NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.–The Air Force is looking to embrace a risk-based approach to its procurements by reducing the number of requirements so it can speed up its rigid acquisition processes, which remain too slow at getting capabilities out to its airmen.

A panel of Air Force acquisition experts at an Air Force Association Air Space & Cyber conference. Photo: Matthew Beinart.
A panel of Air Force acquisition experts at an Air Force Association Air Space & Cyber conference. Photo: Matthew Beinart.

“We’ve got a lot of requirements out there, we don’t have enough budget to fund all of those, so we’re trying to make the best in the priority of choices,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris Jr., chief of Strategic Plans and Requirements, said on Tuesday. 

The Air Force is designating its Capability Development Council to address this issue with a goal of reducing the acquisition process timeline in half, with an emphasis on reducing the requirements needed to approve deals.

A recent report from the Air Force’s Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team (ECCT), the Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan, detailed the critical capabilities needed for future missions but currently lacks the resources to require them all in the allotted time frame, according to Harris. To meet the acquisition challenge, the Air Force is instructing its ECCT work through all quicker, smaller requirements virtually with potential vendors to begin speeding up the acquisition process.

In the hopes of adapting its acquisition enterprise and capability procurement development, the Air Force is seeking to adopt a modular open system approach and leveraging its new Congressional acquisition authorities.

“We’re looking at where we can raise limits, so that we can move money and make decisions in a manner so we don’t have to say, ‘Mother, may I?’” said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, military deputy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. “We are pushing modular open and trying to make that a reality. We’ve taken that now down into sub-components. So right now, of the ones that’s is on everybody’s mind is alternative PNT. Position, navigation and timing is a big issue.”

Harris and Bunch were part of a panel of Air Force acquisition and procurement experts speaking Sept. 19 at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. They discussed plans to push acquisition authorities down the command chain and reduce the amount of requirements needed to approve deals for critical technologies.

Bunch advocated for a risk-based approach with more broadly-authorized acquisition oversight in order to make faster decisions. The Air Force has allowed 68 percent of its program to delegate acquisition authority below the Program Executive Office-level, he said.

The Air Force also plans to open its first innovation center, AFwerX, in partnership with the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2018.

“There’s a lot of room for change for how we do business across capability development. It’s requirements, it’s acquisition, it’s contracting, it’s testing. We’ve got to be able to take our current capability development process and do it much, much faster,” said Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Stephen Wilson.