House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chair Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) introduced a bill containing the first in a series of broad ranging defense acquisition reforms.
During a year-long effort, the committee engaged stakeholders from the Department of Defense (DoD), industry, and Congress to develop proposals for long-term reform of the defense acquisition system. Thornberry called his proposal “the first step on what I expect to be many years of focused work to improve our flawed defense acquisition system.”
“The broken acquisition system is contributing to the loss of our military’s technological edge,” Thornberry charged. He said the current system is slow, cumbersome, and often many years late in delivering equipment that frequently under performs and is costly to maintain.
The proposed “Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge Act” would streamline the process, improve accountability, and eliminate outdated regulations, thereby begin “to get some of that edge back,” Thornberry stressed. The bill’s provisions promote a system that is “proactive, agile, transparent, and innovative.”
To be proactive, the bill proposes to empower acquisition officials by removing barriers so that officers can pursue acquisition as a profession. It would provide a “Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund” and expedited hiring authority for hiring and training the acquisition workforce. The bill also would give acquisition program managers greater flexibility to address programmatic risk and enable the selection of contract types that best meet program objectives with an appropriate level of risk.
The bill promotes quick program adjustments by allowing program managers to focus on oversight, engineering, and risk management. The proposal would consolidate reporting requirements, streamline the approval process, and identify key considerations that are addressed during the life of the program. The bill also would eliminate “non-productive Departmental legal review” in some cases.
The bill promotes transparency by supporting government and industry communication that is clear and open and the production of auditable financial management statements.
The proposed reform bill would remove barriers that inhibit companies from seeking defense business or proposing new ideas. The bill would promote the use of value engineering to encourage contractors to reduce costs and share savings. The Mentor-protégé Program would be made permanent to improve the linkage small and large defense contractors. Also, the bill would make the Small Business Innovative Research Program permanent to be used “more broadly by the military services and defense agencies.”
Thornberry said the reforms will be considered for inclusion in the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill, which the HASC will take up next month. Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) co-sponsored Thornberry’s proposals.
Thornberry said he released his recommendations of what he called a “discussion draft” of the bill now because he wanted feedback from the stakeholders. “We listened to a lot of folks as we drafted this bill, and we want to hear from them again before we work to make it law,” he said.