DOD mulls rewrite of acquisition regs

DOD acquisition policies

Senior Defense Department officials are reviewing a draft memo that would scrap parts of the agency's acquisition regulations in an effort to streamline the buying process for big-ticket items.

The memo, which DOD could release by the end of the month, would reform the agency's buying regulations known as the DOD Directive 5000 series. Those acquisition policies outline the process for buying and managing major systems, including automated information systems.

Experts said that the changes to the regulations would not have an immediate impact on information technology projects because few are large enough to qualify as major acquisition programs. Furthermore, DOD has increasingly moved toward buying commercial products rather than developing its own systems, said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. and a former senior Air Force procurement executive.

Still, Mather called the move to cancel the acquisition policy "dramatic."

The DOD 5000 acquisition regulations have a significant impact on major systems such as weapons programs, which make heavy use of IT, said Ray Bjorklund, vice president of consulting services at market research firm Federal Sources Inc.

Paul Brubaker, chief executive officer of Aquilent Inc. and a former DOD deputy chief information officer, said that the 5000 series regulations do impact IT buys because they are so ingrained in DOD procurement officials. But they foster confusion, he said, and therefore should be "blown up."

Steve Kelman, a professor of public management at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said the moves indicate that DOD officials are continuing their efforts to reform the government's procurement process by increasing the flexibility available under the regulations.

The draft memo, which has no signature yet, is direct: "I have determined that the current DOD [acquisition policies] are overly prescriptive and do not constitute an acquisition policy environment that fosters efficiency, creativity and innovation."

The draft includes an interim policy and procedures. "The intent of the guidance is to rapidly deliver affordable, sustainable capability to the warfighter that meets the warfighter's needs," the memo states.

The undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; the assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence; and the director of operational test and evaluation will have to come up with a replacement policy within three months.

James Inman, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for policy and procurement, speaking at an Army procurement conference Sept. 4, said that senior DOD officials will meet Sept. 16 to resolve differences and that the interim policy could be issued as early as Sept. 30.

The goal is to improve DOD's acquisition process, which is often criticized as being overly cumbersome. "We are trying to find ways to streamline the process to give DOD more flexibility in the acquisition process," said Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Randy Sandoz.

The original DOD 5000 acquisition policy dates to the Clinton administration, but it has been revised over the years. The policy, a road map for buying and managing major systems, sought to fundamentally change how DOD buys those systems, including major automated information systems.

DOD abandoned many of its military standards for a more commercial approach to procurement with its adoption of the DOD 5000 policy. The new draft interim policy seeks to encourage further innovation and flexibility by decentralizing responsibilities and removing the prescribed checklist for structuring an acquisition.

Procurement experts generally applaud the concept behind the memo, but noted that the regulations were rewritten less than two years ago with largely the same intent — streamlining the process.

The impact of the changes will not be seen immediately, but must be judged over a longer period of time as they sink in, Mather said.

***

Earmarked for the scrap pile

A memo currently under review would cancel three sections of the Defense Department's Directive 5000 series acquisition policy:

* DOD directive 5000.1, The Defense Acquisition System, dated Oct. 23, 2000. * DOD 5000.2, Operation of the Defense Acquisition System, dated April 2, 2002. * DOD 5000.2-R, Mandatory Procedures for Major Defense Acquisition Programs and Major Automated Information System Acquisition Programs, dated April 5, 2002.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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