Acquisition reform key to defense, Cohen says

Top Defense Department officials focused attention last week on acquisition reform, with Defense Secretary William Cohen saying that "accelerating acquisition reform remains one of our most important priorities."

Cohen, in remarks kicking off DOD's third annual Acquisition Reform Week, which was begun to reinforce reforms recommended by the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, said, "Without institutionalizing acquisition reform, we cannot ensure that our warfighters will have the best weapons and equipment to carry out their missions in the future."

Jacques Gansler, undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, said that in the past two years the Pentagon has "undertaken a dramatic transformation in the way we do business...[with] much success in making changes necessary to trim costs, reduce cycle times, adopt new processes and procedures to manage our contracts, trim our work force and eliminate excess infrastructure."

But, Gansler said, the Pentagon has just started the job of transforming DOD business practices and needs to do much more to meet its commitment to deliver new major defense systems in 25 percent less time by 2000.

Speaking at a ceremony in the Pentagon courtyard last week to mark the start of Acquisition Reform Week, Gansler said the "next phase of acquisition reform will expand on current and past efforts to revolutionize the way we do business as we concentrate on further adapting commercial 'best practices' to Defense needs."

This includes, Gansler said, a complete restructuring of support systems, significant infrastructure reduction, greatly reduced cycle times, competitive sourcing of the vast majority of support and infrastructure work and, perhaps most important, civilian/military industrial base integration.

Gansler said that the next phase of acquisition reform must also include a change in government cost accounting and auditing requirements that some "find overly burdensome, and which some of our critics claim are antiquated and highly unreliable."

The DOD must totally re-engineer its logistics and logistics information systems as part of the acquisition reform effort, Gansler said. "We are living today with a 1950s logistics model that is no longer affordable and which fails to provide acceptable performance," he said. "Advanced information systems and rapid transportation are keys to our success in this area."

Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc., said, in general, DOD "has gone a lot further and faster [with acquisition reform] than we ever thought [it] would, and for that I give [DOD] a B-plus.'' But in the logistics area, more than talk is needed, Dornan said, because "they have been talking about reforming logistics for 20 years at least.''

Darleen Druyen, the Air Force principal deputy for acquisition and management, said the service has developed new processes that will require a "cultural shift" by both industry and the service. She said that shift includes opening up communications in a way that "provides a clearer, unobstructed two-way path for getting work force and industry process improvement ideas to senior Air Force leaders." The Air Force also needs to integrate its acquisition reform initiatives in a way that will eliminate redundancy and provide greater efficiencies, she said.

Secretary of the Navy John Dalton said in the past five years the Navy has made a commitment "to transform ourselves, [and] we have invested in a lot of areas, [including] efficiencies from business and industry, radical procurement approaches, innovations in leadership and management and a heavy reliance on technology to make our smaller force incredibly potent and agile."

Dalton said this "transformation is far from over. We still have a bureaucracy, and we still have faults.... But I promise...if there is something worth doing, the time is right. Our elected officials are ready to field the truly revolutionary ideas that exist."

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