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Acquisition Authorities Streamlining Programs

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The military services’ top civilian leaders spoke about reform at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Army Secretary Mark T. Esper, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson outlined how the Defense Department is working to meet its mission more efficiently.

A man speaks to a group of soldiers.
Army Secretary
Army Secretary Mark T. Esper visits Fort Benning, Ga., Nov. 16, 2018.
Photo By: Patrick Albright, Army
VIRIN: 181116-A-YH902-0616C
A man points and speaks.
Weapons Elevator
Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer receives a briefing from Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chabonnie Alexander, the USS Gerald R. Ford’s ordnance handling officer, on the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator during a tour of the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier at Newport News, Va., Jan. 17, 2018.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines
VIRIN: 190117-N-AO748-1072C
A man straps a lady into airplane cockpit.
Familiarization Flight
Air Force Col. Jeff Smith, 173rd Fighter Wing commander, helps Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson strap into an F-15D Eagle before a familiarization flight at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore., Nov. 4, 2018.
Photo By: Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Riley Johnson
VIRIN: 181104-Z-BD327-0088C

Key Points:

The services have had a cumbersome acquisition process that for many decades delayed much-needed modernization programs and caused costs to balloon.

As part of the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress established the Section 809 Panel to address acquisition reform.

Congress granted new authorities to the services that resulted in such things as removing unnecessary layers in the steps contracting officers and program managers must take and removing unnecessary or redundant reporting requirements.

Marine crawls through sand
Recruit's Roar
Recruits with Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, complete the day movement course at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Feb. 6, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Warrant Officer Bobby J. Yarbrough
VIRIN: 190206-M-DE426-019C

The service secretaries all agreed that the new authorities resulted in streamlining programs and cost savings. As to additional new authorities needed, all three said they will need some time to see what, if anything, still needs to be done.

The Congress gave all three of us more authority since 2016, and we are aggressively implementing those authorities to get things from the lab bench to the flight line faster and smarter.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson

When the services use these authorities, it enhances competition and gets more innovative companies involved in providing services and equipment to the military -- and it also saves money, Wilson said, citing an example. The Air Force had four major procurements in the last quarter of last year: a new trainer, a new GPS satellite, a replacement helicopter and a contract for satellite rocket launch services. Those procurements were very competitive and $17 billion over those four procurements was saved as a result of new authorities.

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