America faces a number of threats to its vital national interests: the return of great-power competition, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and weapons of lethal precision, the spread of violent extremism, and the dangers presented by failed or failing states. Reforming the defense acquisition process is critical for making the most of each dollar spent on our national security.
To ensure that effective reform is implemented, Congress should:
- Ensure accountability for major acquisitions. Congress should reverse its inclination to centralize acquisition authority and micromanage the acquisitions process. Instead, it should authorize the services to regain responsibility for acquisition programs, allowing flexibility and decentralization in management.
- Implement performance-based logistics. Despite the success of previous performance-based logistics, Congress maintains a bias against private contractors. Instead, Congress should incentivize a performance-based approach, managed by public-private partnerships.
- Repeal the outdated Federal Acquisition Regulation and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement. Certain provisions, including the reduction in non-value-added overhead currently imposed on the industry, should be eliminated.
- Reduce DOD overhead. Congress should ensure that the Defense Business Board recommendations are implemented and that DOD fulfills its commitment to a 20 percent reduction in civilian and military headquarters funding.
- Reform the auditing process. Congress should require DOD to follow best practices in managing its finances. Money saved from the proper and timely payment of invoices and the consequent reduction of interest penalties should be put back into acquisition; the funds saved as a result of improved audits should also be returned to acquisition accounts.
- Reform and reduce security clearance costs across the DOD enterprise. Congress should prioritize reforms that reduce cost, push for major improvements in the timeliness of investigations and adjudications, reduce redundancy and waste, and streamline policies and procedures.
- Discipline the Acquisition of High Technology. Congress should define Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) up front and use that to bound requirements. It should also require a better funding balance of research and development (R&D) and procurement; also, having on ramps for new technologies (spiral development) but requiring they be funded through R&D (conversely, barring using R&D funds for procurement).
- Build on BRAC. Congress should adopt a new approach for assessing the military’s infrastructure requirements while taking advantage of lessons learned from the previous Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. This new approach must be global, transparent, and conducted in close discussion with affected communities.
- Enhance the Acquisition Workforce. Reforms should focus on the longevity and Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) of senior leaders.
- Improve Contracting Reform. Measures that reduce efficiency and add cost should be eliminated, particularly stopping the abuse of small-business set-asides.