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The Marine Corps And Systems Acquisition
CSC 1984
               Submitted to
	  Rudolph V. Wiggins, PhD
    In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements
         for Written Communications
 The Marine Corps Command and Staff College
	     Quantico, Virginia
          Major Reed T. Bolick
       United States Marine Corps
                  April 6, 1984
Thesis sentence:  The Marine Corps' system acquisition
                  process needs to be revised in order
                  to bring it in line with the recent
                  acquisition improvement program im-
                  plemented by the Secretary of Defense.
  I.  Introduction
      A.  Most Marines are unaware of the systems
          acquisition process
      B.  LAV program demonstrated Marine Corps short-
  II. Basis for Marine Corps involvement in systems
      A.  National Security Act of 1947
      B.  Department of Defense direction
      C.  Secretary of the Navy direction
III.  Description of the systems acquisition process
      as revised by the AIP
      A.  Major system vs. non-major system
      B.  Sequence of events
         1.   Identify a need
         2.   Program Initiation
         3.   Concept Exploration
         4.   Demonstration and Validation
         5.   Full-Scale Development
         6.   Production and Deployment
IV.   Marine Corps systems acquisition and how it could
      be improved
      A.  The basic framework
         1.   Acquisition executive and the MSARC/IPR
         2.   Program Sponsor and the ACG
      B.  Changes or revalidations needed
         1.   DC/S R&P as IPR Committee chairman
         2.   Add R&P representative to ACG
         3.   Eliminate coordinator role for DC/S I&L and
              DC/S RD&S
         4.   Train those working in systems acquisition
         5.   Establish an additional MOS for acquisition duty
         6.   Establish an amphibious vehicle PMO with a
              Marine PM
 V.   Summary
	 A.  Proposed changes reemphasized
	 B.  Importance of effective participation in system
	     acquisition reinforced
      To the majority of the Marine Corps the term "systems
acquisition" means little or nothing at all.  Yet, for those
who have been exposed to it, it is quite clear that the
entire material aspect of our war fighting machine depends
on a successful participation in the Department of Defense's
(DOD) systems acquisition arena.  For a Service whose sole
orientation seems focused on the sweeping big blue arrows
of tactics, it is difficult to generate much interest in
something as mundane as systems acquisition.  For this very
reason the Marine Corps has been a follower -- and not a very
good one at that -- to the other Services' acquisition pro-
cedures.  Instead of being a follower, with the proper
emphasis and direction from Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC)
we could have been pioneering new and more efficient pro-
cedures which could have set the standards for the other
      The Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) program brought to the
forefront the Marine Corps' unpreparedness to deal with a
major weapons system acquisition.  In retrospect, whatever
success was achieved by the LAV program was in spite of the
Marine Corps' policies and management principles for the
acquisition of material and equipments, not because of them.
It was due primarily to the conscientious and tireless efforts
of the relatively few officers and civilians -- most of whow
were untrained in systems acquisition -- that the LAV pro-
gram was able to transition from an idea into a production
vehicle in less than four years.  Almost anyone familiar
with the normal five-to-ten year acquisition cycle would
consider this under-four year achievement to be almost un-
thinkable.  Having worked on the inside of this program for
its first three years and hating developed (through on-the-
job training) some experience in systems acquisition, it is
my opinion that if there had been a nucleus of officers
trained in systems acquisition and if the Marine Corps'
systems acquisition management policies had been in line
with those of Congress and DOD, our efforts would have been
much more efficient.  Based on this opinion and after con-
siderable research into the recent DOD Acquisition Improve-
ment Program (AIP), it is my intent to propose changes to
Marine Corps Order (MCO) P5000.10A, Systems Acquisition
Management Manual, which will bring it in line with the
DOD AIP and significantly facilitate future systems acqui-
  Having set my goal, it is necessary to establish the
basis from which I have derived the importance I have
attributed to the systems acquisition process.  The basic
charter for the Marine Corps is contained in Title 10,
United States Code, Section 125, otherwise known as the
National Security Act of 1947 with ammendments.  It is
within this document that the Marine Corps' purpose and
basic organization are established.  Subsequent implementing
DOD and Secretary of the Navy (SecNav) directives have
further defined the functions of the Marine Corps.  Among
those functions which directly bear on this paper are the
      (1) "Be the lead Service in the development of
          equipment employed by landing forces in
          amphibious operations" and, in coordination
          with the other Military Services, develop
          equipment for airborne operations not
          provided for by the Army.1
      (2) Determine Marine Corps unique character-
          istics for any equipment developed by
          other Services to insure its effectiveness
          for the Marine Corps.2
      (3) ". . . provide for the development, test,
          and evaluation of new weapon systems and
          equipment to insure that such are adequate
          and responsive to immediate and long-range
          objectives and are within available re-
      Having established that the Marine Corps does indeed
have a responsibility to participate in systems acquisition,
it is now logical to describe the process by which material
is acquired.  The DOD's recently concluded AIP revised the
acquisition process, making it even more imperative that
the Marine Corps bring its obsolete policies up to date.
Since the process outlined in the AIP is not likely to be
changed by the Marine Corps, I shall use it as the basis
for my explanation.  To keep the system magageable acqui-
sitions have been divided into two classes.  A major system
is one which meets the following criteria:
      (1) special interest to the Secretary of Defense;
      (2) a joint acquisition by two or more Services;
      (3) estimated costs exceed $200 million (FY 80
          dollars) in research, development, test)
          and evaluation (RDT&E) funds or $1 billion
          (FY 80 dollars) in procurement funds; or
      (4) has significant congressional interest.
A non-major system is one not meeting the above criteria.
At first glance one would assume the Marine Corps would not
have to worry about this at all because of the high dollar
value thresholds.  The fact is, however, that many of our
acquisitions could easily meet the other criteria and it
only takes one to make the program a major system candi-
date.  Another, and perhaps more important, factor bearing
on the Marine Corps' need to be conversant with the acqui-
sition process is that DOD has directed that the management
principles and objectives described for major systems shall
also be applied to the acquisition of non-major systems.
     The requirement for a system should be derived from a
deficiency cited in the Marine Corps Long-Range Plan and/or
the Marine Corps Midrange Objectives Plan.  It is the re-
sponsibility of the appropriate Acquisition Program Sponsor
(APS) within HQMC to define the need in mission terms and
prioritize it within his respective mission areas as de-
fined in MCO  P5000.10A.  A basic science and technology
rersearch is  conducted under the auspices of the Naval
Material Command (NavMat) and the Marine Corps Development
and Education Command (MCDEC).  If technological solutions
are identified and deemed feasible, then the APS prepares
a justification statement to include the projected funding
requirements.  For major systems this was formerly done by
means of a Mission Element Need Statement (MENS) and was
not tied to the budgetary process.  The AIP, however, has
replaced the MENS with a Justification for a Major System
New Start (JMSNS) and requires that it be submitted with
the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) submission in which
funds for the budget year of the POM are requested.6  This
is a significant change which will bring the system acqui-
sition process into line with the governmental Planning,
Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS).  It is important
to remember that while only major systems require JMSNS,
all systems must be adequately defined at their inception
due to the competition for the limited funds available.
While this paper will focus on the cycle for major systems,
it is understood that a similar cycle is required, at a
lower level, for non-major systems.
      The JMSNS and the POM initiative represent the pro-
gram initiation and sets in motion a process designed to
insure that each system is developed and procured in the
most efficient manner.  Care is exercised during the initial
steps of the acquisition process not to conform mission
needs or program objectives to any known system or pro-
ducts that might foreclose consideration of alternatives.7
The first phase of this effort is the Concept Exploration
(CE) phase during which all potential alternatives are
analyzed.  Among the types of alternatives examined are
modifications to existing systems, use of another Service's
system, an off-the-shelf commercial system, or a friendly
foreign system.  Only after concluding that none of the
above will effectively fulfill the need do we consider
developing a new system.  The CE phase concludes with a
Milestone I requirement validation based upon an approved
Required Operational Capability (ROC) document,8 a System
Concept Paper (SCP), and a Secretary of Defense decision.9
	The next step in the process is the Demonstration and
Validation (D&V) Phase.  During this phase numerous pro-
gram documents, including the ROC, are prepared and/or
refined.  Additionally, the test and evaluation process
attempts to reduce the system candidates to those most
feasible.  Under the AIP the review of the D&V results
would be the last Secretary of Defense level review re-
quired for a major system.  It is obvious that considerable
detail would be required at this Milestone II review in
order for the Secretary of Defense to grant the Service the
authority to proceed with the program.  This decentrali-
zation by the AIP is seen as placing the burden of account-
ability squarely on the shoulders of the Services.  This
simply further emphasizes the need for the Marine Corps to
bring its acquisition policy in line with that of DOD
and dedicate the resources (personnel and finances) to its
proper execution.
     Having narrowed the competitors to ideally two or three,
the Bull Scale Development (FSD) Phase is conducted.
Simply put, this phase is a head-to-head competition to see
which candidate best satisfies the requirement document or
purchase description.  It has been determined at Milestone
II. that any of the competitors could satisfy the need, so
the Secretary of Defense has allowed the Service Head to
choose the most cost and operationally effective system.
Milestone III, then, is reached when a production decision
is made and the fielding is commenced.  Figure 1 graphi-
cally portrays the major systems acquisition process and
should be reviewed keeping in mind that the cycle is the
same for non-major systems -- but at a lower level.
Click here to view image
   With an understanding of the acquisition process and
the confidence that the Marine Corps will comply with the
DOD directions 10 to implement this process, let us now con-
centrate on the fundamental changes within our policy
needed to facilitate this process.  While the DOD's AIP
decentralized the review process, it has made it imperative
that the Services have a centralized system.  This necessi-
tates an internal management system not only to assure
timely direction, influence, or monitoring of program
activity, but to integrate system capability, priority,
schedule, costs, etc., into the total Marine Corps program
and to prepare for its operation and support when deployed.
A system of program sponsorship and clearly defined re-
sponsibilities of supporting staff and field agencies will
fabilitate this internal management.  The Assistant
Commandant of the Marine Corps (ACMC) is the Service's
acquisition executive and heads the overall acquisition
process.  He is assisted by the Marine Corps System
Acquisition Review Council (MSARC) which he chairs.  The
MSARC is a board of general officers consisting of all the
Deputy Chiefs of Staff (DC/S), the Commanding General (CG)
of MCDEC, the Fiscal Director, the Director of the C4
Systems Division, and the Director of the Intelligence
Division.  While the MSARC makes recommendations on major
systems for the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC), an
In-Progress Review (IPR) Committee deals with non-major
systems.  The IPR Committee membership is tailored to those
with specific interest in the program.  Currently the DC/S
for Research, Development and Studies (RD&S) chairs the
IPR, but it is considered that the DC/S for Requirements
and Programs (R&S) would be a more appropriate chairman.
The DC/S for RD&S deals solely in the R&D arena whereas
the DC/S for R&P is more cognizant of the overall require-
ments for the Marine Corps.  This change should not require
any major functional revisions, except to MCO P5000.10A,
since the role of the chairman is primarily that of medi-
ator below the acquisition executive level.
      As mentioned earlier, each system has an Acquisition
Program Sponsor (APS) within HQMC who has the overall
responsibility throughout the acquisition process and
during the system's life cycle.11  The APS is supported
in this responsibility by a group of project officers from
those agencies directly involved with the system to be
acquired.  This group is the Acquisition Coordinating
Group (ACG) and is chaired by the sponsor's project officer.
The current ACG membership as outlined in MCO P5000.10A
should have a project officer from the R&P Department added
in order to insure that early coordination with that
department is made.  Since the R&P Department coordinated
the POM process and is most involved in the overall direction
of the Marine Corps, it is only logical that it be an active
participant in the early stages of the system acquisition
     Though the APS is the primary advocate of the system
within HQMC,12 this responsibility is diluted by the cur-
rent policy establishing the DC/S for RD&S and the DC/S for
Installations and Logistics (I&L) as coordinators for the
acquisition executive through various stages of the acqui-
sition process.  In MCO P5000.10A the DC/S for RD&S is the
coordinator from program initiation to the systems approval
for service use (Milestone III).  The DC/S for I&L becomes
the coordinator from Milestone III and continues in this
role throughout the life cycle of the system.13  While both
coordinators work in conjunction with the APS, they each have
direct lines to the acquisition executive.  This appears to
be contrary to the direction to establish clear lines of
authority,14 and to clearly establish the responsibility
and accountability within the systems acquisition process.15
Under the current policy it is possible that decisions can
be made through the coordinators' access to the acquisition
executive without the APS being aware of them.  This system
also tends to foster considerable misinformation since any
one of three sources can formulate responses to program
questions from external agencies.  Experience has shown that
the possibility for conflicting information being generated
by this procedure is very high.  In order to keep this
possibility to a minimum, a time-consuming review process
would be required and that would simply add yet another
layer in the system.
      Without disrupting the primary budgetary functions
of either the DC/S for RD&S or the DC/S for I&L, there is
a workable solution to the situation outlined above.  The
APS must be the source for all program information.  He is
the only source which is responsible to the acquisition
executive for the complete acquisition process from the
identification of the need throughout the life cycle of the
selected system.  The APS should be the single source for 
the acquisition executive with the coordinators supporting
the APS by their representatives within the ACG.
      The final step within the revision of the systems
acquisition management policies is centered on the day-to-
day program management itself.  Normally the Marine Corps
will acquire any needed equipment from another Service.  The
current system of monitoring the various development
activities of the other Services enables us to adopt those
systems which fulfill a common need.  If, however, we
desire to make a significant change to another Service's
system, enter into a joint development, or undertake a
unilateral acquisition -- as in the case of amphibious
vehicles -- we must dedicate adequate personnel and finan-
cial resources to program management.  This means, at a
minimum, that those assigned to key project officer billets
within the ACG must be adequately trained in respect to
their specific duties.  MCO P5000.10A even states that
those key project officers serving in acquisition management
billets ". . . will attend appropriate DOD management
courses related to the management of systems acquisitions
and similar courses in other military Services."  Unfor-
tunately this is rarely done and, consequently, only minimal
effectiveness is achieved by those assigned to systems
acquisition billets.  What is worse is that we are doomed to
repeat our errors due to a lack of adequate continuity.
Both of these issues could be resolved by school training
those serving on ACGs early in their tours and then creating
an additional MOS so that they could be identified for future
      Related to the above is the need to accept responsi-
bility for the one system the Marine Corps has a legal
requirement to manage.  As stated earlier, the development
of equipment related to amphibious operations is within the
charter of the Marine Corps.  We currently rely on the
Navy to manage our amphibious vehicle program with minimal
Marine Corps personnel assigned to assist in this effort.
Given our historic emphasis on our amphibious capabilities,
it is unthinkable that we do not have a Marine Corps
amphibious vehicle program office staffed and supported at
a level comparable to the Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle
System program office.  Simply put, the Marine Corps needs
a designated program manager for amphibious vehicles, who
is supported by an appropriately staffed and trained
program management Office (PMO).  One only has to trace
the history of the Landing Vehicle Tracked-Experimental
(LVT-X) and how it evolved from the Amphibious Warfare
Surface Assault (AWSA) Mens to know that a more effective
management effort could have saved millions of dollars in
what has been somewhat fruitless endeavors.  Because we
have been assigned the lead in equipment development
relating to amphibious warfare, and because it is opin-
ioned that any amphibious vehicle so developed will be
designated a major system, it is imperative that the Marine
Corps accept the fact that it must be a full participant in
the Systems acguisition arena.  Failing to do so could, in
time, result in the loss of the single most unique capa-
bility we have -- excellence in amphibious operations.
     The main purpose of this paper has been to suggest
several changes to the Marine Corps' System Acquisition
Manual, NCO P5000.10A.  The changes which have been suggested
are as follows:
      1. Revise the Marine Corps' system acquisition
         cycle to coincide with the new DOD cycles
      2. Have all systems acquisitions -- whether
         major or non-major -- follow the revised
         cycle at an appropriate level.
      3. Make the DC/S for R&P the chairman of the
         IPR Committee.
      4. Add the project officer from R&P to the
         membership of the ACG.
      5. Eliminate the coordinator for the acqui-
         sition executive roles of the DC/S for
         I&L and the DC/S for RD&S.
      6. Require adequate training for those
         assigned to a billet within the systems
         acquisition process.
      7. Assign an additional MOS to those who are
         trained and successfully complete a tour
         in systems acquisition.
      8. Establish a Marine Corps amphibious
         vehicle program management office with
         a full-time Marine officer as the PM.
In addition to conveying the above suggestions, it is
hoped that this paper has allowed the reader to become more
knowledgeable of the systems acquisition process and how
important it is to the Marine Corps' warfighting capa-
      1Department of Defense Directive 5100.1, Functions
of the Department of Defense and its Major components,
January 26, 1980, p.9.
      2Secretary of the Navy Instruction 5400.13, Assign-
ment and Distribution of Authority and Responsibility
for the Administration of the Department of the Navy,
August 24, 1971, p.3.
      3Ibid., p.4.
      4Department of Defense Directive 5000.1,Major
Systems Acquisition, March 29, 1982, p.6.
      5Ibid., p.2.
      6Department of Defense Instruction 5000.2, Major
Systems Acquisition Procedures, March 8, 1983, p.4.
      7Office of Management and Budget Circular No. A-109,
Major Systems Acquisitions, April 5, 1976, p.8.
      8Marine Corps Order P500.10A, Systems Acquisition
Management Manual, January 27, 1981, p.2-5.
      9DOD Instruction 5000.2, p.4.
     10DOD Directive 5000.1, p.10.
     11MCO P5000.10A, p.1-8.
     13Ibid., p.1-6.
     14OMB Circular No. A-109, p.4.
     15DOD Directive 5000.1, p.2.
Brabson, G. Dana.  "The Defense Acquisition Improvement
     Program."  Program Manager, 6 (November-December
     1983), 5-13.
Brown, William D.  "Program Instability -- Fighting
     Goliath."  Program Manager, 6 (November-December
     1983), 30-32,61.
Department of Defense Directive 5000.1.  "Major System
     Acquisition."  (March 29,1982).
Department of Defense Directive 5000.23.  "System
     Acquisition Management Careers."  (November 26, 1974).
Department of Defense Directive 5000.1.  "Functions of
     the Department of Defense and its Major Components."
     (January 26, 1980).
Department of Defense Instruction 5000.2.  "Major System
     Acquisition Procedures."  (March 8, 1983).
Marine Corps Order 3900.43.  "Marine Corps Operational
     Requirements Documents."  (December 15, 1975).
Naval Material Command Instruction 3910.16A.  "Naval
     Material Command Developmental Support for the
     Marine Corps."  (February 29, 1972).
Office of Management and Budget Circular No. A-109.
     "Major System Acquisition."  (April 5, 1976).
Secretary of the Navy Instruction 5400.13.  "Assignment
     and Distribution of Authority and Responsibility
     for the Administration of the Department of the Navy."
     (August 24, 1971).
Smith, Gordon A.  "A-109:  A Synthesis of Concerns and
     Interpretations Expressed in the Literature."
     Program Manager, 6 (November-December 1983), 20-29.
Stefansson, David R., and Roesch, Maurice A.  "The
     Selection of a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) for the
     Marine Corps -- An Applied Example of Decision
     Analysis for Defense Systems Acquisition."  Unpub-
     lished Research Paper, The Industrial College of
     the Armed Forces, April 1982.
Thayer, Paul.  "The Grace Commission and Defense Acqui-
     sition."  Defense 84, (January 1984), 2-7.

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