Procurement problems? Blame “Mr. Vacant”

The Air Force has been struggling with acquisition for the past few years, but part of the problem may be a lack of leaders. Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday told the Senate Armed Services Committee that over the past eight years, there has been “difficulty in bringing in qualified senior acquisition officials” and that during that time, the average vacancies in key service acquisition slots has ranged “from 13 percent in the Army to 43 percent in the Air Force.” On the flip side, Gates also said that defense acquisition policies have changed with every Defense Secretary and Congress, making “a long-term procurement strategy on which we can base costs next to impossible.” Other factors hobbling acquisition include “a risk-averse culture, a litigious process, parochial interests, and sometimes adversarial relationships” both within the Pentagon and between the Defense department and other agencies, stated Gates. (Gates’ written testimony)