Walking the Third Offset Tightrope

Some “Third Offset” technologies will be coming in only a couple of years, Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski said April 28, but for the longer-term projects, the trick will be deciding which ones to fast-track and which to do through the admittedly ponderous standard acquisition process. Talking with defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Pawlikowski couldn’t go into detail because the near-term Third Offset tech is secret, and “surprise is a part” of it, bu she said they’re things that will “give us strategic advantage over numbers or distance.” To get other technologies swiftly, she said, USAF may resort to its “Big Safari” program or Rapid Capabilities Office, but “the challenge is to balance” speed with “other things we value.” Often, “rapid” equates to sole-source, she noted. But, “We can’t blanketly say we’re not going to do competition because we can get to a solution more rapidly.” Competition could get the service “a better price, and it’s better for the industrial base.” She expects more rapid prototyping projects, “where we widen … the category of things we’re willing to do with these additional authorities and waivers” to cut corners. Finding that balance between speed and “the right checks and balances and controls on the larger activities is the hard part.” She also observed that Third Offset is “not synonymous” with asymmetric warfare. (See also: An Air Force for the Future from the April issue of Air Force Magazine.)