April 29, 2014

The Best Defense Ready, Aim, 'F.I.R.E.': A review

The Department of Defense's (DOD's) recent attempts to build next-generation weapons systems have not gone well. There is an alphanumeric soup of projects: FCS, EFV, F-22, F-35, LCS, ADS that have been cancelled, run over schedule and budget or cannot be deployed. But this is the same DOD that has built and equipped the most technically advanced military in human history, responsible for stealth technology, precision munitions, global positioning systems, and the Internet.

How can the same government department be responsible for so much success and so much failure?

Lt. Col. Dan Ward, an active-duty engineering officer in the U.S. Air Force, has been thinking about these sorts of questions for more than a decade. In F.I.R.E. he blends analysis from his personal experience, notable technology projects, and popular culture to describe how "Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained and Elegant" methods can foster innovation and yield better technology outcomes. Ward argues for projects that are smaller with tight budgets, short schedules, and few requirements that yield better outcomes -- less hubris and more success.

Ward has written frequently and influentially on technology program management for several years. He is perhaps most well known for his acquisition analysis of the Death Star program -- as he puts it, an ultimately futile project so challenging it required the personal presence of a Sith Lord to get it back on track. The good-natured wit and orthogonal approach to analysis evident in Ward's short-form writing abounds in his first book.

Read the full review at ForeignPolicy.com.

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