Buying Solutions

Fixing the broken acquisition system will take more than just another study, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday. Since World War II, he said, there have been “nearly 130 studies” of procurement policy “to little avail.” To get at it, Gates said he wants to “freeze requirements on programs at contract award” to prevent the add-ons that have added cost and complexity to systems. He also said he will pursue larger quantities of programs offering “the 75 percent solution” rather than small handfuls of “exquisite systems” fulfilling 99 percent of the requirement. He’ll emphasize more efficient quantities—read, multi-year procurements—use more competition, demand prototyping, and only advance programs that have demonstrated that their technologies are “mature” or nearly so. He’ll be asking Congress for help in bringing in “adequate” numbers of personnel to manage the buying process, too. (See above) However, given the fiscal constraints on the nation, Gates said he expects the 2010 budget will include “hard choices” on specific programs, rather than “across the board” cuts that will only “inefficiently extend all programs.”