8 Sep 2011 By JOE GOULD DefenseNews
The U.S. Army acquisitions corps is through chasing "stupid requirements" regardless of their price, and it's looking for the defense industry's help, a top acquisitions official said September 8.
"We need your help to get after stupid requirements that do not make sense and that we shouldn't be going after, because that's going to save us dollars and time," Lt. Gen. William Phillips, military deputy to the Army's acquisition executive, said at a defense industry breakfast in Arlington, Va.
In recognition of belt-tightening on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon, Army programs will be presented with "affordability targets" that acquisitions officials are asking vendors to help them meet.
Army program officials will be expected to identify budget-busting requirements that are overly ambitious, difficult to produce - "trying to invent technology that does not exist today, or may just not make sense," Phillips said.
Phillips said the old way was for Army acquisitions officials to meet requirements with too little regard for the cost of the technology and the time it took to develop it. Now, the Army is willing to spend less money for interim solutions.
"The paradigm for [program managers] was we execute requirements," he said. "The changing paradigm is that we challenge those requirements so that they're affordable, executable and they can be delivered on the schedule that we want."
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who attended the event, emphasized this point to the audience after Phillips concluded his brief.
"I think what I heard you say was requirements used to come from us, go to industry, and industry would build to those requirements no matter what the cost," Chiarelli said. "What I heard you say is we're looking for industry to inform us how much it might cost us or modify our requirement to make it more affordable. Is that what you said?"
"Sir, that's perfect," Phillips said.
Central to the new paradigm are a twice-annual Network Integrations Exercises at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., most recently used to test radios, computers and smartphones. Phillips said the NIEs will become an institutionalized part of Army acquisitions.
"Building the Army's network is the number one priority for us, and that is why we are working the NIE so hard, to make sure the systems that attach to the Army's network work correctly," Phillips said.
In the exercises, a set unit tests the equipment that that is technologically mature, gives feedback and enables the Army to make quick decisions about what technology to develop and field.
"When you put things in the hands of soldiers, extraordinary things happen," Phillips said. "You're going to learn a lot more than you can in any other test environment, where you don't have soldiers involved."
Training and Doctrine Command, as it identifies capability gaps, will issue "sources sought" announcements in an effort to fill those gaps. Defense firms may respond to with to participate in future testing exercises.
"As we evaluate the systems, we will find out exactly what the Army wants to procure and we'll do it as rapidly as possible," Phillips said.
Among other priorities Phillips named, the Army acquisitions corps is also working on expanding the acquisitions and contracting workforces.
The Army is proposing changes to loosen the Nunn-McCurdy Act, which requires Congress to be notified when the cost of a defense acquisition program grows above designated thresholds.
"We have been doing Nunn-McCurdys on programs where we probably shouldn't have been doing Nunn-McCurdys," Phillips said. "We stopped doing those kinds of actions on programs where it was never intended to be implemented."
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