Finding a Cure for What Ails Defense Acquisition
Originally published in Government Executive.
By Alex Haber & Raj Sharma
Around the nation’s capital, defense acquisition reform is surely in vogue. Last month, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, capped off his multiyear expedition in this space with the unveiling of a House bill to modernize the Pentagon contracting. On the other side of Capitol Hill, Sen. John McCain. R-Ariz., and the Senate Armed Services Committee have taken up the issue as well.
Enter Frank Kendall. Just a few short weeks after Thornberry put his stake in the ground, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition, logistics, and technology released Better Buying Power 3.0. The initiative complements Thornberry’s broad legislative push with a set of tactical recommendations that aim to coax the many stakeholders in the defense sector toward more efficient collaboration and more effective outcomes. Though BBP 3.0’s provisions get way down into the weeds of the Defense Department’s acquisition machine, its fundamental (and lofty) goal is to protect American “technological superiority.” In this light, the initiative builds on earlier versions appropriately in certain respects and falls short in others.
While the message is “stay the course” in some areas, this latest cut ventures into new terrain in several ways to preserve the military’s technological edge. BBP 3.0 reinvigorates “prototyping and experimentation” to get greater capabilities out to soldiers at a faster clip. The initiative also promotes stronger long-range research and development efforts, positioning the Pentagon to harness new technologies for tomorrow as well as for 2030. It’s a prudent, yet ambitious campaign.
Alex Haber is a business analyst in the national security practice at Censeo Consulting Group. Raj Sharma is the Censeo’s CEO and co-founder.