By Michael Bold
FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Jan. 24, 2018)—Warning that “we have no choice but to get engaged in changing the culture,” Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski outlined the Army’s plan to speed acquisition during Wednesday’s roadshow here.
The Army Acquisition Workforce’s focus, said Ostrowski, the principal military deputy to the Army acquisition executive, has to always be the U.S. Soldiers in harm’s way: “I’ve got to get that capability out there faster. I’ve got to think of innovative ways to do so. And I’ve got to make it such that Soldiers are as force-protected, as lethal and as situationally aware that we can possibly make them because we owe that to them. Changing the culture is not hard in mind, because each and every one of you sitting in this room today … you care about Soldiers. And this is about affecting Soldiers.”
The Army doesn’t need orders from DOD or legislation from Congress to start changing today, he told acquisition workers from several program executive offices (PEOs) and the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center at Fort Belvoir’s Thurman Auditorium. “There’s a lot of things that we need to do internally in the Army, that we don’t need anybody’s permission to do … we just execute,” he said.
The Army’s current acquisition culture is too tied to “following processes that don’t deliver results,” he said. It’s time to focus on products, not process. “Getting to milestone is not an achievement,” he said. “Getting [a product] kicked to the field is.”
The Army plan:
- Creates an Acquisition Category (ACAT) IV, for procurements under $400 million and research, development, testing and evaluation valued at less than $100 million. Under ACAT IV, milestone decision authority (MDA) and materiel development decisions are delegated to PEOs; the PEO can further delegate MDA to project managers or product directors. Ostrowski said that Brig. Gen. Anthony “Tony” Potts, PEO for Soldier, had already delegated 98 programs to ACAT IV.
- Empowers PEOs by delegating MDA of ACAT III and ACAT IV programs. But with that expanded power comes responsibility, Ostrowski warned; program managers experiencing problems need to make sure that information is going up the chain of command.
- Uses a Simplified Acquisition Management Plan (SAMP) for ACAT IV, ACAT III (unless directed otherwise) or ACAT II (as agreed to by the MDA). The SAMP is a tailorable, one-stop document that describes the overall acquisition strategy; engineering, test and sustainment plans; and cost. The 10-page form is designed as the only document the PM needs to manage the program. Currently, although waivers are available for ACT III documentation, no one applies for them. “Why?” Ostrowski asked. “It’s easier to do the documents than to ask for the permission not to. Because that’s the culture that you’ve been raised in.” If you’ve got a new project starting, Ostrowski said, “you should use a SAMP.”
- Leverages a “middle-tier” acquisition approach to create rapid prototyping and rapid fielding. This approach, Ostrowski said, is not subject to either Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System or DOD Directive 5000.01. The Rapid Capabilities Office is already using this approach, he said, “but I need other candidates.” He plans to seek legislative language that would lower the threshold for using this approach, from one to five years for full operational capability to one to three years for an initial operating capability.
- Seeks to drive down risk before milestone B. Most failures in Army acquisition, Ostrowski said, occur because a program rushed to milestone B. “Stay left of B,” he said. “Fly before you buy. Prototype your system. Make sure that your technology readiness level is good. And I mean proven. Because you burn down that risk.”
- Leverages commercial procurement and alternate contracting vehicles. The Army, he said, is setting up its own version of [an Amazon-like platform] to simplify buying commercial. “We’re stretching the bounds of some of these things,” he said.
On contracts, he said, “shop around.” Find out if piggybacking on another service’s or government agency’s contract is possible. Look at other contracting possibilities that can streamline acquisition.
Other transaction authority (OTA), Ostrowki said, is the “best ticket Congress could ever give us. Flat out.” OTAs have evolved from being only for prototypes to allowing them to go into low-rate initial production. Now, he said, “if you compete your OTA up front, you can go all the way to full-rate production. And that’s huge.” OTAs can’t be protested, he noted. He said he’s asked the Army Contracting Command to be sure contract officers are well-trained in the use of OTAs.
- Tailors and streamlines testing. Rather than write requirements that test to 100 percent of capabilities, test to 70 percent, he said. Then write into the contract that the contractor is responsible for bringing the capabilities up to 100 percent.
Ostrowski acknowledged that building a new culture in Army acquisition won’t be easy. “There are people in this room that are not going to jump on this bandwagon,” he said. “There are people that are not in this room that are not going to jump on this bandwagon. And I will tell you that it’s just a matter of time before peer pressure points those people out. And then it’s going to be up to that person to decide to get on board or to find another place to work. Because we can’t stop now.”
Ostrowski’s appearance at Fort Belvoir had been delayed twice: once by a snowstorm, and once by the government shutdown.
Ostrowski assumed the role of principal military deputy to the Army acquisition executive and director of the Army Acquisition Corps in April 2017, replacing retired Lt. Gen. Michael E. Williamson. Before that, Ostrowski served as deputy commanding general for support, Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan. He served as deputy for acquisition and systems management in the Office of the Army Acquisition Executive from September 2014 to March 2016, and from April 2012 to September 2014 he led PEO Soldier at Fort Belvoir.
For more information, go to the Acquisition Streamline and Culture Initiative website.
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