21 December 2020

The U.S. Military Sucks At R&D

The U.S. military and its contractors have a system that can develop extremely high technology systems. But its system also has deep flaws. 

For example, it took the U.S. military a year to develop an ordinary face mask (and this is fast by Army standards where 18-24 months for a simple innovation is the norm):
It’s not clear why the U.S. Army, the most powerful fighting force in the world, required nearly a year to develop a mask that would have taken the civilian sector mere days—if not hours—to develop. The only special features the covering has that civilian masks lack is the use of the OCP pattern and a military-style initialism (CCFC). . . 
The Army's struggle to develop a face mask recalls the service's similar efforts to buy a new handgun. It took the Army nine years to field a replacement for the M9 handgun. In 2016, the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Gen. Mark Milley, told an audience
"We're not figuring out the next lunar landing. This is a pistol. Two years to test? At $17 million? You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I'll call Cabela's tonight, and I'll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I'll get a discount on a bulk buy." . . .

The pistol program, which Army Times reports started in 2008, ended in 2017 with the selection of the Sig Sauer-made M17 handgun.

One of the reasons that Americans don't trust government is that we are so bad at carrying out governmental functions compared to many other countries.

The quote with the quote, by the way, is hyperbole. Even at a dirt cheap $300 per handgun, it would cost about $500 million to buy a pistol for every active duty service member, and no one would do it for less than $14 per pistol, as the general suggested rhetorically.


Dave Barnes said...

I am not so sure they suck at "R&D", but they certainly suck at "procurement".

Guy said...


Maybe we don't trust our military so we shackle it with rubegoldbergian procurement laws? I've got some stories... we needed 75 3/4"x4" galvanized bolts for an antenna tower up in Iraq. When it showed up it was three pallets of bolts. And because they were ordered 'expedite' the three pallets were flown in on a C-5B. Four years I went back to that base and there big sand dune in the cable yard. I kicked around and it was that three pallets. And this sort of stuff happens all the time