January 02, 2020

The state of acquisition is in need of better coordination

By Susanna V. Blume and Mikhail Grinberg

The U.S. defense enterprise has been in a near-constant state of acquisition reform since the 1980s. Although it has been a top Pentagon priority, expected competition with China and Russia has made our ability to develop and buy advanced systems efficiently a paramount concern. Realizing the threat, the department has generally accepted that it needs to do business differently in order to sustain technological advantage. This has led to a dizzying number of new and alternative offices, acquisition authorities, and initiatives to introduce more competition, fast-track fresh ideas and welcome commercial market participants. Most of these efforts — while vital — are not well-coordinated.

The latest round of defense acquisition reform made through the 2016 and 2017 National Defense Authorization Acts, did two things. First, it expanded existing and created a slate of new acquisition authorities designed to increase speed and agility in weapons system development and procurement. At the same time, it devolved many authorities held centrally in the Office of the Secretary of Defense down to the military departments.

In creating new authorities while also devolving authority to the services, Congress, knowingly or not, created an acquisition laboratory. Each of the services has interpreted the new authorities differently, and under the current regime they are free to implement them accordingly. As a result, we currently have an experiment running in real time, testing different acquisition approaches.

Read the full article in Defense News.

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