Army begins ‘holistic assessment’ of its acquisition program 


                The military deputy to the senior Army civilian in charge of acquisition said the appointment of Gen. Lou Wagner, USA, Ret., and a senior fellow at the Institute of Land Warfare, and Gil Decker, a former Army acquisition executive, to co-chair a special panel will give the service “a holistic assessment” of its acquisition requirements, funding, policy and procedures.

                Speaking May 27 at the Institute of Land Warfare breakfast in suburban Washington, Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips said, “There is an opportunity for us to look hard at procedures [that] do not add value.”  He said that the panel will conduct its study over the next 120 days and will make periodic reports to Army Secretary John McHugh.  (To see Lt. Gen. Phillips' presentation, click here).

                In a news release the day before, the Army said its “review is taking place simultaneously with a DoD-led examination of acquisition challenges and opportunities, and will include an assessment of recent relevant studies and laws, including those articulated by the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and the Gansler Commission Report on expeditionary contracting.”

                Phillips said the panel’s work “will provide a blueprint for the next one or two years.”

                In a later meeting with reporters, Phillips said, “We need to ask the hard questions” about ensuring the linkage between requirements, resources and acquisition strategy. The “hard questions” include asking what programs need to move from rapid fielding where there is no money for sustainment and were originally paid for with wartime supplemental spending bills to becoming programs of record in the base budget, such as the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle.

 “How many of them will stay in the system?” Similar questions are being asked about up-armored Humvees whose production lines have been closed. He said the question there is: Should work be done to the vehicles beyond restoring them to zero hours and zero miles when they are in Army depots for repair and overhaul?

                Looking at the way Army buys equipment, Maj. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, director of force development in the G-8 office,”  told reporters that “We’re good at rapid.  We’re good at deliberate.  We’re not so good in the middle” of speeding up the acquisition process for other than wartime needs.

                “We’re living in a time when technology is faster than at any other time,” Brig. Gen. (P) Mark Brown, former director of PEO Soldier, said. This sometimes leaves the Army in having a choice between “analysis paralysis” where the technology has changed so rapidly that the analysis is outdated before it is completed or “speed” where “no one thought about spare parts” or answering the key question “how does this affect the way soldiers fight.”

Phillips said the chief of staff’s portfolio review will help in this regard.  Using precision fires as an example, “we are looking at all the systems” that go into that area to determine what is available now and what will be needed in the future. At the same time, the newly expanded acquisition corps, one of the recommendations of the commission chaired by Jacques Gansler who headed the Defense Department’s procurement efforts in the Clinton  administration, will play a key role in evaluating programs for their efficiency and effectiveness.

He added that it was it was important for the Army and industry to look at ways to eliminate overhead and ways to reduce programs’ lifecycle costs.

                In the meeting with reporters, Phillips said the Army remains committed to the Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team and recognizes that “a network capability is critical for all those systems” going to those units.  “I’m confident that we’re going to see significant improvements” in the demonstrations of these systems later in the summer at Fort Bliss, Texas. “The Army wants nothing less than to see those fixes in those systems” that did not perform to standard earlier.

                “We’re going to stress the network … to see where the end might be” in linking sensors to soldiers operating over wide areas and at different echelons.

                “We used to buy individual pieces of equipment.  That’s not the case anymore.  We’re buying end-to-end systems,” Brown said.

                The Army is “driving for continuous improvement,” Phillips said. Brown cited long-term basic research in nanotechnologies being done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nearer term work being done at the Army’s Natick, Mass., laboratory and efforts to reduce weight of soldiers’ gear, improve battery life and new ways or providing potable water now or in a few years as examples of the search for improvement.

                At the breakfast, Phillips said, “Our soldiers need support quickly,” but the question has to be asked “Is it relevant today and tomorrow?”

                General Dynamics sponsored the breakfast.