Costs and Risks of Maturing Technologies, Traditional vs. Evolutionary Approaches

Report Number: NPS-AM-08-029

Series: Acquisition Management

Category: Evolutionary Acquisition (EA)

Report Series: Proceedings Paper

Authors: Michael Pennock, Bill Rouse

Title: Costs and Risks of Maturing Technologies, Traditional vs. Evolutionary Approaches

Published: 2008-04-01

Sponsored By: Acquisition Research Program

Status: Published--Unlimited Distribution

Research Type: Other Research Faculty

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Keywords: Evolutionary Acquisition


Evolutionary acquisition holds the potential to improve both the cost of defense acquisition and the performance of acquired systems. Traditional acquisition programs tend to employ promising, yet immature, technologies and develop them within the program. Because immature technologies are inherently risky, unforeseen obstacles to development can lead to substantial cost overruns and schedule delays. This results in infrequent, but large, increments of deployed capability. In contrast, evolutionary acquisition employs more mature, less-risky technologies. This results in more frequent, smaller increments of deployed capability. In theory, evolutionary acquisition could be more cost effective than traditional acquisition approaches because it avoids most of the risk inherent to technology development. However, there is a latent issue regarding evolutionary acquisition. If technology is not matured within a program, it must be matured somewhere else. For critical, DoD-specific technologies, this cost must logically fall on the DoD itself. The question, then, is whether it is more cost effective to mature technologies within the R&D system or within an acquisition program? A simulation of the defense acquisition system is developed to address this question.