FY16 NDAA – AGILE. EFFICIENT. READY. LETHAL.

Last year HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry lead an effort to reform Defense Acquisition which culminated in the first set of reforms in the FY16 NDAA.

“In an era of unprecedented threats, uncertainty, and technological change, the legislation ensures America’s Armed Forces are agile, efficient, ready, and lethal. Acquisition Reforms: Our defense must adopt new technologies and new ways of thinking to bring capabilities to bear more quickly than our adversaries. If we lose our technological edge, our warfighters will lose on the battlefield.” Key sections of the FY16 NDAA include:

  • SEC. 216. Re-authorization of Defense Research and Development Rapid Innovation Program
  • SEC. 218. DoD Technology Offset Program to Build and Maintain the Military Technological Superiority of the US
  • SEC. 803. Expansion of Rapid Acquisition Authority
  • SEC. 804. Middle Tier of Acquisition for Rapid Prototyping and Rapid Fielding
  • SEC. 805. Use of Alternative Acquisition Paths to Acquire Critical National Security Capabilities
  • SEC. 810. Review of Time-Based Requirements Process and Budgeting and Acquisition Systems

Chairman Thornberry is poised to issue the second round of acquisition reforms in the FY17 NDAA.

Thornberry has said the current effort in the House is geared toward making the lumbering acquisition system more agile, so that the US maintains its edge in the face of rapid technological advances.

Last year’s NDAA shifted some accountability for acquisitions programs onto the chiefs of the armed services and included bureaucracy-streamlining measures. Thornberry said he expected the bill to encourage more experimentation and prototyping earlier in the weapons development process, so that cutting-edge technologies are proven before they are included in a formalized and hard-to-kill program of record.

Thornberry said the committee is seeking to shorten and simplify the acquisition system to avoid programs that start in an unstable position by assuming too much risk and producing delays and cost overruns.

DEPSECDEF on Transitioning DoD

As we draw down from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our force needs to make a very difficult transition from a large, rotational, counterinsurgency-based force to a leaner, more agile, more flexible, and ready force for the future.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton Carter

See Dr. Carter’s full remarks at the National Press Club on May 7, 2013.

Long Tenure Can Hurt Performance

A March 2013 Harvard Business Review article, Long CEO Tenure Can Hurt Performance, highlighted research on CEO tenure on impact with employees and customers.

It’s a familiar cycle: A CEO takes office, begins gaining knowledge and experience, and is soon launching initiatives that boost the bottom line. Fast-forward a decade, and the same executive is risk-averse and slow to adapt to change—and the company’s performance is on the decline. Optimal tenure length: 4.8 years.

The underlying reasons for the pattern have to do with how CEOs learn. Early on, when new executives are getting up to speed, they seek information in diverse ways, turning to both external and internal company sources. This deepens their relationships with customers and employees alike.

But as CEOs accumulate knowledge and become entrenched, they rely more on their internal networks for information, growing less attuned to market conditions. And, because they have more invested in the firm, they favor avoiding losses over pursuing gains. Their attachment to the status quo makes them less responsive to vacillating consumer preferences.

In part 3 of my Inventing a Digital Pentagon post, I had a similar point on tenure of managers and key headquarters staff.

While the DoD frets about the frequent turnover of political appointees and program managers, it should remain vigilant of people who are entrenched into key headquarters staff positions. Maintaining a steady pipeline of fresh talent and ideas in organizations fosters an environment for thought leaders to emerge.  Innovation rarely occurs from someone who has been in the same job for a decade. The DoD should review those who have been in a key position for over five years and develop transition strategies to maintain a vibrant enterprise.

Beyond tenure, they reinforced the importance of being attuned to the enterprise (internal and external) information networks.  I couldn’t agree more.

Do You Love What You Do?

Po Bronson had an inspiring piece in Fast Company in 2002: What Should I Do With My Life?

People thrive by focusing on the question of who they really are — and connecting that to work that they truly love (and, in so doing, unleashing a productive and creative power that they never imagined). Companies don’t grow because they represent a particular sector or adopt the latest management approach. They win because they engage the hearts and minds of individuals who are dedicated to answering that life question.

This is not a new idea. But it may be the most powerfully pressing one ever to be disrespected by the corporate world. There are far too many smart, educated, talented people operating at quarter speed, unsure of their place in the world, contributing far too little to the productive engine of modern civilization. There are far too many people who look like they have their act together but have yet to make an impact. You know who you are. It comes down to a simple gut check: You either love what you do or you don’t. Period.

GAO Report on Interagency Collaboration

GAO Published an interesting report today Key Considerations for Implementing Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms

Federal agencies have used a variety of mechanisms to implement interagency collaborative efforts, such as the President appointing a coordinator, agencies co-locating within one facility, or establishing interagency task forces. These mechanisms can be used to address a range of purposes including policy development; program implementation; oversight and monitoring; information sharing and communication; and building organizational capacity, such as staffing and training. Frequently, agencies use more than one mechanism to address an issue. For example, climate change is a complex, crosscutting issue, which involves many collaborative mechanisms in the Executive Office of the President and interagency groups throughout government.

Although collaborative mechanisms differ in complexity and scope, they all benefit from certain key features, which raise issues to consider when implementing these mechanisms. For example:

  • Outcomes and Accountability: Have short-term and long-term outcomes been clearly defined? Is there a way to track and monitor their progress?
  • Bridging Organizational Cultures: What are the missions and organizational cultures of the participating agencies? Have agencies agreed on common terminology and definitions?
  • Leadership: How will leadership be sustained over the long-term? If leadership is shared, have roles and responsibilities been clearly identified and agreed upon?
  • Clarity of Roles and Responsibilities: Have participating agencies clarified roles and responsibilities?
  • Participants: Have all relevant participants been included? Do they have the ability to commit resources for their agency?
  • Resources: How will the collaborative mechanism be funded and staffed? Have online collaboration tools been developed?
  • Written Guidance and Agreements: If appropriate, have participating agencies documented their agreement regarding how they will be collaborating? Have they developed ways to continually update and monitor these agreements?

Acquisition Reforms

There are two absolutely conflicting priorities in acquisition reform: maximizing efficiency — which requires giving acquisition officials more freedom and minimizing mistakes — which requires imposing tighter control.
Almost always the second trumps the first.  

It’s the only enterprise in the world that would spend millions
to prevent the fraud of pennies.

-Former DoD Undersecretary for Acquisitions Ken Krieg

Go Gently On Acquisition Reform, Say Wise Men

Take Risks, Norm Augustine Urges Hill, DoD On Acquisition

‘Put A Match To It’ And Scrap DoD’s Buying Rules: Top Pentagon Advisor

Reforming an Outmoded Government

Michele Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, had an interesting opinion piece in the Washington Post on Reforming an Outmoded Government.

Federal agencies typically lack the expertise and experience to transform themselves into more effective and affordable enterprises

  • With rising budgets (like the past decade), the focus tends to be on growth, not efficiency
  • Need outside help to assess their strengths and weaknesses, identify the most important avenues for change, and design and implement initiatives that will achieve results
  • Change is hard and often threatening. One person’s efficiency can break another person’s rice bowl.

Successful U.S. companies have fundamentally transformed how they do business

  • Adopted strategies to cope with a more complex, dynamic and uncertain environment
  • Delayering to streamline and empower their organizations
  • Leveraged IT to enhance performance, agility and competitiveness while reducing cost
  • Strategic investments in talent management to improve performance

Read the full piece here.