Army looks to ‘early and continuing’ coordination to speed acquisition 

10/11/2011 6:00 PM 

The Army has recognized that its acquisition process was too bureaucratic, slow and economically inefficient to meet the needs of the warfighters and the challenges of declining budgets, a high-ranking panel of officials said Tuesday, Oct. 11.

To change that, Army leadership has turned to “early and continuing” coordination and collaboration among the requirements, budget, acquisition, science and technology, logistics and sustainment officials,” Heidi Shyu, acting assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology told a forum at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition.

They also have learned the value of putting prototype systems into the hands of soldiers for evaluation before committing to full production, assessing new types of contracts with industry and examining portfolios of systems, instead of isolated programs, and looking for savings across the board, Shyu said.

That has identified $11.6 billion in long-term savings in the last six months, she said.

Those savings will be important, because Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, the deputy chief of staff G-8, said early estimates indicate the Army’s share of the major defense budget cuts forced by the deficit reduction act is $12 to $14 billion a year.

Those cuts could hit first at modernization and training, Lennox said.  But, he added, “we cannot forget about the soldiers in the fight today.”

Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, deputy commanding general Training and Doctrine Command and director of the Capabilities Integration Center, said the old acquisition process was “very bureaucratic” and “didn’t really have the warfighter representation I would have liked to see.” As a result, during 10 years of war, conditions on the battlefield were changing faster than the procurement system could respond, Walker said.

As a key step, they created the Brigade Modernization Command at Fort Bliss, Texas, to get an early evaluation of proposed new systems, Walker said. “That allows us to get capabilities in the hands of soldiers earlier.”

From that process they also learned that rather than putting all new systems into every unit, they could field some systems, then update them before they become obsolete.

Lt. Gen. William Phillips, director of the Army Acquisition Corps, rejected the charge that the entire Army acquisition process was “broken,” citing the rapid development and fielding of a number of new systems, including the MRAP and M-ATV armored vehicles in response to the deadly IED threat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the pending budget constraints mean the Army cannot “worry about requirements” but must work with “what the taxpayers give us,” Phillips said.

And, he stressed, “Our soldiers trust us in the acquisition community. They trust us to give them the tools they need” to do their job.

Lennox said the prospect of budget cuts have caused him to develop seven “commandments for managing modernization.”

The first commandment is to set priorities. “We’ve done that,” listing the network and the new ground combat vehicle as the top priority, he said.

Other commandments include revalidating requirements frequently, which he said they did in creating a new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle proposal with the Marine Corps, and analyzing programs within the systems portfolios so they can make tradeoffs within the portfolios.

But a key commandment is to use affordability as an independent variable in procurement programs.

Another way to deal with lower budgets is to reduce sustainment cost, which can be 70 percent of the life-cycle cost of a new system, Lt. Gen. Mitchell Stevenson, deputy chief of staff, G-4, logistics, said. A way to do that is through “conditions based maintenance,” that uses technology within a system to tell the operators when something needs to be replaced or repaired.

In addition to saving money, Stevenson said there were several documented cases of the technology preventing aircraft accidents by identifying potential equipment failures.

Lt. Gen. Dennis Via, deputy commanding general of the Army Material Command, extolled the work being done in the depots and arsenals to repair equipment damaged or worn out in combat, while reducing the cost of such work.

Marilyn Freeman, deputy assistant Army secretary for research and technology, said her department has intensely scrutinized its programs, prioritized them and then directed funds to the top five needs.