Defense acquisition professionals need to apply common-sense thinking as they make decisions, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics said here today.
Frank Kendall issued a memo on the “Better Buying Power 2.0” that re-emphasized the power people have in the acquisition process and seven common-sense ways that acquisition and contracting personnel can achieve greater efficiencies and productivity.
Kendall is building on the original Better Buying Power memo issued three years ago. He stressed that the 2.0 version is a continuous improvement process.
“It’s not about acquisition reform, or transformational change,” he said during a media roundtable at the Pentagon. “It’s really about attacking all the many problems that exist in how we do acquisition and making incremental improvements wherever we can.”
The memo directs personnel to achieve affordable programs, to control costs throughout products’ life cycles, to provide incentives for industrial productivity and innovation, to eliminate unproductive processes and bureaucracy, and to promote effective competition.
The memo also calls on personnel to improve tradecraft in the acquisition of services and to improve the professionalism of the total acquisition workforce.
“There is a flavor that runs through 2.0 of, ‘Here are the tools you need, and here is the way you should be thinking about the problems that you have to solve. But you have to solve them,’” Kendall said.
The memo tells acquisition personnel first to think — to apply their education, training and experience to the process. It also talks about good decision making and the need to streamline the decision-making process.
“People, to me, are central to this [process],” Kendall said. “I’ve also made it a point that it will take cultural change to do a better job.”
It sounds like an oxymoron, but money has value, Kendall said. And while the Defense Department always has tried to be a good financial steward, the incentives often seem to work against that.
“Obligation rates as a key example of that — where we effectively punish people for not spending their money,” he said. “That’s not how you negotiate a good contract.”
If acquisition professionals can return money to the department or buy additional product for their service or program, that should be rewarded, Kendall added.
“People shouldn’t just take the budget as a given and take it as their job to spend that budget,” the undersecretary said. “Their job is to get as much value as they possibly can — one way is to get more content for that money, and another is to not spend as much.”
Kendall said he believes contracting personnel are embracing that idea and that it’s becoming institutionalized throughout DOD.
Leadership is part of the whole process, and Better Buying Power 2.0 emphasizes the need for people to lead, he said.
“We have a lot of very good people, but I think we can improve,” he added. “We need to build our professionalism.”
The importance of DOD getting its money’s worth is especially important now that money is tight and sequestration has hit, Kendall said.
“Even though the workforce is out there trying to come to grips with sequestration, we also have to improve how we do our business in general,” he said. “This is not going to go away, no matter what the fiscal situation is.”