DOD Outlines Acquisition Restructure in New Report to Congress

Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan walks up the steps to the Pentagon, July 20, 2017. DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

The Pentagon outlined its plan to reorganize its acquisition, technology, and logistics organization in a new report presented to Congress on Tuesday, emphasizing the importance of quickly getting capabilities to the warfighters at an affordable cost.

The report, dubbed “the 901 report” for the section of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act calling for the change, details how the department will split the organization into two entities, headed by a new undersecretary of defense for research and engineering and an undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment. It also upgrades the Defense Department’s chief management officer.

“The weapons systems and capabilities that the department delivers to the warfighter are in many respects the envy of other nations’ fighting forces. However, the current pace at which we develop advanced warfighting capability is being eclipsed by those nations that pose the greatest threat to our security,” reads the executive summary. “Additionally, the increasing cost of our major weapon systems has placed at risk our ability to acquire and sustain these systems at sufficient levels.”

In a media roundtable with reporters, Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan made the comparison to Major League Baseball’s farm league, saying it would be absurd for the league to find a talented 17-year-old player and then wait until he was 45 years old to bring him into the majors.

“Our whole system has to be about the same thing,” said Shanahan.

With the reorganization, which the Pentagon calls a “once in a generation opportunity” in the report, the new undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, or USD (R&E), would be responsible for developing the department’s technology strategy, solving “critical technical warfighting challenges,” and delivering those technological advancements faster.

The USD (R&E) job will organize around three themes: a strategic intelligence analysis cell tasked with figuring out how the enemy’s weaknesses and strengths align with US capabilities; the assistant secretary of defense for research and technology who will “set the strategic technical direction and subsequent investment strategy;” and the assistant secretary of defense for advanced capabilities who will “conduct prototyping and experimentation” to utilize technology to improve warfighter capability.

The undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, USD (A&S), on the other hand, will advise the Defense Secretary “on all matters regarding acquisition and sustainment and be involved in the oversight of individual programs as required.”

The USD (A&S) will oversee three offices: the ASD for acquisition, which will provide oversight of joint programs and focus on achieving affordable solutions; the ASD for sustainment will focus on “joint and cross-service materiel readiness issues;” and the ASD for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs “will oversee and prescribe policy for nuclear forces modernization, arms control programs, and counter weapons of mass destruction.”

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Ellen Lord to be the next Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, though she will only hold that title until the above changes are implemented on Feb. 1. After that, the White House has said she will assume the role of undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment. The White House has not yet announced who will assume the USD (R&E) role.

Shanahan said the acquisition split is focused on finding ways to make it easier for companies to work with DOD and helping contractors do more with less, according to a Pentagon release.