It’s a Wrap: Good-Bye LSI

It’s official: The 2008 Defense Authorization Act finally agreed to by House and Senate earlier this month bans lead systems integrators (LSIs) after Oct. 1, 2010.

Not the brightest move by lawmakers.

Inside the Headquarters reported in September that the House version of the bill sought to nix LSIs by October 2011. Nowhere did LSI appear in the Senate version. Somehow senators bought off on the idea and BAM! — good-bye LSI, effective one year earlier than the House had suggested. But that political gem is another story.

LSIs widely have been vilified and blamed for myriad cost overruns, system errors, global warming, and the Kennedy assassination, (OK, maybe not the latter two). Though many want to see inherently government work performed by the government and not contractors, LSI work is not govvie stuff. According to one source that has been on both sides of projects: “The government never had the ability to be a lead systems integrator on any complex program. Overall they just don’t have the talent or depth to perform that task.”

LSIs answer to government lords, submit periodic (monthly) reports, and perform work that is beyond the government’s scope. According to our source, the need for LSIs, or prime contractors, arose in the face of increasingly complex contracts in the 1990s. Today, the Army’s Future Combat Systems, the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program have LSIs. Lawmakers have been quick to blame the LSIs for cost overruns in these programs, and hail the new provision as a solution to this “problem.” Our source pointed out that a contracting system based on best-case scenarios and almost certain follow-on spec changes rapidly can blow any budget.
Will the problem of cost overruns improve with LSIs gone? Probably not, and it might just worsen. Though there are overtures to “train” govvies as LSIs (uh, right) we doubt that’s going to happen. Lawmakers might doubt it, too, and left some wiggle room in the legislation: If properly justified, an LSI may be appointed for a project.

Will next year’s bill (election year, lots of lobbying) reverse this bizarre provision? We can only hope so for DoD’s sake.

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