Few Washington policy makers truly understand how the Pentagon develops and acquires weapon systems, and they tend to throw barbs at the Defense Department based on innuendo rather than hard data, said Air Force Assistant Secretary William LaPlante, who leaves office this week after three years as the service’s top weapons buyer.
“That’s what surprised me when I got into this job,” he told reporters Nov. 24.
There is an abundance of data that show a sharp drop in cost overruns and improved performance in Air Force big-ticket programs in recent years, but the widespread conviction on Capitol Hill and among the general public is that military procurement is broken. LaPlante believes there is a wide gap between perception and reality, and that has been a constant source of frustration. He announced last week he would leave his post to join The Mitre Corporation. He had planned to leave sooner, over this summer, but decided to stick around until the completion of the contract award for the Air Force long-range strike bomber, the service’s largest procurement in decades. Richard Lombardi, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, is expected to take over as acting assistant secretary.
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