25 August 2016

This is a Fascinating Concept, But Only if it is Applied Rigorously

The suggestion that defense contractors post performance bonds is intriguing, but, much like the rest of the military industrial complex, the question is that the people who would enforce the terms of this bond would not allow themselves to be swayed by the political and economic powers of the defense contractors:
In Washington, D.C., “military reform” usually means “acquisition reform.” There is a lot of talk about it on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon. Enough think-tank papers have been written on the subject to clear whole forests. But of the myriad options out there, one has escaped notice.

Performance bonds — money put up by a contractor as insurance to the buyer to make sure the job is done on time and to specifications — are already required for federal building projects under the Miller Act. Prime construction contractors have to furnish a surety to the government to ensure their work is completed properly and to guarantee all subcontractors get paid should the firm go out of business.

These bonds have been used with some success in overseas defense procurement contracts. Using performance bonds is one way the government protects its interests without having to resort to judicial proceedings. In fact, the Congressional Research Service recently noted that performance bond money can be used to “offset the costs of contract completion, which can include delays and finding a new contractor.”

The same idea could potentially be applied to a weapons acquisition project to protect the government’s — and the taxpayer’s — interests. But it has so far been overlooked during the sometimes desperate search for solutions to the Pentagon’s dysfunctional buying process.

One key selling point for this idea is that provisions for using performance bonds for Defense Department acquisition already exist. As is usually the case, improving discipline in weapons spending doesn’t require new rules but using the rules that already exist to better effect.
That last paragraph reveals the weakness of the concept.

The tools are already there, but the Pentagon is unwilling to use them.

If you were to decertify the 4 services, and move procurement to an agency independent of the Pentagon, a structure similar to Sweden's FMV, you might have a chance of making it work, but this would require a catastrophe to generate sufficient impetus to do this.


Post a Comment