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U.S. Army Highlights Acquisition Initiatives

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A joint service acquisition panel held at last week’s Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference 2012, in Orlando, Fla., examined the U.S. Department of Defense Better Buying Power (BBP) initiative from service acquisition executive perspectives.

Initially launched in 2010, the Department of Defense BBP initiative involves the implementation of “best practices” to strengthen the Defense Department’s buying power, improve industry productivity and provide an affordable, value-added military capability to the warfighter.

The event featured live participation by senior acquisition representatives from each of the armed services, with Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) Heidi Shyu offering an overview of U.S. Army efforts under BBP.

Heidi Shyu

Heidi Shyu, the acting assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, leaves the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, tactical communications center during her walk through May 11, 2012. During the Network Integration Evaluation 12.2, the 2nd HBCT soldiers used potential network and non-network capabilities in a robust operating environment and provided feedback on their performance in order to determine their implications across doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, education, personnel and facilities. U.S. Department of Defense photo by Sgt. Sean Harriman

Initially launched in 2010, the Department of Defense BBP initiative involves the implementation of “best practices” to strengthen the Defense Department’s buying power, improve industry productivity and provide an affordable, value-added military capability to the warfighter. The initiative is designed to ensure that essential warfighter capabilities are delivered within the constraints of a declining defense budget by better managing the costs of acquisition.

The initiative was recently reinforced by the release of BBP 2.0. Under BBP 2.0, the acquisition initiatives are organized into seven focus areas:

  • achieving affordable programs; controlling costs throughout the product lifestyle;
  • incentivizing productivity and innovation in industry and government;
  • eliminating unproductive processes and bureaucracy;
  • promoting effective competition;
  • improving tradecraft in acquisition of services; and
  • improving the professionalism of the total acquisition workforce.

Emphasizing what she described as the “comprehensiveness” of BBP, Shyu began by asserting that the totality of the initiative is helping the Army manage its portfolio of more than 700 programs much better than ever before.

She pointed to a number of specific program examples where the Army is applying the initiative to achieve positive results.

In the case of the Joint Tactical Radio System, for example, Shyu said that the Army looked out at available radio designs and discovered what she dubbed “an 80 percent solution of the program of record,” adding, “So we throttled back our appetite.”

She also highlighted Army efforts to increase program competition, noting, “We are now competing at full rate production.”

Another Army effort involves increasing the use of affordability analyses, with Shyu acknowledging that the process has allowed the service to “trade off requirements as a function of cost.”

“If we don’t have program visibility longer term I don’t know if we’ll be making the right investments in S&T [science and technology].”

She offered the example of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), a joint service effort between the Army and Marine Corps in which the Army began the process with significantly more stringent performance requirements. “It took us a year in which we literally ‘peeled the layers of the onion,’” she said. “And for each element we had its cost data.” The net result of the process allowed the Army to mold its JLTV requirements into a more affordable vehicle package.

Other highlighted activities ranged from enterprise contracting reviews and “should cost” analysis to the implementation of multiyear acquisition contracts. She illustrated her point with the multiyear production contracts for Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters, which she credited with saving more than $700 million.

One of the most significant implemented changes involves the Army’s 30 Year Strategic Modernization Plan. Shyu pointed to a significant shortfall in the historic approach in which the five-year POM cycle was the sole focus of many programs.

“I worry about the cliff beyond the edge of the POM,” she observed. “If we don’t have program visibility longer term I don’t know if we’ll be making the right investments in S&T [science and technology].”

As a result, Shyu has implemented a new process in which the 30 year plans for a program will include spiral upgrades that link the program to both S&T investments at the front end and a sustainment strategy later in the lifecycle. She said that she had just finished a review with all program executive officers in late November on the “first cut” for a 30-year plan linked to the S&T strategy.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...