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DoD Leaders Stress Acquisition Work Force Flexibility

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 17, 1999 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen kicked off Acquisition and Logistics Reform Week activities here June 8, saying the department must accelerate efforts to reform the way it procures new equipment and services.

Joined by Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Cohen said members of the acquisition and logistics communities must be bold and take risks when buying for the U.S. force of the 21st century.

Jacques Gansler, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology, said all members of the acquisition and logistics team must be ready to provide warfighters with the best equipment in an increasingly dangerous world. "But these top weapons and logistics support must not only be the best, they must be affordable and they must be delivered in a timely fashion," he said. "That means the bond between the warfighter and the acquisition and logistics work force is a vital underpinning of both our revolution in military affairs and our revolution in business affairs."

Shelton echoed Gansler. He said DoD cannot afford 15-year acquisition cycles when private industry can do a comparable cycle in half the time. "We need the type of acquisition reform that allows us to stay ahead of the technological power curve," he said.

Shelton asked the Pentagon audience to imagine what their predecessors must have been thinking 100 years ago. He said it was a shame military planners at the beginning of the 20th century did not foresee the changes technology would mean to them during World War I.

"In less than the length of the typical military career, there was the emergence of the airplane, the tank, the submarine and the wireless radio," he said. "Much of the tragedy of that war stemmed from the fact that they did not grasp the impact of the technology."

The United States is in the same situation today and must embrace change and innovation, he said. We ignore change at our own peril, Shelton said. "We've got to be willing to reach out and harness new ideas and concepts and push them to their limits rather than sit back and be comfortable with the status quo," he said.

Cohen pointed to U.S. success in the skies over Yugoslavia as an example of technological advances -- NATO planes flew more than 33,000 sorties with the loss of only two aircraft. "It used to be we would send multiple aircraft to hit a single target. Now we send a single aircraft to hit multiple targets," he said. "This was the most precise campaign in the history of warfare."

Cohen called the acquisition and logistics communities the "force behind the force." He said the U.S. armed forces could not excel without the support of those buying weapons and providing the materiel.

This year, DoD has reversed years of declining budgets and beefed up its modernization accounts. In fiscal 2000, DoD is asking for $53 billion for acquisition. In fiscal 2001, the amount should reach $60 billion -- the amount in 1997 that then- Chairman Gen. John M. Shalikashvili said DoD needed. But, Cohen said, the acquisition and logistics communities must do more.

"Through the Defense Reform Initiative, we are consolidating, streamlining and ridding the department of excess infrastructure," he said. "We are adapting the best business practices in use in the private sector. You must become as flexible and agile as the forces you support."

The acquisition and logistics work force must look for new ways to do business and not be afraid to make mistakes. Cohen said no one in acquisition and logistics will have to worry about a "pink slip" if they fail while trying an innovative approach.

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