The best thing Congress could do for a while is stop passing new legislation.
Various rapid acquisition and Other Transaction Authorities have helped speed new capabilities to the field. Other changes have helped protect the national security innovation base, shoring up the process by which the Treasury Department reviews foreign investments in U.S. manufacturers, countering Huawei’s dangers, and urging DoD to protect its supply chains. Still other provisions have usefully encouraged more commercial practices in DoD.
But too much recent legislation is burdensome beyond its benefits. The FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, contains over 3,400 pages of law and explanation of law. This act contains no provision as helpful as those listed above, and even repeals an earlier waiver authority designed to promote flexibility. It requires extensive reporting on costs and then directs GAO to do a report on these reports. It contains 77 provisions dedicated to acquisition policy – the third-highest number in 15 years. And yet the FY 2020 NDAA is hardly a recent outlier. On average, each of the last five NDAAs contained 79 acquisition provisions, up from an average of 47 over the decade before that.
It’s time for Congress to take a strategic pause in defense acquisition reform; in Hippocratic terms, to do no harm for a year or two.
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