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Acquisition

Corporate Espionage Concerns Could Affect Contracting

July 17, 2013

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that he is concerned about the level of cyber attacks affecting defense suppliers. As a result, he is considering changes in contracting procedures to mitigate the risk of corporate espionage. “I’m talking particularly about design information that might not be classified, but if you acquire that information, it certainly shortens your lead time to building things, and it reduces your costs,” he told committee members. “That’s an advantage we don’t want to give our potential adversaries.”

Kendall expressed his concerns during his testimony in support of the reauthorization of the Defense Production Act, which grants the president the power to ensure timely procurement of essential services and materials during war or national emergencies. Parts of the act are set to expire on September 30, 2014.

The law is an urgent operational requirement that is as necessary today as it was in 1950 when it was enacted, Kendall said. “Industry has no obligation to prioritize national security requirements, and at times, they’re financially motivated to do otherwise,” he stated. “New, expanded and modernized domestic industrial capabilities reduce the risk of foreign dependencies caused by geopolitical factors or other economic issues and strengthen the economic and technological competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers.”

NGEN Protest Halts Contract Work

July 16, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Implementation of the U.S. Navy’s $3.5 billion Next-Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) will have to wait until a protest by two of the companies that did not receive the contract is upheld or rejected. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has until October 23 to rule on the challenge.

Defense Department Issues First Acquisition Report

July 15, 2013

Lawmakers now are reviewing the U.S. Defense Department’s first annual data-driven review of purchasing. Officially titled “Performance of the Defense Acquisition System, 2013 Annual Report,” the document is the first publication of an annual effort to sift through the mountain of data available on the department’s purchases and to determine which work and which don’t. The point of the report, says Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, “is to help us all figure out ways to do a better job with [acquisition]” and ultimately to ensure more and better products.

Despite significant improvement in some areas, Kendall maintains that there is “considerable room for improvement.” The report serves to reinforce the need for the Pentagon’s Better Buying Power Initiative, which was announced nearly three years ago, he adds.

A Joint Environment Changes Everything

July 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Rear Adm. Robert Day Jr., USCG, assistant U.S. Coast Guard commandant for command, control, communications and information technology, sees the Joint Information Environment as an opportunity to resolve some of the most pressing information technology problems in the years to come as he faces a future with more challenges and fewer resources. He says a military-wide common operating environment will establish “enterprisewide mandates that programs cannot ignore.”

The admiral told the recent AFCEA Solutions Series–George Mason University Symposium, “Critical Issues in C4I,” the Joint Information Environment (JIE) will allow for more efficient system configurations and facilitate consolidation of the Coast Guard’s information technology work force. As the director of the U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command, he also is mindful that the JIE will improve his ability to control what devices are attached to the network, giving him, for example, the opportunity to quickly detect and order the removal of an unauthorized USB thumb drive inserted into a secure network computer.

Hewing to the reality of doing more with less, the admiral also told conference attendees that within the next eight months, the Coast Guard is expected to move to the U.S. Defense Department’s enterprise email system. Adm. Day stated that even though this move initially may cost more in some cases, the long-term benefits to the service will mitigate and justify some of those costs. In addition, acknowledging the futility of reinventing the wheel, he noted that the Coast Guard is adopting the U.S. Air Force’s Virtual Flight Bag, which replaces nearly 300 pounds of printed manuals and charts carried aboard aircraft by crews. Apple iPads will be loaded with digital copies of the same material.

Resource Reductions Dominate Planning

July 1, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

Today’s financial skimping will lead to military forces and equipment that are short on readiness for future conflicts. Cutbacks in training and travel to conferences where service members network, learn about the latest in technologies and benefit from educational courses is one way to meet mandated budget cuts; but in the long term, they will result in service members who are ill-prepared to meet the challenges of what some believe will be a volatile future. Simultaneously, reductions in maintenance of vehicles, networks and ships will result in higher repair bills much like a car that is not routinely taken to the shop ends up costing the owner more to fix in the long run.

This was the general consensus of the military, government and industry experts who spoke at the East: Joint Warfighting 2013 conference at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in May. The participants represented all of the military services as well as the international community.

Adm. William E. Gortney, USN, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, opened the event saying that the military and industry are facing a decade of change and choices. As the services are ramping down from combat mode, they are refocusing on the Pacific theater, which is more of an intellectual shift in Washington, D.C., than a military change, Adm. Gortney said. While resources are on the decline now, the admiral believes economics is and always has been a sine wave, up at times and down at others. The U.S. Defense Department’s budget will increase again, and the department must be ready. “The only way we’re going to get through this is to lead our way to the other side,” the admiral said.

The Bottom Line: Military Operational Paradigm Shifts

June 17, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

Up until now, elected officials, in consultation with military and intelligence experts, have made strategic national decisions about the role of the United States in global security. But the current congressional budgeting approach is turning this procedure on its head: military leaders will tell the elected what they can accomplish with the appropriated resources.

Navy Keeps Up With Innovation Despite Tight Budgets

June 3, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

If necessity is the mother of invention, innovation will be the father as the U.S. Navy seeks new methods that will allow it to continue to modernize amid harsh budget constraints.

How to Win Contracts When Lowest Price Is the Highest Measure

May 24, 2013
By Bev Cooper

The lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) acquisition strategy, which focuses on price over value, has become the dominant approach that agencies are applying to federal contracting. The accelerated transition to this strategy has been fueled by sequestration and the growing need for government to do business at a reduced cost. Contractors are still learning how to operate in this new environment, but many fear that the emphasis on lower cost labor will reduce the expertise of the work force and result in lower levels of effort.

Intelligence Taps Industry for Essential Technologies

May 22, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

James Bond’s U.S. counterpart may be equipped more with commercial technologies than with systems developed in intelligence community laboratories. The private sector will be called upon to provide even more capabilities to help keep the intelligence community ahead of adversaries and budget cuts.

Austerity Breeds Innovation

May 16, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

East: Joint Warfighting 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 3
East: Joint Warfighting 2013 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, Virginia, wrapped up today with discussions about the challenges in counterinsurgency wars, rapid acquisition and fiscal crisis.
Lt. Col. John A. Nagl, USA (Ret.), author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, said that U.S. leaders turned away from the lessons that were learned in Vietnam when they began fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was not until Gen. David Patraeus, USA (Ret.), former commander, U.S. Central Command, took over the mission that progress started to be seen in the region. “We can’t afford to get it so far wrong again,” Col. Nagl stated.
 
While some success has been seen in Iraq in terms of stability, the same cannot be said about Afghanistan, he added. Absent American support, the country could still be overtaken by insurgents, and it is yet to be determined if Afghanistan will end up like the Vietnam War or be an “untidy” success like Iraq. “The best we can hope for is an age of unsatisfying wars,” the colonel noted. “Counterinsurgency wars are long and messy, but they are the most likely type of wars we’ll fight in the future.”
 
Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, USA (Ret.), former U.S. Army chief information officer (G-6), led the final panel of the conference. The topic was one that has been hot for some time and is now coming to a boil in light of tightening budgets: acquisition. However, members of the panel did not so much discuss less money as they did an aspect of the issue that has been the focus of numerous panels: how to speed delivery of solutions to warfighters.
 

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