DOD’s chasm between what's needed and what's possible

Frank Kendall

DOD acquisition chief Frank Kendall says "it could take a few more years" for the Pentagon to bounce back from sequestration.

The Pentagon’s top acquisition official said he hasn’t seen a large disconnect between what’s being asked of the Defense Department and what it can realistically provide in a very long time.

“I can’t recall any time in my memory a bigger disconnect between our national security needs and how we meet those needs,” Frank Kendall, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in remarks at a Professional Services Council luncheon Sept. 2 in Arlington, Va.

Budget constraints imposed by the 2013 sequestration shook federal acquisition to its core, he said. Along with that, current uncertainty on Capitol Hill over continuing budget issues and tensions in the Middle East ripple across the Pentagon’s acquisition landscape. “In 2013, we took a hit and we still haven’t recovered,” Kendall said. “It could take a few more years.”

With the swirl of circumstances, Kendall said DOD is working on a variety of efforts to make its acquisition processes more approachable, less cumbersome and a little more robust.

Partnering with Silicon Valley to get innovative ideas, practices and products is an important avenue, but it’s only one part of the plan. “Innovation isn’t a panacea, but it can contribute,” he said.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter traveled to Silicon Valley in late August as part of an evolving strategy to keep lines of communication open with the center of the U.S. technology industry. The visit, said Kendall, showed the department “was open for business” and was still filling some staff positions there.

Kendall also emphasized that recent tweaks to Better Buying Power 3.0, the latest round of Pentagon acquisition guidance that increases DOD officials' oversight of certain research and development efforts conducted by contractors, were meant to help both the Pentagon and contractors.

The change to the Better Buying Power 3.0 initiative requires require contractors to brief DOD before and after they conduct Pentagon-backed independent research and development projects.

Those briefing, he said, “enhance communications between industry and the government. They’re beneficial without being a burden.”

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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