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House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chair Thornberry Outlines First Major Pentagon Procurement Change

Head of the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry emphasized in a statement at the Center for Strategic and International Studies the need for American forces to update the military’s procurement process and technological posture. In line with longstanding criticism of the slow-paced and bureaucratic nature of weapons procurement, Thornberry argued for the launch of a reform program that will continue workforce acquisition training, reduce the number of unnecessary reports, integrate commercial practices into governmental procurement, and rethink contracts. Thornberry introduced a bill entitled the “Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge Act” into Congress as the first in a six-year effort for reform.

Thornberry reiterated the notion that military acquisition needs to follow the methodology of commercial businesses and market forces towards increasing efficiency and innovation, namely by restructuring governmental contracts to include incentives (for example, shared savings on service contracts or considering the appropriateness of multi-year contracts). HASC seeks to consolidate requirements into a single acquisition strategy, implemented before any process begins. In 2014, the Pentagon issued a Long Range Research Development Plan and established an online Defense Innovation Marketplace to attract the ideas of private businesses, targeting technology companies such as Google and Cisco, rather than legacy collaborators such as Lockheed, Boeing, and Raytheon.

Another official Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, & Acquisition, believes that another way to reform the acquisition effort is to relieve procurement departments from burdensome legislation. Despite over 250 studies of defense acquisition and more than 275 sections in Congress’s National Defense Authorization Act, results in the procurement arena have been dismal. In a testimony before Congress in 2013, Congressional Research Service consultant Moshe Schwartz stated that cost growth for development contracts has increased by 32% since 1993, that the US Army spent over $1 billion USD between 1996 and 2010 on programs that were ultimately cancelled, and that aircraft development times have been steadily increasing since 1980. In 2014, the Institute for Defense Analyses released a report stating that acquisition policy has no significant effect on Program Acquisition Unit Cost growth.

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