New House Armed Services Chairman Flexes Muscles for Pentagon Buyers

Rep. Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee provides opening remarks before the start of the House Armed Services Committee Hearing last week. Rep. Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee provides opening remarks before the start of the House Armed Services Committee Hearing last week. Staff Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkle/Army

For years, lawmakers and defense officials have looked for ways to remove bureaucratic red tape from the Pentagon’s cumbersome acquisition process and find something nobody yet has: a way to save taxpayer money and get cutting edge weapons and technology to troops faster. 

This week House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, will unveil plans to make the Defense Department’s procurement system more efficient, committee aids said. At the center of his initial plan is removing bureaucracy from the managers of the Pentagon’s multimillion and multibillion-dollar projects. 

“Right now they’re not managing their programs, they’re managing paperwork between the cubicles between [the] A and the E ring,” a senior committee staff member said, referring to the Pentagon’s office hierarchy. The staff member spoke on the condition of anonymity since the legislation has not been formally announced. 

Thornberry will reveal his proposal during a Monday morning speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, and plans to introduce the legislation later this week.

Over time, Pentagon program managers lose control of projects and spend more time managing people than a program itself, the staff member argued. “[The legislation is] not about doing away with things, it’s about making a more clear line of authority, trying to put [the managers] back in charge.” The legislation also aims to remove some mandatory annual reports.

“Is it going to solve all of their illnesses, probably not, but it’s a step in the right direction,” the staff member said. 

Thornberry, who became chairman of the committee this year, said he would make acquisition reform one of his top priorities and plans to keep introducing legislation each year he is in charge, the staff member said.

 “There’s a lot more that needs to be done,” the staff member said.

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