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New Army Acquisition Chief Seeks To Reset Acquisition Thinking

March 15, 2016 (Photo Credit: John F. Williams/US Navy)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The acting Army acquisition chief is looking at how to reset and rebuild acquisition using a smaller work force with more to do.

“Somehow the core mentality associated with ‘equip,’ it was removed or it was somehow abandoned at the implementation of Goldwater Nichols,” Katrina McFarland said in an interview at the Association of the US Army’s Global Force Symposium. She’s been in the position for roughly a month, but has been deeply entrenched in the Pentagon since 1984.

Goldwater-Nichols reorganized the Defense Department in 1986.

“Goldwater-Nichols actually wasn’t intended to do that, it was somehow the fallout,” she said. “At the same time, they did horrendous reductions in personnel – 75 percent of our acquisition workforce.”

When the workforce was reduced, the Army was spending less, McFarland added. Now the acquisition workforce is trying to do more with fewer people.

The Army is engaged in continuous improvement initiatives like acquisition reform and Better Buying Power, but these efforts are being “confused with bureaucracy,” McFarland said, but “it’s bandwidth, how do we do all of these activities in the midst of all the pressures that we have and provide output.”

Putting the Army chief in the center of acquisition processes is one way to ensure that everyone in the service is on the same page as requirements are developed and procurement decisions are made, according to McFarland.

The Army also has to start looking at its future through “threat-based analysis,” McFarland said. The Army has had a tendency to jump to a materiel solution without understanding long-term unintended consequences. “One of the most damaging impacts to our acquisition is the concept of capabilities versus threat,” she added.

For example, the Army, when it downsized the acquisition workforce 30 years ago, removed operational research science and advisers. “Guys that look at the military art of war,” weighing the threat and looking at it from a concept of operations, not just materiel solutions, but tactics, techniques and procedures.

“These folks were decimated,” McFarland said.  “We are trying to bring back skills that have atrophied, candidly, over time.”

McFarland noted that acquisition, in many cases, has to happen more rapidly. The Army is setting up a Rapid Capabilities Office that will function separately from the Rapid Equipping Force, which still handles urgent needs in theater.

The new office will take on strategic issues that are threat-related and pose an immediate and high risk, McFarland said, such as active protection systems and electronic warfare. 

Email: jjudson@defensenews.com

Twitter: @jenjudson

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