Defense Acquisition Chief Cites Successes, Challenges
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 27, 2009 The Defense Department directorate that procures warfighters’ weapons systems has achieved much success in recent years, the organization’s departing chief said here today.
For example, the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle program, known by the acronym MRAP, is an important achievement that saves servicemembers’ lives, John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told Pentagon reporters.
The V-shaped hulls of heavy-duty MRAPs protect U.S. servicemembers against roadside bombs.
“I always had every dollar I needed to go do the things that needed to be done to make the MRAP program successful,” Young told reporters. He has served as the Pentagon’s top acquisition official since November 2007.
Additionally, Young said, remote-controlled aerial surveillance and attack drones procured in recent years have greatly enhanced military missions in overseas combat zones.
The MRAP and aerial-drone programs, Young said, are elements of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ acquisition priorities benefitting warfighters that were carried over during the transition from the Bush administration to the Obama administration.
Gates’ dedication to acquisition reform and his willingness to confront programs that produce cost-overruns or simply don’t perform, Young said, highlight the secretary’s desire to ensure that weapons and equipment programs meet requirements without wasting taxpayer dollars.
Yet, although the acquisitions community continues to provide the best weapons and equipment for warfighters, Young said, factors outside the procurement realm pose challenges for future success.
For example, the defense acquisition effort is hampered by an annual budget-construction process, said Young, who recommends going to a five-year budget cycle. More often than not, funding provided through the one-year budget cycle “is accurate and executable,” while funding for follow-on years in the one-year budgets “are estimates, at best,” he said.
“There are just so many benefits of having a true multi-year budget,” Young said.
Young said he’d like to bolster the department’s government-civilian acquisition ranks, but, for various reasons, including a higher private-industry pay scale for such experts, it’s been difficult to do so.
The acquisition system also is slowed down by time-consuming internal reviews and an excessive regulatory-oversight process, Young said.
“I need more time for program managers to run their programs,” Young said. Acquisition officials, he said, likely spend a third or more of their time defending budgets and answering “what if” questions posed by multiple organizations inside and outside the Pentagon.
“Something about that has got to change to a degree that lets them go spend a vast majority of their time running their program on a daily basis,” Young said.
Young’s successor, Ashton B. Carter, received U.S. Senate confirmation April 23 to become the next undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.