In this article, originally published in the Jan.-Feb. 2020 issue of Defense Acquisition magazine, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment Ellen Lord talks about her reorganized department’s quest to use innovative techniques to expeditiously and cost-effectively deliver the goods and services needed by U.S. warfighters.
A new year has begun for our team. We continue using the momentum built thus far to propel us forward. Take a look at where we have come from. On Feb. 1, 2018, we stood up the new Acquisition and Sustainment (A&S) organization as mandated by Congress — and on Sept. 4, 2018, we had our first official day as a reorganized department. Of course, we used this opportunity to better shape our organization and acquisition system to meet the demands of the 21st century. Even while leadership has changed, our mission endures: Enable the Delivery and Sustainment of Secure and Resilient Capabilities to the Warfighter and Internal Partners Quickly and Cost Effectively. Our National Defense Strategy was instrumental as we built departmental norms and strategy.
A&S employees at all levels are driving the organization forward together, full speed ahead with several significant projects.
Adaptive Acquisition Framework
For starters, the Adaptive Acquisition Framework has been introduced, along with a rewrite of what had become a cumbersome document, the Department of Defense (DoD) Instruction 5000 Series. This way forward removes a longstanding system of bureaucracy and red tape by turning the procurement process into one that empowers users to be creative decision makers and problem solvers. The acquisition workforce will choose between a set of established pathways and timelines — specifically designed for a diversity of purchases — requiring different levels of urgency. Using the new policy, acquisition professionals will be given autonomy, within legal parameters, to churn up tailored solutions. All of these revisions should allow for DoD partnerships with commercial industry in real time, enabling the DoD to keep products up to date with emerging technologies, and delivering capabilities “at the speed of relevance.”
Improving program sustainment outcomes for the F-35 fighter jet is another top priority for A&S. Developed to replace multiple U.S. fighter jets with a platform that maximizes commonality, and therefore economies of scale, the DoD has fielded three configurations to satisfy United States Air Force, United States Marine Corps, United States Navy and multiple international partners’ tactical aircraft requirements. A&S is dedicated to achieving the DoD’s aim for an 80 percent mission capability rating by defining performance imperatives, metrics, establishing detailed success elements and applying commercial best practices. These efforts help ensure a ready and affordable fleet of fifth-generation fighters critical to preserving air dominance both for the United States and our allied partners in this era of strategic competition.
Like anywhere else, DoD systems are enabled by hardware but are defined by the software used. With the technology industry innovating quickly, the DoD must figure out how to keep up with fast moving software development and life cycles. By engaging Agile and DevOps methods for more iterative processing, end users will be involved earlier and more often, enabling continuous integration and helping the DoD meet its goal to develop and sustain software simultaneously. Based on recommendations by the Defense Innovation Board, a new software acquisition policy of approaching the challenge from the business side is being finalized to allow for these more rapid techniques. Pilot programs are rolling out to define corresponding procedures even further. Along these lines, the DoD has asked Congress to specifically appropriate money for defense software and is awaiting budget review and National Defense Authorization Act spending decisions.
The Cyber Security Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) was developed (using the best industry standards) to ensure the cyber hygiene of the Defense Industrial Base is complete and protects critical information in the DoD. As part of the CMMC, a consortium of unbiased parties will oversee the training, quality and administration of a third party that will certify that industrial base partners uphold accepted standards. This effort was spearheaded by our Acquisition team in working to roll out version 0.6 of the model by November 2019 and version 1.0 by the first of this year. The consortium is to begin training and accreditation of certifiers with certification beginning by June. Contracts will be required to include this certification in their evaluation criteria, beginning this October.
Chemical agents Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) are part of a larger chemical class known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Following a health advisory issued by the Environmental Protection Agency that warned against PFAS chemicals in drinking water, studies discovered the presence of the harmful agents in many industrial and consumer products, including nonstick cookware and microwave popcorn bags.
In DoD applications, the chemicals have been found in firefighting foam used to rapidly extinguish fuel fires. Although successful in protecting against catastrophic loss of life and property, it is now known that the release of PFAS can potentially contaminate private wells and public water systems. A national committee and a task force were established to provide an aggressive, holistic approach to find and fund an effective substitute for firefighting foam without PFAS, develop and implement cleanup standards, make lasting policy change, and coordinate across federal agencies. The DoD discontinued land-based use of the firefighting foam in training, testing and maintenance. Now, when the foam is used in emergencies to save lives, releases are treated as a chemical spill. Affected soil is contained and removed, to ensure that no additional PFAS pollute the groundwater. The DoD has identified 36 drinking water systems containing unsafe PFOS and PFOA — some of those systems are servicing military installations and surrounding communities. In an effort to protect these areas, A&S is using investigative data to prioritize the U.S. Government’s actions in appropriately addressing drinking water issues caused by DoD activities.
Going forward, the A&S organization will continue aligning itself to support the DoD’s top priorities. These projects, and many others, are critical pieces that fit together into the much larger goals of defending the country and arming the Warfighter.