"Here we go again--another acquisition reform effort." That's what many people said when they heard about the Section 809 Panel. When the panel formed in August 2016 as directed by Congress, excitement and cynicism abounded.
The well-known Wifcon blogger Vern Edwards wrote, "The problem is that, unless I'm mistaken, they're old."
It's true the panel of seasoned experts have a collective 350 years of experience in defense acquisition as well as industry. Did their years navigating that infamous bureaucratic morass hold them back or motivate them to fix systemic problems they knew all too well?
Now that the panel's work is done, some observers have changed their tune and worry the 98 recommendations are too radical. So has the panel been too bold or not innovative enough? As operations wind down for a closing date of July 15, panel members took the opportunity to reflect on what the panel's legacy might be, mixing healthy doses of optimism with tempered pragmatism.
In January, the panel delivered to Congress and the secretary of defense its third and final volume of recommendations, sending over 2,400 pages of data-driven analysis, discussion and rationale with corresponding line-in, line-out changes to statutes and regulations. This approach differentiates the panel from previous reform efforts, increasing the likelihood of recommendations being implemented and decreasing the chances they will be misunderstood. The panel also took on "Big A" acquisition--requirements, resources and acquisition--not just one part of the system.
"Other similar reform efforts over the past 50 years have been focused primarily in a particular area such as contracting, services or program management," said Commissioner Larry Trowel. "The 809 Panel touched on the full range of areas that impact the success of DoD procurement: program authority, budget, services, workforce, contracting, requirements development and more."
The last time acquisition reform was tackled on this scale was the Section 800 Panel in the early 1990s. That effort led to the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) and the Federal Acquisition Reform Act (FARA). Since then, the threat landscape has changed and acquisition continues to struggle to keep pace. As stated in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, "Success no longer goes to the country that develops a new technology first, but rather to the one that better integrates it and adapts its way of fighting. Current processes are not...