Former Defense Secretary Doubts Real Acquisition Reform

William Perry, who aggressively pushed acquisition reform as Defense Secretary from 1994-97, said he did not believe the widely criticized procurement system can be truly fixed. However, Perry said “there is some hope” because he and Defense Secretary Ash Carter worked together on acquisition reform for years. “Carter has about as much background on it as I do, and an intent to do something about it,” Perry told reporters on Dec. 3. “That’s the good news. The bad news is, so did I, and it didn’t make any difference.” Perry said the one success he had with acquisition reform was to make it easier for program managers to use available commercial off-the-shelf technology rather than follow the complicated Pentagon process. That is more important today, he said, because the commercial sector now leads in the development of cutting edge technology. Perry said the extensive consolidation of the defense industry, which followed the famous “last supper” he held with industry leaders, was not his intention, even though he had warned them that defense budgets would shrink. The goal was reducing overhead costs, he said. With the current tight budgets, Perry urged a new emphasis on cutting overhead, while opposing further consolidation.