New Approaches for Defense Acquisition Reform

As the pace of new defense innovation increases at an astounding rate, more needs to be done to train and empower procurement officers to acquire the right defense solutions.

This was the key takeaway from a recent Congressional hearing aimed at uncovering new and better ways to enhance how the Department of Defense (DoD) purchases new solutions and innovations.

In addition, industry experts called for less micromanagement, more process transparency with industry partners, as well as better job incentives for procurement officers and program managers. 

Echoing that view was Brett Lambert, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing & Industrial Base Policy and now with the National Defense Industrial Association. “In my opinion, it ultimately comes back to people,” he said in a recent SIGNAL Magazine article.  “How talented are they? How well are they trained? How empowered are they to make the necessary call on any one procurement action, and are they rewarded for thinking? And how supported will they be when they get it wrong—which will occur in any human endeavor?”

As previously highlighted on Satcom Frontier, industry has already played a role in helping enhance the acquisition of commercial SATCOM solutions, especially during tighter budget times.  These include spreading space capabilities onto multiple platforms or systems; having government hosted payloads on commercial satellites; and reforming acquisition policies to allow the DoD customer to buy SATCOM more efficiently.

In addition in 2013, executives from several of the leading commercial satellite firms – including Intelsat General – developed seven practical steps that would allow the DoD to save money, while ensuring reliable access to commercial SATCOM services.

One of the most critical steps from this strategy document was to improve collaboration with industry to best optimize the existing space architecture to include commercial systems.  By doing so, commercial operators can do a better job at accommodating the DoD’s long-term SATCOM requirements.   

Changing how the DoD purchases new innovations is no small task.  However, by taking into account some of the key suggestions from industry members and others, it will be possible to effectively reform the overall acquisition process.

As the pace of innovation increases, along with the threat vector to U.S. national security, Congress and others need to remove existing acquisition barriers to allow the United States to remain a global defense leader.