Insight 1: Platforms optimize value creation
Today’s successful businesses don’t just offer high-quality products or services — they create platforms to connect producers and consumers in high value exchanges. As Parker, Van Alstyne, and their colleague Sangeet Paul Choudary write in their book “Platform Revolution,” companies like Airbnb and Uber gain from information and interactions. Investing in platforms allows companies to connect consumers and providers in two-sided markets.
DoD has produced major systems for decades, but how many are truly platforms? Billions are spent on complex aircraft carriers and 5th generation fighters, yet they are closed systems that often struggle to communicate with related systems. The Army attempted to group too many ground vehicle programs into a single Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, which was cancelled after spending $19B. FCS holds the top spot for the largest cancelled DoD program in history. Meanwhile, the versatile 60-year old C-130s are a great example of a successful DoD platform generating a family of aircraft to address diverse missions.
While DoD tries to develop platforms and systems of systems, it isn’t structured to do so. DoD’s requirements, acquisition, and budget systems are still very program-centric. DoD captures requirements via JCIDS program documents, budgets are appropriated via program elements, and program offices are established to execute per the approved acquisition program baseline. The Section 809 Panel (disclosure, which I supported) strongly advocated for a broader portfolio management approach to managing Big-A Acquisition (requirements, acquisition, and budgets). To rapidly and effectively deliver an integrated suite of capabilities, DoD needs to rethink the core Big-A structure, processes, and authorities.
DoD’s acquisition, technology, and operational communities must continue to design platforms to optimize lethality and mission impact. Each warfighting domain (land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace) must exploit a set of core platforms (vice major systems). If DoD can effectively develop around a core set of open platforms, they can minimize vendor lock, accelerate tech insertion of innovative solutions across a broader industry base, and strengthen alliances with International partners. This enables the U.S. and its Allies to stay ahead of emerging threats and deliver capabilities at the speed of relevance.