Armed Forces News

Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s civilian chief of acquisitions, joined Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Army Secretary Mark Esper, and James Geurts, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition to outline for lawmakers the plans for reorganizing the acquisitions process.

Each reflected upon the marching orders delivered by Congress, as contained in the 2016 defense-spending bill. The law restored responsibility for acquisition to each service, with the intent of streamlining the process.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Dec. 7 hearing, Lord hailed recent changes that she said have cut through certain aspects of acquisitions red tape, but said more needs to be done.

“Reforming and improving the defense acquisition system to create an agile enterprise is a continuing process, requiring close partnership across the department and with Congress,” Lord said.

Esper outlined five areas that acquisition reform should improve: long-range provision fires; next-generation combat vehicles; future vertical-lift platforms; a network of hardware, software and infrastructure; air and missile defense capabilities, and soldier “There is a clear strategic imperative to reform our industrial-age acquisition system and modernize as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Esper said.

“You’ve given us back authorities and we’ve been taking advantage of them in a number of ways,” said Wilson. “Before the [2016] act came into being, 19 of the 49 largest Air Force programs.”

Wilson cited the recent approval of a $100-million contract to numerous companies that would improve the service’s space, ground and communications capabilities. The package was put together and implemented within three months — much faster than would have been possible before the change, she told the panel.

Geurts cited the Navy’s quick approvals of the Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV) and the SM-2 Block IIIC active medium-range missile as examples of projects that are moving forward more quickly under the revised rules. Additionally, he said, the Marine Corps has used its newly established Rapid Capabilities Office to move forward with long-range precision fires, unmanned swarm systems, and other programs.

“All these represent exciting new efforts that we are pursuing with vigor,” Geurts said. The programs also “serve as case studies in action that allow us to measure, assess, and refine our approaches to gain even greater efficiency and effectiveness over time.”