Officials Report Acquisition Improvement Goals to Congress
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2005 There is no quick solution to overhauling the defense acquisition system to make it more responsive to warfighter needs and taxpayer interests, Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told the Senate Armed Services Committee here today.
"This is just hard work," he said.
But two major initiatives under way are expected to provide a roadmap to doing just that, England and other defense officials involved with the projects said during a full-committee hearing on the need for improvements to defense acquisition processes and organizations.
In his opening statement, committee chairman Sen. John Warner noted that the state of the armed forces, which are equipped with "the best weapons systems in the world," demonstrates that the acquisition system is "doing some things right."
The goal, he said, is to improve its efficiency and capabilities to prepare for the future.
England outlined two efforts focused specifically on that objective. For the first time, the Quadrennial Defense Review, due to Congress in February, will address not only military capabilities, but also the business practices and acquisition processes required to achieve them, he told the committee.
The QDR process dovetails with the Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment, a top-to-bottom review of DoD's acquisition programs England ordered in July.
That project aims to get to the bottom of why, despite decades of study and reforms, the acquisition system still suffers from widespread perceptions that weapons systems cost too much and take too long to develop, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, project chairman, told the senators.
Four public hearings, with input provided "from many people inside and outside the process," as well as a thorough review of previous acquisition studies have so far identified "more problems than solutions," Kadish acknowledged.
But Kadish expressed optimism that the review -- which covers aspects of the process including requirements, organization, legal foundations, decision methodology, oversight, and checks and balances -- will result in systemwide improvements.
In directing the review, England ordered a clear recommendation for what the acquisition structure should look like, with a clear alignment of responsibility, authority and accountability.
He also set a timetable for the effort, requesting a report and action plan by mid-November, with a goal of reporting it to Congress by late November.
Kenneth Krieg, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said improvements adopted will honor DoD's obligations to two groups. "Our primary customer is the warfighter, who expects us to provide them the best equipment possible," Kreig said. The other is the taxpayer, "who expects us to wisely spend their dollars."
Achieving this balancing act is critical to provide the United States the capabilities needed to win the war on terror and prepare for future security challenges, the panel members told the committee. But it will demand cooperation between the Defense Department and Congress, and it won't come easily, they agreed.
"Achieving a satisfactory acquisition process will be a significant challenge to this country," Kadish said. "I'm convinced we can do better."
Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, affirmed his personal commitment to the effort. "We owe our best effort to our men and women in uniform," he said.