Magazine article National Defense

Political Problems May Lead to Regression in Defense Department Acquisition Reform

Magazine article National Defense

Political Problems May Lead to Regression in Defense Department Acquisition Reform

Article excerpt

I just returned from a briefing by Dan Burnham, the dynamic Vice Chairman of Allied Signal. While Dan covered many subjects, one particular thing he said was that we have achieved Acquisition Reform improvement beyond our wildest dreams. This was good to hear because many of us inside the Beltway could be myopic about Acquisition Reform achievements. Unsolicited confirmation from someone like Burnham from outside the Beltway affirms that progress is being made.

Unfortunately, now that we have made these significant improvements in our acquisition system, we risk regressing in several areas. This is caused by the internecine battles over depot maintenance workload-the most recent battle occurring in behind-the-scenes negotiations on the defense authorization bill. While the restrictions in question currently apply only to depot maintenance, any regression in our hard-won Acquisition Reforms must by zealously resisted.

Obvious Question

However the obvious question, since the clauses apply only to depot maintenance, would be, "so what?" The "so what" is that it is already acknowledged that there are insufficient modernization dollars available without continued savings. And those savings can only come from divesting the Defense Department of its excess facilities (achieved through the BRAC process) and increasing productivity (achieved through simplification of our gigantic acquisition process).

Unfortunately Congress has turned thumbs down on another BRAC round because of the politicization of the process prior to the last election by the privatization in place of Kelly and McClellan Logistics Centers previously scheduled for closure by the BRAC Commission. The Executive Branch saved the layoffs and ostensibly the votes, but poisoned the well for future BRAC rounds.

Thus began a political food fight precipitated by the air logistics centers that would have gained the workload from Kelly and McClellan and thus we come to our current state of affairs.

While the above states how we got here, it's appropriate that we discuss the problem. The essence of Acquisition Reform has been streamlining, simplification, and reduction of delivery time, all of which result in reduced costs. In essence, how can we make the buying process less bureaucratic and cumbersome?

The provisions in the authorization bill unfortunately reintroduce much of the "micromanagement" that Acquisition Reform had eliminated from government contracts. For example, it increases the degree to which depot work solicitations and contract awards must be reviewed by various panels at the Defense Department, Congress and the GAO. …

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