Defense undersecretary sets goal to accelerate acquisitions process

Defense undersecretary sets goal to accelerate acquisitions process

'Let's not try to design the ultimate airplane or the ultimate configuration of something right off the bat. Let's think about the fact that we want to get something in the field sooner. It doesn't have to be the ultimate configuration.'
'DEFENSE UNDERSECRETARY PETE ALDRIDGE

By 2006, half of the acquisition work force in the Defense Department will be eligible for retirement'a factor that will challenge DOD's ability to recruit technically savvy specialists even more than the already-high demand for skilled workers.

But Pete Aldridge, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, is crafting a plan to 'bring in new people ... with new skills.' The plan, he said, will be tied to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's Quadrennial Defense Review, due out later this month.

At an Aug. 15 media roundtable, Aldridge said the plan would take a serious look at the expected exodus of employees.

It will also promote a concept designed to decrease buying cycle times and put more integrity and credibility into the acquisition process and how it is perceived on Capitol Hill.

Aldridge said he would like to employ spiral development, a strategy designed to speed up the procurement process by allowing the department to deploy an early version of a product rather than waiting for development of its final configuration. This would accelerate implementation and allow the department to get rid of older equipment that is costly to maintain.

'Let's not try to design the ultimate airplane or the ultimate configuration of something right off the bat,' Aldridge said. 'Let's think about the fact that we want to get something in the field sooner. It doesn't have to be the ultimate configuration.'

But some officials have said inaccurate program cost estimates are an even more pressing concern in the acquisition process.

Aldridge said his plan would force the services to be realistic in pricing a program.

'We do not properly price the programs when we go to Congress,' Aldridge said. 'There is a natural tendency within the program management to be overly optimistic of what a program is going to cost and how soon it's going to be available. And we typically are wrong. So we are forcing the services, when they come to a program decision' to realistically estimate costs.

Aldridge's plan would examine the skills acquisition specialists will need. It will highlight areas that need to be revamped and examine more efficient ways to assign procurement workers.

There are currently about 120,000 systems engineers, program analysts and contract officers in Defense. A decade ago, there were more than 300,000.

Although Aldridge is concerned with the potential exodus of acquisition employees and the impact it could have on Defense, a key House committee has recommended that 13,000 acquisition jobs be slashed in fiscal 2002.

The House Armed Services Committee last month called for the Senate to downsize the technical civilian acquisition work force in DOD. The Senate will vote on the proposal this fall.

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