Tag Archives: Acquisition goals

Attempting The Biggest Defense Reform In A Generation



Cut or retire various weapons and gear and shift money to efforts deemed of more utility in great power competition.

Congress can expect the 2021 budget proposal, slated for delivery on Feb. 10, to make a clear break with the past to invest in research and development of the future.


“In two recent memos, the SecDef reveals his intention to change how the Pentagon uses its money, people, and time.

Since New Year’s Day, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has issued not one but two memos to the force. Both push for “ruthless prioritization” by the bureaucracy in support of his top priority: great power competition with China and Russia. 

He’s a man on a mission, and in a hurry. The goal? To achieve “full, irreversible implementation” of the defense strategy. Pentagon officials want to take the military so far down the road that their work cannot easily be unwound by the next cadre of leaders, whenever they might arrive.

In his Jan. 2 memo, Sec. Esper says “aggressive reforms” are getting underway at the Pentagon. He is seeking headroom under the flat budgets to come, but he’s not just looking for loose change in the proverbial couch cushions. He wants the entire defense enterprise to shift its time and people to better implement the National Defense Strategy. The focus on time and tasks is new, and important. The tyranny of the here-and-now (see: Iran) means that for many at the Pentagon, their days do not match the strategy. 

His Jan. 6 memo provided more insights into the reforms. In it, Esper highlighted $5 billion already designated to be squeezed from the 28 non-service defense agencies dubbed the Fourth Estate. He also identified an additional $2 billion in activities that will be shifted to the military services. And he announced upcoming reviews of the combatant commands.

This broad and well-telegraphed push for targeted cuts — including, no doubt, to some congressionally cherished programs — may succeed where previous efforts have failed. Congressional leaders have signaled that they want a list of clear winners and losers. If no one is wailing to Capitol Hill, politicians don’t believe leaders are seriously implementing the strategy. And if the recent past is any guide, Congress will get behind most of the Esper cuts even if they are politically unpopular. 

When he was Army Secretary, Esper led a similar zero-based budgeting review. A whopping 186 Army programs were targeted for elimination, cuts, or delays over five years. Casualties included a container-handling program, lightweight laser designator, mine clearing vehicle, Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle and an armored bulldozer.  Confronted with this “flood-the-zone” approach, Congress wound up approving almost all of the proposed changes. Esper & Co. now hope the same tactic will work with the Fourth Estate reforms and, shortly thereafter, the Navy and Air Force.  

The memos reveal Esper as an ambitious reformer, with goals broader than predecessors Robert Gates, who closed Joint Forces Command; and Chuck Hagel, who slimmed various headquarters staffs. His upcoming reviews of the regional and functional combatant commands presage an assault on a problem that many have long perceived but none have tackled: an imbalance in the requirements-generation process and Pentagon resourcing decisions that insulate and favor combatant commanders over service chiefs. This imbalance has led to some of the problems the defense strategy tries to redress, such as making the Middle East an “economy of force” region where missions are done more efficiently—or not at all.  

Finally, the review is about more than creating tradespace under flat budgets. Between the lines, Secretary Esper is also showing due diligence that could be used when making future arguments to boost defense toplines to fully resource the defense strategy. 

In his Jan. 2 memo, Esper highlights the past three years of steady spending increases and their benefits. He calls out the improved readiness across the force and notes the Defense Department is “beginning to modernize” capabilities across domains with these additional funds.

He echoes this line in the Jan. 6 memo, saying that savings found to date are “only a down payment” on what’s truly needed. He goes on to say that competition and the preparation for high-intensity conflict against a high-end competitor “is expensive.” The implication is that even the most valiant efforts he is overseeing to move money around under the topline will likely be insufficient. 

Members of Congress have been asking for two years whether the Pentagon was buying its own strategy. Most agreed the answer was no. This is one reason defense hawks are disappointed in last year’s budget deal, which dealt the Pentagon an inflation-adjusted decline in its 2021 budget . Policymakers will be quick to latch onto the defense secretary’s nuanced arguments that the three-year Trump bump for defense will not complete the job.”


Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) Stresses 10 Agency Acquisition Innovations In Use Today

Image: OFPP


Effort to break down the barriers to innovation that agencies, auditors and mostly time have built up over the past 20 years.

These are things lifted from the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). There’s no new guidance. There’s no new policy. These are existing authorities that contracting officers can use out of the box.


“Innovation is one of those terms in federal procurement that gets thrown around a whole lot. When is an agency or organization innovative? What stops agencies from trying something new or different when it comes to buying goods and services?

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is trying to answer those questions and debunk some myths about acquisition innovation in its 4th version of its Myth busters series.

Lesley Field, the deputy administrator for OFPP, said the new memo is part of an effort to break down the barriers to innovation that agencies, auditors and mostly time have built up over the past 20 years.

Lesley Field is the deputy administrator of OFPP.

“The reason we focused on the misconceptions and facts on innovative practices was to get at that complex base where we have a lot of folks who need to spend their time and talent figuring out how to solve our hard problems,” Field said in an interview with Federal News Network. “These are things lifted from the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). There’s no new guidance. There’s no new policy. These are existing authorities that contracting officers can use out of the box.”

The idea that the memo highlights existing authorities and includes use cases has been a standard with the myth busters memos. In each of the previous three iterations, OFPP has tried to ensure it not only “busted the myth,” but provided examples or best practices.

This is now the fourth myth busters memo since 2011. The others addressed industry and agency communications, including debriefings discussions during market research for a request for proposals.

In this latest myth busters memo, OFPP asks CFO Act agencies to address a long standing challenge with these memos ensuring industry and contracting officers are aware and understand what the memo is telling them they can do.

OFPP directed each agency to publicly name an industry liaison “to serve as a conduit among acquisition stakeholders and promote strong agency vendor communication practices.”        Honor current and former members of the Armed Forces. Send them a free eCard during National Military Appreciation Month.

At the same time, Field said OFPP started an “in-reach” campaign because they have found there is an awareness gap with contracting officers. Over the last three memos, this awareness gap issue has been a major hurdle standing in the way of the program’s success.

Field said OFPP and the Chief Acquisition Officer’s Council are planning webinars with federal procurement experts, an Acquisition Gateway University program and to figure out how to further educate contracting officers and contracting officer representatives (CORs) about the acquisition facts.

OFPP is depending on the CAOs, acquisition innovation advocates and other leaders to share and trumpet the myth busters memo.

Soraya Correa, the chief procurement officer at the Homeland Security Department, said she emailed the memo to her entire acquisition community.

“The other thing I do is I take the opportunity during my procurement community townhall, which I’m having another one next week, I’ll discuss the memo and why it’s important to keep these lines of communications open, and I encourage and support doing these things. Believe it or not, the word does get out because I’m talking directly to the 1,400 people or so that are out there across the DHS landscape.”

Correa said she also talks with other CXO leaders, including the general counsel’s office.

“I try to include the lawyers in all the activities that we engage in. Whether it’s our strategic industry conversations that I host every year or reverse industry days or our acquisition innovation roundtables and even [Procurement Innovation Lab (PIL)] boot camps, I’m happy to say our attorneys are participating in these activities. They hear what I have to say and they understand what we are trying to do,” she said. “What we have to do is include them in the conversation, by bringing them in to help them understand what we are trying to do. Instead of saying to them, ‘can I do this?’ Maybe the question is ‘how can I do this?’ Change the conversation a little bit with the lawyers, and you may get a different outcome.”

Field said OFPP also recognizes the need to bring procurement attorneys into the discussion. She said her office is sharing the myth busters memo through the procurement attorneys roundtable, an informal gathering of acquisition lawyers used as a sounding board, to ensure they understand what’s possible.

“The other thing we did with myth busters is attach a tear-sheet for the first three myth busters guidance so folks can take it and hand it to someone and say, ‘look OFPP is saying we can use these practices,’” she said.

DHS has used its PIL to demonstrate many of these concepts, including Myth #7: using product demonstrations before an agency buys—the show me, don’t tell me approach—and Myth #1: using innovative business strategies.

Correa said the memo’s message is clear: Agencies need to do a better job engaging with industry and it’s good to be transparent and open.

“We will create better and more effective processes when we do that,” Correa said in an interview with Federal News Network. “I can tell you my experiences has been the more we engage with industry here, the better solutions we are getting. We believe industry finds us to be a little more transparent than in the past.”

Field said one of the biggest myths she hopes the memo debunks is the one that says the FAR is complex and that’s why there are long lead times.

She said while there are complexities in the FAR, the agencies have a lot of authorities and flexibilities that they can use to get industry engagement early and often.

“The one thing I really like about this is we are going to make this a living document. This isn’t static. We are going to add examples, try to connect folks who are working on similar kinds of things and put resources up on the Acquisition Gateway so that contracting officer, program managers, lawyers and everyone involved in the process understands what they can do,” she said. “DHS and a lot of the other agencies have had great success with some of these practices. It’s reduced the burden on vendors. It’s helped us meet a lot of our goals.”

Supply-Chain Threats Prompt Senate Bill On Training Acquisition Officials

Image: DAU


The bipartisan Supply Chain Counterintelligence Training Act would emphasize identifying and mitigating aspects of technology that could allow adversaries to spy on the U.S. government.

Agency officials who handle supply-chain risk management would receive training on how to spot potential foreign threats in IT and communications technology under a bill senators proposed.


“Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Gary Peters, D-Mich. — the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — are the lead sponsors.

“America’s adversaries use any means necessary to gain access to valuable and sensitive government information, including possibly inserting compromising code into products or enlisting untrustworthy IT support personnel to exploit government systems,” Peters said in an announcement about the bill. “Allowing an adversary to gain a foothold in America’s technological supply chain is a risk that simply cannot be tolerated.”

The bill comes as the U.S. cybersecurity community and government are paying increased attention to where federal technology originates. Most prominent is the Department of Homeland Security’s 2017 binding operational directive ordering agencies to remove Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab’s products from their systems. DHS cited Kaspersky’s close ties to Russian intelligence, as well as Russian laws that could potentially force the company to hand over information on U.S. systems. The defense authorization bill that President Trump signed into law in August 2018 also blocks government purchases from Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE on similar grounds.

Kaspersky and Huawei both have rejected the U.S. accusations.

The Senate bill would require the Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security and General Services Administration to collaborate on creating the program.

In December, Trump signed legislation establishing the Federal Acquisition Security Council and allowing classified information to be used in supporting supply chain risk assessments.

Last month, Federal Chief Information Security Officer Grant Schneider said the new council is developing criteria for making recommendations on equipment, products and services that shouldn’t be allowed to do business with government.

A Senate bill introduced earlier this year would create a White House Office of Critical Technologies and Security to protect against the theft of U.S.-developed technologies and risks to critical supply chains. Senators also have expressed concerns about the use of foreign VPN apps.”

Veterans Administration (VA) Boosts Veteran-Owned And Service-Disabled Small Business Goals

Image: Clipart.com


The VA is seeking to award at least 17 percent of its total contract dollars to veteran-owned small businesses and 15 percent to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

The VA spent $26.1 billion on procurements in fiscal year 2017. The VA must first consider VOSBs and SDVOSBs before mulling other small business program preferences. “


“Three years after a key Supreme Court ruling that set the stage, the Veterans Affairs Department is raising its goals for contracting with small businesses in the veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned categories.

Both moves represent a 5-percent increase in both goals for VOSBs and SDVOSBs. In 2010, then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki established the 10-percent goal for VOSBs and 12 percent for SDVOSBs. ‘

This decision is a response to the Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in a case brought forward by Kingdomware Technologies that mandated the “rule of two” for all procurements.

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court said the VA must set aside contracts for VOSBs or SDVOSBs if the agency finds two or more firms in those categories can do the work.”