WASHINGTON — A new push by US Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain to increase the armed services’ authorities to manage major weapon programs could weaken the power of the Pentagon’s top acquisition office.
The move comes as Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L), is in the midst of a series of Better Buying Power initiatives to reshape the Pentagon’s sprawling acquisition system.
The upper chamber’s version of the 2016 defense policy bill, the first under the Arizona Republican’s control, contains language that would shift to the service chiefs, secretaries and acquisition executives program management authorities now held by the AT&L.
The biggest changes McCain is proposing — with the SASC’s overwhelming backing — would make the service acquisition executives the milestone decision authority for non-joint weapon programs transferred to or started under service control.
While there could be negative impact on Kendall’s authority, Mackenzie Eaglen, an analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, notes that may not be a bad thing.