Defense

November 7, 2012

Pentagon moves to refine acquisitions process, official says

The Defense Department continues to do all it can to enhance the defense acquisition process, improving the Pentagon’s buying power and maximizing value for taxpayers’ money, a senior Pentagon official said Nov. 5.

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, shared his latest efforts to improve the process as he spoke during the 31st Annual Government Contract Management Conference here.

“The essence of [my] job has always been about getting as much value as possible for the taxpayers,” he said. “[Former Defense] Secretary [Robert M.] Gates saw the kind of coming storm with the deficit problem that we have and realized early on that defense was going to have to do its share.”

In response, Kendall said, he and his predecessor, Ashton B. Carter, who now serves as the deputy defense secretary, developed the ‘Better Buying Power’ initiative just over two years ago and have been implementing its principles ever since.

“We’re going to move from them onto what I’m going to call ‘Better Buying Power 2.0,’” he said. “It’s one of several things I’m doing to kind of move the acquisition process.”

Kendall explained he refers to the entirety of the acquisition enterprise when he speaks of acquisition.

“It includes technology, it includes logistics; so my idea of acquisition is the total set of things,” he said.

Acquisition, he added, involves not just buying new equipment and equipping the nation’s forces, “but also sustain[ing] the force over time. So the readiness side of it is very much a part of this.”

The undersecretary explained some of the efforts he has undertaken to enhance the defense acquisition process, including updating the flagship guidance for defense acquisitions.

“I’m re-writing [DOD] 5000.02, the DOD instruction that covers the acquisition system and how we do business,” Kendall said. “What I found is that there had been a lot of laws that had been a passed that needed to be integrated into the document.”

Secondly, “the document really lays out … one thing called the acquisition system,” Kendall said.

“There are so many different types of products that we buy, and so many different ways to structure programs around the type of product that you’re buying, that I really felt that we needed something that emphasized those different ideas,” the undersecretary said.

The new guidance, he said, will include several models for structuring programs. Kendall noted DOD 5000.02 was 20 pages long when he began his career and has now ballooned to about 200 pages.

“Another thing I’m doing — it’ll be probably around the first of the year — is putting out a report on the performance of the acquisition system,” Kendall said. “I have a very strong belief that we need to be data-driven in what we do.

“I have a sign outside my door that says ‘In God We Trust, all others must bring data,’ he continued. “We’re going to try to take a look … at what actually works. Try to look at the data and try to understand what actually works and how much it works.”

Kendall noted the report, which he described as “the beginning of a long journey,” will start to put some quantitative analysis and data analysis into the defense acquisition equation.

“It’s about putting it out in the public domain so everybody that thinks they’re an expert on acquisition … can go back and look at this data and see if there’s anything in the history that tells us what works and what doesn’t,” he said.

 




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