Army program signals future of recent acquisition reforms, official says

Government overseers question whether Army officials will sucessfully carry out the reforms on buying weapons systems.

An official of the Government Accountability Official today pinned future of recent acquisition reform laws and policies on how the Army applies them to an innovative combat vehicle program.

The Army is preparing to start a new acquisition program by evaluating contractor proposals for technology developments for a new ground combat vehicle (GCV). Army officials appear to be embarking on a more knowledge-based program than previously planned. And they intend to concentrate on costs and technical maturity, according to testimony from GAO.

How they put those principles into operation may reflect the quality of acquisition reforms from the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act and other laws and policies, Michael Sullivan, director of acquisition and sourcing management at GAO, told the House Armed Services Committee’s Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. (Watch the hearing)


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“If GCV does not measure up to the standards in law and in policy, yet is approved and wins funding, it will be a setback to acquisition reform,” Sullivan said.

So far, GAO overseers have questions on whether the Army has clearly defined the internal roles and responsibilities for the managers for the program, he said.

“The decisions made on the program will be symbolic from that standpoint,” Sullivan said.

Army officials have to ask if they need for such a program and if they can get contractors to fulfill the program requirements before the technologies are outdated. Officials also need to ask whether the vehicle can be built to specifications based only on mature technology and thereby avoiding risky, uncertain innovations to build the machine, he said.

Sullivan suggested Army officials have another important decision regarding the development phases of producing new technology — a key part of the acquisition reforms. Officials must decide if they can learn enough through the technology development phase to build the vehicle in the Milestone B, the phase in which the vehicle is engineered and manufactured.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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