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DoD Seeks to Cut Red Tape, Bureaucracy, Officials Say

Nov. 15, 2014 | BY Claudette Roulo , DOD News
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Cutting red tape and eliminating bureaucracy is a priority effort throughout the Defense Department, both the Secretary of the Air Force and DoD's top acquisitions official said today at the Reagan Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said operating efficiently is more important now than ever before.

"We have a combination of world conditions which have our military perhaps the busiest that we have been in recent memory," she said. "Things seem to be popping up all over the world in near-simultaneous fashion. ... and of course there's a certain state of play now that we're dealing with -- both in the executive branch and in Congress -- in terms of coming up with gridlock as opposed to coming up with solutions to move forward."

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Logistics and Technology Frank Kendall noted that eliminating government waste requires "constancy of focus, tenacity and the will to do it. And it takes a lot of time."

One of the first things Kendall did when he came back into government four-and-a-half years ago, he said, was to start slimming down the requirements for program milestone reviews.

"It is a constant struggle to proceed in that area and to succeed," the undersecretary said.

The Better Buying Power initiatives, begun in 2010, include a serious effort at eliminating unproductive processes and bureaucracy, he noted. "And we're just going to have to keep at it, because one of the iron rules, unfortunately, about bureaucracies is they tend to grow if left alone," Kendall said.

Acquisitions Review

The undersecretary said he has been working on rewriting DoD Instruction 5000.02, the acquisitions guidance document that outlines all the procedures and requirements for program managers.

The instruction also describes the statutory and regulatory requirements imposed by Congress on defense programs, he said, noting that many of these requirements are overlapping or confusing.

"I was astonished, I guess, and dismayed at the length of that section of the document," Kendall said. "Twenty or 30 pages of tables of requirements, one after the other, after the other."

Working together with Senate Armed Services Committee staff members, the undersecretary's office quickly put together a short list of streamlined requirements for the FY 2015 defense budget, he said.

"And we have a longer list we're working on now we hope to get into the next years' bill,” Kendall added. “That table, that section ... we're going to cut it in about half, we think."

Smaller Air Force, Many Missions

The Air Force is conducting its own internal efficiency reviews, James said, noting that they carry a particular urgency for the service.

"Today's Air Force, in terms of numbers of people, is the smallest Air Force that we have ever had," she said. "...At the same time, we also have fewer aircraft than we have had in our history," James added. Those aircraft are aging, she noted.

"I don't want to be a ‘Chicken Little,’ but the sky is falling," the secretary said. At the same time that the Air Force is shrinking, it's busier than ever and plagued by readiness issues, she explained.

"Half of our combat air forces -- approximately half -- are not, today, at the state of readiness that we want or need them to be in the event of a high-end fight," James said. "A high-end fight means going up against an enemy that has the capability to shoot us down or interfere with us in some way.

"...We don't want to forever be the best 1980's vintage air force that money can buy, we want to be the very best 21st-century air force money can buy," she continued. "So, given the budget environment ... we've had to make some some tough choices ... every single one of which has run into some difficulties in the Congress."

Air Force Efficiency Projects

In response to a challenge by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the Air Force will reduce its headquarters by 20 percent by Fiscal Year 2015, James said.

Additionally, she said, "I'm conducting now monthly program reviews on the top weapons systems to try to bring my business experience to bear to ensure that we don't have continual cost overruns, missed schedules, missed budgets and so forth.

"...We're bubbling up ideas from the field, as well," James continued. "We're listening to our airmen and implementing some of their ideas on how to become more efficient."

James said her favorite Air Force efficiency initiative is called the 'Stop Doing Stuff' campaign.

"That is to say, we are rigorously going through our Air Force Instructions and we're trying to figure out, 'Isn't there some of this we can stop doing?'" she said.

On the contracting side, the Air Force is trying to build-in "strategic agility," which would allow the service to speed up production and cut costs in its new contracts, James said.

"So we're building-in principles like affordability right from the get-go. Let's talk about a price point right from the get-go, build it in, hold to it," she explained.

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)