New Defense procurement chief lays out priorities

With just four days under his belt, the Pentagon's new head of acquisition is sifting through the massive job ahead of him and establishing a to-do list that includes reviews of major procurements.

Ashton Carter, who was sworn in as the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics on Monday, said Thursday that much of what would have been his first order of duty was accomplished during the lead-up to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' release of the department's budget request in early April. Gates recommended major changes in the Pentagon's procurement priorities, including cuts to a number of programs.

Nonetheless, Carter said examining troubled programs and acting on Gates' plan is his first priority. The new acquisition chief plans to review all the department's projects gradually to ensure they are being properly executed.

His second focus will be on logistics, an area he said sometimes is overlooked. With two ongoing wars and a major shift in combat operations, Carter said, attention to logistics will be crucial.

"What's ringing in my ears is the secretary of Defense's often-expressed frustration that the troops are at war but the building as a whole is not," Carter said. "I don't want him to feel that way about his acquisition operation and logistics operation."

Among the greatest challenges will be refocusing resources from Iraq to Afghanistan in President Obama's timeframe.

"We have quite a lot of stuff to move out of Iraq and into Afghanistan … that's a non-trivial matter both to conceive and to execute, and we can't afford not to meet those timetables," Carter said.

Acquisition reform will be another priority, he noted. Carter already is looking into the appropriate role of contractors "from Blackwater security in theater to pink badges at the Pentagon" and said he wants to improve the government's ability to acquire products quickly. Presidential and congressional interest in reforms will be an asset, he said.

"If it is going to be different than other efforts at acquisition reform, it's going to be because of that constellation of people who are interested in taking some risk to do things differently if they can see the payoff," Carter said.

Carter acknowledged the acquisition workforce challenges are "formidable" in a range of Defense offices, including his own. While building a robust, qualified staff will not happen overnight, he said, it is crucial to begin making strides.

"It's a big job to spend this much money on things that are so complicated in such a novel way," he said. "Nobody else buys things the way the United States government buys things, so it's an art to do it right, and you need a lot of the right people."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.