The Air Force released the Fiscal Year 2018 Air Force Acquisition Annual Report April 2, emphasizing the need to field tomorrow’s Air Force faster and smarter.
The report reviews the overall management of over 50 of our largest programs. It also outlines where Air Force acquisition is headed in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 under the requirements of the National Defense Strategy to build a more lethal and ready Air Force.
“We cannot win in this great power contest with an acquisition system from the Cold War,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “We must move fast to stay competitive, and we are transforming what we buy, how we buy it, and who we buy it from.”
The report focuses heavily on the role of speed and discipline in acquisition reform.
Wilson identified the prototyping and experimentation authorities granted by Congress as key accelerators behind the Air Force’s speed in 2018. She indicated these tools also enable the Air Force to reduce risk by building and learning earlier in the acquisition process, leading to better informed acquisition requirements.
“These authorities granted to us by Congress maintain oversight, and we will not sacrifice quality for speed,” Wilson added.
The report offers another level of transparency between the Air Force and taxpayers, offering insights into both aggregated and individual programs compared against established baselines that show how the Air Force balances program cost, schedule and performance to meet warfighter needs and optimize taxpayers’ dollars.
The report also highlights several new pathways for speed it focused on in 2018, including shifts to agile software development, increased partnerships with startups, targeted competition across major programs and new innovations in sustainment.
“The Air Force can ill afford to maintain its historical technology development strategy,” said Dr. William Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition technology and logistics. “Instead, we must bet on identifying, adapting and updating technologies faster than all enemies.”
Roper said the acquisition workforce rose to the challenge to build a faster and smarter Air Force, with the workforce already achieving more than 75 percent of the service’s goal to strip 100 years of unnecessary time out of acquisition programs known as the 2018 Century Challenge.
“Speed is our top priority because everyone involved in the program has the potential to impact its speed. From the program manager to the newest intern, everyone involved has the ability to push the envelope of the possible and challenge any process that slows down a program,” Roper said.
And according to Roper, the speed of technology will be the decider of the next major conflict.
“Acquisition speed and agility must be — and is — our big bet for the future,” he added.