WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense is looking at a greater realignment of the roles held by the undersecretary of defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics, or AT&L, than is required by Congress, and the agency hopes to craft a chief management officer position to handle departmentwide business processes, according to a memo obtained by Defense News.
The two-page memo, written by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work and sent to the heads of the House and Senate Armed Services committees and those that cover defense appropriations on March 1, lays out the basics of an interim report now sitting with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act instructed the Pentagon to devolve AT&L into two separate offices, undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, or A&S, and a new undersecretary for research and engineering, or R&E, essentially a chief technology officer. Those changes are supposed to be in place by Feb. 1, 2018.
In addition, the NDAA asks for an understanding of how a chief management officer, or CMO, position could be created.
In order to reach that goal, Congress required an interim report by March 1, with a final assessment due on Aug. 1, on how the Pentagon will move forward with the changes.
Notably, Work pledges in the memo to have the final report to Congress done "either in late spring or early summer" in order to make sure the committees have enough time to incorporate the feedback into the 2018 NDAA.
He also predicts "that DoD will need further conforming and technical amendments in future legislation in order to clear establishment provisions, including appointment and qualification requirements, duties and powers, and precedence."
Given the length of the memo, few details are included. But one relevant aspect is a note saying the department is looking at the realignment of legacy AT&L functions and whether they should go to other offices at the Office of the Secretary of Defense level or devolve to the services.
The question of how the two A&S and R&E offices will interact, which will be superior in the decision-making chain, and which parts of AT&L will go where has been left intentionally vague by Congress, which wanted to provide flexibility for the Pentagon to make its best recommendations. Analysts have said flexibility is important given the number of unknowns about how the devolution of AT&L will occur.
As to the question of the CMO, the Pentagon is "looking carefully" at the responsibilities associated with the position.
"Our goal is to create a position that will attract the best qualified candidate who possesses the requisite business acumen to optimize the business operations of the Department and to give that person the requisite authority to improve the performance of the business operations of the Department," the memo reads. "The focus would address responsibilities for both Department-wide business processes and more focused responsibilities for processes within Office of the Secretary of Defense and defense/field agencies."
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.