U.S. Senate Hearings on Defense Acquisition Reform
DID has covered the defense procurement spiral and tendency of the US Defense Department to begin more programs than its budget can afford, as well as bi-partisan legislative concern at rising weapons costs, efforts at organizational defense transformation, and acquisition reform efforts.
Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and others recently testified on this subject before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.
England told the committee that there’s no quick solution to overhauling the defense acquisition system to make it more responsive to warfighter needs and taxpayer interests – “just hard work.” Having said that, the testimony did highlight a couple of key initiatives underway.
The AFIS article notes that:
“For the first time, the Quadrennial Defense Review, due to Congress in February, will address not only military capabilities, but also the business practices and acquisition processes required to achieve them…”
This effort even links into a subject DID has covered before: the Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment (DAPA), a top-to-bottom review of DoD’s acquisition programs that England ordered in July 2005. Why, despite decades of study and reforms, does the USA’s acquisition system still suffers from widespread perceptions that weapons systems cost too much and take too long to develop?
Lieutenant General Ronald T. Kadish, USAF (Ret.), Chairman of the Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment Project, expressed optimism that the review will result in systemwide improvements. It covers aspects of the process including requirements, organization, legal foundations, decision methodology, oversight, and checks and balances.
With respect to DAPA and procurement reform, this COTS Journal article was also interesting:
“At the first public meeting in July, David Patterson, Executive Director of DAPA, outlined the depth of the problem in his overview presentation. He cited that over 80 new major weapon systems are under development, with a combined cost growth of $300 billion and total acquisition cost of nearly $1.5 trillion. He also cited a recent GAO study of 26 major acquisition programs, indicating 42% cost growth to $145 billion RDT&E, a 50% average program unit cost growth, and a 20% increase in the average program schedule length to nearly 15 years.
Meanwhile, the top five programs have increased in cost during the past four years from $281 billion to $521 billion. Worse, the trend isn’t improving – in the past year alone, estimates of cost growth and development time of those same top five programs grew 14.3% and 5.5%, respectively. Not surprisingly, both the Congress and the DoD leadership have expressed deep concerns over this track record.
All of this does indeed paint a pretty strong need for reform. And while I was ready to be skeptical, I must admit I’m impressed with what I’ve heard so far. I’m also impressed by the roster of individuals chosen to form the DAPA panel, which includes retired U.S. Army General Paul Kern, who remarked that there’s nothing in the policy that stresses continuing process improvement. Kern is the former Commanding General of the Army Materiel Command, and now Executive Advisor and Senior Counselor for The Cohen Group. Also on the panel is Frank J. Cappuccio, V.P. and general manager of Advanced Development Programs at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics…”
For full transcripts and statements from the Senate, meanwhile, this THOMAS page has the specific record of those proceedings. Note that many of the links are in PDF (Adobe Acrobat) format:
- Honorable Gordon R. England, Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense
- Mr. Kenneth J. Krieg, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics
- Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., USN, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Lieutenant General Ronald T. Kadish, USAF (Ret.): Chairman, Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment Project