New proposals to Improve DoD Acquisitions

DoD’s proposals aim to simplify ‘mindboggling’ acquisition rules

By Jason Miller       Federal News Radio         January 29, 2015

The Defense Department submitted seven legislative proposals to Capitol Hill Wednesday to simplify the DoD acquisition process.

But just don’t call them reforms, they are improvements, said Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Kendall told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that reforms imply there is some big change, or some big initiative that can fix the acquisition system. But that is just not the case with these proposals.

“What we have to do is attack our problems on many fronts and make incremental progress on many fronts, learn from our experience and then adopt new things as we understand the impact of the things we’ve done,” Kendall said. “And that’s why we’ve emphasized a continuous process improvement approach in the Better Buying Initiatives over the last several years. I think that is the right approach. I think we will make incremental progress on a lot of fronts and in the aggregate, I think it will make a big difference.”

He said the incremental approach will let DoD, and Congress for that matter, improve upon many of the acquisition challenges the military faces.

“At the end of the day, a great deal of it is about not putting rules in place to constrain people, but getting people in a position where they can make better decisions and do the right thing, and then have the institutional support to execute the right thing and do it successfully,” Kendall said.

DoD is not in favor of another big reform bill such as the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009. Instead, officials say they need process improvements and Congress can help by removing some of the more arduous requirements from the books.

Precious asset: time

The first salvo in that effort is the seven legislative proposals the Pentagon sent to Congress ahead of the 2016 budget request, which is due out Feb. 2.

Kendall said the ultimate goal is to simplify the life of DoD program managers.

“We want to give them more comprehensive and coherent [rules]. We get rid of a couple of documents that we are asked to do that really have low utility to anyone, but we are forced to do them. We clarify the rules of milestone decision authorities. We simplify the rules for lifecycle support programs, X-strategies,” he said. “It’s very inside baseball if you read them. It’s all about the detailed rules our program managers have to follow. What motivated me to do this, when we redid 5000.02, our DoD instruction on acquisition, there’s an enclosure — it’s enclosure one, I think — which has table after table after table of all the rules people have to follow and all the different types of programs and what rules apply to what types of different programs. The complexity of that was mindboggling to me. So we really have to simplify this.”

Kendall said the legislative changes, if approved by Congress, would let DoD modify the 5000.02 document it recently updated.

He added that these changes in the end would give back to program managers their most precious asset: time.

DoD didn’t make the specific proposals available to the press nor did Kendall offer too many specific details on them at the hearing.

But a DoD official, speaking on background, offered more details about the proposals.

The official said Kendall put together a team about a year ago to look at hardware systems, large technology platforms and IT intensive business systems. The group tried to figure out from the program managers which documentation requirements or processes are redundant.

The official said the goal is to let program managers tailor their efforts, have more flexibility in the processes and remove unneeded documentation.

The official said one example that turned into a proposal to eliminate a document that deals with estimates of manpower costs for large programs. This working group realized that programs had to create a separate document, while also putting that same information into the cost estimation process. So having a standalone document isn’t necessary anymore, the official said.

The official also said DoD wants to have a standard language to describe risk and a broader set of statutory language that program managers should consider.     More….

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