August 3, 2017

DOD restructures Acquisition, Technology Office to improve military lethality, speed

Jim Garamone
DOD News

The U.S. military is today the most powerful and technologically advanced fighting force on the planet, and reorganization within DOD aims at ensuring the military maintains its competitive advantage well into the future, said Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan Aug. 2.

The fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act directed the department to reorganize the office of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. DoD submitted a report detailing the process to Congress yesterday.

The “901 report,” so named for the section of the law that called for the change, calls for a reorganization that breaks the office into two entities, each headed by an undersecretary. One is the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering and the other is the undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment. Another major portion of the report upgrades DoD’s chief management officer.

The changes will be effective Feb. 1.

‘The speed of relevance’
The move is designed to enable the department to maintain technological superiority, ensure systems are affordable and to emphasize management of business enterprises.

The change is designed to emphasize “the speed of relevance,” Shanahan said during a roundtable discussion with Pentagon reporters. “We have to act well within the cycle of what’s important for us to do,” he said.

The change is designed to make military capabilities more lethal, encourage partnerships within the department and with allied nations and to ensure acquisition processes fulfill the needs of service members now and in the future, Shanahan said.

DoD has been spending too much time on the here and now and needs to invest instead in the systems that will maintain the U.S. military lead in the years ahead, defense officials said. Not doing so would enable countries like Russia and China to gain parity.

“The DoD research, engineering, acquisition and sustainment organizations and processes must be sources of competitive advantage that ensure the warfighting superiority of U.S. forces around the globe,” the report said.

Speed is important, Shanahan said. Developing a capability and getting it in the hands of service members is key to the process. “The way I think about speed is like baseball in the farm system,” he said. “You take a certain talent and [see] how quickly can you get it to the big leagues. Our whole system has to be about the same thing.”

Baseball doesn’t get a phenomenal 17-year-old player and finally get him to the major leagues when he is 45, and neither should DOD, he said.

On the acquisition side of the split, it really boils down to two things, Shanahan said: How to make it easier for companies to do business with DOD, and how to help contractors and suppliers do more for less.

All of this goes back to the basic guidance the deputy secretary received from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to improve the lethality of the force. “How do we stay downrange to make sure that the privates of today are being supported as well as the privates of the future,” Shanahan said. “My headset is more on them as our customer … and that is how we tend to work in business. You have a customer and the customer is always right. The smart folks can always figure out the issues that are most important to the customer.”

Service members “are the reason we come to work every day,” he said. “The way I look at it, I’m overhead, and I have to justify being overhead and that means being faster and with more lethality.”

He added that he hopes that service members will start to see improvements soonest on the readiness side.

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