Congress gives commanders fast procurement

Defense Department Authorization Bill

Combat commanders will be able to use an acquisition process that will take no more than 15 days to award a contract for urgently needed equipment, following a Senate and House conference's approval of the final version of the 2005 Defense Department Authorization bill late last week.

Rapid acquisition authority is designed to be a bridge to the normal acquisition process. It would allow DOD's secretary to waive existing laws, policies and regulations that would impede an urgent request for needed combat equipment. In cases in which finding or developing equipment would take a significant amount of time, the bill gives authority to field an interim solution that minimizes combat casualties and allows time to develop a better solution.

Members of the conference said they included the section, "Rapid Acquisition Authority to Respond to Combat Emergencies," in the 2005 authorization bill because of lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq. "DOD's current acquisition system cannot respond in a timely manner to urgent requests for combat equipment on the battlefield," according to the conference report.

The bill said a rapid response to emergency combat situations would minimize combat casualties when reacting to changes in an opponent's tactics. The new acquisition authority will "eliminate procurement obstacles and field commercially available technology on an expedited basis," the conference report stated.

The measure cut $270 million from the Bush administration's request for the Army Future Combat Systems project managed by Boeing Co. Meanwhile, the bill added $40 million to the Army Movement Tracking System (MTS), which uses Global Positioning Satellite technology and two-way text messaging to track vehicles such as Humvees used by troops in Iraq.

Although the final version of the DOD bill cut $272 million from the requested funding for Future Combat Systems, its funding remained at the multibillion dollar level, $2.9 billion in 2005. Army officials plan to spend slightly more than $14 billion to field Future Combat Systems by 2010. It includes a next-generation force of 18 lighter, more mobile manned and robotic air and ground systems connected via a fast, secure communications network.

The $40 million in extra funding for MTS will allow Army officials to buy 2,241 equipment sets from the Comtech Mobile Datacom division of Comtech Telecommunications Corp. in Melville, N.Y. MTS equipment includes a vehicle-mounted computer hooked up to a GPS receiver and a two-way satellite communications link that provides position reporting and text messaging.

The DOD bill report said MTS enhances the ability of ground commanders to strategically position tactical vehicles and monitor and track supply items.

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