August 11, 2008
Watch for Stalling Test Programs
Posted by scott at August 11, 2008 10:11 AM
The F-35 program continues to experience delays. Which of course turn into price increases, which create cost overruns, and around and around it goes. As a red-blooded American male, I love all the gear the Pentagon uses, but there's gotta be a better way to develop and buy it all.
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If there is a better way, no one has found it. The following is mostly based on Affording Defense by Jacques Gansler, an MIT professor who became an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, and who knows his stuff.
The average Pentagon weapons program, which typically involves significant technological advances, has a cost overrun of 40%. Construction programs by civilian agencies, which don't involve significant new technologies, for example construction of office building by the GSA, have average cost overruns of 40%. Pharmaceutical companies developing, testing and certifying modifications of existing drugs tend to go 40% over. Completely new drugs tend to be worse.
Civilian projects comparable to large weapons programs tend to have much larger overruns. The Anglo-French Concord was 600% over, as was the Trans-Alaska pipeline. Boston's Big Dig is around 1000% over and ain't quite done.
So if you spot a better way to run these huge, complex, innovative projects, be sure to let someone know.