The Pentagon’s chief buyer laid out his plan to reform a broken acquisition process, beginning with ending costly weapons programs that are over budget or behind schedule. Questioning whether the military “gets a full dollar of capability for every defense dollar we spend on new technology,” deputy defense secretary William Lynn proposed using more independent cost estimates, more fixed-price contracts and a more rigorous requirements process.
The current acquisition system is plagued by a risk averse culture, parochial interests, a litigious process, excessive and changing requirements and never-ending budget churn, Lynn said. [Those parochial interests get their chance to start striking back on Thursday, when Lynn said the budget will be presented to Congress and to the public.]
Echoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates' strategic vision, Lynn said the military must be "rebalanced towards irregular warfare while still hedging against the longer term risk of larger and more sophisticated adversaries." The shift towards irregular warfare, “rebalancing” the force, includes buying more reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft, particularly aerial drones, boosting the number of special operators, and providing more advisors and money to train and equip foreign militaries to hunt down terrorists and battle insurgents.
Speaking to the Navy Leagues’ Sea-Air-Space Exposition in Washington on Tuesday, Lynn said the Navy is weighted too heavily towards large battle fleet engagements on the open ocean, where it enjoys a “healthy margin of dominance,” and not enough towards battling smaller enemies in coastal waters. He said the Navy’s fleet tonnage is far larger than any combination of enemies and that a single carrier battle group greatly exceeds the striking power of the entire navies of potential adversaries.
"The Navy must be ready for counterinsurgency and other irregular operations which means dealing with non-state actors at sea or near shore, or with a swarm of speedboats sent by militia groups or hostile countries." That means the Navy needs more ships, Lynn said, but smaller, faster more maneuverable ships, not large line of battle ships. The new Littoral Combat Ship is best suited for fighting enemies in shallow waters and patrolling pirate infested sea lanes, he said, and DoD is accelerating its plans to buy 55 of the new ships. The 2010 budget will also boost inter-theater lift by buying 4 Joint High Speed Vessels.
Missile defense should shift toward theater protection, Lynn said, and the budget will accelerate production of the "most capable" systems, including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system and the sea based Standard Missile-3 program. Additionally, six Aegis additional class ships will be converted to provide theater missile defense.
As for acquisition reform, Lynn said he wants a weapons buying process that can quickly respond to the critical and often rapidly changing demands of troops on the battlefield who face adaptive enemies. To achieve real acquisition reform, Lynn said DOD is pursuing five initiatives:
• Build a larger and better trained acquisition work force.
• Develop a more disciplined front end requirements process.
• Place greater reliance on independent cost estimates.
• Develop a tighter execution process that will make more use of fixed price contracts.
• A greater willingness to cancel poor performing programs.
“Acquisition reform is not easy. It's an enormously complex and large undertaking, many smart people have tried only to meet with limited success," Lynn said, adding that Congress and the Pentagon must be careful not to make the system worse while trying to reform the process.
Photo: Navy League