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Projects Didn't Pan Out

Recognizing the tremendous challenge associated with affecting transformational change, OTI activities are executed with a “fail fast” model. Each activity is given no more than six months to achieve a clear and compelling case that it will result in a significant improvement for the Air Force. It is understood that there are many more ideas for ways to improve the acquisition system than can ever be fully explored, so there is little need to fixate on one idea or another if it is not achieving meaningful milestones in an expeditious manner. In fact, OTI considers lack of failures as an indicator that the activities it pursues are not far-reaching enough to have a transformative impact. So, failure is a part of success. More to the point, lessons learned from failures or projects that did not pan out help guide future activities to be more effective.

In practice, OTI has tended to either pivot activities to address shortcomings in the initial implementation approach or transition projects to other Air Force organizations that might be more effective. So, a failure doesn’t necessarily mean that a project is terminated. This webpage will serve as a repository of projects that did not turn out well with a  short description of how OTI responded to each.


Didn't Pan Out (DPO) Button A core OTI ideal is that it is imperative to acknowledge and convey ideas and activities that fail to meet their intended objectives. The DPO Button on the OTI website was included to serve as a forthright recording of projects that do not turn out well or are total failures as they happen. However, this page has not been regularly updated as frequently as expected. There are two key reasons for this failure. First, it's as difficult to achieve clean failures as it is to achieve clean wins. Most frequently, we hit "temporary" roadblocks and we're loathe to give up just because the bureaucracy doesn't move at our pace. As a new organization, we're still working to find the right balance between tenacity and value. Second, failure is often subjective. For example, there are times when we complete a desired end product but that end product doesn't achieve an immediate tangible benefit within the bureaucracy. Acquisition activities take years to implement, and it takes years longer to observe and measure outcomes. Moving forward, the OTI position will be that anything that doesn't promptly produce a paradigm-shifting result is worth inclusion under the Not Easy Button -- even if it's not technically a "failure".


Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Efficiencies Both industry and the acquisition workforce have experienced a variety of challenges related to various FMS processes, which have generally resulted in slower-than-average acquisition timeframes. These challenges have regularly been broached with senior leaders throughout the Air Force. Under the Bending the Cost Curve (BTCC) Initiative, OTI sought to engage with industry to consolidate perspectives into a common understanding of the observed challenges. However, it was soon discovered that OTI’s industry engagement strategy conflicted with other such efforts managed outside the Air Force’s direct purview. Meanwhile, policy changes implemented by the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology & Logistics (OSD/AT&L) have seemingly addressed some of the most notable challenges posed by industry and the Air Force acquisition workforce. As a result, OTI terminated its planned industry engagement efforts and established a partnership with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) to participate in their ongoing industry forums. The objective is to take information from those forums to determine what, if any, future actions would be useful.


The Matchmaker Project In an effort to better translate acquisition success from one program to another, OTI initiated the Matchmaker Project. The premise is straightforward: When a program achieves a notable cost-savings through collaboration with an industry partner, that program should engage with a pending program that is working with the same industry partner. In this way, successes can be immediately translated both on the government and industry side of a program. The concept was demonstrated in October 2014 with the Space-Based Infrared Radar System (SBIRS) program, C-130J Program, and two separate divisions of Lockheed Martin Corporation. Government and industry participants reported that the engagement was straightforward and useful toward their objectives. When OTI attempted to recreate Matchmaker with different programs, it was challenging to identify programs in suitable phases to warrant a match. A much more concerted effort is required to find programs that have had a recent success where there is also an imminent program with the same industry partner. OTI is now moving toward a more intensive program identification process that includes awards and other incentives for acquisition personnel.


The Truth in Negotiations Act (TINA) Study In an attempt to address the protracted time to award sole source contracts (17 months on average), OTI initiated a study to assess how TINA threshold limits affect acquisition schedules and costs. This study required data from industry to evaluate workflows and timelines that the government typically does not have access to. While several companies responded to the request for data, none provided all data needed to complete the analysis. As a result, no definitive conclusion could be drawn regarding the impact of TINA thresholds on acquisition timelines. However, other related issues were identified that the Air Force is pursuing in response to industry feedback. Meanwhile, the most recent version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016 includes language that would significantly increase the TINA.