Bend, Don’t Break

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James rolled out new initiatives to speed up the service’s acquisition process and get better value for the dollar. Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14, James said, “We in the Air Force, as well as across [the Defense Department], are just too slow” in being able to identify new needs and swiftly hire a contractor to meet them. To “bend the cost curve,” she unveiled a three-pronged approach to accelerate contracting: “enhance interactions, expand competition, and improve processes.” The Air Force will bring industry in earlier in the process to learn what the art of the possible is, she said, and “barriers” to awarding contracts quickly will be broken down. Efforts will be made to bring in small businesses and “nontraditional” industry sources to curb sole-source contracting and increase competition, said James. Where there is only “one known supplier,” the goal is to get a contract going in “single-digit” months instead of the 17 months now required. The Air Force will also scrutinize its processes to eliminate non-value-added elements. The steps being taken are within existing Air Force authority and don’t need legislation, she said. (Atlantic Council webpage of event with video of James’ speech.)