Defense Acquisition

DOD officials outline next steps in acquisition reform


Improving the acquisition workforce is a key component of Better Buying Power 2.0. (Stock image)

More than two years ago, Pentagon officials under then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates rolled out plans to overhaul Defense Department acquisition as part of broader spending reform. Now military leaders are pressing ahead with the next generation of the acquisition initiative, known as Better Buying Power.

Better Buying Power 2.0 builds on 23 principles in five key areas originally introduced in September 2010 by Ashton Carter, who at the time was under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. Carter, now deputy defense secretary, and his successor in the acquisition role, Frank Kendall, on May 23 highlighted the progress so far and the plans for a 2.0 version of the reform effort.

(Read the Better Buying Power memo.)

"There is some evidence that things are getting better," Kendall said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "We're going in the right direction, but there's still a lot of room to do better."

Much of 2.0's emphasis is on people – both in the acquisition workforce and those within industry, whose input Carter said has been sought and valued on an ongoing basis.

"A notable feature of Better Buying Power improving the professionalism of the total acquisition workforce, which encompasses program management, engineering, contracting and product support disciplines," Carter said. "We know that the quality of our people is an essential ingredient to our success as an acquisition enterprise."

According to Kendall, another specific area of emphasis going forward is the role of acquisition in the government.

"We've started to change our culture so that cost becomes a much greater factor in how we do business," Kendall noted. He added that other key points include using the right type of contract for the job, defining value, improving competition, recognizing better suppliers and requiring industry to reduce program risks. Both Kendall and Carter said notable progress has been made under Better Buying Power – observations reinforced by additional funding for the program in the fiscal 2014 budget. Budget documents note that the program has helped DOD institute best practices, "including applying lessons learned, expanding strategic sourcing, establishing acquisition professional reviews and instituting peer reviews to ensure effective competition."

"New BBP initiatives address current fiscal realities, including enforcing affordability caps, measuring cost performance and aligning contractor profitability with acquisition goals," officials wrote.

The budget documents additionally highlight the importance of Better Buying Power amid budget cuts being instituted under sequestration and the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, something Carter underscored in his comments.

"Achieving Better Buying Power would, of course, be an important goal in any budget environment, but its importance has only grown given the strategic and budgetary challenges we now face," Carter said, noting that since the initiative launched, $487 billion has been cut from defense plans over 10 years.

Gates' plans for streamlining, including Better Buying Power, was designed to save billions, but as Carter pointed out, the savings were to be directed elsewhere.

"While the budget that we derived from our new strategy absorbed significant reductions in defense spending, it made important strategy-driven investments in the Asia-Pacific region; in special operations forces; in future-focused domains such as cyber and space; in countering weapons of mass destruction; and in certain areas of our science and technology portfolio, including electronic warfare and command and control," Carter said. "It's still true today, as it was then, that every dollar not wasted is a dollar that can be invested in these new capabilities."

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.


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