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

New DoD acquisition rules skipped public comment period

The Defense Department (DoD) issued 49 new acquisition rules between fiscal 2010 and 2014 that didn’t include any public comment period. The department said “urgent and compelling” circumstances forced the agency to move quickly on a rule in order to make a procurement, says an April 17 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

pentagon-sealThe DoD’s acquisition rulemaking procedures generally require it to issue a proposed rule first that provides no less than a 30-day public comment period, GAO says. However, the requirements may be waived if DoD determines that “urgent and compelling” circumstances make compliance with the requirements impracticable.

In those instances, DOD issues a temporary interim rule that provides at least a 30-day public comment period. DoD may then issue a subsequent final rule after considering any comments received, the report says.

From fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2014, DoD published 279 final and interim Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) rules.

Of the 279 final and interim DFARS rules, 139 were issued without prior notice and comment before they became effective.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/new-dod-acquisition-rules-skipped-public-comment-period-still-followed-prop/2015-04-21

Backseat drivers plague procurement

Top defense acquisition managers on likened the procurement process in the armed services to a dysfunctionally piloted bus with dozens of backseat drivers — and did so in front of some of those drivers.

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

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

“Each seat on the bus is equipped with its own steering wheel and brakes, but no accelerator,” Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Heidi Shyu said during an April 22 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee.

Each of the drivers, she said, was capable of steering the vehicle in their own direction at the expense of the other drivers. The only thing each couldn’t do was drive the bus forward.

The Senate and House Armed Services committee have made defense acquisition reform a priority, though congressional micromanagement has sometimes been cited as one of the problems with the process.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/04/22/defense-procurement.aspx

DoD stresses cybersecurity in acquisition reform update

The Defense Department is focusing part of its acquisition overhaul on cybersecurity, according to new guidance.

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall on Thursday issued instructions for implementing Better Buying Power 3.0, the third version of an efficiency directive originally introduced in 2010. The directive aims to increase productivity and reduce costs in DOD technology and logistics. Specific strategies include using commercial technology and encouraging more prototyping and experimentation, among other approaches.

The update includes specific plans to strengthen cybersecurity. Though DOD is already working to improve military system cybersecurity, “from concept development to disposal,” the instructions added, “much more needs to be done.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2015/04/dod-stresses-cyber-acquisition-mandate/109885

Thornberry’s acquisition bill: Solid contact, but no home run

Rep. Mac Thornberry’s much-anticipated defense acquisition reform bill makes considerable strides toward disrupting a procurement process that is widely considered broken, but the bill is far from a fix-all.

Titled “Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge Act,” the bill by the House Armed Services Committee chairman synthesizes more than 1,000 proposals from an eclectic mix of Hill staffers, think tankers, industry experts and Pentagon brass.

The bill begins by attempting to improve the skills of acquisition personnel. In the same spirit as Rep. Thornberry’s March 23 remarks at CSIS, it strikes widely, by permanently extending the Department’s Workforce Development Fund; and narrowly, by directing greater training resources towards building expertise in market research. It also strengthens the foundation of the “dual-track career path,” a valuable staffing strategy that allows military personnel to pursue a primary career in combat arms and a secondary career in acquisition. Guided by this language, the system should see a much-needed injection of human capital.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2015/04/thornberrys-acquisition-bill-solid-contact-no-home-run/109642

DoD issues earned value management guide

The Department of Defense (DoD) has issued a new Earned Value Management Systems Interpretation Guide, which aims to pull together and streamline DoD rules for evaluating contractors’ earned value management systems (EVMS) compliance.

According to DoD, the Guide seeks to:

  • Reduce compliance burdens by promoting consistent application of EVMS compliance assessments across DoD,
  • Emphasize the need for clear and measurable technical objectives for planning, performance measurement, and managing the baseline, and
  • Show how program-unique management practices can be consistent and compliant with broader EVMS guidelines.

 

The Guide provides DoD interpretation of the 32 guidelines contained in EIA-748 and is to be used as the basis for DoD’s assessments of EVMS compliance with the 32 Guidelines in accordance with DFARS Subpart 234.2 and 234.201.

Download a copy of the Guide here: DOD Earned Value Management Systems Interpretation Guide.

DoD’s central repository of information on EVMS is located at: http://dcarc.cape.osd.mil/EVM/EVMOverview.aspx.

Fast-paced technologies passing by military’s acquisition culture

U.S. military leadership has known the Pentagon is falling quickly behind the technological curve and opening itself to new and developing threats, but military brass still don’t know how to fix it.

Fingers are often pointed at the military’s acquisition system that has failed to adapt to the increasingly fast pace of innovation and business development. Multiple attempts by military leaders and Congress have failed to make the system more agile or efficient.

In fact, company officials in important fields such as cyber security and robotics told Military.com they have no interest in working with the Pentagon because it would limit their opportunities in the commercial market.

Google took advantage of missed Defense Department opportunities last year when the search engine giant bought promising robotics companies working with the Pentagon. Boston Dynamics is one that had developed drone prototypes designed to help troops carry equipment on patrol and see inside suspicious buildings.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/03/27/fast-paced-technologies-passing-by-militarys-acquisition-cultur.html

Cyber to appear In Better Buying Power 3.0

Defense Department acquisition chief Frank Kendall said the next generation of the Pentagon’s influential acquisition document, Better Buying Power 3.0, will take aim at cybersecurity.

“We worry about the weapons systems themselves and all of the connectivity they might have,” said Kendall, speaking at a Bloomberg Government forum on March 12, 2015. “These are ways in which a cyber threat can launch an attack, you can think of it as an attack surface, if you will.”

When the Pentagon rolled out its draft of Better Buying Power 3.0, it included eight categories and a number of subcategories, and cybersecurity was not one of them. The final version of the document was expected to be released in March; a new release date has not been set.

“We have a long way to go and I’m not sure where this trail will lead ultimately,” Kendall said of the cybersecurity effort, “but we absolutely have to do a better job of protecting everything about our weapons systems, birth to death.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/policy-budget/2015/03/13/cybersecurity-to-appear-in-better-buying-power-30/70271020/

House committee unveils DoD procurement reform bill

The House Armed Services Committee released a highly anticipated bill that is meant to streamline the Defense Department’s acquisition process and better train it’s procurement officers.

The legislation would focus on four areas of the acquisition process: workforce training, chain of command, streamlining reporting requirements and overall acquisition strategy.

“More than being monetarily wasteful, dysfunction in the acquisition process is sapping America’s technological edge and robbing our military of agility in the face of multiplying threats,” says Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) in a joint statement with committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Thornberry went on to say the DoD’s acquisition system is slow and cumbersome and that it delivers “vital equipment years late that underperforms and is difficult and costly to maintain.”

The legislation (H.R.1597) would require procurement officers to be trained in the commercial market to close the knowledge gap between government and industry. It would also require ethics training specifically aimed at the acquisition process.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/hasc-unveils-dod-procurement-reform-bill/2015-03-30

Also see: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2015/03/house-defense-acquisition-reform-plan-seen-step-right-direction/108655/ 

Pentagon: The cost of major weapon systems are finally coming down

More than four years since Ashton Carter took on reforming Pentagon acquisition, the cost of the largest arms projects is beginning to stabilize, defense officials say.

Costs among the Defense Department’s largest arms programs are beginning to stabilize after years of overruns, a recent trend that Pentagon officials say is the result of an improvement project launched by now-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter more than four years ago.

Nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon’s 80 major procurement projects – valued at $1.6 trillion – are performing better than anticipated, and in many cases, have reduced costs compared to one year ago, said one senior Pentagon official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

“I think this is a good example compared to last year and then I think you’ll see it again,” the official said.

Costs are down because the military services have become more realistic when laying out schedules and funding for projects, according to the official. They are also doing a better job of making sure projects fit in long-term budget plans.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/management/2015/03/pentagon-cost-major-weapons-systems-are-finally-coming-down/108000/