The Defense Department officially launched the third iteration of its major acquisition reform effort — Better Buying Power 3.0 — placing new emphasis on cybersecurity and maintaining U.S. technological superiority.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall released 33 pages of instructions during a press briefing Thursday at the Pentagon.
The release comes five years after the reform effort was first introduced by current Defense Secretary Ashton Carter when he served in Kendall’s position. While the latest version continues many of the core reform efforts, such as focusing on cost reduction and more streamlined program management, it introduces several new areas designed to help the Pentagon maintain superiority over future adversaries and enhance the cybersecurity of the components that go into major weapons systems.
“The original goal of Better Buying Power, which was to do more without more, remains our overriding focus,” Work said. “But Better Buying Power 3.0 really is animated by an urgent concern of ours, and that is what we see to be a steady erosion of our technological superiority.”
The reform effort is part of the larger Defense Innovation Initiative, which seeks to identify and deploy breakthrough technologies that can provide dominant military capabilities in an era of flat or declining budgets.
“It’s a shift in emphasis; it’s not a complete change of direction,” Kendall said, adding that improving efficiency and productivity is still a major focus of the reform effort. For example, affordability caps for major programs based on realistic projections of future budgets is a concept that has been part of Better Buying Power from the beginning and something that continues in the latest version.
Likewise, BBP 3.0 continues to focus on the “should cost” analysis of major programs and directs all program managers to analyze cost structures to look for ways to save money. The reforms also continue to emphasize industry competition and financial incentives. “I want to pay people reasonable profits, but I want them to earn them,” Kendall said.
Among the changes in the latest version of BBP is an increased emphasis on being more responsive to threat changes. The Pentagon can no longer assume that new systems or weapons will remain relevant for several decades into the future, according to Kendall.
“We’ve got to stay on top of what the threats are doing. That means we design for upgrades,” he said.
A late addition to BBP 3.0 — added within the last few months — is an emphasis on cybersecurity. “Cybersecurity is a pervasive problem for the department,” Kendall said. “It is a source of risk for our programs from inception all the way through retirement.”
Another major shift in focus is how the Pentagon will manage its research and development funding. Kendall said the department plans to look more closely at how that money is spent and how it can get more out of that funding, analyzing everything from defense laboratories to private sector R&D funded by the department.
“We’re going to put a little more regulation in place to tighten the relationship between government and industry for [independent] R&D,” Kendall said. “We want to leave industry with the flexibility to make decisions about how to invest … but we want them to be coupled more tightly to the government. Which means we want them to find a government sponsor for that work before they start it and give us a report on it when it’s done.”