These are the concluding remarks of the Pentagon’s outgoing Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), Dr. J. Michael Gilmore, excerpted from his final report:
As a community, we have made immense progress in the past seven years. The need for rigorous and defensible approaches to test and evaluation is not going away. As our systems become even more complex, and autonomous, continuous and integrated testing will be necessary. We will need to continue to evolve our application of state-of-the-art methodologies to confront these new challenges. We will continue to need to update range resources.
Over the past seven years, we have put the framework in place, establishing the research consortium, science of test workshop in partnership with NASA, developing guidance including the TEMP Guidebook and others.
However, this office as well as the Service test organizations, need to keep moving the trajectory forward so that we continue to provide valuable information to decision makers.
The operational test community should continue to provide independent, fact-based information to senior leaders and decision makers. The Service operational test organizations, like my office, are organized to be independent from the acquisition leadership.
This is so that the facts, the unvarnished truth, can be reported to senior leadership without undue influence. However, in order for real change to take place in the acquisition system and to minimize future acquisition failures, leadership must actually make itself aware of the information provided by independent assessments of systems, critically question all the information they have, and use it to make sound decisions.
I have provided numerous examples in this introduction where plenty of facts about systems are available; I have provided numerous methods and techniques to obtain the facts in an effective and efficient manner depending on the program involved.
But unless leaders in the department display the intellectual curiosity to create a demand signal for accurate information about their programs, and the moral courage to act faithfully on that information once it’s generated, acquisition reform cannot occur. Only when leaders have the authority and confidence to say “No,” when the facts reveal that a course deviation is essential to a program, change will occur.
The willingness and ability to say “No” to high-risk schedules, optimistic cost estimates, and optimistic claims of technical readiness and to support those decisions within and outside the Department using cogent arguments based on the facts are essential.
Leadership that does this sends a strong message by directly challenging the powerful incentives that can otherwise lead to the adoption of unachievable requirements embodied in high-risk programs that fail.
While there is constant criticism of DOT&E and the Services’ independent activities and pressure to constrain our independence, continued strong support by the Congress and successive Administrations of these pockets of independent and objective expertise and evaluation remains, in my view, essential.
I cannot emphasize enough the need for early, adequate, realistic, and rigorous independent operational testing on all systems to ensure what is being developed will, in fact, provide our Service men and women the capabilities they need in combat.
This is especially true during this period of tight budget controls as there are not sufficient resources to correct significant problems once systems are fielded.
I submit this report, as required by law, summarizing the operational and live fire test and evaluation activities of the Department of Defense during fiscal year 2016.
J. Michael Gilmore