Kendall: Keep it simple on acquisition reform

Frank Kendall

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall

Congress has left town and the annual August slowdown has hit the capital, but the Pentagon is no less keen on getting its message out about acquisition reform being a marathon rather than a sprint.

"Bureaucracies have this… self-perpetuating tendency" -- that's how Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall explains what he sees as a critical need to simplify design requirements for industry.

"Let's simplify the rules we have," Kendall told an AFCEA conference Aug. 5 in Washington, D.C. "Let's not put more in place that make it harder for us to do our job. And the thing I would argue against very strongly is very tight and restrictive rules that dictate contract time, that dictate acquisition procedures or strategies."

The conference served as an update on the Defense Department's push to roll out the latest acquisition guidelines -- Better Buying Power 3.0 -- which Kendall said will come out in two to three months.

He relayed a list of procurement issues that he is focusing on ahead of BBP 3.0, from intellectual property rights to honing workforce expertise.

On intellectual property, he acknowledged industry concerns that the government was insisting on too much ownership and added that he would like clearer insight into how much the government needs to own for various programs. A newly unveiled House bill to overhaul IT procurement does not do enough to address industry's concerns, according to ITAPS Senior Vice President Trey Hodgkins.

Kendall also addressed another centerpiece of his reform efforts in test and evaluation, which, as a part of Better Buying Power 2.0, the Pentagon has emphasized earlier in the buying cycle. DOD is trying to make its test programs more efficient, he told reporters after his speech, in order to "get the data out before a production decision... that's critical to design stability. So we make the production decision with that information."

The Pentagon's top acquisition official has regularly opened his office door to the top defense contracting firms to provide feedback on their R&D efforts. Among the list of top defense IT vendors are Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Raytheon, according to data from Washington Technology.

"The top six I see every four or five months, if not more often. And the others, it's generally at their request," Kendall told reporters.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.

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Reader comments

Wed, Aug 27, 2014 Keven Barnes Kuwait

As a Small Business Advocate overseas, it is an affront to U.S. Business full stop that Richard Ginman and Frank Kendall seem to be trying to remove a Congressional decision that U.S. Businesses bordering the Arabian Gulf be taken away by the substitution of the word SEA and take away the 20% preference given to U.S. Firms for construction projects greater than $ 1 Mil. Adding the word Sea to the word Gulf would be to add Oman and India. To take away this preference means that foreign companies have infiltrated the fairness imparted to the procurement system by Congress and the forces circumventing advantages given to U.S. Business are most likely promising those trying to change the rules some amount of money in exchange or manipulating United States Federal Laws, Acts, Regulations. Those individuals involved in trying to take away the Preference of U.S. Firms should be removed from their offices and a formal investigation launched by the Department of Justice. The revolving door is seeing that before these individuals retire, they are performing extraordinary favors that harm U.S. Small Businesses and Large Businesses.

Wed, Aug 6, 2014 Barry Dickman Washington, DC Area

This highlights the need for an agile acquisition strategy (e.g., using testing) within the federal government to offset/mitigate the risk of agencies - specifically testing products (for interoperability) before they are purchased by the government.

Wed, Aug 6, 2014 Raul Espinosa

As an advocate and watchdog for small businesses who contract with Federal, State and Local governments, the Fairness in Procurement (FPA) organization supports the KISS principle, but it will not give up transparency and accountability over public contracting. Purposely or not, DOD officials have continued to circumvent the FAR, CICA , the Small Business Act and the Procurement Integrity Act. At this point, small businesses want DOD to hold culprits accountable for disciplinary action and have a plant to help Mr. Kendall keep his commitment to keep it simple on his upcoming reforms. Learn about our plans at

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