National Association of Government Contractors

Lawmakers Face Calls for Reform of DOD Acquisition

A former Air Force acquisition chief, appearing before congress, decried the worsening state of the DoD system meant to quickly send new military equipment to troops.

"Our ability to deliver things quickly to the warfighter, other than through workarounds like the MRAP [Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle], is worse than it's ever been," William LaPlante told the House Armed Services Committee.

LaPlante, the service's assistant secretary for acquisition during the Obama administration, was referring to the Pentagon's rapid fielding of MRAPs to Iraq when it was discovered that Humvees did not protect from underbody blasts.

Lawmakers questioned LaPlante and other members of the Section 809 Panel -- a research panel created under the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) -- on how to improve the way the military buys weapons and equipment.

LaPlante said some acquisition issues stem from fear of using sole-source contracts in an era where competition is heavily pushed.

Pentagon officials "bend over backwards to do competition," he said. "When there is an obvious, quick solution ready to go, by just going sole source because it fits the mission, there is a very big reluctance to do it."

Deidre Lee, the former director of defense procurement and acquisition policy, added that too many acquisition policies bog down the system.

"Individually each one has a constituency, has a value and probably a very good purpose," she told lawmakers. "Cumulatively they are clogging the system. I think it's going to be a very difficult question to say, 'What are the priorities?' "

The panel on Wednesday also released an interim report that reviews regulations and makes recommendations for streamlining the defense acquisition process.

"I think my favorite sentence is where the report says the way the Department of Defense buys what it needs to equip its warfighters is from another era," said Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).

"None of us can afford to have that situation continue because the era we are in is dangerous enough and it's not stopping to wait on us."

The hearing comes a day before Thornberry will unveil an acquisition reform package, his third such legislation over three years.

Thornberry earlier this month revealed that the bill would address "streamlining some of the legislative requirements that have built up over the years that tie the department's hands."

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