Disrupting Acquisition Blog

To Jump or Not to Jump, That is the Question…

by | Jul 17, 2019 | Mindset, Rapid Acquisition

Photo credit to Kwame Anim

When you’re “in the system,” especially when it’s a massive one like the DoDI 5000.02 Defense Acquisition System, it can feel like a never-ending uphill battle… an overwhelmingly long and confusing (even contradictory at times!) set of policies from DoDI 5000.02, your Service, and PEO; your hand getting slapped when you miss an obscure administrative requirement; and the drudgery of resolving those criticals in KMDS. No wonder we all get the Sunday night blues!

So when something like Section 804 Middle Tier Acquisition comes along – something new, lightweight, sparse on requirements (there’s literally only ONE), and appears to give us maximum flexibility and creativity- well, it can be downright terrifying! What does the policy really mean? How are we supposed to get our acquisition validated when there’s not 10 oversight committees for each of our decisions? How do we know this isn’t a trap?!

Well, I don’t have those answers but science might…

Back in the day, some clever scientists wanted to figure out how to keep fleas in a jar (weird, I know). When you put a regular flea in a glass jar, it will immediately jump out: It’s reflexive and will naturally jump higher than the lid’s height in order to escape.

Well, those smart scientists experimented and found out that if you put a lid on the glass jar- voila! Fleas can no longer jump out of the glass jar because they hit their heads on the lid. So, the fleas learned to jump slightly lower than the height of the lid so that they wouldn’t hit their heads. This isn’t exactly rocket science if you know what I mean…

But here’s where it got interesting: For those fleas who had experienced life inside the lid, once the scientists removed the lid, they still continued to jump… but only as high as the lid height. Even though the physical barrier was gone, the fleas had learned that they couldn’t escape so they didn’t even try.

Science now dubs this as “learned helplessness” and numerous studies have shown this effect in animals much bigger than fleas (even us humans).

So why am I bringing this up in an acquisition blog?


      • The fleas in the glass jar = Us as acquisition professionals
      • The “lid” = The prior restrictive environment of DODI 5000.02
      • The “open lid” =  Section 804 and the other policy changes as part of Defense Acquisition Reform

Yikes! Are you still operating under constraints that no longer exist? Are you not sure? Consider using the Adaptive Acquisition Framework to help you figure out the best acquisition strategy for your program or check out AiDA’s Middle Tier Acquisition site to help you learn more about Section 804.

So, it’s your choice my acquisition friends:

Which flea are you going to choose to be? Are you going to stay inside the jar or are you going to jump out?



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Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here are those of the authors only and do not represent the positions of the MITRE Corporation or its sponsors.


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