Cohen lauds DOD acquisition reform efforts

Defense Secretary William Cohen yesterday launched the Defense Department's Acquisition and Logistics Reform Week, imploring DOD's cadre of acquisition and logistics professionals to take risks and be innovative in changing the way they do business.

Speaking to those gathered in the courtyard of the Pentagon or watching, for the first time, via live satellite and Internet links, Cohen called Operation Allied Force in Kosovo "the most precision campaign in the history of warfare" and said its successes would not have been possible without the advances in acquisition and logistics. However, despite these successes and the first sustained increase in DOD spending in 15 years, the acquisition community must continue to revolutionize the department's business practices, Cohen said.

"We want you to look beyond and between the lines of your job descriptions," Cohen said. "We want you to imagine. We want you to innovate. We want you to create, [and] we want you to experiment." More importantly, Cohen said that failed attempts at innovation would not put people's jobs at risk.

"As you take risks in the name of cutting red tape, the one risk you won't have to take is the cut of a pink slip," he said. "We want you to be bold and innovative and imaginative and not to worry about whether that is going to cost you your job."

Fitting neatly into this year's theme of "Accelerating the Revolution," Cohen's remarks also come at a time when DOD is undertaking an unprecedented number of public/private competitions for government contracts and is lobbying Congress for additional base closures as a means to reduce overhead.

Jacques Gansler, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and technology, led an executive discussion panel shortly after Cohen's opening remarks. Gansler said DOD must move faster on reform, particularly when it comes to channeling more of the budget into DOD's warfighting and modernization accounts. "There's a need to move forward urgently," Gansler said. "Our practices are in many cases bigger barriers than any legislative or regulatory" barrier.

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