Tasked and Ready: The Army’s Commitment to the Better Buying Power Program

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Author: Heidi Shyu

Shyu is the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, a position she has held since Sept. 21, 2012. As the ASA(ALT), she is the Army Acquisition Executive, the Senior Procurement Executive, the Science Advisor to the Secretary of the Army, and the Army’s Senior Research and Development (R&D) official. Shyu leads the execution of the Army’s acquisition function and the acquisition management system. Her responsibilities include providing oversight for the life-cycle management and sustainment of Army weapons systems and equipment from R&D  through test and evaluation, acquisition, logistics, fielding and disposition.

The Army is charged with maintaining readiness and technological overmatch in an era of increasing threats and decreasing budgets. Since 2011, the last full year of engagement in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s Research, Development and Acquisition (RDA) base budget has decreased by one-third, with fiscal year 2015 funding now at $20 billion. This decrement has necessitated cancellation of certain programs, and has stretched other programs’ schedules. In addition, per-unit equipment costs have increased as procurement quantities have dropped.

These funding reductions present a significant challenge to the Army. How does the Department of Defense (DoD) ensure its technological superiority while maintaining, sustaining and resetting equipment coming out of theaters of operations? In addition, the Army must continue to support a diverse set of operations: the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons; training Afghan combat troops; supporting the international fight against Ebola; and countering the full spectrum of hostile threats, which include adversaries as isolated as individual terrorists and as large as nation-states. Our portfolio must span aviation, ground vehicles, missiles, ammunition, tactical command and control, communications, simulations and training, soldier systems, enterprise business systems, chemical and biological defense, and elimination of chemical and biological weapons. This breadth of portfolios coupled with significant funding and manpower reductions posed by sequestration results in very challenging trade-offs.

Better Buying Power (BBP) represents a vital step in tackling these challenges. BBP 1.0 and 2.0 focused on getting the best value for the government: establishing should-cost across programs; negotiating the best type of contracts with industry; and increasing training for the acquisition workforce. BBP 3.0 builds on these past successes, with a focused emphasis on achieving dominance through innovation and technical excellence. As technologies continue to evolve rapidly, the Army must work to rapidly insert and adapt cutting-edge capabilities into its Programs of Record (PORs). Such actions will ensure that our soldiers maintain technical overmatch well into the future.

In parallel, the DoD is tackling the cumbersome aspects of the acquisition life cycle. Working across the Services, the DoD has provided Congress with initial legislative proposals designed to eliminate burdensome documentation and streamline bureaucratic processes. This is the first step toward acquisition reform.

Acquisition Reform

Over the last several decades, many major studies were conducted on acquisition reform. The issues addressed included cost growth, unrealistic requirements, lack of accountability, ponderous bureaucracy and lack of adequate training. Unfortunately, many of these efforts served only to increase bureaucracy, further burdening the process with added oversight.  Ironically, activities intended to improve the acquisition system failed to fundamentally overhaul the cumbersome process.

A part of the failure was due to an inability to concede that defense acquisition must develop ever-increasingly complex state-of-the-art systems intended for operations in very diverse system-of-systems environments across the globe while countering potential threats. These complex systems must interoperate with legacy systems and provide the level of security typically not available off-the-shelf in the commercial sector.

jul15-art-7-secondary-1Several other internal and external factors have negatively impacted our acquisition process. Numerous stovepiped stakeholders across the Army and DoD all have separate vested interests, making the serial decision and approval process protracted and drawn out. Budget instabilities under sequestration have further impacted programs by stretching out program baselines and increasing cost. Additionally, sequestration has created higher attrition rates of civilians who seek more financial stability rather than face potential furloughs.

The advent of BBP, therefore, is a welcome means to address some of these issues, realizing necessary efficiencies through affordability, cost control, enhanced competition and elimination of unproductive processes and bureaucracy. The DoD’s efforts in this regard have already realized improvements, and continued implementation should only produce additional gains.

Under the auspices of BBP, the Army is working to properly address the complexities of acquisition: reexamining its statutory and regulatory requirements, the reduction of which will improve responsiveness and agility; conducting a comprehensive review of Army acquisition policies to streamline duplicative occurrences; and assessing and implementing proper contracts to better incentivize industry.

Army Innovation

Despite significant reductions to the RDA budget, the Army has protected Science and Technology (S&T) funding, its “seed corn for the future.” In addition, the Army has improved its investment strategy continuously by implementing a 30-year planning process, the Long-Range Investment Requirements Analysis (LIRA) over the last three years. We have engaged with the Intelligence Community to better understand the evolving threat picture, assessed the DoD strategic guidance, compared needs with current program-of-record capabilities to define gaps, identified technology insertion opportunities in current and new programs of record, then examined ongoing sustainment needs from a total-life-cycle perspective. The Army continues to identify critical technologies across all portfolios spanning from the material level up to the system-of-systems level. We then look for program-of-record insertion opportunities.
Small businesses are the innovation engine across all sectors of business. The Army has a stellar record of funding small businesses to increase innovation, providing 31.6 percent of all contracts to small businesses this past year.

The Army continues funding more than $400 million in basic research annually. The vast majority of that $400 million goes toward funding innovative research in universities across the United States.

BBP 3.0 will help us develop metrics to assess the quality of DoD research and measure how well we transition technologies into programs of record. We continue to assess flexible strategies to adapt new commercial and DoD technologies into our products.

Industrial Base

jul15-art-7-secondary-2The Army cannot realize the vision for BBP without the strong support and collaboration from the Defense Industrial Base. The innovative ideas from both the defense and commercial industry provide the foundation of new systems from concept development through design, development, production, and integration and test. The Army has increased its engagement with industry, at the program manager (PM) and program executive officer (PEO) level, through daylong Industry Day events in which program roadmaps are shared. In addition, one-on-one engagements with program managers provide industry partners an opportunity to gain insight into the Army’s needs and processes while providing PMs with insight into different company’s capabilities. Requests for Information (RFIs) are solicited numerous times to better understand what industry is developing and able to produce prior to releasing a draft Request for Proposal (RFP). Large industry partners continuously seek out innovation from small businesses to secure a competitive edge for their systems.

Association of the United States Army (AUSA) events bring together Army leadership with industry. Interactions with industry on its product development provides valuable insight and dialogue across all echelons of the Army. International displays and exhibits provide additional insight into capabilities being developed in other countries.

BBP 3.0 will help us gain greater visibility into commercial sector developments and better leverage innovative contracting mechanisms, thereby enabling commercial companies to work with DoD.

BBP and the Army of the Future

The Better Buying Power 3.0 initiatives, especially as they work to streamline bureaucratic acquisition processes and facilitate the insertion of innovative technology into our programs of record, has the potential to rapidly deliver the next generation of overmatching capabilities to our warfighters.

The author can be contacted through Anita Odom at anita.j.odom.civ@mail.mil.

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