Magazine article National Defense

Washington Pulse

Magazine article National Defense

Washington Pulse

Article excerpt

PROCUREMENT REFORM: 128 COMMISSIONS...AND COUNTING

The head of a federal advisory panel in charge of recommending changes to the Pentagon's procurement policies acknowledges that the cards are stacked against any kind of immediate, substantial changes, if history is any guide.

This latest attempt at overhauling military procurement, known as the Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment, comes on the heels of 128 previous studies, many of which proposed similar reforms.

"After World War II, we had commission after commission after commission" studying defense procurement, says Ronald Kadish, retired Air Force lieutenant general and chairman of the DAPA panel. Although the United States produces the best military equipment, he says, people think it costs too much and takes too long, and nobody has found a solution. "After all these studies, why are we still asking that question?"

COMMON BUSINESS SYSTEM DEEMED UNREALISTIC

Despite much talk about the need for the military services to buy common information systems to run their business and financial operations, Pentagon officials concede that a single-system scenario is highly doubtful. "We get into that debate a lot," says Paul A. Brinkley, undersecretary of defense for business transformation.

By his account, there are at least 2,000 systems supporting logistics in the Defense Department. "When we get down to 20, I'll start worrying about the fact that we are buying more than one," Brinkley says. "When we have more than 2,000 systems, worrying about whether we are buying one, two or three, to me, is not a problem worth discussing ... To get down from 2,000 to 200 will take years, and will be a miracle."

A more reasonable goal-along the lines of what is seen in the private sector-would be to aim for two, three or four systems, with a common data standard so they can exchange information, he says. "I don't know of any Fortune 50 company that runs on one system. I don't know any large defense contractor that runs on one system."

AIR FORCE TANKERS: THE DEBATE CONTINUES

In comments to reporters late last year, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, head of the U.S. Transportation Command, said that whatever tankers the Air Force buys to replace the aging KC-135s should be "multi-mission," serving both as tankers and as cargo aircraft. A dual-role airplane, he argued, would save millions of dollars in procurement costs.

This suggestion caused some uproar in industry circles and some Air Force officials who would prefer that the new tankers be just tankers. …

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