New legislation would enforce defense acquisition reform

2010 National Defense Authorization Act seeks greater oversight of services and speedier ways to buy information technology

The House version of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act would require the Defense Department to hire an outside organization to assess its use and oversight of services contracts.

The House Armed Services Committee believes DOD doesn't have a strategic approach to managing its services contracts, according to the committee’s June 18 report on the authorization bill (H.R. 2637).

As a result, “the department is at risk of being unable to identify and correct poor contractor performance in a timely manner and is at risk of paying contractors more than the value of the services they performed,” the committee wrote.

The House passed the bill June 25 by a vote of 389-22. The Senate committee has approved its version of the legislation the same day.

Under the House bill, the assessment would be conducted by a federally funded research and development center. The center would look at the guidance DOD provides its acquisition workforce on how to develop a services contract, including how to define requirements and the associated performance metrics.

The center also would look at whether or not DOD has enough people in its acquisition workforce to do the work appropriately. The report would be due in March 2010.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the legislation supports the Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plan to increase the civilian acquisition workforce’s size and to reduce DOD’s reliance on contractors for critical acquisition duties. DOD officials want to hire 9,000 new government employees and convert 11,000 contractor jobs to DOD civilian personnel.

“Defense acquisition reform is a top priority for our committee,” Skelton said in statement June 17 after his committee approved the legislation.

In another acquisition reform, the committee wants to find ways for DOD to buy IT more quickly.

IT systems require regular updates, because of changes in technology, which affects critical parts of the DOD infrastructure. But DOD’s process for buying IT makes it difficult for the department to keep up, according to a DOD task force.

The acquisition process is time-consuming and cumbersome, the task force wrote in a March report. "The process should be agile and geared to delivering meaningful increments of capability in approximately 18 months or less."

The House bill would allow DOD to pick 10 IT programs every year in which to test new procurement processes. Acquisition reforms in the House's fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act concentrate on oversight of service contracts and buying information technology quickly.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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