Accepting Failure

Service acquisition chiefs told the House Armed Services Committee Thursday they need more tolerance of failure if the Pentagon is to truly speed up the pace of introducing new technology. USAF acting acquisition chief Richard Lombardi said service technologists tend to be risk-averse unless they know they won’t be penalized if some experiments don’t pay off. Most members of the HASC agreed that this is a problem and offered to be more failure-tolerant. However, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif)., said that she’s privy to a lot of classified, “black world” programs and sees “a lot of big failures,” costing “billions and billions of dollars,” that Congress tolerates. She argued that, instead of reduced oversight from Congress, “maybe we need to tighten down.” Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley agreed with Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) that the Navy needs its own version of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office, which apparently has impressed Forbes with its successes. Stackley said an announcement to that effect will come in the next few months. The RCO developed the X-37 spaceplane and is developing the Air Force’s Long-Range Strike Bomber, among other projects the service declines to name.