DoD Eyes 50 Percent Cut In Time To Award Contracts

To speed the fielding of new technology, the U.S. Department of Defense has set a goal of cutting in half the time it takes to award contracts, the Pentagon's acquisition chief said Oct. 11.

The 50-percent reduction, which DoD endorsed about a month ago, applies to the period that begins when the department issues an acquisition-related document to industry, such as a request for information, said Ellen Lord, undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L).

Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord (left) speaks with Army acquisition official Steffanie Easter at an Association of the U.S. Army conference in October 2017. (Photo by Marc Selinger/Defense Daily)

Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord (left) speaks with Army acquisition official Steffanie Easter at an Association of the U.S. Army conference in October 2017. (Photo by Marc Selinger/Defense Daily)

The current process is widely considered to be overly bureaucratic, and Lord is working with Congress to simplify it. She is also encouraging acquisition personnel to make greater use of the "flexibilities" that are already available to them.

“We are looking at all the requirements out there,” Lord said at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) annual meeting in Washington, D.C. “We’re literally coming up with flow charts for program managers and contract officers [to show] what is the simplest way to get there and still be compliant.”

The goal is part of multi-pronged effort by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to streamline the acquisition process. As part of that effort, Lord’s office is shifting oversight of many weapon system programs back to the services so it can focus on acquisition reform.

“Where I think it makes sense [for programs] to stay in AT&L and OSD is where they’re very joint,” such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Lockheed Martin [LMT] is building for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and allies, she said. AT&L will also keep a major role in programs “where you have exceptionally high risks and high stakes.”

DoD is moving to implement a congressional requirement to split Lord’s job into two separate positions, a change designed to increase the department's focus on innovation. The breakup, which is due to be finished by Feb. 1, 2018, will replace the AT&L undersecretary with an undersecretary for research and engineering and an undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment.

“We’re very much underway getting that going,” Lord said. “I don’t know that there will be a 100 percent changeover [by Feb. 1] because it’s a process, not an event. But we’re already starting to take steps towards understanding what the work is we do, what the work is that we want to do and how to best do that. I think we’ll have at least an 80 percent solution that we can speak to Congress and everyone else about.”

Lord has begun a regular dialogue with industry representatives to hear their acquisition concerns and ideas for reform. She plans to meet with each of the six major defense contractors twice a year, and she held the first such meeting Oct. 10 with General Dynamics [GD].

Last week, she met for the first time with a cross-section of members of the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Defense Industrial Association and the Professional Services Council. She intends to hold four such meetings a year.

She is also seeking to increase coordination among service laboratories and other defense research agencies. She hopes to have them work together on “a couple national-level initiatives.”

To avoid potential conflicts of interest, Lord, a former Textron [TXT] executive who moved to the Pentagon in August, has recused herself for two years from acquisition decisions involving her former employer. Affected programs include the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft built by Textron's Bell Helicopter and Boeing [BA].





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