The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), plans to unveil legislation this week aimed at reforming the Pentagon’s acquisition system in part to make it faster in the deployment of new technology by lessening bureaucratic requirements.
Thornberry said at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday that he will roll out the legislation on Wednesday and is hoping for extensive feedback from the defense acquisition community and industry. The timing will give him about a month to hear suggestions ahead of the markup to the 2016 defense authorization bill at the end of April.
The purpose is not to overhaul the entire system at once, but to start making gradual changes to make it more effective, Thornberry said, seeking to address critics who may say his plan “is not enough.”
“It doesn’t try to be enough, but it’s a start. It’s a start that tries to focus on the basics of the acquisition process: Our people, the strategy and the decision making chain to buy goods and services,” Thornberry said. He said his approach is akin to “fixing the airplane’s engine while the airplane is in flight. It has to keep flying.”
Thornberry outlined four key tenets meant to address the people involved in acquisition, the acquisition strategy, streamlining the bureaucratic process and reducing the amount of paperwork and reporting mandates.
The congressman said he expects that dozens of reporting requirements will be eliminated, and that program milestones will become more focused on a decision rather than a legal requirement that involves lawyers.
“The fewer lawyers that are involved in the process the smoother it’s probably going to go,” he said.
By cutting back on mandated reports, Thornberry believes program managers will be able to focus on the program rather than managing the bureaucratic process.
“Over and over again I hear that program managers and industry are forced to manage the process rather than manage the program,” he said.
On acquisition strategy, Thornberry said the idea will be to have it fully defined at the beginning and with consolidated requirements. “We’ll require every program to start out with an acquisition strategy up front,” he said.
That will include condensing “at least” six different requirements, determining the most appropriate type of contract, and outlining risk mitigation strategies.
There should also be improved ethics training for acquisition officials, and requirements that they have experience in the commercial sector.