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New Version of Pentagon's Better Buying Power Coming 'Shortly'

Sep. 5, 2012 - 12:13PM   |  
By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS   |   Comments
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The Pentagon will roll out a new version of its most influential acquisition document, Better Buying Power, in the near future as the department looks to find new efficiencies, said Frank Kendall, U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Speaking at the ComDef 2012 conference in Washington Sept. 5, Kendall said the new version will share some of the same tenets as the original, which was sent as a memorandum to acquisition professionals in September 2010 by Kendall’s predecessor, Ashton Carter, but Kendall did not deliver many specifics on the new version.

“I’m going to be rolling out a new version here shortly,” he said. “We’ve learned from the experience of the last couple of years that some of those things worked very well, some of them have not turned out to be all that productive, others have been difficult to implement.”

Better Buying Power has been the mantra for many of the Defense Department’s policy shifts in recent years, and is considered by experts to be the seminal document driving acquisition reform. The reforms were enacted as part of an effort to find efficiencies lead by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Since its release, the Pentagon announced that it was seeking to save $178 billion through efficiencies in its 2012 budget, and added an additional $60 billion to its target in the 2013 budget.

While describing some of the components of Better Buying Power that he continues to support, Kendall noted that there will be some changes.

“We will be rolling something out which will be similar but different than the Better Buying Power original version two years ago,” he said.

In his presentation, Kendall emphasized two aspects of the original memo that will continue to be priorities: the removal of bureaucratic hurdles and increased competition.

“I think that nothing, nothing, works better than competition to drive cost down,” he said. “As long as we have competition, we will be better off.”

Much of Kendall’s speech focused on the upcoming automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. He said that the Office of Management and Budget would be sending planning documentation to Congress in the near future, in compliance with the Sequestration Transparency Act signed into law Aug. 7. While the law requires that a detailed plan be presented, Kendall said that this type of planning does not make sense.

“We haven’t done a detailed plan because, in part, there isn’t that much planning to be done,” he said. “The way sequestration works, planning is kind of irrelevant. You don’t have much choice.”

He repeated that the cuts would be “singularly stupid,” and should be avoided while describing the implementation of sequestration as across-the-board reductions of roughly 11 percent with little flexibility.

Despite the specter of sequestration, Kendall was careful to point out that he does not believe the defense industry is facing an overly bleak future.

It’s not a depression,” he said. “I would make the comparison that what we’re going through now is a correction more than a depression. What we saw in 1990 or so at the end of the Cold War was more like a depression.”

Referencing the famous 1993 meeting between DoD leadership and industry known as the “last supper,” Kendall said this time is different.

“We’re not having another last supper,” he said.

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