What's Wrong With Weapons Acquisitions?

U.S. Air Force's F-22The Pentagon now spends about $21.6 million every hour to procure new military systems. As the cost and complexity of defense acquisitions programs continue to spiral out of control, many defense experts believe runaway military spending is unsustainable. Meanwhile, soldiers in the field are being denied much-need equipment, while civilian programs go unfunded. In this special report, IEEE Spectrum contributing editor Robert N. Charette examines the root causes of the current crisis in weapons acquisitions and what can be done to reform the system.


From the Magazine

What's Wrong With Weapons Acquisitions?
weap_landing01.gifEscalating complexity, a shortage of trained workers, and crass politicization mean that most programs to develop new military systems fail to meet expectations

F-22: Success, Failure, or Both
weap_landing02.gifWhen the first of the U.S. Air Force's F-22 Raptors was officially fielded in 2005, it was without question the world's most advanced fighter. It was also, in many ways, an acquisitions failure

Web Exclusives

The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Intellectual Disconnect
weap_landing03.gifThe process used to procure major weapons systems is supposed to run apolitically. The actual process is anything but

Weapons Acquisition Problems Span the Globe
weap_landing04.gifIt's not just a U.S. problem. Australia, Canada, Russia, and the UK have all experienced their fair share of troubled acquisitions efforts


Advice for the Next U.S. President: Fix Military Acquisitions
weap_landing05.gifSeveral leading defense acquisition experts a few observations and recommendations for the next president

Understanding Failure by Examining Success
weap_landing06.gifIn defense acquisitions, success is an aberration. But to understand why these programs routinely fail, it's instructive to study those that have succeeded

The More Things Change…
weap_landing07.gifA sampling of viewpoints about problems in defense acquisitions over the last 25 years

Some Recent U.S. Defense Programs in Trouble
weap_landing08.gifAccording to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the vast majority of major weapons acquisitions programs go awry. Here are a few of the most recent problem-plagued efforts, some of which have been cancelled, some of which continue to muddle along

To Probe Further
For those interested in more in-depth or historical discussions of these issues, here's a list of useful resources