House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., has his eyes set on finding new ways for the Department of Defense to purchase technology and develop resilient information systems, he said Friday.
Improving information systems will be one of the most critical investments in upcoming military budgets, Smith said during a virtual appearance at the Brookings Institute. And to pay for new command and control and IT systems, he said his committee will be “scrubbing” older weapons systems and cutting funding to bloated programs — a common refrain that often proves easier said than done.
“Our C2 systems have got to become more durable, more resilient and also more replaceable,” he said, adding that DOD’s “acquisition and procurement process over the last 20 years can only be described as a complete disaster.”
Smith’s priorities as the top House representative overseeing the DOD could have even more impact this year as Democrats now also control the Senate, with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., leading the Senate Armed Services Committee.
To raise tech’s presence in committee work, Smith has already reshaped the subcommittee structure. The former Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee has been split into the Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems (CITI) and Intelligence and Special Operations subcommittees to allow members to focus on tech and innovation.
Smith’s added emphasis on tech and innovation follows the work of the Future of Defense Task Force that he authorized to look at similar issues. In its final report, the task force recommends a “revolution” to the innovation, technology and acquisition systems in line with Smith’s pledged priorities.
Smith said he wants Congress and the DOD to recalibrate thinking away from focusing on this top-line budget, explaining that the number of ships and other often-cited budget numbers are not useful. Instead, he wants to shift the focus to “outcomes, not process,” especially in the realm of networks and emerging technology.
He also turned his ire on his own colleagues, saying members need to stop only voting to send money back to their districts through military spending. “You have got to get past that, we just don’t have the money to waste,” Smith said.
For the new Congress, Smith and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., the committee’s ranking member, recently announced a supply chain task force. The bipartisan panel will investigate ways to improve the industrial base that provides DOD with much of its innovative technologies.