News   Reform

Military Aims to Reform Sustainment, Acquisition to Benefit Warfighters

March 4, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The Defense Department's acquisition and sustainment efforts are focused on supporting all three lines of the National Defense Strategy, a DOD official said.

Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said DOD is focusing on: 

  • Restoring military readiness as we build a more lethal force;
  • Expanding and strengthening alliances and partnerships; and
  • Bringing business reform to the Defense Department.

Speaking today at the McAleese Defense Programs Conference in Washington, Lord said DOD endeavors to enable the delivery and sustainment of secure and resilient capabilities to the warfighter and international partners quickly and cost effectively. 

A woman stands behind a lectern and speaks.
Lord Speaks
Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, speaks at the McAleese Defense Programs Conference in Washington, D.C., March 4, 2020.
Photo By: David Vergun, DOD
VIRIN: 200304-D-UB488-001M

To do this, Lord said her office has focused on six lines of effort:

She said the first goal is to enable innovative acquisition approaches that deliver warfighting capability at the speed of relevance.

"Crummy programs start with crummy contracts," Lord said. As such, the department has been reforming the way contracts are drawn.

Further, DOD has initiated a contract-financing study that will consider how best to attract highly innovative small businesses and non-traditional defense contractors, she said.

The study will also examine the existing contract financing methods, such as progress payments and performance-based payments, Lord said.

Another major accomplishment is the rewrite of the policy guide on DOD acquisition, she said. "This overhaul is the most transformational change to acquisition policy in years, and an effort that we anticipate to have long-lasting positive effects."

The second line of effort is building a safe, secure and resilient defense industrial base, she said, noting that the industrial base is under cyberattack every day.

Lord said DOD can assist in cybersecurity, particularly with small companies that may not have the necessary resources.

Woman at console points outside control tower.
Space Systems
Civilian and military members of the Space and Missile Systems Center and Aerospace Corporation run through the countdown checklist at the Launch Control Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Aug. 8, 2019.
Photo By: Van Ha, Air Force
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Protecting intellectual property is also part of this goal, she added.

The third goal is to ensure safe and resilient DOD installations. Lord noted that the problem is that many installations are tied to the grid and depend on fuel for generators. If there's a disruption in these, that impacts readiness.

The department is also looking at  innovations to decrease outside reliance. Toward that end, DOD is working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other agencies to design and build small, portable nuclear reactors in the neighborhood of two megawatts, she said. If successful, these reactors could also be used in remote or forward operating environments.

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Sea Sail
The Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Key West emerges off the coast of Guam, Oct. 18, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelsey Hockenberger
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Attach Cargo
Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, attach cargo to a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 during an exercise at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Nov. 5, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi
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Fourth, the department is increasing weapons system mission capability while reducing operating costs. An important part of this, she said, is ensuring safe, secure and reliable modern nuclear deterrence.

Fifth, the U.S. can't go it alone, Lord said. DOD is advancing numerous bilateral discussions with allies and partners to promote acquisition and sustainment initiatives and ensure interoperability. 

Finally, the department seeks to recruit, develop and retain a diverse acquisition and sustainment workforce. "We want to think about our people first," Lord said.