DOD looks to DIUX for the future of acquisition

In the midst of a reorg and modernization efforts, the Defense Department wants to lean on its experimental arm to cure procurement woes.

Shutterstock image (by alienant): An aerial view of the pentagon rendered as a vector.
 

The Defense Department's innovation shop is the great hope of true acquisition reform, according to the department's top acquisitions executive.

Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology, and Logistics Ellen Lord, who testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Dec. 7, repeatedly mentioned the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) as a shining example of how the DOD should be tackling acquisitions reform and is hoping to scale up the organization's successes, reducing procurement times and ideally saving a lot of money.

"Our goal is to look at where we've had successes with DIUx, with SCO [the Strategic Capabilities Office]...because we think that they've demonstrated the right behaviors," Lord said. "We're looking at what the Rapid Capabilities Offices have done."

"And frankly," she added, "as we organize AT&L into A&S [acquisition and sustainment] and R&E [research and engineering], what we're doing is basically trying to scale the behaviors, the processes or the lack thereof that we've seen in these different groups."

Lord, who also mentioned leaning on the Defense Innovation Board and setting up roundtables with software companies to tap into Silicon Valley resources, said the DOD plans to cut acquisition time of major projects that have software and hardware capabilities down to 12 months. Currently, 30 months is more common.

Lord said that she and DIUx head Raj Shah had talked about leveraging DIUx methods to bring more small businesses in the fold with DOD.

She said DIUx has secured 60 contracts with startups using other transaction authorities to circumvent the traditional acquisition process, but that there were funding restraints regarding the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Lord didn't offer any specifics on that matter.

Overall, her message meshed with that of Shah, who previously said DIUx would lead "agile culture change" and "getting the cultures and incentives right to empower contracting officers to feel like they can do that."

Her forecast also largely aligned with Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) call for the DOD to acquire materiel more rapidly.

In his opening remarks, the Arizona senator said the ways of "DIUx, the Strategic Capabilities Office, and the Rapid Capabilities Offices should become standard practice, not work-arounds to the regular system. And we need these innovations for Major Defense Acquisition Programs, not just Science and Technology efforts."

Time will tell if McCain will be satisfied with Lord's plan to put DIUx at the fore of reform, as the senator seemed unimpressed with the organization's accomplishments to date. When it was mentioned that DIUx is now two years old, he said flatly: "That's not a lot of progress."

The committee also drilled the other witnesses -- who included Army Secretary Mark Esper, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Navy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Research and Development James Geurts -- on bringing experimental technologies to bear faster.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) stressed that reorganization of ATL could widen the "valley of death" for capabilities on their way from the lab to field.

"I think having a senior leader focused on future technology is incredibly important, I support that," Warren said. "But one of the real problems in our system right now is that we struggle to convert promising new technologies in the lab into the field. … I am worried that splitting oversight of R&D from acquisition is going to make this problem even worse."

President Donald Trump recently nominated former NASA head Michael Griffin to be to be DOD's under secretary for research and engineering. Lord is widely expected to shift into the into the acquisition and sustainment post when the restructuring of AT&L is formalized.

Lord attempted to address Warren's concern but outlining a three-part process to transition over the next two years. That plan includes getting capabilities further along in the lab before engaging acquisitions, streamlining acquisition methodologies and sharing funds between the acquisition and research sides to facilitate communication.

For acquisitions, she said DOD needs to use the "simplest methodology possible to get things on contract so we're not held up in this 'do loop' where you want to do something but you can't get it on contract." She added that other transaction authorities were particularly "germane" to this new outlook.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.