Congress tries to improve defense acquisition

Bill targets slow process

The Defense Department can’t buy information technology systems through its acquisition system before those IT systems are out-of-date and need more updates, a defense task force said recently. It looks like Congress wants DOD to fix that.

In its fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill (H.R. 2647), passed on June 25, the House told DOD to pick 10 IT programs every year to test new procurement processes. The selected programs should include a mix that represents a cross section of functions. The idea is to put these programs on a fast track for upgrades that otherwise would languish in acquisition limbo.

IT systems are more deeply integrated into DOD infrastructure, and that technology evolves quickly. A Defense Science Board’s task force released its report in March after reviewing DOD policies and acquisition procedures regarding IT purchases. The report concluded that the process for buying IT doesn’t work well, especially for systems that must be continually updated. The acquisition process is time-consuming and cumbersome, the authors said.

“The process should be agile and geared to delivering meaningful increments of capability in approximately 18 months or less,” the document states. To do that, the task force concluded IT purchases need a unique acquisition process.

DOD can improve IT acquisitions only if a program’s top priority is performance and it is meeting deadlines, the task force said. Also, program mangers need to make the decisions while understanding the risks.

“This approach implies that the program manager is not obliged to obtain a ‘thumbs up’ from each functional organization,” the report adds.

The task force proposed a lean acquisition process, similar to processes that the private sector use. Agencies should conduct extensive analysis before developing such a system, but they should be flexible in defining requirements. The contract would also have to be flexible enough not to penalize government when it encounters the inevitable delays and changes.

Other provisions in the authorization legislation would require:

  • Checks on contractors' services and how much money DOD spends on those services.
  • An assessment of how DOD buys services and oversees them. The assessment would look at the guidance that the department provides its acquisition workforce on how to develop a services contract, including how to define requirements and associated performance metrics.
  • DOD to submit, with its annual budget proposal, details on what services it plans to buy and the number of contractor employees needed to do the work.
  • Restrictions on work that a contractor can do when integrating products into a major weapons system. Only government personnel could do the work.

About the Author

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

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group