WASHINGTON — The Pentagon's top weapons buyer supports most of a House acquisition-reform bill, but he hopes to convince its sponsor to alter a section that would give military officials more power.
Defense Department officials submitted a number of ideas about changing the military's acquisition process to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition. And "the vast majority of which were included in the bill that he proposed," Kendall said of the HASC chairman's legislation.
"He's got a lot of other things in there that we're in the process of reviewing," Kendall said of Thornberry's reform bill, which was introduced late last month. "We're going to give him some comments.
"I'm really encouraged by the cooperation I'm getting from both sides of the Hill," Kendall told reporters Thursday. "Both the House and the Senate are working well with us [and] seem to be very open to hearing our ideas and getting our feedback. And I just hope that continues."
Thornberry hopes to insert all or a large part of his military acquisition reform measure into the panel's version of the 2016 national defense authorization act(NDAA). The new HASC chairman is taking feedback on the bill from other lawmakers and Pentagon officials, intending to make changes to his legislation before the committee marks up its authorization bill later this month.
As Thornberry molds his reform proposals, the Defense Department on Thursday green-lighted its "Better Buying Power 3.0" initiative, the latest try by Pentagon officials to deliver weapon programs on time and on schedule.
BBP 3.0 is focused on maintaining the Pentagon's technological superiority over near-peer competitors such as China. As the introduction to its implementation guidance states, "potential adversaries are challenging the US lead in conventional military capability in ways not seen since the Cold War. Our technological superiority is based on the effectiveness of our research and development efforts."
Kendall told reporters Thornberry's reform bill would not alter the Pentagon's internal reform program.
"I don't think there's anything in his draft that fundamentally undermines this," Kendall said. "The thing he shares [is] a desire to remove some of the bureaucracy that gets in our way, and simplify the rules. That's a large part of what we submitted to him."
But the procurement czar did highlight one area of the chairman's bill that he views as troublesome.
"There's an item in his bill about service chiefs being more involved in acquisition. I applaud that up to a point," Kendall said. "I think service chiefs should be more involved in requirements. … They are clearly very involved in the budget. And they're very involved in personnel matters."
But on issues such as "what kind of contract to use and how to structure a program, I don't think is something they should be all that involved," he said.
That's because, to Kendall, "it's not their expertise."
Overall, however, Pentagon brass support Thornberry's bill.
"There are a few other things like that that ... are nuances ... I'd like to work with the Hill," Kendall said. "But by and large, we're supportive of what he did."