July 20, 2012

New acquisition chief describes goals, challenges

by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Frank Kendall describes his new job as all about supporting the new defense strategy and the budget that puts that strategy in place.

“My job on the acquisition, technology and logistics side of the house is to execute in support of that strategy,” the new undersecretary of defense for the same portfolio told reporters at the Pentagon July 16.

Kendall said there are important long-term strategic ideas and goals that must be considered for the long-term health of national security. The department’s mission, he said, is to recruit the armed forces of the United States, to have technological superiority and to maintain a force that is not hollow.

His emphasis remains on the still unfinished wars — Afghanistan and the broader war on terror. “The department needs … to make sure that the programs we start are actually affordable and get them into production and fielding,” he said. “That’s by setting some constraints at the beginning of the program so they meet that criteria.”

Making defense acquisition more efficient is a key to the strategy. The department’s Better Buying Power initiative “is really just a label for continuous improvement,” he said. “Somebody asked me the other day if I am a transformational person or evolutionary person – I’m evolutionary. I believe in continuous incremental improvement across the board and just looking for ways to do that.”

To Kendall, that’s what Better Buying Power is all about. “It’s not a specific set of rules, it’s a philosophy for continuous improvement.”

The undersecretary wants to maintain a viable defense industrial base during a time of contraction. “We need to keep it healthy, and that means keeping it profitable and it also means keeping it lean and productive.” The department, he added, also must work to discover better incentives for the defense industry.

All these goals, he said, depend on the acquisition workforce.

“At the end of the day our success depends on the quality and capacity of our people,” Kendall said. “Building that capacity is high on my list.”

But the most important goal is protecting America’s future, Kendall said. His organization, he added, must work to develop the technology needed to stay ahead of any potential enemy, maintain the capability to build these technologies and ensure the department attracts the best people for the jobs.

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