Acquisition Chief Discusses ‘Better Buying Power 2.0’
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2013 The Pentagon’s chief of acquisition, technology and logistics told part of his workforce here last week about the Defense Department’s initiative to drive continuous improvement in defense acquisition programs.
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall spoke Sept. 3 with engineers, contracting officers, program managers and others here about Better Buying Power 2.0.
Kendall outlined his view that a sequestration mechanism in budget law is likely to continue into fiscal year 2014, which begins Oct. 1, bringing with it $52 billion in new spending cuts.
But no matter the budget picture, Kendall added, the acquisition workforce’s mission remains to “get as much as we can for the resources we’re given.”
In April, after the first round of sequester cuts hit, Kendall sent a memo to that workforce outlining the principles of Better Buying Power 2.0: achieve affordable programs, control costs throughout products’ life cycles, provide incentives for industrial productivity and innovation, eliminate unproductive processes and bureaucracy and promote effective competition. The memo also emphasizes tradecraft and professionalism.
“I’m a big believer in the idea of continuous improvement. … There isn’t any silver bullet. There are no magic solutions that we can apply,” Kendall said. And no single contract type or organizational structure can transform defense acquisition, he added.
“What we have to do is attack our cost structure on every possible front, do smart things as we manage, and have the capabilities that we need to do the job at the lowest possible levels,” he told his audience.
Increasing professionalism in the acquisition workforce is one “bookend” of 2.0, he said, along with the requirement for affordable programs. “These are the sort of things that enable an awful lot of other things, and if you don’t have them, you really can’t make much progress,” he said.
Kendall offered several examples of how acquisition professionals can work to keep programs affordable. Negotiating prices in the early stages of agreements, offering suitable incentives to industry and selecting appropriate contract types all can drive down costs, he said.
He emphasized that as budget uncertainty continues, defense leaders have to look ahead at preserving key technological advantages. As cuts come, he said he told the workforce here, leaders may seek to offset the cost of military and civilian employees by cutting research and development and procurement “more than is healthy.”
“I want to preserve, particularly, our ability to build cutting-edge, better technologies, better capabilities than anybody else in the world in our key war-fighting areas,” he added, noting that China and Russia increasingly challenge U.S. weapons superiority.
Such technologies may selectively require an unusually high level of investment to keep them viable, he said. “But in general,” he continued, “we don’t want to start something we can’t finish.”
Many program cancellations over past decades involved programs that were very ambitious, Kendall said, and some were never affordable. In the future, he added, coordinating closely on program requirements will be key to acquiring feasible, timely, affordable systems.
Kendall told his audience that Naval Air Systems Command is “one of the most professional organizations in DOD,” and that its staffs do impressive work. “But we can all be better,” he said.
“Professionalism is about that, and it’s also about getting the rest of DOD -- particularly the uniformed leadership in the services -- to recognize the special expertise and special qualifications … required for acquisition success,” he said.
He noted the basis of a “should cost” approach to acquisition is relatively uncomplicated: “Understand your costs, look for the opportunity to reduce costs, and do something about it,” he said.
The challenge for those equipping the nation’s armed forces is always to gain capability and reduce risk, Kendall said, but he also advised cultivating a cost-reducing approach instead of a money-spending approach.
“You should have a realistic plan for your budget, and you should try to execute to that plan, but before that comes getting value for the taxpayer and the warfighter,” he said.
NAVAIR, as the command is known, provides full life-cycle support of naval aviation aircraft, weapons and systems operated by sailors and marines. This support includes research, design, development and systems engineering, acquisition, test and evaluation, training facilities and equipment, repair and modification, and in-service engineering and logistics support.
It is organized into eight communities of practice including: program management, contracts, research and engineering, test and evaluation, logistics and industrial operations, corporate operations, comptroller and counsel.
The command provides people, processes, tools, training, mission facilities and core technologies to naval aviation program executive officers and their program managers, who are responsible for meeting the cost, schedule and performance requirements of programs that include tactical aircraft, assault and special mission, unmanned aviation and strike missions and -- alternating lead with the Air Force -- the joint strike fighter.