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.

Cyber. Covered.

Government Cyber Insider tracks the technologies, policies, threats and emerging solutions that shape the cybersecurity landscape.


Reader comments

Tue, Oct 22, 2013

"Acquisition Deform" = 1980's approach to reduce spending by no longer buying the Technical Data from the Prime contractor to support second source competition. This resulted in the down sizing of the governments technical workforce. Many are talking about reversing that decision, but no one understands that the workforce will have to grow with the incoming data being delivered.

Mon, May 27, 2013

I think the government bureaucracy has lost the “forest” while looking at the “trees.” Contracts that used to recognize a rough order of magnitude for minutia now require burdensome justification. (Requiring itemized list of screws needed in a research assembly… absolutely absurd!) The contracting agent is now happy that his little check list has all the necessary checks… while the cost of bidding is going up exponentially driven by the inflation of the paperwork!!!
We need government people who can think NOT bean counters looking at his acquisition check off list.

Mon, May 27, 2013 RonW

One thing that I have seen, at least in the Air Force programs, is that they have contractors as Program Managers, and if it is not in the contract, they do not have to take the hours and hours of acquisition training that even ordinary AF Engineers have to take. This leads to exchanges like:

ENG "when are you planning for sustainment and creating the data package?"
PM "it is not time yet"

After four years of the above:

PM " are you ready to assume responsibility?"
ENG "where is the data package? “
PM “what data package? You never told me you needed data!”

(Don't laugh, that was what happened to me)

Will this initiative fix problems like this that requires hundreds of millions of dollars to be spent trying to reverse engineer poorly acquired projects that have no data to build a sustainment program to allow the military to do at least screening of hardware instead of spending many thousands of dollars every time some field person calls a good unit bad because of a lack of test data and sends it to the vendor (I am working on FIVE programs that have that issue, and we are suppose to get several more in the near future, all because the PM's did not push for the “proprietary” data BEFORE the vendors got paid for the hardware)?

Sat, May 25, 2013

Still much work left to be done regarding contracting and politically-motivated info systems -- i.e.-- eliminating stand-alone Logistics Systems. How about checking out all the Special Warfare Logistics Systems on the East Coast - "stove-piped" systems that need to be translated into an enterprise environment (i.e.--Cheatham Annex and Little Creek, Virginia, for starters).....

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