Pentagon Move to Reorganize Acquisition Is the Right Step

pentagon acquisition

image via Arlington County

In a plan recently sent to Congress, the Pentagon calls for eliminating one leadership position and creating three others as part of its effort to reorganize the bureaucracy that oversees the acquisition of military technologies, reports National Defense Magazine.

The acquisition process as it currently exists is a pain point for the U.S. military and the commercial entities with whom it does business. Air Force General John E. Hyten, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, recently pointed to the broken acquisition process as the reason for the military’s struggle to keep up with U.S. adversaries. He argues that slow and onerous procurement processes stunt innovation and put the U.S. military at a disadvantage.

As part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, lawmakers mandated a reorganization of the bureaucracy in the hopes of speeding up the acquisition process and reducing the risk of cost overruns. The Pentagon delivered its document, “Restructuring the Department of Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Organization and Chief Management Officer Organization,” to Congress on Aug. 1.

Under the Pentagon’s plan, the position of undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics will be eliminated, and three new positions will be added. The responsibilities previously held by the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics will be divided between two new positions: an undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and an undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

According to the report, the undersecretary for research and engineering will focus on “closing the gap on current and emerging threats, and on driving the disruptive innovation that provides the measure of technical dominance in specific warfare areas and on the scale and timeline called for [by the national defense strategy.]”

Meanwhile, the undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment will focus on “improving major defense program performance and reducing lifecycle costs to free up resources for further investment,” reports Jon Harper for National Defense Magazine.

The third position created by the Pentagon’s plan is a chief management officer, who will be responsible for improving the department’s business operations and reducing its costs.

While the Pentagon’s plan has the potential to add bureaucracy, we hope the reorganization will lead to further reform. Not only would the U.S. military benefit from technological advances made by the commercial sector, but it could see additional cost savings beyond the acquisition process itself. Case in point: An Air Force and Defense Information Systems Agency Pathfinder program to test acquisition models yielded data showing long-term leasing of commercial SATCOM “saved (DoD) approximately 40 percent vs. annual spot leasing,” according to Gen. Hyten.

The reorganization of the Department of Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Organization is a step in the right direction, but it’s only a small step. The people filling the Pentagon’s new positions have a big challenge before them. Fortunately, commercial entities stand ready to support them.