Panel recommends DOD acquisition reforms

A Defense Department acquisition panel, in a sweeping review of DOD's acquisition process, has concluded that the department has no reliable method of determining what items need to be procured for its programs, what they will cost, when they will be delivered or how they will perform.

Since June, the Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment Project has pored over more than 1,500 documents and interviewed more than 130 government and industry acquisition officials to establish a baseline for acquisition reform recommendations.

Earlier this week the group?made up mostly of industry and retired government officials, and authorized by acting Defense deputy secretary Gordon England?unveiled proposals to improve the muddled process. The proposals were grouped into six areas, including organization, workforce, budget, requirements, acquisition and industry.

"Our observations showed the process to be a highly complex mechanism that was fragmented in its operation," wrote the panel in an executive summary of its findings. "Further, the observations indicated that differences in the theory and practice of acquisition, divergent values among the acquisition community, and changes in the security environment have driven the requirements, acquisition and budget processes further apart and inserted significant instability in the process."

The panel's key recommendations call for Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld to:
  • Direct the service chiefs of staff and the chief of naval operations to establish service systems commands that are responsible for aligning the acquisition workforce and overseeing daily integration of the workforce, from a program's initiation to the end of production

  • Establish service acquisition executives, appointed by the president, to oversee daily execution and integration of programs through the service systems commands

  • Establish a separate acquisition stabilization account to "mitigate the tendency to stretch programs due to shortfalls in the Defense non-acquisition accounts that ultimately increases the total cost of programs"

  • Assign each of the combatant-command commanders to prepare operational and contingency plans, to be updated every two years, that will provide a 15-year forecast of capability gaps and excesses.

The panel also recommends that Kenneth Krieg, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, direct changes to the DOD 5000 series to establish time-certain development as the preferred acquisition strategy for major weapon-system development programs. This will require delivery of the first unit to operational forces within six years of a Milestone A decision.

And, under the recommendations, Gordon England would host regular roundtable discussions with industry executives to align industry and Defense strategic planning.

Dawn S. Onley is a senior writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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