Pentagon official seeks support for contracting initiatives

The Pentagon's top acquisition executive told an Air Force audience Wednesday that implementing the set of sweeping acquisition reforms was essential because without them, the nation could not give the troops the capabilities they need as defense budgets get tighter.

And to the Air Force officers and industry representatives in the audience, Ashton Carter said those who hope the department will be unable to achieve the proposed reforms, "you have to consider the alternatives."

Carter listed as potential consequences: broken or canceled programs, "uncertainty and turbulence in the budget, market uncertainty, difficulty for industry, erosion in the confidence of the taxpayer that they are getting value for their dollars ... and foregone military capabilities."

But on the positive side, Carter said part of the acquisition improvement effort was to "incentivize productivity and innovation in industry" and that "profit is a perfectly appropriate topic" for the defense acquisition executives.

The day after he and Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined the 23 changes to the contracting process at a Pentagon news briefing, Carter, the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Air Force Association conference at the National Harbor convention center that the challenge would be implementation.

The acquisition reforms had received a generally favorable review earlier in the day from Aerospace Industry Association President Marion Blakey, who told the AFA audience that many of the initiatives matched the industry's recommendations.

And as Carter was speaking, the two leaders of the House Armed Services Committee's acquisition reform panel issued a statement endorsing the new effort.

"We applaud Secretary Gates and Dr. Carter for tackling acquisition reform and for embracing many of the reforms identified in our panel's report and in the House-passed IMPROVE Acquisition Act to meet this end," said Reps. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., and Mike Conaway, R-Texas. They said the Pentagon initiatives made it even more important that the Senate pass the House-approved bill.

Carter told the AFA audience that an improved acquisition was necessary because the defense budget was expected to rise only slightly in real terms in future years.

With an end to the double-digit annual increases of the last nine years, he said, the Pentagon leaders concluded "we can't support the troops with the capabilities they need unless we learn to deliver better value for the defense dollars and thereby achieve the programs we need with the dollars that the taxpayers can afford to give us."

Carter expressed confidence they could achieve their objectives to save $100 billion over five years from "low value-added activities" so the funds could be shifted to the needs of the warfighters.

He said he was confident of success because they are "reasonable objectives, come at end of a decade of very rapid growth" and have the support of the president, the secretary and Congress.

Carter praised the Air Force secretary, chief of staff and acquisition executive for leading the way on procurement reform, citing their improvements in maintaining the nation's nuclear weapons system and the effort to build a long-range strike capability at an affordable price.

Addressing a program of high interest for the Air Force, Carter said he could not tell them when officials would announce a winner of the competition to build a new refueling tanker.

"It's not a secret; it's unknown. It will be done when it's done. We're working very hard to get it right," he said, reflecting a decade of mistakes and scandal surrounding the program.

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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • 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.

  • 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.


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