Eight Actions to Improve Defense Acquisition
By: Jacques Gansler, William Lucyshyn
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has made numerous attempts to reform its acquisition system over the last 50 years. These initiatives, combined with many in Congress, have pro- duced only modest improvements. Although the wartime requirements of the global war on terror produced some significant acquisition initiatives—e.g., the mine resistant ambush pro- tected vehicles (MRAPs), improvised explosive device (IED) defeat systems, the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) precision guided missile, and others—DoD’s overall acquisition sys- tem has experienced little noteworthy improvement. This generally mediocre performance (in terms of cost and schedule) was masked by the ever-increasing DoD budgets in the post-9/11 era. Additionally, during the last decade, DoD’s acquisitions also experienced a major shift. Of approximately $400 billion spent on contracts for goods and services in FY 2011, over half was spent on services (Defense Science Board, 2011). Yet the rules, policies, and practices are based solely on buying goods; and there are differences in optimizing the procurement of a tank and an engineer.
In light of the current financial climate in Washington (with reduced defense dollars), it is likely that there will be increased pressure to find innovative strategies to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of DoD’s investments in order to affordably meet all operational requirements and modernization needs in sufficient quantities. And, as DoD seeks to transform itself for the 21st century, it can anticipate an extended period of downward budgetary pressure. Moreover, growing costs will require difficult choices for DoD just to maintain the status quo. Consequently, DoD must spend every dollar with the objective of getting the best value for the department.