By Jim Garamone
Defense Department is charging ahead in using new authorities to streamline, speed up and reform the acquisition system to ensure warfighters get what they need when they need it, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told said her office is pushing the responsibility to restore America’s overmatch against any possible foe out to the services.
For the last two years, the national defense authorization acts have given new tools to DoD in an effort to cut through the red tape that often delays acquisitions, hobbles modernization plans and hinders current readiness.
The acts “have provided the direction and the tools for the department to advance the capabilities required to restore our overmatch, speed the rate in which we field these advanced capabilities, and improve the overall affordability of our fighting forces weapons systems,” she said.
All these go to Defense Secretary James N. Mattis’ priority to improve the lethality and readiness of the American military.
Lord, who came to her position after serving as the CEO of Textron Systems, said she wants AT&L to emulate practices used in industry, in effect acting as a very lean corporate office, “enabling the services — as businesses — to execute programs they are responsible for. AT&L should be pushing the majority of the work back to the services.”
DoD should focus on prototyping and experimentation, she said, adding that her organization also should develop architectures and standards, interpret law into policy and procedures, and simplify acquisition processes. “Stating it plainly, AT&L needs to be the strategic body with focus across the board driving affordability and accountability, reducing timelines and equipping the services to execute their programs,” she said.
Potential for ‘Significant’ Improvement
On average, Lord said, the department awards 1,800 contracts daily, and 36,000 delivery and task orders. Given that volume, she added, every improvement made has the potential to produce significant results.
Lord also said she believes DoD should be able to speed the award of a contract by as much as 50 percent.
“Some of the ways we intend to do this is to incentivizing contractors to submit responsive proposals in 60 days or less and implementing electronic department-wide streamlining tools,” she said. Noting that Congress gave the department tools that speed up foreign military sales. Lord added that she would like to see the same authorities used for DoD purchases.
Four of 17 individual awards for excellence in acquisition presented yesterday went to personnel from U.S. Special Operations Command, Lord told the Senate panel. “Our challenge is to take … these silos of excellence and scale them to the big Army, the big Navy and the big Air Force,” she said.
The department also is using rapid hiring authorities to bring in world-class experts in a number of fields, Lord said. These include experts in robotics, artificial intelligence and lasers, she said, as well as new contracting specialists and engineers.
“Reforming and improving the defense acquisition system to create an agile enterprise is a continuing process requiring close partnership across the department and with Congress,” she said. “You have my total commitment to the success of that partnership.”