In March 2014, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees wrote a letter to NDIA requesting our input to their acquisition reform efforts for the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. Industry, the Pentagon, and the Congress all have reached consensus that reform is not just desirable, it is essential in this period of budget austerity. In order to properly respond to the Committees’ request for input, MajGen (Ret.) Arnold Punaro, then-Chairman of NDIA’s Board, named Jon Etherton as NDIA’s Senior Fellow for Acquisition Policy to lead the effort. Etherton has over 30 years of experience working in and with Congress and the Executive Branch on national security funding and policy issues with 18 years as a staff member in the United States Senate, including 14 years on the professional staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee. On the Committee staff, Etherton was responsible for managing acquisition policy legislation and oversight for the Committee during that time frame. He has remained engaged in those issues ever since.
Etherton presented a framework of problem areas that helped shape his prior testimony to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to NDIA members at a May 29, 2014 kick-off event, which brought together defense industry, government, and congressional representatives. The feedback from this meeting helped informed a July 10, 2014 letter to update the Committees on our progress. From there, participants broke into 9 working groups that performed in-depth research and developed problem statements and recommendations that were presented at a July 29, 2014 meeting. The working groups focused on the following subject areas:
- Divergence of Government-Unique and General Private Sector Practices
- Leadership and Accountability
- Measuring the Performance of the Defense Acquisition System
- Effectiveness of Small Business Programs
- Contract Strategy
- Contract Finance
- Capabilities of the Acquisition Workforce
- Boundary Conditions
- Services/IT/Cyber Acquisition
Based on the presentations and discussion at each of the events, and continued conversations with stakeholders in the government and industry, NDIA authored the final Pathways to Transformation: NDIA Acquisition Reform Recommendations report, which was submitted to the Committees on December 2, 2014. NDIA followed up the report with feedback to the House Armed Services Committee when it released the Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Superiority Act in March, 2015.