Pentagon updates acquisition policy guidance

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The Defense Department’s chief weapons buyer released an update Wednesday to the overarching policy document governing military acquisition that emphasizes custom acquisition strategies that are tailored to the product or service being purchased.

The updated version of Department of Defense Instruction 5000.02 — Operation of the Defense Acquisition System — “emphasizes tailoring of program structures, content, and decision points to the product being acquired,” Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a memorandum accompanying the release. Unlike the previous version of the policy, which contained a single sample program structure, the new guidance outlines several program models to serve as a starting point from which program managers can develop the best acquisition strategy for a particular product or system, Kendall said.

For example, one model covers hardware-intensive programs. Another provides a general outline of a software acquisition program unique to the Defense Department. Other models cover hybrid software and hardware programs, incremental software deployment efforts, and accelerated acquisition programs.

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Senior program officials “have been given broad authority to tailor program acquisition strategies,” Kendall wrote.

Kendall also alluded to the new policy guidance as a living document focused on what he called “continuous process improvement” — the driving force behind his Better Buying Power initiatives. “We will never stop learning from our experience, and we will never completely exhaust the potential for improvement in how we acquire weapons and other systems for the Department,” Kendall wrote. “Therefore, I do not consider this or any version of DODI 5000.02 to be the final word on acquisition policy.”

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In fact, additions are already in production, Kendall said. The Pentagon is working closely with Congress to “simplify and rationalize” a complex set of statutory requirements that have become a burden for program managers. The 154-page instruction includes 30 pages of program categories and reporting requirements to which acquisition officers must adhere. For example, the instruction includes two tables spanning 11 pages that cover statutory and regulatory milestone and phase information reporting requirements.

“These burdensome and overlapping requirements are reflected in the dense tables,” Kendall said. “I am hopeful that a much shorter set of the tables … can be published as a result of our ongoing legislative initiative.”

That sentiment was echoed by Sean Stackley, the Navy’s assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, who spoke at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., the same day the new policy guidance released.

“We need precious little new legislation that will trigger added bureaucracy to respond to new requirements levied against an already Byzantine process,” Stackley said. “My prayer for relief … is that the Congress will first consider rolling back past legislation that encumbers our ability to do our jobs.”

Progress has been made, however, in the Pentagon’s ability to tap into the commercial marketplace for critical components that power unique military systems, according to Stackley. “We’re long removed from [military specifications for] computing systems,” he said. “Now we’re at the stage where the intense demands for computing power by our complex weapons systems are able to be met by commercial hardware inside of a militarized cabinet with military-unique software for the mission. So what you’re hearing is renewed emphasis on identifying those opportunities where we can tap into the commercial base and employ that technology for military systems.”

Kendall has also started work on a cybersecurity enclosure that will address the department’s need to include cybersecurity in the early design phases of major acquisitions and to manage security risk throughout the program’s life cycle. “We must do a better job of protecting our systems and everything associated with them from cyber threats,” Kendall said.

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