- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, will unveil Monday his plan to cut paperwork and increase accountability in the defense acquisition process.

Lawmakers have been trying to fix the Defense Department’s acquisition process for more than a decade. The Texas Republican’s latest strategy seeks to consolidate complicated processes and train an acquisition workforce that can be held more accountable.

“The intent is so that the [project manager] is spending more time managing his or her program instead of managing cubicles at the Pentagon,” saide an staff member of the House committee.

Mr. Thornberry will speak about the details of his plan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday, and introduce the text of the bill on Wednesday, according to a committee aide.

The proposal will be considered as part of the annual defense policy bill later this year, the aide said.

Describing the current process, the aide said it’s as if a project manager is driving a bus full of people who have their own steering wheels and brakes for different pieces of any acquisition project. When the bus crashes, the project manager is forced to take the blame as all the passengers flee the scene of the accident.

Putting the project manager back in charge of his or her program by reducing paperwork allows for greater accountability by creating a clearer line of authority, the aide said.

Mr. Thornberry’s plan also would make permanent a 2008 pilot program that provides funds to train, hire and retain acquisition professionals. This will give the program more certainty and keep it going after 2018, when the current pilot program is set to expire, the aide said.

Lawmakers have worked before to reform the acquisition process, the aide said, new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s history as undersecretary of acquisition, technology and logistics makes now a good time to restart conversations on how to fix the system.

The aide stressed that this is the first step in a multi-year process to reform acquisition — something Mr. Thornberry plans to make a priority as long as he serves as committee chairman.

Military leaders have acknowledged problems in the acquisition system and said they are doing what they can to improve. Army Secretary John McHugh told members of the Senate Committee on Armed Services last week that he is looking forward to working with lawmakers in changing the system.

“Historically, the Army’s track record on acquisition programs is too often a tale of failure. Too many underperforming or canceled programs, too few successful fieldings of developmental designs and far too many taxpayer dollars wasted,” Mr. McHugh said. “We know this. And we will do better.”

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