Hacking the Defense Industry

September 10, 2015

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Is the American defense industry ready for what is coming next? Can it adapt, survive, and thrive in an era of paradigm-changing new technologies? Can the industry maintain America’s military superiority in the face of the U.S. government’s stifling contracting regulations? What can the U.S. government and the defense industry learn from Silicon Valley? We brought together three experts – Stephen Rodriguez, Sam Zega, and Paul Scharre – the talk about how we can hack the defense industry.

Have a listen!



Image: Dammit, CC

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One thought on “Hacking the Defense Industry

  1. So many rabbit holes, so little time. Good podcast!

    The Customer:
    First, the DOD is not your customer. The DOD is absolutely integral at every level down to reviewing and approving how minor discrepancies are resolved. They drive the accounting, the purchasing of sub-components, every process a DOD prime uses must be DOD compliant. They audit every hour logged against every task, they also crawl the labs to ensure the engineer who just stepped off for personal needs properly installed ESD caps on every cable independent of whether it is connected to anything.

    The Fix:
    Defense contractors, if they are the problem, are the direct result of the customer that drives them. Proposals by the customer to circumvent their own process illustrate this without fixing it. The very existence of the Defense Acquisition University should be sufficient proof. That DOD suddenly, publicly, finds defense contractors inadequate and incapable must be offensive to the practitioners and will result in driving more talent out of the field. Thanks.

    Silicon Valley more than defense contractors understand Intellectual Property, especially software, is the future of your company. To insist on owning the IP is asking us to code to contract. Having completed the contract I now need to purge my files and my personnel to avoid tainting the next product, just like contract coders in the civilian world. I also will hard-wall programs from each other. To do else is to risk future product lines to protests between companies as we see with all defense contracts today. Can you imagine being a company with a dozen products all suddenly at risk because once upon a time the first one kicked off under DOD? Now imagine telling Sysco they have to give the DOD the source code for their product. Do you imagine there is no common code going back to Sysco’s first router? Or that Sysco wants to start their product lines all over using unique software and methods in exchange for a single contract?

    And that uses a limited definition of IP as actual code. If IP is extended to process and method all defense contractors would be single product entities organized around a single contract and then dissolved. Lets see the DOD make that affordable.

    Congress, the Pentagon and the Press:
    One $400 dollar hammer headline costs millions in long-term additions to financial controls. Failure to get the response to that headline on the street loudly enough I’m sure can be tracked discretely to expensive additions to procurement regulation, as well as the wasted time executives spent standing in front of Congress. And once you knew the story, $400 was a good deal. Previously documented at WOTR is the disaster of never having an actual budget to work with.

    Independent development:
    See F-20 for an outstanding plan for losing money. Also provides exceptional lessons to be learned about the services as trusted agents. For the slow, this lesson was followed by another on the tanker acquisition.

    Unparroted in the press, most programs of record have increasingly heavy levels of contractor investment.