Acquisition Reform Is a National Imperative.

Author:Carlisle, Hawk
Position:President's Perspective

In the words of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, "we need to put technology into the hands of our soldiers faster." No truer words could be spoken. The same sentiment applies to technology in the hands of our airmen, sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and first responders.

The key to getting better capability to warfighters faster is acquisition reform and regulatory modernization. This is obvious to everyone with even a casual interest in acquisition policy. It is easy to jump on the bandwagon, but actually moving forward in this area is extremely difficult.

I am not an acquisition expert by any means, but we do have some brilliant acquisition professionals working with the administration and Congress to address this issue. My intent here is to highlight that it is going to take time, considerable effort, tremendous brainpower, and some compromise for us to move forward. Acquisition reform is a national imperative.

To start to address the problem of how to fix the acquisition system, you have to understand the motivations of the different participants in the process. At their core, everyone wants to support the brave men and women that ensure freedom and security, but there are, of course, additional motivations.

The Defense Department and the services are interested in getting the newest and greatest capability to the field with as much capacity as possible with the resources they are given. The warfighter wants--and should have--the best training, technology and equipment that we can provide.

Lawmakers want to maintain their position of oversight and hold both industry and the Defense Department accountable to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money. And of course they want jobs and prosperity in their states and districts.

Industry is interested in winning contracts and fulfilling the requirements of the agreement, maximizing financial performance and enhancing shareholder value.

Another consideration when talking about acquisition reform in the defense industry is the uniqueness of the defense market. There is only one buyer, with an increasingly smaller number of sellers. The Defense Department as the buyer is also the regulator and at times a very intense auditor, which can create significant barriers to entry, especially from small and even medium-size businesses.

Add to this congressional oversight and control of the "purse strings," and the fact that the defense budget is a very large portion of the discretionary part of the...

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