Spring Semester Acquisition Course
The spring semester ICAF Acquisition Course is designed to provide students with a broad
understanding of the defense acquisition process. The course emphasis is upon analyzing the
process of converting resources into U.S. military capabilities through the study of the major,
enduring issues associated with developing, testing and producing systems in support of the national
defense. This course integrates with and builds upon other portions of the ICAF curriculum,
including Leadership and Information Strategies, National Security Studies, Economics, Military
Strategy and Logistics, and the Industry Studies Program. The course relies on a number of case
studies drawn from the public and private sectors to illustrate the issues surrounding defense acquisition.
At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:
- Evaluate the policies, principles and concepts used by the federal government to acquire capabilities in support of a transforming national
security and military strategy, concentrating on the political, military and economic dimensions.
- Evaluate alternative strategic and organizational acquisition approaches and changes to improve support for the national security strategy.
- Evaluate how defense acquisition policies and practices affect the defense and combined industrial base.
Earlier in the academic year, students will have studied the many dimensions of national power.
The Acquisition Course builds on the general frameworks established in those courses, including
the frameworks of decision-making and the political process. Defense acquisition is a political
and administrative process by which the Department converts material resources into military
capabilities. This complex, frequently politically-charged process can be used as a tool of national
policy, signaling resolve or commitment and clarifying relationships with other nations, or used
either consciously or otherwise as a tool of national industrial policy.
In Acquisition, students will study the implementation of acquisition policies and programs by analyzing
commercial and government case studies, and by examining the governments direct interface
with industry and allied nations through the acquisition process. Students will hear from and
meet with government and industry leaders who will share their thoughts on the changing
acquisition process. The course directly supports the Industry Studies program, which itself
studies the capabilities of the Nations industrial base to support government and military needs.
Acquisition is the process by which Department of Defense executes the political decision to develop
and buy something. The process itself is an issue, driving the cost, schedule and performance
throughout the life cycle of the weapon systems our forces are counting upon. The Defense
acquisition process, by virtue of its size and direct contact with the research and industrial
capabilities of the country, is a major instrument available to national security decision makers
to influence the capability, capacity and health of the U.S. industrial base. This base not only
supports defense, but national economic health as well.
The course will examine the basics of acquisition, including research and development,
procurement, and life cycle support and disposal. It will also examine the intersection
with the user community and the joint capabilities integration and development process.
As the system evolves continually, the course will examine some of the internally and
externally driven changes affecting the current process. The course will provide basic
knowledge, including an historical perspective, as well as insider and outsider views of
The course consists of 22 lessons, which include both seminar discussions and lectures.
Many of the seminars make use of case study materials. Class discussion is very
important in the classes using case studies and in all others where an extremely complex,
evolving system is being analyzed. The course depends on a wide variety of inputs from
members of different Services and organizations.
Students will be assessed based upon (1) their understanding of the material presented, (2) their ability to integrate the
concepts and principles learned, and (3) their ability to formulate alternative solutions to acquisition challenges.
Their evaluation will be based upon:
- Classroom performance (60%) Quality of their contribution to seminar discussion and their case study analyses.
- Oral presentation supported by one-or-two page written point paper (40%) discussing recommended changes in dealing with current acquisition challenges.
In the lesson sequence below, (S) denotes seminar; (CS) denotes case study; (L)
denotes lecture; and (GS) denotes guest seminar:
- Political Foundations: Policy and Practice (S)
- Acquiring Capabilities: Three Major Decision Systems (S)
- National Security Strategy (CS)
- Acquiring Capabilities: The Joint View (CLS)
- Choosing Strategic Capabilities (S)
- Strategic Resource Allocation (S)
- Defense Acquisition System (S)
- Acquisition Strategy (CS)
- Program Management Approaches (CS)
- Product Development (CS)
- National Security and Technology (CS)
- Risk Management (CS)
- CEO View from Industry (CLS)
- Constituencies, Politics and Ethics (CS)
- Contracting for Services (S)
- Acquisition Logistics (S)
- Acquisition and Major Services Contracting In Support of Wartime Operations (S)
- Contracting in War and Reconstruction (L)
- Acquisition in Support of Urgent Wartime Requirements - Part I (S)
- Acquisition in Support of Urgent Wartime Requirements - Part II (CS)
- Government-Industry Interaction (S)
- New Frontiers, Transformations, and Trends (CLS)
- Globalization, International Markets and Cooperation (S)
- Emerging Capabilites, Processes, and Industries(S)
- The Acquisition Policy Maker's View (CLS)
- Acquisition Challenges and Choices (S)
Defense Acquisition University, Introduction to Defense Acquisition Management, 8th Edition
O'Hanlon, Michael. Budgeting for Hard Power
Singer, Peter. Corporate Warriors
Singer, Peter. Wired for War
Sobel, Dava. Longitude
Case Study: Trident
Case Study: Multiple Launch Rocket System
Case Study: Campbell Soup
Case Study: Boeing 767
Case Study: Boeing 787
Case Study: Microsoft Office 2000
Case Study: Mission to Mars
Case Study: Joint Direct Attack Munition
Case Study: Navy A-1
Case Study: Left of Boom
Extensive Anthology materials