WASHINGTON – The Pentagon’s top acquisition official plans to cut the time for early lead procurement by 50 percent, with a future goal of compressing the timeline of request for proposals to contract on major defense acquisition programs from two and a half years down to about 12 months.
Much of the strategy revolves around things the department can do, right now, to try and speed up the front-end of the acquisition timeline, Ellen Lord told a Thursday hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
For instance, Lord’s plan starts with two moves that she believes the department can do with existing authorities: “Incentivizing contractors to submit responsive proposals in 60 days or less,” and “implementing an electronic departmentwide acquisition streamlining tool.”
Similarly, she pointed to two examples of pilot programs where she believes AT&L has the authority to draw down the lead time for programs. Those examples – the C-130J retrofit kits, and the Japanese Global Hawk foreign military sale requirement – could prove a way forward for the department as a whole.
The goal of those two programs is to prove the Pentagon can get those on contract in 280 days or less of the request for proposals, with the eventual goal of getting it down to 180 days from RFP to contract award.
“If we were granted the statutory authority, on sole source procurements, it would allow us to use our judgment to reduce the amount of cost and pricing data we would require when we have cost transparency with the companies with which we do business,” Lord told the SASC.
Lord is also looking at ways to specifically speed up the FMS process, which she raised as an issue during her time in industry. As a result, she said DoD is looking at “prepositioning production contracts” for yet-to-be-determined FMS requirements.
Those would essentially be prepared contracts with language where the department can almost “fill in the blanks” with the details, Lord said, which would reduce the timeline – yet another step to speed up the start of the acquisition process.
Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appeared pleased to hear Lord’s ideas, interjecting several times during Lord’s opening statement to ask for clarification on specific points and offering broad support to the idea that DoD needs to take chances to speed up the process.
“You need to take more risk [and] we recognize Congress can make that more difficult,” McCain said, before emphasizing that Lord and the rest of the Pentagon acquisition network needs to keep in touch with Congress to explain the work they are doing.
“We would rather have a small failure that teaches us something [in the] acquisition process than deal with a multibillion dollar program that becomes ‘too big to fail,’” the chairman said, to which Lord responded: “We’re going to work with you and your teams to demonstrate how we do it and we’re going to come back to you [if we need] new authorities.”
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.