Could Real Defense Acquisition Reform Be Afoot?

Could Real Defense Acquisition Reform Be Afoot?

Forces might be converging that could lead to significant Pentagon acquisition reform, and a group of House Democrats is pushing pages of ideas.

For months, House Armed Services Committee (HASC) leaders have been conducting a major reform study. Because that effort is being led by the panel’s likely next chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, insiders say much of it could become law.

But before that study is finalized, the 55-member New Democratic Coalition is floating nearly a dozen pages of findings and recommendations to “streamline and upgrade the acquisitions process.” The coalition’s report states “it is clear that acquisition reforms are needed.”

Collectively, the recommendations are intended to “address specific acquisition changes that would benefit the acquisition system, without claiming to address every problem.”

“Our hope is this … should yield some solid improvements over time. I believe this is going to be an evolving work in progress,” Rep. Derek Kilmer of Washington, a New Democratic Coalition member, told Defense News last week. He also is a House Armed Services Committee member.

David Berteau, a former Pentagon official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said “there are some good ideas” in the Democrats’ report. He also said sweeping changes to the Pentagon’s buying system could be afoot.

“I really think we have a better chance of getting real changes, both in legislation and inside the department, than at any time in the last 20 years,” Berteau said. “I am both optimistic about the possibilities and excited about it.”

He said officials “actually have to deal with the process more forthrightly,” Berteau said. And powerful and motivated individuals like Thornberry, HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall all are working on reform ideas or enacting actual changes.

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