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Bipartisan legislation to overhaul defense acquisition spending

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The House Armed Services Committee unanimously approved at the end of April new, bipartisan legislation that would overhaul defense acquisition spending.

The new bill calls for comprehensive management of the acquisition process and the acquisition work force, reform of Department of Defense financial management, and expansion of the industrial base for greater competition and innovation, a House Armed Services Committee press release announcing the legislation states.

During committee mark-up of the bill, Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) proposed an amendment calling for the assessment of bundled contracts and their impact on small businesses. She hopes the amendment will increase contracting competition and aid small businesses, according to a press release from her office.

“At a time when many businesses are struggling, the U.S. government needs to help bring more businesses into the DoD procurement system,” Davis said in the press release from her office. “I know from talking to small business owners in my district that smaller firms are hurt when only a select number of companies are able to bid for DoD projects.” Chairmen and ranking members of both the House Armed Services Committee and the Defense Acquisition Panel announced the Improve Acquisition Act (H.R. 5013) during a press conference April 14 in front of the Capitol.

“Our troops rely on the acquisition system to buy the equipment they need to keep them safe on the battlefield and protect our country,” said Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), according to the committee press release. “When that system breaks down, they suffer. This new legislation will make sure that our brave men and women in uniform are getting the proper equipment in a more timely manner while also saving American taxpayers billions of dollars.”

Recommendations from the Defense Acquisition Panel's report, which considered information obtained from 14 hearings and two briefings during the past year, were implemented in the bill.

Among the panel's findings were common areas for improvement regardless of the acquisition category. Those areas are "managing the acquisition system; improving the requirements process; developing and incentivizing the highest quality acquisition work force; reforming financial management; and getting the best from the industrial base," the report states.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon) was one of seven panel members. He supported the new legislation.

"The legislation offers a reasonable approach to reforming the acquisition system within DoD, ultimately improving accountability and eliminating waste," Hunter's spokesman Joe Kasper said in an e-mailed statement. "Once implemented, the bill will achieve considerable taxpayer savings and improve the acquisition process, which will have the most impact among our servicemen and women."

Acquisition reform is not a new goal for Congress. Previous legislation also has aimed to improve the process, including last year’s Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act.

The Improve Acquisition Act, however, goes beyond weapon systems and aims to create standards, requirements and evaluation systems for the various types of acquisition categories including services, which account for a large portion of all procurement.

"When you consider that 60 percent of the Pentagon's procurement dollars are for services contracts alone, the legislation we are introducing today has the potential to effect major changes at the Department of Defense and save billions of taxpayer dollars," said Committee Ranking Member Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.), according to the committee press release.

The panel's report states that the acquisition system currently is designed for weapons systems, which does not necessarily translate well to procurement of services and information technology.

"As a result, the department's formal acquisition policy has limited application to the majority of the department's formal acquisitions," the report states. "Furthermore, while the department is currently working to modernize in the 'information age,' the acquisition system is particularly poorly designed for the acquisition of information technology.

"Even in the acquisition of weapon systems, the department's historical strength, the system continues to generate development timeframes for major systems measured in decades, an approach which has resulted in unacceptable cost growth, negative effects on industry, and in too many cases, a failure to timely meet warfighter needs."

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