There are several examples of failed arms acquisition programs, where costs have been underestimated, and unproven technology misunderstood.
Arms acquisition programs seem to suffer from particular difficulties, judging from the results obtained. This is not only a U.S., and to some extent U.K., phenomenon, although the debate is by far most active in those two nations. The problems express themselves as cost overruns, delayed deliveries, and fundamental, sometimes insoluble, technical challenges. The term “acquisition” is here used for the complete life cycle process of a system, covering concept generation, design phase, prototypes, volume production, operational use, various upgrades, and disposal. The problems are typically, but not always, encountered in the design phase.
Is military acquisition inherently more difficult than similar programs in non-military business areas? The fact that these programs are usually paid for by public money, that large sums of money are involved, and that programs often are not competed, all contribute to making these programs much more prone to extensive media coverage, in particular concerning any failures, compared to similar big-money, high-tech programs in the private sector.
In this paper we will examine the technologies involved and their sometimes extraordinary pace of development, some inherent difficulties with big military programs, the fundamental difficulties with cross-border collaboration and the funding challenges in times of austerity, and we will propose some remedies.2We believe that the conclusions of this paper are relevant e.g. for the ongoing negotiations for Sweden-Brazil military cooperation and arms acquisition.
VIII Encontro Nacional da ABED: Defesa e Seguranca do Atlantico Sul. Brasilia 8-10 september, 2014