DOD reviewing acquisition reform

Finding a faster route to warfighters

The Defense Department is five months into a review of the military's acquisition structure and processes. That effort could lead to the faster delivery of weapon systems to the battlefield.

The new Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment (DAPA) Project is examining every aspect of DOD acquisition, including requirements and organization. Department leaders want a procurement system with clear responsibility, authority and accountability, according to military and industry officials.

"There is a growing and deep concern with the Congress and within the [department] leadership team about the DOD acquisition processes," said Gordon England, acting deputy secretary of Defense, in the "Acquisition Action Plan" memo that established the new project. He issued the memo this summer to senior department, service and agency officials.

England said many DOD programs continue to increase in cost and schedule even after multiple studies and recommendations. He said he wants a simpler acquisition system. "Restructuring acquisition is critical and essential," England said.

Military leaders who spoke at last month's Milcom 2005 conference expressed frustration with DOD's current acquisition structure, saying it takes too much time to equip warfighters with new systems and technologies to wage the war on terrorism. The conference did not hold a session specifically on the topic, but at least six officials discussed it during their presentations.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Tommy Crawford, commander of the Air Force Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center, said the service takes six years to equip units with a new system, while technology changes every 18 months. "This is unacceptable in the world of information technology," he said.

Army Maj. Gen. Roger Nadeau, commanding general of the Army Research Development Engineering Command, was more blunt. "Traditional acquisition isn't working," he said.

Military officials said al Qaeda can move money to fund missions and buy technologies without legal and budgetary rules and regulations. So DOD must find ways to send systems to the battlefield quicker.

Crawford said military officials can take several steps to speed the acquisition of systems. He said they can use military technology development facilities, called battle laboratories, to work on promising technologies.

Nadeau said the Army has several success stories in which officials procured technologies outside traditional acquisition strategies for the war on terrorism. He cited the Phraselator, a handheld device that allows warfighters to communicate with people in their native language, and the PackBot, a robot that allows them to see inside buildings and caves.

Army Brig. Gen. Nick Justice, deputy program executive officer of the service's Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, said strategy is the answer to the DOD acquisition problem. He said the military must find ways to use existing technologies. "We can create new capabilities by integrating current capabilities," Justice said.

The Air Force is leading the DAPA project, and Dave Patterson is its executive director. It includes a panel of military and industry officials, and Ron Kadish, a retired Air Force general, is chairman. He previously led the Missile Defense Agency and is now a partner and vice president at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

Military and industry officials believe DOD's current acquisition system is afflicted with massive cost growth, lack of confidence by senior leaders and little, if any, improvement despite many attempts in the past 20 years to fix it. The DAPA project will provide recommendations on improving DOD's acquisition system.

Is Congress to blame?

The Defense Department is not solely responsible for its acquisition woes, said Baker Spring, the F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy at the Heritage Foundation. He said Congress deserves part of the blame and recommends that lawmakers and policy-makers take five steps to help fix the problem.

Spring suggests they:

  • Address legislative requirements for reform systemically not episodically.
  • Allow flexibility so different programs can be managed differently.
  • Provide adequate funds for research and procurement.
  • Stop trying to impose a highly centralized system.
  • Recognize that irresponsible oversight results in a risk-averse approach.

-- Frank Tiboni

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group