Pentagon urged to empower weapons development teams

The Defense Department could develop and deliver weapons more rapidly if it gave teams of experts more authority in managing weapons programs, according to a new General Accounting Office report. The report, "Best Practices: DoD Teaming Not Achieving Potential Results," (GAO-01-510) said Defense needs to make better used of integrated product teams, which have been widely used by commercial manufacturers. The product teams are groups of managers from different fields, such as engineering, manufacturing and finance, who jointly share their expertise to develop a product. "Integrated product teams work. Effective integrated product teams can make significant product development decisions quickly and without relying heavily on consultation with organizations outside the team," the report said. GAO surveyed several Defense organizations and found several programs that were behind schedule or over budget. In most cases, those teams had made sequential decisions and often consulted with outside organizations. Meanwhile, successful integrated product teams centered decision-making in the team and gave its members broad authority. GAO made several recommendations for improving teaming, including:
  • Creating only teams that have day-to-day decision-making authority.
  • Developing training programs on product teams for Defense managers.
  • Avoiding barriers between Defense program offices and contractors who are helping to develop the weapons.
In response to the report, Defense agreed that the teams should have day-to-day program responsibilities whenever possible.
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