SASC, Readiness Subcommittee Hearing on Defense Acquisition Programs and Acquisition Reform Blog


The new challenges presented by near-peer adversaries have made it clear the Department of Defense (DoD) and industry must reform acquisition processes to deliver new capabilities to the warfighter to keep pace with our adversaries.  One of the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s priorities is to build a more lethal force. We cannot defeat our future adversaries with outdated equipment, speed of relevance in acquiring and fielding new equipment will be vital to building a more lethal force.

On April 28th, 2021, the Senate Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee held a hearing focused on Defense Acquisition Programs and Acquisition Reform to determine the current state of defense acquisition programs and find the best way forward.  Witnesses for the hearing were: Ms. Stacy Cummings, Performing the Duties of Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment; Dr. Raymond O’Toole, Acting Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), Department of Defense; and Ms. Shelby Oakley, Director, Contracting and National Security Acquisitions, Government Accountability Office.

An essential aspect of the Defense Industrial Base is it functions as an organic ecosystem.  Like the capabilities it provides to the warfighter, it cannot be managed using older methods to achieve new goals.  To keep the DIB, specifically acquisitions, organic and relevant, the department uses competition to drive innovation from large and small companies.  Authorities granted by Congress and Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) allow small and nontraditional companies to work with larger, more traditional companies to achieve a more lethal force.  For example, small innovative companies can attribute software components to help modernize existing programs from larger companies.  For the RFP’s to be successful, the government must constantly communicate with industry to avoid unrealistic proposals to ensure timely delivery of relevant products from industry to the warfighter.

The implementation of Middle Tier of Acquisition, or MTA programs, can deliver advanced capabilities via emerging and innovative technologies.  The Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle and Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) are examples of MTA programs contributing to a more lethal force.  Through a partnership with DOT&E, FLRAA is currently working through 600 testing and evaluation comments towards the aircraft.  The Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle passed its Initial Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) with great success.  Both programs achieved success by acknowledging the operational relevance of the mission, embracing test and evaluation recommendations, discovering and solving problems early, and delivering a capable product to the warfighter.

For the continued success with acquisition and sustainment programs, transparent data must be provided to the services to enable better decision-making and business practices.  Ms. Stacey Cummings and Ms. Shelby Oakley complimented authorities granted by Adaptive Acquisition Framework.  These authorities provide the ability to collect data to allow for government to oversee the success of acquisition policies.  The collection of data from policies will allow a system to view these programs and successes from a holistic standpoint, enabling the government and industry to identify the best trends from a policy and program standpoint.  The ability to build on successful trends and apply long-term emerging technology capabilities to acquisition and sustainment programs will keep the DIB ecosystem vibrant and avoid previous mistakes. 

The National Defense Industry Association remains at the heart of issues to the DIB by hosting events such as Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC), working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill through the Defense Workforce, Innovation, and Industry Caucus (DWIIC), contributing to the House Armed Services Committee’s Supply Chain Task Force, the annual Vital Signs report, and standing up the Emerging Technologies Institute (ETI). 

For more on the efforts of NDIA’s Strategy & Policy team, you can join the conversation on NDIA Connect or follow the team on Twitter @NDIAPolicy.

Topics: Acquisition, Acquistion Reform

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