The Pentagon is wrapping up a major revision of how it develops requirements for new weapons with the ultimate goal of getting systems onto the battlefield faster.
Changes to the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System (JCIDS) process will now take cost and technological maturity factors into account, according to Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s acting acquisition executive.
Kendall laid out some of the changes to the process in his written answers to policy questions from the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, which is reviewing his nomination to be undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. Kendall appeared before the committee on March 29.
The revisions “make permanent several important initiatives that enable more rapidly delivered and affordable capabilities” to troops on the battlefield, he said.
The changes also improve the “agility and efficiency in meeting the most urgent war fighter needs in current and future contingency operations,” Kendall said.
The overhaul of the JCIDS process is being driven by Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His predecessor, Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, launched the effort last year.
The revisions will align the requirements process with the Defense Department’s new strategic guidance.
Another forthcoming change is that the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), a board led by Winnefeld and attended by the vice chiefs of staff from each service, will review analyses of alternatives and capabilities development documents earlier in the requirements process.
“[N]ew JCIDS limitations on length of Initial, Development, and Production Capability Documents reduce the often redundant administrative burden on program managers that has lengthened process timelines of systems acquisition, and focuses the JROC on the most important requirements for a program,” Kendall said.
The March 29 confirmation hearing started on a tense note as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he would not approve any of the six nominees before him until Congress receives an independent assessment of a DoD plan to relocate Marines from Japan to Guam.
“Until I get further clarification … I will not vote to approve these or any other nominations until I am satisfied that there is the proper compliance with laws that are passed by the Congress,” McCain said.
McCain said he spoke with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about his concerns, and expressed hope that lawmakers would receive answers to their questions during the upcoming two-week congressional recess.
“One of the reasons why [the committee] asked for this study is that the costs have gone from previous estimates of some $6 billion to now $16 billion, with frankly, no really hard numbers in sight,” McCain said.
The 2012 Defense Authorization Act, signed into law in December, required the assessment. DoD only recently awarded a contract for the study, McCain noted.
“We asked for that study so that it would be part of the deliberations in developing plans for the base realignment,” he said.
James Miller, who has been nominated for the undersecretary of defense for policy position, said, “There’s no excuse for taking this long to get something on contract.”
He also appeared at the same hearing.
“We will have a proposal to show you … how we can still make good use of the work that you’ve put forward and that you’ve proposed from this outside group, and they’ve already begun working,” he said.
During the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, senators primarily focused their questions on the billions of dollars in cost overruns that DoD acquisition programs have experienced, particularly over the last decade.
During one exchange, McCain asked Kendall if he was confident the U.S. Army’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and Ground Combat Vehicle programs would not experience overruns.
“I’m not confident that any defense program will not experience an overrun,” Kendall said bluntly. “That would be quite a statement after the last 50 years of history.”
A Government Accountability Office report released on March 29 stated that 96 major defense acquisitions are expected to cost $1.58 trillion. Those programs collectively have experienced $74.4 billion in cost growth in 2011 alone.
Earlier this month, GAO reported that the cost of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter effort — the Pentagon’s most expensive program — had risen by about $15 billion since 2010.
DoD is expected to send an update for all of its program costs to Congress as soon as March 29.
Kendall said in his answers to advance questions that he believes the Pentagon’s restructuring of the F-35 program in its 2013 budget proposal is appropriate to address development issues.