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Transformational Change Comes to DOD Acquisition Policy

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In December, the Defense Department will fully implement an adaptive acquisition framework designed to speed acquisition and make the process more agile, a top DOD official said last week.

A woman sits behind a desk and speaks to reporters.
Lord Briefing
Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, speaks to reporters at the Pentagon, Oct. 18, 2019.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia, DOD
VIRIN: 191018-D-AP390-1051

Ellen M. Lord, DOD's undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment said the program will be the most transformational acquisition policy change the department has seen in decades. 

"This policy embraces the delegation of decision-making tailoring program oversight to minimize unnecessary bureaucratic processes and actively managing risks based on the unique characteristics of the capability being acquired," she said.

The policy is being tested and taught at the Defense Acquisition University at Fort Belvoir, Va. — and it's just one of the policy changes in the offing at DOD.

A soldier drives a new tactical vehicle as a contractor talks to rear seat passengers.
Training Drive
Soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team take part in operator training for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle at Fort Stewart, Ga., Feb. 12, 2019. The JLTV is designed to replace many of the service's Humvees. Future plans are to procure over 49,000 JLTVs for the Army and about 9,000 for the Marine Corps by the mid-2030s, as part of a joint acquisition effort.
Photo By: Sean Kimmons, DOD
VIRIN: 190213-D-VY538-657C
Soldiers examine touch screens inside a new military vehicle.
Touch Screens
Soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team take part in operator training for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle at Fort Stewart, Ga., Feb. 12, 2019. The JLTV is designed to replace many of the service's Humvees. Future plans are to procure more than 49,000 JLTVs for the Army and about 9,000 for the Marine Corps by the mid-2030s as part of a joint acquisition effort.
Photo By: Sean Kimmons, DOD
VIRIN: 190212-D-VY538-395C

DOD is also in the final stages of publishing the middle tier of an acquisition policy. This will allow program managers to prototype or field mature technology in an operational environment within five years, Lord said. 

"We now have 50 middle-tier programs delivering military utility to warfighters years faster than the traditional acquisition system," she said. Nineteen are in the Air Force, 11 in the Army, nine in the Navy, 10 by U.S. Special Operations Command and one by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Two airmen read a computer screen together.
Flight Check
Air Force Staff Sgts. Nicholas Lee and Davonn Price use flight check software at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Aug. 16, 2018, during Exercise Red Flag Alaska 18-3. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan D. Viglianco
Photo By: Airman 1st Class Tristan Viglian
VIRIN: 180816-F-ZH169-1325C

The department is also set to release an interim policy to drive modern software development across DOD programs. The policy's key tenet simplifies acquisition processes to enable continuous integration and delivery of software capability quickly.

DOD is also publishing an intellectual property policy. The policy establishes an intellectual property group that will develop DOD guidance, training and assistance as part of the government's effort to address protection of data rights.

A missile launch creates a curve of light in a purple night sky.
Sky Spectacle
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Oct. 2, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. J.T. Armstrong
VIRIN: 191002-F-CG053-1002Y
An image of the upper portion of a nuclear submarine in a body of water.
Nuclear Sub
An image of a nuclear submarine.
Photo By: DOD video still
VIRIN: 190415-D-ZZ999-100Y

Lord stressed that nuclear modernization remains the department's highest priority. "Earlier this year, I briefed the Senate on nuclear modernization — helping ensure that the United States has a safe, secure, reliable and credible nuclear deterrent, now and in the future," Lord said. "Delay is no longer an option. Systems can no longer be cost-effectively life-extended ... we are very thankful for the bipartisan support."

Lord is also responsible for fixes to military housing. She said she's working to improve the trust and accountability of DOD leadership to provide a safe, healthy homes for our military families renting privatized housing.

Military housing at Fort McCoy, Wisc.
Fort McCoy Houses
Military housing at Fort McCoy, Wisc.
Photo By: Scott Sturkol, Army
VIRIN: 180913-A-OK556-8532H
Workers on roof of military housing.
Roof Repair
Construction workers replace the shingles on roofs at the Tierra Vista Communities at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., July 8, 2019. The project is meant to repair damage from a hailstorm in 2018 and provide a longer lifespan for houses.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely
VIRIN: 190708-F-UR189-1002C

She said the department will soon issue a Bill of Rights for military housing residents, as well as a document outlining residents’ responsibilities. 

"We are planning for publication and implementation following the (National Defense Authorization Act) release," Lord said. "The Senate NDAA bill included some very prescriptive requirements regarding these two documents. We will ensure our documents are aligned with congressional guidance. The Bill of Rights was based on input from military and veteran service organizations, Congress, our housing privatization partners, as well as resident surveys."

She also said DOD is continuing to increase production capabilities to ensure F-35 aircraft — the department's largest and most expensive procurement — are ready and capable. 

A fighter aircraft is refueled in mid-air over a desert-like landscape.
Aerial Refueling
An F-35 joint strike fighter completes aerial refueling courtesy of a KC-135R Stratotanker, April 26, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Keifer Bowes
VIRIN: 190426-F-ZD147-0437C

"Across the international partnership and around the world, the F-35 continues to show us why it is the most advanced, lethal and interoperable aircraft ever developed," she said.

She noted the aircraft is on duty in the Pacific and in U.S. Central Command. "Our allies have made tremendous progress in integrating the F-35 into their tactical air fleets — as demonstrated by recent deployments from the [United Kingdom] and Italy," Lord said. 

"On F-35 production, we reached a handshake agreement with Lockheed Martin and continue to negotiate on the next F-35 lot of 478 aircraft."

Four Air Force aircraft maneuver near cliffs and mountains.
Combat Power
A formation of Air Force F-35 Lightning IIs perform aerial maneuvers during a combat power exercise over Utah Test and Training Range, Nov. 19, 2018.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Cory D. Payne
VIRIN: 181119-F-WJ663-0025C

But the program is not moving as fast on integrating the F-35 Lightning II into the joint simulation environment. "They're making excellent progress out on the range with F-35, but we need to do the work in the joint simulation environment," she said. "We have collectively decided that we need to get that JSE absolutely correct before we proceed. So I'm going to make some decisions about when that full-rate production decision will be made shortly, and I'll get back on them."

This means full-rate production will probably slip 13 months, Lord said.

Lord is traveling to India to continue to build the burgeoning U.S.-India defense relationship. She will co-chair the ninth India-U.S. defense technologies and trade initiative group meeting. 

"I'm excited to continue working with … our Indian major defense partner," she said.

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