DOD eyes buying, personnel reforms (Part 1)

"To minimize program infrastructure, distance-learning delivery methods will be encouraged," the report said. ~It added that most new members of the acquisition work force would be given five-year renewable term appointments to encourage workers to acquire a greater range of skills and experience. In addition, the department will develop legislative recommendations that would loosen the restrictions on former DOD employees who want to work in the private sector, part of an effort to attract private-sector talent to DOD without infringing on their ability to return to private work. ~"There must also be an active program to provide the necessary incentives for the DOD to retain the individuals with the specialized skills needed by the government in the future Information Age," the report said. ~Cohen also stressed the need to eliminate paperwork entirely from the contracting process, and the report reiterated the goal of the Defense Reform Initiative to create a paperless process by Jan. 1, 2000. ~The report did note that changes to the Federal Acquisition Computer Network requirements specified in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 might be necessary for DOD to move to a paperless contracting process. ~In the section of the report regarding "future focus areas," Cohen said he would initiate a move toward best-value procurements. "This change will allow DOD to compete different solutions [against each other] and get the best value," the report said. ~Although heartened by the report, PSC's Rosenker said the future of these initiatives is unclear. "The question is, will they be given the finances they need to make this happen?" she said. "I would hope there is support for this on the Hill."Defense Secretary William Cohen this month notified Congress of actions the Defense Department would take to modernize its acquisition procedures, including proposals to make greater use of technology tools, such as electronic commerce and distance learning.

The report also said Cohen would establish a single process for developing command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) systems that would allow the military services to overcome problems communicating with each other on the battlefield.

The report "Actions to Accelerate the Movement to the New Work Force Vision" was accompanied by letters from Cohen to Vice President Al Gore and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The letters outlined the need for the changes to DOD's procurement procedures that were proposed in the report.

"We have lengthy development, production and support cycles that cannot keep pace with technological change or provide the kind of timely responses that our contemporary forces need," Cohen wrote.

Many of the concerns addressed in the report have been repeatedly raised by federal contractors. Heather Rosenker, vice president of communications at the Professional Services Council (PSC) industry association, said she found the report encouraging.

"In this report, they have clearly identified some of the key concepts we have supported, including using more technology for training, doing more commercial practices and working closely with contractors," Rosenker said. "And the continuous learning aspect is something I would applaud."

The report, requested by the Defense Authorization Act of 1998, focused on five areas: research, development and test; sustainment; acquisition work force education and training; integrated, paperless acquisition; and future focus areas.

In the area of research and development, Cohen said he will address the inability of military forces— in situations ranging from the Grenada invasion of 1983 to Operation Desert Storm in 1991— to share information because of incompatible C3I systems.

Cohen said he will direct the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for C3I to create a "study group" to determine the best way to create a joint C3I development process to tackle the interoperability problem. He said DOD's Joint Tactical Radio System program will serve as a model for the new process.

Also in the report, Cohen focused on methods to keep acquisition personnel up to speed on the latest technology developments available in the market as well as new procurement reforms and contract vehicles.

He said DOD is developing "a reform-centered, continuous learning program" that will supplement DOD's existing acquisition training curriculum.

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