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.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

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

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

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