The House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) top Republican has released a proposal meant to begin debate on acquisition reform efforts to be included in the fiscal year 2021 defense authorization bill.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas)’s proposed bill, unveiled April 2, would implement broad changes to hold the Defense Department accountable for implementing past reforms, tackle vulnerabilities in the defense industrial base and establish a new independent sustainment advisory panel.
While the committee has postponed its markup of the FY ’21 National Defense Authorization ACT (NDAA) due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Thornberry released these proposals early to give members time to consider them.
“We want to be ready to go as soon as Congress is able to re-assemble … get that feedback loop going now so we’re as ready as we can possibly be for whenever things kick off again,” Thornberry said in a Thursday media teleconference.
Thornberry included in his proposed bill a requirement that the Pentagon establish a comprehensive sustainment strategy that will streamline joint service programs and platform plans, such as fighter jet fleets in the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
“In previous NDAAs, we’ve said, ‘You’ve got to have a sustainment strategy before you buy something,’” Thornberry said. “What we did not do, however, was require a sustainment strategy across systems. … So we’re not just talking about sustainment of each individual silo, but a broader strategy.”
The congressman also wants to stand up an independent sustainment advisory panel inspired by the “809 Panel” that would make recommendations for the Defense Department to synchronize its weapons sustainment programs.
He noted to reporters on Thursday that the FY ’10 NDAA had a similar requirement, “that just kind of wilted away,” but his new proposal tries to revive that concept and codify it.
Thornberry’s proposal builds upon the “Night Court” processes being conducted across the Defense Department and individual services, and requires the secretary of defense and the service secretaries to establish formal policies and governance structures modeled on Night Court. The department would then be required to provide Congress with a report on those new policies and structures.
Another provision would require quarterly industrial base briefings modeled after current quarterly counterterrorism, readiness and cyber-related briefings already provided to Congress, that would help identify major gaps or vulnerabilities in the supply chain. Each quarterly meeting would focus on a different aspect of the industrial base, he noted.
Other provisions within the bill include building upon the fiscal year 2019 NDAA’s effort to streamline Title 10 to reorganize acquisition statutes.
“Streamlining and simplifying the code is a big deal to enable some of these non-traditional and small and mid-sized companies to do business with DoD,” Thornberry said, noting that companies he has spoken with tell him “how complicated it is for small and middle-sized companies to figure out what the law is related to doing business with the Department of Defense.”
Thornberry has for the past few years released these types of acquisition reform proposals about one month ahead of the markup of the annual NDAA markup. He has served as the committee’s ranking member since 2018; before that, he served as chairman since 2016. He plans to retire from Congress in 2021.
On Thursday, he released a second draft bill related to military family readiness, which is co-sponsored with HASC Military Personnel Subcommittee Ranking Member Trent Kelly (R-Miss.).