Senate defense bill lays out acquisition reforms

The Senate’s version of the $612 billion 2016 defense authorization bill that cleared committee on Thursday treats shortfalls in the acquisition system as a national security threat while pressuring the Pentagon to accelerate planned reductions in headquarters personnel.

US Congress“This is a reform bill,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz. “It tackles acquisition reform, military retirement reform, personnel reform, headquarters and management reform. This legislation delivers sweeping defense reforms that rise to the challenges of a more dangerous world. We identified $10 billion of excess and unnecessary spending from the defense budget, and we are reinvesting it in military capabilities for our warfighters and reforms that can yield long-term savings for the Department of Defense.”

The headquarters staff cuts and purchasing reforms differ slightly from the House version of the bill, which passed that chamber on Friday, May 15, 2015.

“An acquisition system that takes too long and costs too much is leading to the erosion of America’s defense technological advantage, which the United States will lose altogether if the department continues with business as usual. In short, our broken defense acquisition system is a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States,” a committee summary said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2015/05/senate-defense-bill-lays-out-acquisition-reforms-hq-personnel-cuts/113113

Many projects in Pentagon’s emerging tech program still stuck in development

A Defense Department program that funds emerging technology development isn’t actually transitioning enough of that technology out of the research phase, a new Government Accountability Office report suggests.

pentagon-sealBy the end of the 2014 solicitation, DOD’s “Rapid Innovation Program” will have awarded contracts for about 435 projects, after receiving 11,000 white papers on proposed technologies from businesses. Congress devoted about $1.3 billion to the program in appropriations, according to GAO.

RIP projects have included technology that could improve manufacturing of one part of a thermal battery insulation system, which could potentially grow the lifespan of missile power sources. Another project is a hand pump designed to filter and purify water on the battlefield.

In a recent audit of 44 RIP projects from the 2011 fiscal year, GAO found that only 22 were transitioned to a government acquisition program, a military user, a prime contractor or eventually commercialized. Other DOD tech programs have higher transition rates, often between 55 and 85 percent, the report said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2015/05/many-projects-pentagons-emerging-tech-program-still-stuck-development/112216

Pentagon employees used Government charge cards for gambling and ‘adult entertainment’

A not-yet-released Defense Department investigation has found civilian and military employees used government charge cards to make more than $1 million in purchases at casinos and to pay for escorts, according to an internal report

The Pentagon’s inspector general, as first reported by Politico and confirmed by a department official, found Defense employees used the cards for gambling and “adult entertainment” in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, New Jersey. The IG initiated the review in 2014 in accordance with the 2012 Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act.

Govt Charge CardIn the one-year period beginning July 1, 2013, Defense cardholders made 4,437 transactions totaling more than $950,000 at casinos using their government cards. Employees made an additional 900 transactions totaling nearly $100,000 at “adult entertainment establishments.” The Pentagon said this represented a small fraction of the total transactions on department-issued cards, coming to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the charges.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2015/05/pentagon-employees-used-government-charge-cards-gambling-and-adult-entertainment/112186

Top Army contracting official says oversight is too burdensome to promote cutting edge technology

The Defense Department acquisition process has become burdensome, leaving the Army behind in technology development, said Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology at an April 21 Center for Strategic and International Studies event.

Heidi Shyu,  Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology
Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology

Since 2011, the Army research, development and acquisition account declined at a rate twice as fast the Army budget declined, Shyu said. RDA makes up 18 percent of Army topline budget. That’s $23.1 billion of the total $126.5 billion budget. About four years ago, RDA made up 23 percent of the topline, Shyu said.

“We’ve definitely taken our hit,” she said.

But even with that, the DoD and Congress could do more to help promote development of the most advanced technology, Shyu said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/top-army-contracting-official-says-oversight-too-burdensome-promote-cutting/2015-05-04

Becoming a ‘Chaosmeister’

Acquisition professionals can achieve results beyond their most positive expectations by approaching the current challenges and chaotic acquisition environment as operators — they can innovate and adapt tools and processes, creating networks and coalitions.

These are the times that try [our] souls.” What was said in Revolutionary War times seems as apt today. Resources are shrinking. Our workforce is changing significantly with the departure of the baby boomers. The warfighter’s needs are in great flux, creating instability in Department of Defense (DoD) and military Services requirements. The gulf between Congress and the Executive Branch continues to widen, causing inconsistent direction and uncoordinated oversight. Industry is changing how it works with DoD, adding to the turmoil. Defense acquisition, always a tough job, is getting tougher.

Becoming a ChoasmeisterIs the defense acquirer’s job in a “no-win” situation? It depends on our perspective.

If we approach the challenge purely as administrators of processes, who can only do what we are explicitly told to do, we are indeed in for an unrewarding, unfulfilling time.

If we approach the challenge as operators—committed to innovating and adapting tools and processes to support our goals, creating networks and coalitions that can enlarge our ability to advance our projects, striving to understand the chaotic operational environment of federal and defense acquisition, and leveraging opportunities that come from that understanding—we can achieve results beyond our most positive expectations.

Download this article from Defense AT&L magazine here: Becoming a Chaosmeister – May-June 2015 – Defense AT&L