Pentagon launches new future weapons research effort

The Pentagon is starting a massive research and development effort aimed at finding and developing next-generation technologies able to ensure the U.S. military retains its technological edge.

Described as an effort to create a new technological offset strategy like that which the U.S. pursued in the 1950s and 1980s, the Long Range Research and Development Plan, or LRRDP, involves a solicitation to industry, academia, and small business to begin enterprising ideas on areas of focus for new weapons and technology research and development.

“The nature of future military competition suggests we cannot take our future military dominance for granted. We need to continue disruptive innovation and be sure that we have that differential advantage in the future,” Stephen Welby, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering, told reporters Dec. 3.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.dodbuzz.com/2014/12/08/pentagon-launches-new-future-weapons-research-effort/

War zone food contractor pleads guilty to overcharging

A major supplier of food and bottled water to U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan on Monday of last week pleaded guilty to overcharging the Defense Logistics Agency by $48 million.

Supreme Food Service, whose parent company is based in the Netherlands, agreed to pay $434 million to settle criminal and civil charges for its handling of an $8.8 million contract that was terminated in 2013, according to news reports.

The case decided in U.S. District Court in Eastern Pennsylvania was brought in part by a whistleblower employed by the company, who will receive $16.2 million, plus $1.5 million for attorney’s fees and expenses, according to Bloomberg.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/12/war-zone-food-contractor-pleads-guilty-overcharging/100824/

Acquisition reform? Who says?

There is a lot of talk about the next generation of reforms and changes to the regimes of government acquisition policies, practices and culture.

But two stark examples emerged almost simultaneously in recent weeks that highlight just how far we have to go to create a federal acquisition system that is effective, efficient, responsive to the needs of customers, and enables access to the full array of capabilities the private sector can offer.

One example speaks directly to continued cultural challenges and the other to the mindset that drives far too much current policy and practice.

Let’s start with the culture. In a Nov. 7 article in Government Executive magazine, Kimberly McCabe, the CEO of ASI Government and Dan Chenok, the head of the IBM Center for the Business of Government, made a strong, thoughtful, and articulate case for thinking about acquisition in a holistic manner with an eye toward the realities of today and a very different future.

Moreover, their article outlined a new framework designed to describe and help measure organizational acquisition capabilities and maturity. And, perhaps most significantly, recognizing that the pressure for real, sustainable change has to come from within, the framework they outlined was largely the work of a group of federal acquisition and technology practitioners—from rising professionals to senior executives—they had convened.

Keep reading this article at: http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2014/12/05/insights-soloway-acquisition-reform.aspx

Improving acquisition is part of recommended agenda for next Secretary of Defense

The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a  report last week in which its experts offer up some advice to the next defense secretary.

At the top of the recommended agenda?  Improving Defense Acquisition.

Below is an excerpt from the CSIS report:

“For the Secretary of Defense, no news is good news when it comes to defense acquisition.  Much like the offensive line on a football team, when things are going smoothly, it goes unnoticed. When the Secretary of Defense gets asked about the acquisition system, it usually means something has gone wrong. For this reason, and because acquisition is a highly technical discipline, it can be tempting for the Secretary of Defense to focus attention elsewhere, particularly in his or her early days. Just as the offensive line’s performance is critical to the success of a football team, however, solid performance from the acquisition system is a linchpin to a Secretary’s hopes for a successful tenure.

“Defense acquisition is a massive undertaking involving the expenditure of roughly $150 billion annually for research and development and procurement of technology and total contract spending of more than $300 billion annually. Even a small improvement in performance of the acquisition system can make a difference of billions in the cost of equipping the military.  Despite widespread pessimism on the prospects for improving defense acquisition, the opportunity to make progress is real. The latest issue of the Department of Defense’s annual report on the Performance of the Defense Acquisition System shows modest improvement in trends relating to cost growth. While this recent progress is encouraging, the squeeze of sequestration and the budget uncertainties generated by continuing resolutions and potential government shutdowns threaten to reverse this trend. The result would be a snowballing path of destruction through already tight defense budgets.

“The recent announcement of the Defense Innovation Initiative also demonstrates the strategic importance of acquisition to the Department of Defense. As the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance and the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review make clear, innovation is key to the military’s future. Ultimately, the acquisition system bears the largest share of responsibility for delivering innovation. Last but not least, acquisition will be critical in the Secretary’s relationship with Congress. Senator John McCain will take over as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress, and his interest in, and concern about, the defense acquisition system is well known. On the other side of the Capitol, the House Armed Services Committee has already been examining improvements to defense acquisition for over a year under the leadership of Representative Mac Thornberry, the designated next House Committee Chairman, and his ranking member, Representative Adam Smith.

“There are clear steps for the next Secretary to take. First, meet early with industry and set the right tone. The Department depends heavily on industry’s ability to supply advanced technology. There is nothing to lose and much to gain in keeping the lines of communication open. Second, engage with Congress on improving defense acquisition. The Department spent the last year developing a legislative proposal for improving defense acquisition which can provide a solid basis for bipartisan cooperation. Third, embrace the Defense Innovation Initiative and Better Buying Power 3.0 as major priorities. These initiatives are essential to maintaining the U.S. military’s qualitative edge.”

The full set of CSIS recommendations can be seen at: https://csis.org/publication/recommended-agenda-next-secretary-defense

 

Pentagon may be forced to release aircraft manufacturer’s contract data

A little-known unit at the Defense Department may have to release data considered proprietary by a major contractor under a Nov. 23 district court ruling favoring a small business advocacy group.

The Petaluma, Calif.-based American Small Business League on Wednesday announced its legal victory.  A northern California district judge agreed that the Pentagon should honor the league’s request under the Freedom of Information Act for data Sikorsky submitted to the Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program.

That program since 1990 has authorized negotiation, administration and reporting of subcontracting plans on a plant, division or company-wide basis to “determine whether comprehensive subcontracting plans will result in increased subcontracting opportunities for small business while reducing the administrative burden on contractors,” according to the Pentagon website.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/12/pentagon-may-be-forced-release-aircraft-manufacturers-contract-data/100175/

Government oversight group chides DoD for service contract spending

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) criticized the Defense Department (DoD) for not being able to bring service contract spending under control.

In a Nov. 25, 2014 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, POGO charged the DoD with hindering efforts to rein in its service contract spending.

POGO said billions of dollars are being wasted because of the DoD’s failure to assemble contracting data and to implement an Enterprise-wide Contractor Manpower Reporting Application. POGO also said the agency hasn’t adequately staffed its Total Force Management Support Office.

“POGO has reason to believe that this is being done at the urging of the service contractors themselves,” POGO said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/pogo-chides-dod-service-contract-spending/2014-12-02

Read POGO’s Nov. 25, 2015 letter at: http://pogoarchives.org/m/co/pogo_ics_ltr_to_dod_%2020141125.pdf 

Read GAO’s Nov. 19, 2014 report containing finding that DoD had incomplete inventories of its service contracts at: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-88

DoD IG: Some Defense contract audits rely on inaccurate pricing data

The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), which provides audit and financial advisory services to the Defense Department, hasn’t advised contracting officers on proper cost and pricing data, according to a recently released report from DoD’s inspector general.

As part of the IG’s oversight responsibility of the agency, it evaluated a cross section of 16 DCAA contract audits completed between October 2011 and February 2013.

The review included five audits of forward-pricing proposals as well as 11 audits of incurred cost proposals and other audit types, the report says. The IG identified one or more significant problems associated with 13 of the 16 audits.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/dod-ig-some-defense-contract-audits-rely-inaccurate-pricing-data/2014-11-04

Scraping off the barnacles of the defense acquisition system

The defense acquisition system is like an 18th century wooden warship that has been out to sea for too long, accumulating such a surfeit of barnacles that it can barely float, let alone operate under full speed. It has been 20 years since the last time the acquisition system was overhauled in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) of 1994 and since then an excess of new laws, regulations, policies, practices and procedures have been added to the system. It is time to again scrape off these barnacles, and with a nod to the Royal Navy in the 1780s, attach a new copper bottom to prevent future infestation.

This is not just about efficiency and the ability to move faster — although that is important. Acquisition reform is necessary to maintain the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) current technological and military supremacy over potential rivals in the coming decades or risk falling behind more nimble innovators.

Real acquisition reform will be a multi-year effort to ultimately design a new system from the ground up, but the first step is that much of what is old should be reviewed for relevance. This should start with a zero-based assessment that determines the need for current acquisition laws, rules, regulations and practices.

One way to begin this process would be to enact a legislative sunset of procurement laws to require Congress to review the existing system in its entirety rather than just add to it. Current laws should be given a mandated periodic review — ideally of five years while any new legislation that requires an action should pass with a sunset on them. Legislation that waives or provides exemptions to the current process should however remain permanent until the underlying reason for the exemption is eliminated.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/394/3721463/Scraping-off-the-barnacles-of-the-defense-acquisition-system

Charts show what Defense personnel think about the acquisition process

While the mid-term elections have raised uncertainty about government operations under a Republican-controlled Congress, one area where observers expect to see some action is in an overhaul of the way the Pentagon buys weapons. The current system takes far too long and creates enormous uncertainty for both industry and the military services. Too often, programs cost more and take far longer to develop than planned, and by the time new weapons are actually fielded, the technology is outdated.

Confidence in BBP- 11.2014Although there’s a lot of debate about what to do, there’s plenty of bipartisan agreement that something serious needs to be done. For more than a year, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Mac Thornberry have been exploring various reforms with their colleagues. In 2015, the Republicans from Arizona and Texas, respectively, will be in positions to advance some of those ideas.

Early last month, the Senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations published a compendium of essays by assorted experts on the Defense Department’s system for buying new weapons. The contributors were engineers, bureaucrats, industry executives and political players from both parties. Their views on reform differed, but there was widespread agreement on the need to create more effective incentives for industry as well as the acquisition workforce.

To get a sense of how Defense personnel perceive the problem, we asked Government Business Council, Government Executive’s research arm, to take a poll of our readers. An October poll of 378 Defense Department employees found that few are confident that the acquisition process provides the weapons and equipment the military needs, less than half believe defense industry has the capacity to innovate to ensure U.S.technological superiority, and, perhaps most troubling for military leaders, the vast majority doesn’t think the Pentagon’s premier reform initiative—Better Buying Power—is working.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/management/2014/11/6-charts-show-what-defense-personnel-really-think-about-acquisition-process/98792

How DoD’s procurement problems are hurting national security

Frank Kendall cringes when he hears the term “acquisition reform.” The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer instead prefers the term “acquisition improvement,” which he says focuses more on the continued refinement of the entire process by which the Defense Department conceives, develops and purchases everything from ships and aircraft to trucks and ammunition.

By almost any measure, the system is broken. Consider this: The Defense Department spent at least $46 billion between 2001 and 2011 on a dozen weapons systems that never even entered production, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The two most expensive programs were run by the Army. The service spent $18 billion on the Future Combat Systems—a collection of networked vehicles and sensors—and nearly $8 billion on the Comanche stealth helicopter. That’s more money wasted in just two programs than the combined annual budgets of NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Read the entire feature cover story from the special defense edition of Government Executive magazine by clicking here.