Military Cost Savings: Beyond Inflatable Russian Bears

File this one under the post Cold-War Spend Management files. Apparently, the Ruskies have developed an incredibly fearsome and threatening technology that can strike panic into the hearts of defense analysts relying on satellite flyovers. According to the above-linked ABC News article, "Russia's Defense Ministry is in talks with a private company called Rusbal to develop a range of inflatable decoy armaments they could place in battlefields ... men fire up an air pump and within minutes there stands a towering S-300 anti-aircraft missile launcher." How's that for a military cost savings invention?

The story actually raises a somewhat serious issue. In an economy where many governments must confront declining tax receipts while at the same time facing continued military cost escalations, we'll need radical new ways of controlling military spending while maintaining the capability to meet our defense needs. Now, inflatable blow-up tanks -- no word yet if the French military will find an alternative use for such devices -- may not be the best way to maintain an ability to project actual force, but at least someone is thinking creatively. Knowing the limited amount I know about DOD and agency spending habits, I'd suggest the following strategies might be more effective -- and sustainable:

  • Get more effective at optimizing contingent (i.e., contractor) spending; ironically, even though certain firms such as Blackwater and others have developed quite a negative public persona, the proper application of contingent/services spending within the DOD and agency worlds makes significant sense. Believe it or not, there's absolutely a role here for VMS type applications that help manage the process and effective sourcing and contractor management from the cradle to, well, hopefully not the you-know-what.
  • Continue to rigorously weed out no- or limited-bid contracts. The amount of contracts that we continue to hear about that are structured or designed for one party to win within the DOD and agency world is surprising indeed. The problem very much exists, even if it's more cleverly disguised than before.
  • Deploy effective, FAR compliant sourcing tools and push center-led influence out to smaller and smaller spending decisions. Ironically, Spend Matters would argue that certain UK agencies and other departments are further ahead at deploying tool-led sourcing technologies than many of their US equivalents.

Jason Busch

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