‘Zero-error’ versus ‘good-enough’: towards a ‘frugality’ narrative for defence procurement policy

Kapil Patil, Saradindu Bhaduri*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The procurement decision-making process for complex military product systems (CoPS) has significant implications for military end-users, suppliers, and exchequers. This study examines the usefulness of adopting a fast and frugal decision-making approach for the acquisition of military CoPS. Defence procurement environment is complex. On the one hand, there are uncertainties and severe resource constraints due to regularly changing threat perceptions, limited flow of information about new technologies, and the growing demand to reduce defence related expenses. On the other hand, several stakeholders remain pre-occupied with the demand for ‘zero-error’ technologies. In such a setting, recurrent cost overruns and delays in supply are common in defence procurement programmes, across countries. Taking the illustrative examples of the missile system, fighter jet, and radar system acquisitions in India, we elucidate on ‘optimising’ versus ‘satisficing’ dynamics in the procurement decisions. The paper argues that a fast and frugal decision-making process by relying on judgement, experiential knowledge, and intuitive learning might make procurement processes, adaptively, more efficient. Such an approach would enable a ‘good enough’ technology to be inducted, and improved upon, through regular feedback from the actual environment. The study has implications for policy scholarships on innovation policy instruments under uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-59
Number of pages17
JournalMind and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2020

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