Pentagon to Rewrite Acquisition Rule Book

Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord meets with US Army Special Operations Command personnel at the 2018 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Fla., on May 23. SOCOM photo by USAF MSgt. Barry Loo.

Pentagon acquisition, technology, and logistics chief Ellen Lord has set a “key objective” of rewriting the hefty 5000.02 acquisition rulebook in calendar 2019. The current 18-inch-thick document is too unwieldy, she told reporters in her Pentagon office Monday, and while program managers have been encouraged to “tailor” the document “to their needs,” the new approach will be to “invert that approach and take a clean piece of paper and write the bare minimum to be compliant” with the law.

The new version will aim to give program managers streamlined tips on what kind of contracts are—and aren’t—appropriate, depending on the item being acquired. She also said that where the compliance laws themselves no longer make sense, the Pentagon will enlist the help of key committee leaders on Capitol Hill to change them, as members have pledged to do in recent years.

Lord also set goals for 2019 that increase the number of rapid prototyping projects and establish clear-cut rules on cybersecurity that are easily understandable by contractors and can be applied “three levels down” the supply chain.

The 5000.02 rewrite will allow contracting professionals to aim to “work at the speed of relevance,” Lord said. It should “make doing business with the Department easier,” and cut time and cost of programs.

“We need a couple-page outline of what you need to do and simple contract language and simple checklists of what to do, so this isn’t an onerous process.” She added, “I believe we need to teach examples of what ‘right’ looks like and what is not value added. … I’m encouraging ‘creative compliance’; I want people to be compliant but very thoughtful, and only use what they need.”

The rewrite will assess both “the law and the intent,” to ensure the rules address both. Anything not “clear or relevant to this day and age” will be expunged or simplified.

In addition, Lord said there are “10 projects underway for rapid prototyping” in 2018, and that will increase to 50 projects “over the next 12 months.” Most of these involve “taking systems that are commercial systems and need a little modification … to make them appropriate” for combat forces, she said. Anything developed under this effort “has to be finished within five years.”

Another 2019 goal for Lord is establishing a new set of cybersecurity rules with which contractors and their suppliers must comply. She wants “crystal clear … transparent” rules so that companies “know what the expectation is, three to seven layers down the supply chain.” The standards have to be something “that can be audited against.” The Pentagon is very worried about “data exfiltration,” and has a task force working on the problem, Lord asserted.