Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Acquisition reform

Last month, I had a post on EVM reform. Now, that is actually set in the context of acquisition reform in the DoD, a Secretary Gates initiative.

In the October 2010 issue of "Air Force Magazine", there is a description of the five reforms the Air Force is putting in place to prevent debacles like the solicitation for the replacement airborne refueling tanker--twice canceled, and only this month in some more hot water--and some other big ticket programs in trouble, most notably the F-35 fighter aircraft.

Here is what the Air Force is calling reform:

1. Add 7,000 uniformed and civilian procurement specialists, all being new hires, and most being interns with no experience. Get 'em young, I guess, is the idea. About half of these folks are already on-board. [Note: within all of DoD, Gates is planning on 20,000 new hires for acquisition....that's a whole agency in most places!]

2. Resist change and requirement volatility by elevating to executive level the approval needed to make a change.  The air force plans to "....insinuate acquisition pros into the requirements process" early, and then block up requirements such that IOC is at an 80% level with 'block 1'.  Haven't we been doing that for decades?  How is this a reform?  Perhaps we should try the flip side: provoke change while there is still time to deal with it, and be ever open to common sense.

3. Stabilize the budget.  A noble objective to be sure, but good luck with that one in the political climate we'll have for the next generation.

4. Improve the quality of the source selection.  Again, a good idea always to work on process improvement.  In a somewhat shocking statement, the article says that the "....Air Force will execute the source selection exactly like we said we would" in the source selection rules.  What a concept!

5. Align authority with responsibility, the bane of all large command and control bureaucracies.  The first step is increase the PEO's from 6 to 17 to allow a better spread of command.  I hope it works, but we have been working on the A&R problem for 50 years, at least.

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