To accelerate the adoption of defense innovation in the age of great power competition, former Secretaries of Defense and the Air Force recommend a new method of program management and increased financial flexibility.
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James propose a new approach to program management and greater budgetary flexibility to enable greater defense innovation adoption in the era of great power competition. They suggest that America’s strategy must include countering adversaries’ rapid acquisition and exploitation of leading technologies. The Pentagon needs greater flexibility, tools, and political push from Capitol Hill to make a major step change in defense modernization. The authors propose an experiment in budget flexibility and a rethinking of Pentagon program management deep enough to transform the decades-old defense acquisition process. Two of their leading recommendations focus on shifting acquisition management from individual program management to a capability-portfolio model and giving defense leaders more budget flexibility. The authors urge Congress and the Pentagon to act on these recommendations to accelerate innovation adoption by the Defense Department and put the U.S. in a far better position to face off against China and Russia in the years to come.