GAO: New mind-set would improve defense acquisition

The Defense Department’s acquisition reforms require more than procedural changes; DOD needs a shift in its culture, government auditors said in a report released today.

DOD executives and experts told the Government Accountability Office that changes to the department’s acquisition processes, such as new roles for commanders and shorter program milestones, won’t improve the system. Instead, DOD officials must better prioritize their needs so that fewer programs compete for available dollars. In addition, the changes may not work simply because some managers like the process as it is, GAO wrote in a report to Congress.

“The potential changes may not achieve the desired improvement in acquisition outcomes unless they are accompanied with changes in the overall acquisition environment, its culture and the incentives provided for success,” GAO officials wrote.

Many defense experts and DOD officials believe successful changes will take strong, consistent strategic leadership to change the existing culture and acquisition environment, the report states.

In the fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress required GAO to review seven mandated changes to defense acquisitions. The changes include:

  • Giving combatant command commanders input on acquisitions to aid their long-term missions.
  • Establishing ways to address gaps in warfighting materials.
  • Drawing up shorter, more frequent acquisition program milestones.
  • Specifying when the initial phase of a project should be completed.
  • Creating an office that would make independent cost and performance estimates for projects.
  • Requiring more certifications to lay out the progress for major defense program.
  • Adjusting the roles of the Armed Forces’ chiefs of staff in acquisitions.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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