By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (March 21, 2016) -- The Army's chief of staff thinks 10 years is too long for the Army to find a replacement for the M9 pistol. And he thinks $17 million for testing such a replacement is too much money.
Earlier this month, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke at a forum on the future of warfare, and targeted burdensome oversite, cumbersome regulations, and ever-changing and expanding requirements as the primary reasons Soldiers aren't already shooting target practice with a new handgun.
"It's a relatively simple technology," Milley said of the handgun, in general. "It's been around for five centuries or so. We are not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon. This is a pistol. And arguably, it's the least lethal [or] important weapon system in the Department of Defense inventory. This thing has been out there for nine years, ten years? Requirements? A 367-page requirement document? Why?"
The Army is a bureaucracy, the Department of Defense is a bureaucracy, and the federal government is a bureaucracy. All three together make one, very large, very complex bureaucracy -- and they all have competing interests that inevitably prevent the Army from putting a better pistol into Soldiers' hands.
Milley said large bureaucracies like to centralize processes as a way to get a handle on perceived problems, such as with acquisition.
"What large organizations do is they observe things that are screwed up in the environment and they take the problem and they centralize it and they actually make it worse," he said.
The general had a better take on how to fix such problems: personal responsibility.
"I think the best methods of management are to empower and decentralize," he said. "I think that I should be able to look at somebody and say here's your task, here's why you are doing it, here's the purpose, here's the end state that I want you to achieve by such-and-such a time. Go forth and have at it. If you succeed at it, you're promoted and I'll give you a medal. If you fail, you're fired ... you are operating off intent and purpose and you hold people accountable to it. That applies in acquisition just as it applies on the battlefield. That's what I would like to do."
Milley said he ought to be held accountable, as the Army's chief of staff, for ensuring that the pistol purchase is done right.
"Hold me accountable," he said. "Let me figure out what type of pistol we need and let me go buy it, without having to go through nine years of incredible scrutiny and testing."
Milley is not alone in his feeling about acquisition. Just last week at a forum in Huntsville, Alabama, Mary J. Miller, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology said that service chiefs like Milley need to have more authority when it comes to acquisition.
"I believe the chief needs to have a bigger role in acquisition, and by acquisition I mean 'Big A' acquisition, which is requirements, funding, and the acquiring of equipment," she said. "He represents the operational Soldier, and therefore has a voice and should be heard."
Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, director of force development with the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, said if the Army is really interested in delivering the goods to Soldiers on time and on budget, it has got to focus on three things: getting a handle on its unwieldy requirements process, finding "unwavering, clear-focused, advocacy and oversight" for its programs, and securing "stable funding layered throughout the delivery, the requirements definition, approval, the resourcing, and the delivery of the acquisition."
"If you think about all three of those ... the chief and the vice chief of staff are probably the only people who can ensure that happens on a consistent basis for the major capabilities, the most important capabilities the Army needs," Wins said.
Wins said with the chief being top dog on approval for requirements, those requirements would be set in stone. That would make it easier to make acquisition programs move forward, he said, because it would be harder to keep changing them.
"If it goes to the most senior level, and the chief slaps the table and says these are the requirements that I approve, then you hold fast on those requirements," Wins said. "Nobody else below the chief should have the ability to change that requirement."
Wins said senior Army leader advocacy for acquisition programs has not always been apparent -- and having them on board could change how quickly a program delivers capability to Soldiers.
"Often times we don't, we have not gotten the full participation and the full commitment of the Army senior leaders in uniform when you talk about the acquisition strategy of a system, how it is meeting its marks, what the limits of testing will be, and what test is required," he said.
For resourcing a program, finding the money to pay for it, he said the Army needs more discipline.
"If you have said that over the lifecycle, you've costed it out, and this is what it's going to take to deliver on this capability, and the chief has said this is the requirement and these are the levels of funding's we are committed to for the development of this program, then nobody gets to pull away, nobody gets to cut, nobody gets to cause that program to stretch over time, if it's not approved by the chief of staff of the Army," he said.
When it comes to advocacy for a program, ensuring that a program has solid funding, and making calls on what kinds of testing are absolutely necessary, Wins said, the chief of staff is the go-to guy to make it happen.
"There is only one person that can sit in the middle of all that and make that happen, I believe, and that is the CSA," Wins said.