The Section 809 panel offers an important new idea on how the defense acquisition system could be improved to provide the Pentagon greater access to innovative new technologies that are rapidly developed in the private sector.
But the panel fumbled its recommendations with a contradictory and incoherent legislative approach that would hurt more than it helps. That should not undermine the significance of the panel’s underlying idea: a new focus on the source of funding for commercial items instead of the marketplace in which they are sold. This could encourage companies to develop defense-unique products at their own expense. Today, many are driven away when they are forced to accept regulated pricing and burdensome, government-unique contract terms and conditions.
Successes and Failures
We had high hopes when we helped to write the commercial buying acquisition reforms in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. These reforms broadened the definition of commercial items, established a commercial item preference, and authorized waivers to government-unique requirements and contract clauses for the purchase of commercial solutions.
As a result, the government went from 476 contracts under simplified commercial item procedures in 1996 to nearly 13 million contracts worth almost $75 billion in 2011. As our colleague Jon Etherton has explained, this enabled the U.S. government to catch up with the information technology revolution that had swept the private sector in the 1990s and likely saved the Department of Defense (DOD) billions of dollars by avoiding unnecessary research and development and the extended acquisition lead times associated with government-unique products.
Keep reading this article at: https://breakingdefense.com/2019/04/what-the-809-panel-didnt-quite-get-right-greenwalt-levine/