By Philip Ewing
Published: 12 September 2011
Big Army may have worried this summer that it wasn’t selling its message about acquisition reform as well as it could, so just as Congress gets ready for another week of defense-related hearings, the Army is back with a reminder of its commitment to discipline. Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, top deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, told a land warfare conference last week that the acquisitions world is moving out to correct the problems identified by this year’s Army Acquisitions Report, which was released to a handful of confused reporters back in July.
According to an official Army story’s account of Phillips’ remarks, there’s no confusion now: The Army has launched an armored spearhead against inefficiency and waste, using the battle plan drawn up by its former acquisition chief, Gilbert Decker, and the former head of Army Material Command, retired Gen. Lou Wagner, who authored the AAR.
Per the Army’s story:
In particular, Phillips said the Army is implementing as many as 63 of the 76 proposed recommendations emerging from a recently-completed Army Acquisition Review, a holistic study commissioned by the secretary of the Army designed to look at improving the acquisition process.
“Through the Office of the Secretary of the Army we are executing the results of that study. The study did a great job in providing us a blueprint for how to improve our operations,” said Phillips.
In fact, Phillips said the Army has already implemented a series of the recommendations proposed by the study such as working more closely with industry, standing up a deputy assistant secretary of the Army for services and spearheading efforts to reform the Nunn-McCurdy notification process. Acquiring more technical data packages, conducting testing earlier in the acquisition process and increasing cost-saving multi-year contracts are also among the many recommendations in the Army Acquisition Review currently being implemented by the Army.
Well, it is what it is. As we’ve heard, “this is a marathon, not a sprint,” so it may be awhile before it’s possible to tell which things are succeeding, and by how much. But the Army apparently isn’t just rearranging deck chairs and forcing everyone to chant “Competition” and “Communication” — Phillips made it sound as though there could be actual changes in store for the acquisitions world:
In addition, Phillips explained that in some instances requirements established for acquisition programs could be “traded-off” in order to lower costs in today’s more fiscally constrained environment. “We want PMs and PEOs to come forward and let us know what requirements are difficult to produce from a technical perspective. Are we reaching too far or is a certain requirement something that does not make sense?” Phillips said.
The Army invites realism in requirements management! In theory, program managers and program executive officers always should have been able to walk in, pound their fist on the desk and say, “Damn it, general, your flying half-track idea is going to bankrupt this Army! Let’s just buy a normal helicopter.” But sometimes in the Building there are things everyone knows but no one can say, until they’ve been given permission to say them — as Phillips has here. Will this new candor authorization help smooth things along? You can kind of imagine a big sigh of relief as people now feel they have cover under which to come forward and try to save their projects before they get to the congressional hearing-death spiral phase.
What do you think — will the Army step up its game?