WASHINGTON — As the Army undergoes a major transformation, to include the activation of the brand new Army Futures Command, the service is attempting to bring requirements developers, the science and technology community, sustainers and logisticians closer together to more effectively modernize the force.
The Army’s acquisition branch will play an important role in the effort to help adapt the Army to a new way of doing business.
Dr. Bruce Jette, the Army’s acquisition chief, answered questions from Defense News on how the acquisition branch is playing a part in bringing an Army, that has struggled with procurement in the past, into the future.
How will the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology interface with AFC?
I just established a task force of key staff members within my office to help shape the processes, organizations and governing principles that will enable effective mission execution of AFC by better leveraging ASA(ALT). The task force will work over the next 10 weeks to lay the framework.
My organizational team, including the program executive officers and program managers, are in full support of the AFC and its mission.
As you know, my principal military deputy, Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, has taken on additional duties as the AFC director, combat systems. In this position, he is an adviser to Gen. Mike Murray, AFC commanding general, on all issues in research, development, acquisition and contracting.
There is no change in my role as the Army acquisition executive. I will continue to be responsible for the overall supervision of the acquisition, logistics, and technology matters for the Army, and serve as the single office with sole responsibility for the acquisition function with the Department of Army headquarters.
How is ASAALT contributing to improvements to managing talent in the Army?
Talent Management of the [Army Acquisition Workforce] is currently aimed heavily toward the program management community. We instituted an acquisition civilian-only project and product director board-selected talent management program, focused on identifying leadership talent early and providing both leader development and program management experience to build a pipeline of talent from assistant program manager to the PEO.
We are also working to ensure that program managers in the future have additional experiences in science and technology and in test and evaluation.
How is the Army going about reviewing programs, and what reforms might be underway to ensure procurement is aligned with priorities and budget?
Currently, programs are reviewed at least annually to assess and evaluate how each program is performing with regard to cost, schedule, performance, funding adequacy, requirements stability and increased risk — which includes operational risk.
Our Major Defense Acquisition Programs are reviewed at the Headquarters Department of the Army level to the secretary and the chief, which includes leaders from ASA(ALT) and AFC, to ensure synchronization of efforts and priorities are aligned. This informs decisions on statutory requirements … for new programs entering a milestone in the acquisition lifecycle, along with statutory annual certification of MDAPs to Congress.
New reforms initiated within the last year include monthly program reviews to the secretary and chief, which also incorporates AFC coordination for modernization efforts.
One of the key parts to the reform efforts is the inclusion of AFC in the review processes in order to ensure validation of priority, funding and status. The goal is to enable leadership to make informed decisions at key points in the year such as annual strategic reviews of funding across the Five Year Defense Program (FYDP) and beyond.
Acquisition and specific program decisions can then best align with and enable those programs driven by AFC.
What is the Army considering in terms of changing any acquisition strategies for programs that meet priorities, but also for programs that may not fall in a priority bucket but are still critical to today’s missions?
In the 1970s, the Army focused on the Big Five Programs: Apache, Black Hawk, M1 Tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and Patriot. The Army continued to develop, acquire, and field other programs that improved Army capabilities on the battlefield.
Through AFC, the Army will focus on our top modernization priorities, utilizing cross functional teams working with the PEOs, but will also continue to field weapon and business systems that support the National Defense Strategy.
Army senior leaders will continue to determine requirements for the many programs not the central focus of AFC. The PEOs will, in turn, support development and procurement to meet those needs.
Related to that, will the Army have to make tough decisions in the next few fiscal years related to legacy platform upgrades to make room for new modern equipment?
While a lot of this information is pre-decisional, I believe the Army will be making some tough decisions as we plan for the FYDP and the FY20 budget.
This is an ongoing process in which we routinely update our priorities and work across the Army. What is different this time is that we are working to reform our FYDP to ensure we invest in the Army’s six modernization priorities, while remaining ready to fight tonight.
Multi-year contracts are good and bring about savings, but they also lock the Army into five years of buying legacy systems as the Army tries to move forward to buy new modernized equipment. How is the Army balancing this?
Multi-year contracts are issued under specific congressional authority for specific programs.
The key distinguishing difference between multi-year contracts and multiple-year contracts is that multi-year contracts buy more than one year’s requirement [of a product or service] without establishing and having to exercise an option for each program year after the first.
Multi-year contracts have been a win-win for the Army and our industry partners. We do, though, re-look our multi-year contracts annually.
How might the acquisition process continue to reform to find savings or streamline processes, especially as budgets will likely drop back in FY20 and beyond?
Within ASA (ALT), we are implementing initiatives designed to augment the secretary of the Army’s eight acquisition reform initiatives and actually change our culture. These initiatives include expanding delegations of decision authority; using simplified management plans to reduce and streamline documentation; leveraging rapid prototyping and fielding authorities; and leveraging commercial procurement, other transaction authority and other “smart contracting” authorities and approaches.
These initiatives buy down risk, speed delivery of key technologies, and empower our key leaders.
In addition, I have an entirely new deputy assistant secretary of the Army for strategy and acquisition reform. That organization is working with the AFC to look at how we can make acquisition processes more efficient and effective. We’re looking at this not just for acquisition, but in the requirements and resourcing realms as well.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.