Disrupting Acquisition Blog

Middle Tier of Acquisition and Cheeseburger Salad

by | Jan 19, 2021 | Policy

Hamburger with fries

We may all order from the same menu but different requirements mean different dishes or even different ways of eating the same dish.

“What the heck is that?”

My colleague and I are having lunch on the patio of his favorite burger place so that we can talk about the Adaptive Acquisition Framework and how it is better than the old DOD 5000 series.

I know, I know. But this is what acquisition nerds do when we don’t have a lot of time to catch up.

My colleague points at my plate and shakes his head. “How could you ruin a perfectly good burger like that?”

Truth be told, I wouldn’t have picked this restaurant. The menu is extensive—if your body likes carbs. I eat very well on a restricted diet, but to make it work in this establishment, I have to make some adjustments. But were we talking about Acquisition or lunch?

“I have special requirements,” I mutter.

On my side of the table, I rip the top off a small packet of diabetic-friendly sweetener I brought with me and stir it into my glass of iced tea. On his side of the table, he’s already finished off his first glass of blood-sugar-tripling soda and signaled our server for a second. He takes a bite out of a burger that is too large for his mouth, veggies falling out of the side closest to me. He covers his mouth with one hand and tries to tell me, mouth full, that I don’t know what I am missing.

“Oh, I know exactly what I am missing. We don’t need the same things.”

He shakes his head as he gobbles a couple of oversized French fries that smell divine. He tells me he has been ordering the exact same thing for the last five years.

“It’s sort of like the old DOD 5000, isn’t it?” I joke. “You get your burger with everything on it and you know exactly how it is going to look every time. But I’m not buying a hardware intensive weapon system. I’m looking for something quicker that meets my very specific needs and yet doesn’t have to be so fast that I can’t sit down to eat.”

“So…whatever that is on your plate that definitely isn’t a full-blown bacon cheeseburger is what? Middle Tier of Acquisition?”

“Actually, yes.”

I scoop lettuce and parmesan cheese from my Caesar-side-salad-with-no-croutons onto the edge of my plate next to my double beef patties, cheese, two strips of bacon, mayo, and ketchup.

“I could have ordered it with a bun, fully loaded, and the same double order of fries you got,” I tell him, “but that would be a waste of resources and far more than I need.”

I pause to cut a small slice of my beef patties, dip it in ketchup, mayo, and cheese, combine it with a bit of bacon and Caesar salad lettuce, and pop it into my mouth.

He shakes his head. “What are you doing? Don’t tell me—rapid prototyping?”

“Exactly.” I cut up the rest of my patties into small pieces and mix in the bowl of lettuce to create a bacon cheeseburger salad. I smile up at him. “And now, rapid fielding.”

“Naw. You can’t do that. You’re still eating what you prototyped at the same time you’re eating your, er, production…?”

“Think of it this way: I needed my prototype to taste exactly the way I wanted it to and contain only certain ingredients that were heavy on protein and fat and light on carbs. That was my measure of success before moving on. Let’s just say that my prototype was successful enough that even though I haven’t finished all that I set aside for my prototype, I know enough about it to move on. I know based on one bite of my prototype that the entire salad will be exactly what I need. I could just as easily have finished all of my prototype bites before mixing it together, but by rapidly fielding that prototype right into my mouth, I am meeting all of my special requirements, nothing extra added.”

He chews thoughtfully in silence. “I guess I like my cheeseburger between two buns. I like more structure to my meals.”

“I could have made other alterations. I could have ordered the same thing except ask them to bring it out on a huge leaf of lettuce that I could wrap it in and turn it back into a handheld. That would have been a little more structured, but still not as structured as your, er, Major Capability Acquisition burger.”

He laughs. “I need my bread.”

“And I don’t. We are both eating off the same menu, but we have different options depending on our specific needs.”

“Okay, I get it. Your lunch does not have to look exactly like mine.”

Finally he understands!  “Oh, don’t think I haven’t thought through this. There are lots of ways I could have done this. I could even have gone to the grocery store, bought all the ingredients and cooked it at home myself if I had that much time. Like I would have done it a decade ago when I ate only 5000 burgers.”

He stops eating and watches me from across the table as though plotting to trip me up.

“What if you had an urgent operational need for lunch?”

“Then I would have used the Urgent Capability Acquisition pathway and gotten it to go.”


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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