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Defense Helicopters and Acquisition Strategy Essay

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Updated: Aug 30th, 2022

Introduction

Defense helicopters or aircraft play a vital role in maintaining the security of a state. Three defense service teams (Army, Navy, and Air Force) combined forces to research and develop a versatile project that would be beneficial for them based on the country’s security needs. However, due to the failure to plan the preliminary designing time, the project was not completed. Further, the contractor’s cost was not evaluated, leading to cost overruns. The project acquisition strategy was associated with speed, capability range, and the need to utilize advanced technology.

Framing Acquisition Strategy

The acquisition strategy of the new project involved the following framing assumptions. The first strategy was in regards to advanced technological requirements as the team wanted to exploit an advanced technology that incorporated modern technological aspects. The second strategy was based on the speed of operations as the aircraft was to attain a minimum speed requirement of 250 knots (the United States General Accounting Office, 1990). The committee wanted to settle on a fast technology to respond to critical operations in the Army, Navy, and Defense forces in general.

Furthermore, the new aircraft was to cruise a long distance without being fueled. According to the Memorandum of Understanding reached by the three service units, the new aircraft was supposed to meet the 2100 nautical miles capability range as the minimum self-deployment consideration (the United States General Accounting Office, 1990). Other notable attributes were in terms of the cost-sharing framework. That is, the three service teams were to share the funding in the ratio of 42, 46, and 12 percent for the Navy, Army, and Air Force, respectively (the United States General Accounting Office, 1986). The Army was mandated to steer the group in developing advanced technological requirements.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Acquisition Strategy

The project’s strength was related to the cruising speed and agility of the new aircraft. It would be effective to deploy the newly proposed aircraft compared to the available technologies, including the lift fan, compound helicopters, and conventional helicopters. Another strength was associated with knowledge and aspects connected to a similar project that had been analyzed before. The features include the use of the flight test, wind tunnel, and design data that had been previously settled upon during the research and development period of the X-15 motor.

Moreover, the team was composed of experienced technical experts from different fields. Therefore, they could utilize their experiences to come up with a versatile project. Further, there was no need to work on the validation phase’s approval since the project was based on the previous documentation of X-15 (United States Government Accounting Office, 1990). Another strength was related to the take-off time requirement. The project could therefore be used in critical operations. The main weakness of the acquisition was associated with planning failure.

Changes Required to Reduce Risk of Program Failure

The changes that could have been made to reduce project stalling risk include proper planning, reengineering of a new design, and the contractor’s cost verification. The team failed to effectively plan for the V-22 program as they relied on a similar system that had already been designed before (United States Government Accounting Office, 1990). Furthermore, the most promising competitors opted out of the bidding for the tender process because the time required to complete the project was not sufficient. According to Sikorsky Aircraft, the preliminary design should have taken at least 34 months instead of the 23 months proposed by the three-member team (United States Government Accounting Office, 1990).

Hence, the company did not submit its online bid to avoid compromising the quality of research, leaving Bell-Boeing the only contender for the project. Therefore, a lack of planning led to the stalling of the project.

Additionally, the committee did not verify the contractor costs yet it was not reasonable. According to the Navy’s estimate, the projected amount of the project was $1.975 billion and the cost was higher than what the contractor had proposed by $150 million (United States Government Accounting Office, 1990). The project design team did not consider the costs associated with failed equipment, ground testing conditions and manufacturing of spares (Radujkovic and Sjekavica, 2017). That is, as Makui (2017) claims, the contractors underestimated the fundamental details leading to cost overruns. The government had only allocated a fraction of the total project cost, leaving the contracting team stranded in managing operations.

Another limiting factor was in regards to the funding source for the project. Although the three service team members agreed to fund the program based on a negotiated ratio, the government had reduced the Marine budget allocated for research and the acquisition of projects. Therefore, the weight of the project was carried by the Air Force and it led to funding delays. Overall, the project could have been managed better had the three agencies revised on the status of their contributions.

Conclusion

All in all, The acquisition strategy was based on framing assumptions, including speed, the capability of cruising range, and advanced technological improvements compared to the conventional helicopters. The acquisition’s strength was associated with the three service team members that joined forces in coming up with a framework for contributing. The project’s major weaknesses were the failure to evaluate the contractor’s cost, which eventually led to cost overruns. Additionally, the V-22 project could have been managed better had the bidding process been competitive since one of the strongest contractors opted out because the team did not thoroughly evaluate the constraints involved.

References

Makui, Ahmed., Zadeh, Pooria. Bagherpour, Morteza, and Jabbarzadeh, Armin. “A Structural Equation Modeling Approach to Examine the Relationship between Complexity Factors of a Project and the Merits of Project Manager.” Journal of Project Management 3 (2018): 1-12. Web.

Radujkovic, Mladen and Sjekavica, Mariela. 2017. “Project Management Success Factor.” Procedia Engineering 196: 607-605. Web.

The United States General Accounting Office. 1986. “” The United States General Accounting Office. Web.

The United States General Accounting Office. 1990. “” United States General Accounting Office. Web.

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