DOD enacts faster, more agile technology acquisitions process

Information technology programs represent a considerable portion of all acquisition programs within the Defense Department, the assistant secretary of defense for acquisition said Tuesday (Feb. 25, 2014).

In fiscal year 2010, the National Defense Authorization Act directed that DOD develop and implement new acquisitions processes for IT systems, Katrina G. McFarland said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s readiness and management support subcommittee.

So, based on recommendations contained in the 2009 Defense Science Board Report, the department is working to speed up the route to acquiring new systems by increasing collaboration and improving processes, McFarland said.

“To do this, one must start with the defined requirement or capability,” she added.

In the past, once an IT requirement or capability was defined, organizations were able to acquire only that technology which precisely met the predefined parameters.

The introduction of the “IT box” concept is a significant change to the IT acquisition process, McFarland said. The IT box gives organizations the ability to acquire technology that improves on already-approved technology, as long as the changes don’t exceed certain parameters.

In addition to the IT box, the department has introduced interim guidance to adopt “modular, open system methodology, with heavy emphasis on design for change,” which will help DOD adapt to the changing IT environment, the assistant secretary said.

“The policy addresses the realization that IT capabilities may evolve, so desired capabilities can be traded off against cost and initial operational capability to deliver the best product to the field in a timely manner,” she said.

In accordance with the fiscal year 2011 NDAA, the department chartered the Cyber Investment Management Board, which unites IT policy and operational requirements by identifying gaps in resources and in capabilities, McFarland said. But, she said, finding personnel with the required expertise work in IT acquisitions and development is “challenging.”

“The talent pool is small,” she noted.

One way the department is working to address these challenges is through the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund, McFarland said, which is supporting training of IT acquisitions personnel through the Defense Acquisition University.

In addition, DOD is developing a cybersecurity guidebook for program managers to assist them in understanding what cybersecurity activities are necessary at each point of the acquisition life cycle, she said.

“The department will continue its efforts to operate as affordably, efficiently, and as effectively as possible,” McFarland said. “We are evolving our approach to acquisition for IT and recognize the distinct challenges that come with it.”

Budget deal’s lower contractor pay cap pleases many

he budget deal passed by the House on Dec. 12, 2013 includes a compromise on the much-fought-over amount the government may reimburse contractors for executive pay, drawing qualified approval from employee unions and nonprofit critics of current policy.

The bill negotiated by budget committee leaders Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would lower the cap on reimbursements for an executive’s annual pay to $487,000, about half the $952,308 recently announced by the Office of Management and Budget.

The Senate is expected to vote on the deal next week, but if that $487,000 amount becomes law, it would supersede a proposal for a $625,000 cap included in the National Defense Authorization Act agreement reached by Armed Services committee chairmen from both chambers on Monday.

The budget deal’s figure, however, is still double the cap of $230,700, or the vice president’s salary level, sought in legislation sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, as well as Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y.

OMB, stressing that it was required by law to raise the cap, last May proposed a ceiling of $400,000, equal to the president’s salary. The newly announced $952,308 cap has few defenders — even among the contracting community.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2013/12/budget-deals-lower-contractor-pay-cap-pleases-many/75506 

Breaking News: Senate sends defense bill to President, expected to be signed

The Senate approved a sweeping defense policy bill late Thursday (Dec. 19, 2013).

The House, which has recessed for the holidays, has already approved the mammoth measure. And President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.

Overall, the bill would authorize about $527 billion in base defense spending for the current fiscal year, plus funds for the war in Afghanistan and nuclear weapons programs overseen by the Energy Department. The numbers are in line with the Pentagon’s request but more than $30 billion above the levels set under the bipartisan budget agreement passed in Congress this week.

Appropriations committees are expected to work through the holidays on spending bills for passage before the Jan. 15, 2014 expiration of the current continuing spending resolution that funds the federal government. If Congress is able to act in time, it would finally give the Defense Department and the rest of the government a budget.

The elevated spending levels in the new defense authorization bill allowed the Armed Services committees to avoid tough strategic choices about what to cut and what to keep under the spending caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. But it also means the bill is out of sync with the fiscal realities facing the Defense Department.

The 84-15 vote followed a drawn-out partisan spat that at times appeared to threaten the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Senate Republicans, particularly, fumed about the compromise legislation’s movement through Congress on a fast track, with no opportunity for amendments.

For more details on this story, visit: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/12/senate-national-defense-authorization-act-barack-obama-101364.html

Download a summary of the FY14 National Defense Authorization Act at: National Defense Authorization Act for FY14 – DRAFT BILL – 113hr1960rh 06.2013

Army seeks to expand public-private partnerships

The Army is looking to expand privatization efforts to nearly all commercial-like services, according to Army officials.

Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, the Army’s top installations official, told a conference of the Association of the United States Army that the privatization of housing and utilities has been a success and the Army is looking to expand privatization efforts further.

“We will partner with anyone who can cut costs,”  Ferriter said at a conference of the Association of the United States Army.

He noted that the Army’s privatization of housing and utilities has been a success and said a likely next step is in-home child care within local communities. He said the Army will test various business models to make sure they work financially before rolling out something across all installations.

Another candidate: dining halls. The Army is looking at issuing dining cards that could be used at its installations and at local restaurants, according to Army officials.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20131028/DEPARTMENTS01/310280009/Army-seeks-expand-public-private-partnerships 

All acquisition laws to be scrubbed, says Petagon official

Acquisition reform. It almost makes you feel good to hear those words. They connote improvement, reason and good government. But the more acquisition reform America gets from Congress and the Pentagon, it seems, the less return we get on each dollar we spend.

Estimates of the cost of government oversight of Pentagon acquisition range from $6 billion up. The amount of time and money it takes to deliver most major weapons has increased ever since the famous Packard Commission.

Combined that with sequestration and the coming drawdown of US forces around the world, and there seems to be a growing consensus that the laws governing how the Defense Department buys its weapons need a complete makeover.

Today, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, told an audience of acquisition experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that his office is “looking at the body of law on acquisition management” with an eye to fixing it all. He plans to work very closely with Congress on this — as he must. Between the complexity of the laws themselves, their number and the keen congressional interest this is “not going to be a quick and easy job,” Kendall noted dryly.

Meanwhile, one of the most powerful defense lawmakers has taken it upon himself to pursue broad improvements to the acquisition process. House Armed Services Committee co-chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, one of the most intelligent legislators dealing with defense issues, held the first of a series of hearings on acquisition last week.

Declining Bang for the Buck brief-CSIS-11-7-2013

Keep reading this article at: http://breakingdefense.com/2013/11/pressure-snowballs-to-fix-pentagon-buys-kendall-outlines-scrub-of-all-acquistion-laws

Pentagon increases efforts to protect Defense industrial base

The Pentagon is stepping up efforts to sustain and preserve the health of the U.S. industrial base in the event  sequestration continues into 2014 by assessing vendor capabilities, watching for mergers and acquisitions, and analyzing the supply chain as it relates to producing critical capabilities.

Fewer acquisition dollars available in fiscal year 2014 and beyond could translate into a situation where vendors building key components and technologies for the Department of Defense might not have the ability to sustain operations.

“We are now entering the second year where we are likely to face sequestration. The health of the industrial base is a question that is near and dear to the department’s leadership interests,” said Elana Broitman, acting deputy assistant Secretary of Defense, Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy, told Military​.com in an interview.

Broitman explained that the Pentagon’s policy office is focused on looking at vendors’ production capacity as well as the need to preserve or maintain a highly skilled, technical competent workforce.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.dodbuzz.com/2013/09/12/pentagon-increases-efforts-to-protect-defense-industrial-base/ 

DOT cost-reimbursement awards did not comply with revised FAR rules, IG says

Administrations within the Transportation Department did not fully comply  with revised Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements on the use of  cost-reimbursement contracts due to a lack of guidance from the DOT on how to  implement the revised regulation, an Aug. 5 DOT inspector general report says.

The IG reviewed 31 cost-reimbursement awards – 11 contracts and 20 task  orders – from six administrations in the DOT that were entered into between July  1, 2011, and May 31, 2012.

Section 864 of the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act required amendments to the FAR to provide further guidance on circumstances when  cost-reimbursement contracts are appropriate as well as how to support the  selection of a cost-reimbursement contract and the resources necessary to award  and manage a cost-reimbursement contract.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/dot-cost-reimbursement-awards-did-not-comply-revised-far-rules-ig-says/2013-08-08

Defense contractors aren’t ready to comply with anti-counterfeit rule

Many contractors admit they will be unable to immediately comply with a rule, taking effect by March 2014, that would require contractors to either develop a new system for detecting counterfeit electronic parts or forego payment.

The Pentagon is under pressure to address congressional concerns about the risk of weapons systems failing if adversaries or sloppy suppliers slip in unauthorized components.  That’s because the deadline for carrying out a 2011 defense authorization law  calling for anti-counterfeit regulations was almost two years ago.

But the military sector is unprepared for all the pending requirements, partly because the Defense Department has not offered an explanation for what an acceptable system must do.  Industry members told Pentagon officials as much earlier this summer during meetings and in written comments on a draft rule. Officials say they are reviewing company concerns but still plan to release the mandates during the first quarter of calendar year 2014.

“The rule will take effect when the final rule is published,” Defense spokesman Mark Wright said in an email on Aug. 8, 2013.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2013/08/defense-sector-not-ready-comply-2014-anti-counterfeit-rule/68378

Counterfeits can kill U.S. troops — so why isn’t Congress and DoD doing more to stop it?

Sometime in the not-to-distant future, a submarine will sink. An air defense missile will detonate far from its intended target. A Seahawk helicopter will intercept a suicide speed boat headed for an aircraft carrier only to see its infrared targeting system goes dark.

These chilling scenarios won’t be the result of human error or terrorist plots: They will directly result from a $2 counterfeit electronic tucked deep within a billion-dollar military technology.

It’s not a matter of if, but when. Just this month, the Department of Justice indicted a Massachusetts man for selling counterfeit semiconductors to Navy contractors. Some of the fake parts were intended for nuclear submarines.

The vast majority of counterfeits discovered in military equipment are semiconductors, the stamp-sized silicon wafers that act as the “brains” of nearly every type of modern electronic system. The U.S. military is a huge consumer of these tiny products; a single F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet is controlled by more than 2,500 semiconductors.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2013/08/counterfeits-can-kill-us-troops-so-why-isnt-congress-and-dod-doing-more-stop-it/68381/

Senators spar with agencies over war-zone contracting reforms

Officials of three agencies running contracting operations in war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq on Tuesday defended their progress on implementing reforms required in the last defense authorization bill.  Topics ranged from white-elephant construction projects to contractor suspensions to the politically disputed September 2012 fatalities at the U.S. outpost in Benghazi.

Representatives from the Defense and State departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development highlighted their own “proactive” initiatives to curb contractor corruption, save money and better protect U.S. personnel facing danger.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called the oversight hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to gauge progress on reforms she was instrumental in passing as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.  “It is much better than it was in 2007 in every single one of your agencies,” McCaskill said. “Everyone is making progress.”

But she lamented that the majority of the reforms implemented after a bipartisan commission recommended them “apply only to future contingencies, not Iraq or Afghanistan,” she said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2013/07/senators-spar-agencies-over-war-zone-contracting-reforms/66827