seas (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1988); Caspar W. Weinberger, Fighting for Peace: Seven Critical Years in the Pentagon (New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc., 1990). For the view from a senior Navy program manager’s perspective, see Thomas C. Hone, “The Program Manager as Entrepreneur: AEGIS and RADM Wayne Meyer,” Defense Analysis, Vol. 3, No. 3 (1987), 197212.

36 Robert M. Gates, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014). The title is revealing: “Secretary at War” instead of “Secretary of War.” In this, Gates describes his efforts to get special mine-resistant vehicles—MRAPs—to troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The account exposes the character of the acquisition process in the Department of Defense. The Secretary wanted to save soldiers’ lives, but Army acquisition professionals, reacting to the policy embodied in Department of Defense Directive 5000.1, did not want a one-off vehicle that would be used only in Iraq and Afghanistan and then abandoned.

37 Paul A. C. Koistinen, Arsenal of World War II: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1940–1945 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2004), 2. For a different history of World War II mobilization, see Maury Klein, A Call to Arms: Mobilizing America for World War II (New York, NY: Bloomsbury Press, 2013). Klein regards the “greatest generation” claim as a myth, and he uses mostly secondary sources to point out that national mobilization was often confused and almost always controversial. His perspective is useful for any student of mobilization in World War II because he has studied and written extensively about American industry, especially railroads.

38 Koistinen produced a set of five volumes on “the political economy of American warfare” (from p. 1 of State of War, 1945–2011; see below). Paul A. C. Koistinen, Beating Plowshares into Swords: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1606–1865 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1996); Mobilizing for Modern War: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1865–1919 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1997); Planning War, Pursuing Peace: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1920–1939 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1998); Arsenal of World War II; and State of War: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1945–2011 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2012).

39 Paul A. C. Koistinen, State of War: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1945–2011 (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2012), 237.

40 Ibid., 215. In State of War, p. 7, Koistinen notes that the “nearly overwhelming collection” of secondary sources “amply met the reference requirements for this book, without further research in primary documents.”

41 Vernon W. Ruttan, Is War Necessary for Economic Growth? Military Procurement and Technology Development (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006). Ruttan argues that Congress made a major mistake in 1994 when it eliminated the Department of Defense’s Technology Reinvestment Program, which financially aided firms trying to convert from defense production to the manufacture of dual-use items. After the Cold War ended, the defense industrial base shrank significantly. Ruttan does not think that the growth of the personal digital devices industry can make up for the defense industrial capacity lost starting in the mid-1990s.

42 John Lukacs, “The Historiographical Problem of Belief and Believers: Religious History in the Democratic Age,” first published in 1978 and reprinted in Remembered Past, ed. by Mark G. Malvasi and Jeffrey O. Nelson (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2005), 128.

43 Cited in Elliott V. Converse, History of Acquisition in the Department of Defense, Vol. I, Rearming for the Cold War, 1945–1960 (Washington, DC: Historical Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2012), i.

44 Shannon A. Brown, ed., Providing the Means of War: Historical Perspectives on Defense Acquisition, 1945–2000 (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Center of Military History and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, 2005).

45 Elliott V. Converse, “Into the Cold War: An Overview of Acquisition in the Department of Defense, 19451958,” in Providing the Means of War, 2746.

46 Martin J. Collins, “Weapons, ‘Weak’ States, and the Military Contract System: The Case of RAND and the Air Force, 19451950,” in Providing the Means of War, 6178.

47 See William F. Trimble, Wings for the Navy: A History of the Naval Aircraft Factory, 1917–1956 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990).

48 John Lonnquest, “Building Missiles: Concurrency and the Legacy of the Early Air Force ICBM Program,” in Providing the Means of War, 97110.

49 Walter S. Poole, “Acquisition in the Department of Defense, 19591968: The McNamara Legacy,” in Providing the Means of War, 7996.

50 Shannon A. Brown with Walton S. Moody, “Defense Acquisition in the 1970s: Retrenchment and Reform,” in Providing the Means of War, 14168.

51 W. Blair Haworth Jr., “Moving Target: The U.S. Army Infantry Fighting Vehicle Program in the 1970s,” in Providing the Means of War, 18398.

52 James G. Burton, The Pentagon Wars: Reformers Challenge the Old Guard (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014). Burton illustrates the tension between a service acquisition process (in this case, the Army’s) and the efforts of the Office of the Secretary of Defense to discipline that process when it did not conform to the Department of Defense directive to conduct realistic live-fire tests of systems before approving full-rate production.

53 Andrew J. Butrica, “An Overview of Acquisition, 19811990,” in Providing the Means of War, 199224.

54 James H. Edgar, “The Origins and Impact of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA),” in Providing the Means of War, 26182.

55 Philip L. Shiman, “Defense Acquisition in an Uncertain World: The Post-Cold War Era, 19902000,” in Providing the Means of War, 283316.

56 Thomas C. Lassman, Sources of Weapon Systems Innovation in the Department of Defense: The Role of In-House Research and Development, 1945–2000 (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 2008).

57 J. Ronald Fox, with David G. Allen, Thomas C. Lassman, Walton S. Moody, and Philip L. Shiman, Defense Acquisition Reform, 1960–2009, An Elusive Goal (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 2011).

58 Elliott V. Converse III, Rearming for the Cold War, 1945–1960 (Washington, DC: Historical Office of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2012), and Walter S. Poole, Adapting to Flexible Response, 1960–1968 (Washington, DC: Historical Office of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2013).

59 Donald R. Baucom, “The Strategic Defense Initiative and Acquisition Reform: The Case of Brilliant Pebbles,” in Providing the Means of War, 22560.

60 Richard G. Hewlett and Francis Duncan, Nuclear Navy (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1974). Compare this very formal study with a much more readable account of Admiral Rickover’s career by Norman Polmar and Thomas B. Allen, Rickover (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1982). For a more recent insider’s view of Admiral Rickover’s accomplishments that compares them to the achievements of former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, see Rear Adm. Dave Oliver, Against the Tide: Rickover’s Leadership Principles and the Rise of the Nuclear Navy (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995).

61 Vice Adm. William Owens, High Seas: The Naval Passage to an Uncharted World (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995). Also see The Reminiscences of Admiral Frank B. Kelso, II, U.S. Navy (Retired), interviewed by Paul Stillwell (Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute, 2009).

62 Owen R. Cote Jr., The Third Battle: Innovation in the U.S. Navy’s Silent Cold War Struggle with Soviet Submarines (Newport, RI: Naval War College Press, 2003). James R. Blaker, Transforming Military Force: The Legacy of Arthur Cebrowski and Network Centric Warfare (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007). Thomas C. Hone, Norman Friedman, and Mark D. Mandeles, Innovation in Carrier Aviation (Newport, RI: Naval War College Press, 2011).

63 Mark D. Mandeles, The Development of the B-52 and Jet Propulsion: A Case Study in Organizational Innovation (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, 1998).

64 Robert O. Work, Naval Transformation and the Littoral Combat Ship (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2004) and Work, Thinking About Seabasing: All Ahead, Slow (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2006).

65 John T. Dillard, Centralized Control of Defense Acquisition Programs: A Comparative Review of the Framework from 1987 to 2003 (Monterey, CA: Naval Postgraduate School, 2003). Joy D. Mikulcik, Challenges Facing Military Organizational Cultural Reform: A Study of the 2004 Air Force Materiel Command Reorganization, AFIT/GRD/ENV/06M-10 (Wright-Patterson AFB, OH: Air Force Institute of Technology, 2012). For a candid assessment of changes to the defense acquisition process, see Mark Cancian, “Acquisition Reform: It’s Not as Easy as It Seems,” Acquisition Review Quarterly (Summer 1995), 18998.

66 See Douglas A. Brook, et. al., “Implementation of the Chief Management Officer in the Department of Defense, An Interim Report” (Monterey, CA: Center for Defense Management and Research, Naval Postgraduate School, 2013).

67 See “Department of the Navy Business Transformation Plan, Fiscal Year 2013 & Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Report,” approved by the Under Secretary of the Navy on 28 December 2012.

68 See James P. Stevenson, The $5 Billion Misunderstanding: The Collapse of the Navy’s A-12 Stealth Bomber Program (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2001), and Herbert L. Fenster, “The A-12 Legacy: It wasn’t an Airplane—It Was a Train Wreck,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 125 (Feb. 1999), 3339. Neither the article (written by a lawyer representing one of the parties to the court case) nor the book can be entirely trusted because the program documentation was so highly classified. The court case was not finally settled until 2014, almost 25 years after the Navy’s decision to cancel the program.

69 Peter Drucker, Concept of the Corporation (New York, NY: John Day, 1946). Drucker was a young and not yet famous management consultant when he convinced Donaldson Brown of General Motors to allow him to study how the firm was run. However, Alfred Sloan, the Chairman of GM, did not like Concept of the Corporation, and his dislike of the book may have persuaded other executives to close their doors to Drucker and others like him. There is one thoughtful memoir of a major company engineer and executive who dealt with the Navy after World War II: Edward H. Heinemann and Rosario Rausa, Ed Heinemann: Combat Aircraft Designer (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1980). There are also George A. Spangenberg’s reminiscences (31 August 1997), available as George Spangenberg Oral History, 2010, at Spangenberg was a member of the Bureau of Aeronautics (later the Naval Air Systems Command) staff from the end of piston-engine aircraft through the swing-wing F-14. Heinemann is well known within the community of people who love airplanes as the designer of the SBD-1 and BT2D in World War II and the A4D in the decade after the war.

70 See “How the Deal Was Done: The Lockheed-Martin Marietta Merger,” by Ted Shelsby, Baltimore Sun (March 12, 1995), for an account of how leaders of defense firms reacted in response to the Department of Defense’s warning after the Cold War that defense firms would have to merge or leave the field of defense acquisition. One of the key figures in this post-Cold War drama was Norman R. Augustine, chief executive officer of Martin-Marietta. He has not published a memoir. The closest he has come is “Managing to Survive in Washington: A Beginner’s Guide to High-Level Management in Government” (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2000).

71 The literature on the Goldwater-Nichols act and its consequences is large. It includes articles defending the legislation: James R. Locher III, “Taking Stock of Goldwater-Nichols,” Joint Force Quarterly, No. 13 (Autumn 1996), 1016, and “Has It Worked? The Goldwater-Nichols Reorganization Act,” Naval War College Review, Vol. LIV, No. 4 (Autumn 2001), 95115. It also includes a very perceptive assessment by Archie D. Barrett, then the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, in Joint Force Quarterly, No. 13 (Autumn 1996), 13. These are just the tip of the iceberg. See also Linda H. Flanagan, The Goldwater-Nichols Act: The Politics of Defense Reorganization (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992); James Kitfield, Prodigal Soldiers: How the Generation of Officers Born of Vietnam Revolutionized the American Style of War (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1995); Thomas L. McNaugher and Roger L. Sperry, Improving Military Coordination: The Goldwater-Nichols Reorganization of the Department of Defense (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1994); Adm. William J. Crowe and David Chanoff, The Line of Fire: From Washington to the Gulf, the Politics and Battles of the New Military (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1993); Jay C. Mumford, “Reinventing Government: The Case of the Department of Defense,” Public Administration Review 56, No. 2 (March/April 1996), 21920; Adm. William A. Owens and James R. Blaker, “Overseeing Cross-Service Trade Offs,” Joint Force Quarterly, No. 13 (Autumn 1996), 3738; Gen. Colin L. Powell, interview, “The Chairman as Principal Military Advisor” Joint Force Quarterly, No. 13 (Autumn 1996), 2936; L. Parker Temple III, Implosion: Lessons Learned from National Security, High Reliability Spacecraft, Electronics, and the Forces Which Changed Them (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-IEEE Press, 2012); Gordon N. Lederman, Reorganizing the Joint Chiefs of Staff: The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999); and Charles Nemfakos, Irv Blickstein, Aine S. McCarthy, and Jerry M. Sollinger, “The Perfect Storm: The Goldwater-Nichols Act and Its Effect on Navy Acquisition,” (Washington, DC: RAND, 2010). Most of the available literature is partisan, either supporting or criticizing the Goldwater-Nichols Act and its consequences.

72 See The Maritime Strategy, a special supplement to Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, Jan. 1986; also Peter M. Swartz, Addendum to “Contemporary U.S. Naval Strategy: A Bibliography” , (Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute, 1987). The Swartz bibliography is understandably comprehensive because he was one of the developers of “The Maritime Strategy.” The importance of “The Maritime Strategy” to the Navy of the 1980s is clear. The Navy’s senior officers still discuss updating or revising it. The persistence of the idea of a maritime strategy unique to the Navy suggests a parallel to War Plan Orange developed within the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the 1920s. But did “The Maritime Strategy” influence the Navy the way that the Plan Orange did? Some possible answers to this question are in “The Maritime Strategy,” U.S. Naval Institute Professional Seminar Series, Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, FL, 29 May 1986. How would a historian know about this interesting publication if he or she did not have a contact within the U.S. Naval Institute?

73 See the Addendum, cited above, 14-1.

74 Peter D. Haynes, Toward a New Maritime Strategy: American Naval Thinking in the Post-Cold War Era (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2015).

75 Norman Friedman, Network-Centric Warfare: How Navies Learned to Fight Smarter Through Three World Wars (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2009).

On November 12, 2015, NHHC hosted a panel discussion on Dr. Hone's paper, captured on video and shared below.

Published: Thu Dec 01 07:05:46 EST 2016