Defense

DOD pushing ahead with AT&L split

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The Obama administration and its Pentagon leadership vehemently opposed it, but the Department of Defense is now enthusiastically embracing the congressional mandate to break up the Office of Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.

At a Senate hearing on defense innovation, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said that DOD will soon inform Congress of its plans and framework to divide AT&L into two new undersecretary offices for Research and Engineering and Acquisition and Sustainment.

"Under this new structure, the [undersecretary of defense for research and engineering] will be empowered to take suitable risks to achieve outcomes," Work stated in his written testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee.

"They will shed the risk-averse mantle of traditional acquisition and pursue innovative technology and concepts that can result in dramatic increases in capability and new ways to achieve mission objectives," he stated.

Work is a holdover from the Obama administration, which fought Congress over the requirement to split AT&L.

"The bill would create dysfunctional partitions across DOD's research, engineering, procurement, and sustainment systems that will make it harder to sustain the Department's improved performance," the Obama White House stated in May 2016.

But in the Senate hearing, Work said DOD is excited about the split, and it plans to complete the transition before the Feb. 1, 2018, deadline.

"This path to increased capability leverages the expertise within the Department of Defense and the broader Research and Engineering Enterprise to ensure that the U.S. military remains the pre-eminent fighting force in the world," Work stated in his testimony.

Work also hailed the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, which has faced intense opposition from some on the House Armed Services Committee in particular. DIUx is still subject to funding restrictions in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

"DIUx was an experiment, and we are very, very pleased with the outcome, and the more money…we can convince Congress to be able to put in this…the better," Work said.

He added that while the Senate Appropriations Committee has been supportive of DIUx, DOD is hoping to convince other congressional committees going forward that DIUx merits greater investment.

"They are able to scout for disruptive technologies among cutting-edge commercial companies that have not previously engaged with the Department or have not focused on national security," Work said in his written statement.

"Several of its projects are in the final phases of testing and close to transitioning to become programs of record -- the ultimate goal of DIUx's mission to bring commercial technology to the warfighter," he added.

William Roper, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office, added his support for DIUx, saying that the strategists in the SCO are constantly looking for new technologies to empower warfighters.

"So when we have an idea, of course we want to find the very best companies to work with us, so it makes sense for us to partner with an organization like DIUx," he said.

About the Author

Sean Carberry is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence. Prior to joining FCW, he was Kabul Correspondent for NPR, and also served as an international producer for NPR covering the war in Libya and the Arab Spring. He has reported from more than two-dozen countries including Iraq, Yemen, DRC, and South Sudan. In addition to numerous public radio programs, he has reported for Reuters, PBS NewsHour, The Diplomat, and The Atlantic.

Carberry earned a Master of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, and has a B.A. in Urban Studies from Lehigh University.


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