Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord said on Nov. 18 that she has a few things left on her priorities plate in the last two months of the Trump administration, including continuing to educate the defense industry and DoD acquisition workforce on the rewrite of the DoD 5000 regulations to speed fielding of systems; releasing a final rule by Nov. 30 on the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC); and educating defense companies how to use it.
“It’s scaleable and tailorable so if you’re providing military uniforms, you have a much lower hurdle than if you’re developing and launching a satellite, for instance,” Lord said of CMMC during a session of the ASCENT 2020 forum sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
CMMC is to include cybersecurity standards and best practices and several maturity levels that range from basic cyber hygiene to advances against specific cyber threats.
Like U.S. Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper, Lord said that she backs rapid software development not tied to traditional acquisition processes, and she said on Nov. 18 that she hopes to enshrine such accelerated software development using a “software color of money” with Capitol Hill before she leaves office. “We want to see the 15 Pathfinder projects using a software color of money,” Lord said. “In other words, it’s not development, then production, then sustainment money. We know that if you do software correctly, it’s a constant iteration of development, production, and sustainment. We don’t want to be constrained by different budgets and get into too much administrative hurdles.”
The Defense Innovation Board (DIB) delivered a set of recommendations to Congress last year on accelerating software acquisition.
In addition to educating personnel on the acquisition streamlining and software acceleration efforts, another of Lord’s remaining priorities is shoring up the defense industrial base.
“I’m particularly concerned about the security and resiliency of the industrial base,” Lord said. “There are two areas that I’m particularly having the team look at. One is rare earth minerals where right now the bulk of the processing is done in China. COVID has shown us that we cannot have dependencies on non-allies and partners and make sure that we get the supplies we need when we need them so we want to get a very robust processing part of our industrial base domestically for rare earth minerals.”
There are 17 rare earth minerals, and DoD has said that such materials are vital for many of its systems. In 2012, the Pentagon told Congress that each DDG-51 Aegis destroyer requires approximately 5,200 pounds of these materials, while each F-35 Lightning II aircraft requires 920 pounds.
On Nov. 17, the Pentagon announced rare earth element contracts with three domestic companies–MP Materials, TDA Magnetics, and Urban Mining Company. MP Materials owns North America’s only rare earth mining and processing site in Mountain Pass, Calif.
Lord said on Nov. 18 that another area she wants to prioritize is microelectronics.
“I want to make sure that we begin to reshore microelectronics,” she said on Nov. 18. “The Defense Department is only about one to two percent of the consumption in the U.S., yet we have absolutely critical needs for Rad Hard [radiation hardened] microelectronics for space, for our nuclear enterprise. Although we develop over 50 percent of the intellectual property around microelectronics domestically, the bulk of manufacturing and almost all packaging and test is done off shore. That just does not lead us in a place where we have a secure and resilient microelectronics industrial base. We want to get irreversible momentum to make sure we begin bringing that back.”