Understanding how the military services procure equipment

June 24, 2009

If you’ve ever wondered how the military buys equipment, here is a useful primer that breaks the acquisition process down into an easily understood parable:

A car pulls up in front of Best Buy and four people get out: A soldier, sailor, airman, and marine. All four work at the Pentagon and were sent there by their wives to buy a new DVD player because their old ones broke.

The airman looks around, spends an hour talking to the salesman about refresh rate, pixel count, number of colors, and every other techincal specification before determining that nothing matches his requirements so he decides to put a deposit down for the next generation DVD player that is scheduled to come out in a year.

The sailor buys a blu-ray player, even though blu-ray players don’t play regular dvds, but he figures that this will motivate his wife to let him upgrade his regular dvds to high def.

The marine buys a VHS player because that’s what he’s been using for fifty years.

The soldier comes out with a blender because he has no clue what he’s buying, why he needs it, or what it’s supposed to do.

In the end, all four were left with no way to play their DVDs but had still managed to spend their total budget for the year.

Now imagine that instead of a DVD player, each service member was buying a weapon, and instead of a budget of $200, they had $20,000,000,000. 

And thus ends the lesson.

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