Department of Defense seeks to speed up acquisition process

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 7, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank/U.S. Air Force

Dec. 10 (UPI) — Senior leaders at the Department of Defense testified on Capitol Hill that they are attempting to reform and speed up an acquisition process that has dogged the agency for years.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday heard testimony from U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, alongside other military officials, including Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official.

The officials laid out their plan to streamline the Defense Department’s acquisition of services and technology using authorities granted to them in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.

“Before that act came into being, 19 of 49 of the largest Air Force programs were actually managed in decision authority kept at the Office of the Secretary of Defense level,” Wilson told Congressional lawmakers.

The Air Force had control over just 39 percent of its service programs, though it has since increased to about 76 percent, she said.

The fiscal year 2016 NDAA sought to give acquisition authority back to the individual services in the hope the procurement process would speed up.

“You’ve given us back authorities and we’ve been taking advantage of them in a number of ways,” Wilson said. “There is much more work to be done, but we’re beginning to make some progress… We have a chance of better meeting the adversary in 2030, and that’s what this is all about.”

The delay in procurements has long plagued the Defense Department, causing an unwanted backlog of acquisition delays, which ultimately holds back modernization and hinders military readiness, officials said.

The Pentagon’s plan going forward is to procure new acquisitions within 210 days, with an ultimate goal of streamlining the process down to 180 days.

“We have a model for what we’re going to do, but we’re not being rigid about it,” Lord said. “We’re experimenting and seeing what works.”

The Defense Department on average awards 1,800 contracts per day, in addition to 36,000 delivery and task orders, according to Lord, who wants to speed up the awarding of contracts by 50 percent.

“Some of the ways we intend to do this is [by] incentivizing contractors to submit responsive proposals in 60 days or less, and implementing electronic department-wide streamlining tools,” Lord said.

“Reforming and improving the defense acquisition system to create an agile enterprise is a continuing process requiring close partnership across the department and with Congress,” Lord said. “You have my total commitment to the success of that partnership.”


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