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But it is not just the legislative part of the process that's broken, it also is in the actual design. They looked at 22 major acquisition systems since World War II. During the early Cold War period, it took about four years for the project to be completed; in the late Cold War years, it was up to six years. Now it's up to 13 years, and by the time it's completed, the technology is obsolete.
Eggers suggested the way to overcome the design-free design trap is "design for execution." That is, fail more, but fail better, by doing more small bets, modularizing them, and not swinging for the fences. He pointed to Google as one example; it was in beta testing for just one day. Twitter was in beta for just two weeks.
"Put them out there and get them into the real world quickly," he said.
He offered three recent examples that demonstrate this is an approach that will work for the government:
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, which used to be considered high-tech toys, but this year the U.S. Air Force will train more joystick pilots than new bomber and fighter pilots combined. A $4 million Predator UAV is doing the same job as a $60 million manned fighter jet.
In 1978, RFID technology was used for the first time -- to monitor cows. Now it's being used in place of incarceration for over 100,000 people facing time in minimum security prisons, at a cost of $5 a day, rather than $77/day for prison.
Finally, the emergence of mobile phones as supercomputers are remaking a host of fields, Eggers said.
"We're doing a lot of work on how to transform health care through mobile applications," he said. "We can turn a smartphone into a stethoscope or a heart monitor, or even a hearing aid, with the right applications."