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Mattis: Splitting DoD's Acquisition and Research Will Aid Warfighting

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis speaks with a group of service members during his visit to Train Advise Assist Command East, September 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike)
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis speaks with a group of service members during his visit to Train Advise Assist Command East, September 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo/Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike)

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon needs to move faster to adapt new technologies for war, and a mandate from Congress to split its acquisition, technology and logistics arm into separate functions will help it do just that, the secretary of defense said Monday.

Speaking at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting, Jim Mattis said the few years he spent living in Silicon Valley immediately following his retirement from active duty left him impressed with what that industry was able to accomplish.

"We've got to open the communication with them much more robustly," he said.

Mattis' predecessor, Ash Carter, had made strides in collaborating with technological innovators, and worked to create Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, to encourage pilot programs and paths to incorporation of cutting-edge technology.

But unlike Mattis, Carter openly criticized a provision in last year's defense budget to split acquisition, technology and logistics into two different authorities: research and engineering, and acquisition and sustainment.

"Separating these functions makes no sense, as procurement and sustainment costs are controlled by decisions made during development," Carter said in May 2016, arguing that the move would raise costs and decrease efficiency.

Mattis, on the other hand, said he "completely embraced" the move.

"The intention here is that we move faster in research and engineering," he said. " ... I want no longer a gulf between us to deny us the very advances that American industry is out there and executing for themselves and the private sector. The advances in weaponry that are out there right now, right now, our advantage is being eroded as they move more swiftly."

Leadership recruited from industry -- including Ellen Lord, former CEO of Textron Systems and now under secretary of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and Patrick Shanahan, a former senior vice president for Boeing who now serves as deputy secretary of defense -- would ensure the transition is completed successfully, Mattis said.

"We've got people in there who know what they're doing," he said. "It's time to roll up our sleeves and get on with it."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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Hope Seck Headlines Marine Gen. James Mattis AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition Technology

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