Conditional Support for McCain Acquisition Reform Plan

A current top Pentagon acquisition official and a former acquisition chief opposed Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain’s proposal to shift major powers from the assistant secretary for acquisition to the service chiefs. Speaking during a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum Friday, former Air Force Chief of Staff retired Gen. John Jumper supported giving the service chiefs more say in acquisition, but joined the others in opposing McCain’s provision that would restrict the flow of acquisition information from the services to acquisition executive Frank Kendall. Kendall’s deputy, Alan Estevez, said the Pentagon agreed with most of the acquisition reform measures in the House and Senate versions of the 2016 defense authorization, but “has concerns” over McCain’s proposal to shift the “milestone” decisions on procurement programs to the service chiefs and to keep information from Kendall. Although there is a need to link authority with accountability, Estevez asked: “Are we going to fire a service chief because a program has cost overrun?” Former acquisition executive Jacques Gansler echoed that view. Although Jumper said he would “want to see … uniformed services involved in the process,” he disagrees “with anything that says you will exclude those whose involvement is essential.” (Watch the forum.)