• James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, offers solutions to vexing acquisition challenges at West 2018.
     James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, offers solutions to vexing acquisition challenges at West 2018.

Decentralization Key to Navy Acquisition Reform

February 8, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The sea service wants to push decision making earlier in programs.


Improving acquisition efficiency in a time of high funding demands may begin with letting program managers manage, according to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. James F. Geurts, speaking to the audience at the final morning keynote in West 2018, being held in San Diego February 6-8, described several approaches the Navy wants to take to improve acquisition and enhance innovation.

Foremost among these is to decentralize decision making in programs. “The Navy is decentralizing control of programs so program managers actually can make decisions on their programs,” he stated, adding, “I’m looking at the decisions that I was making at my level that can be pushed down to the PEO level. And, we’re looking at moving decisions from the PEO level.” By pushing decision making down lower in an organization, issues are resolved quicker, and if mistakes are made, they occur as less critical levels.

The problems inhibiting innovation and rapid deployment are many, but Geurts emphasized that the Navy can put its own acquisition solutions into place quickly. “There’s a lot we can control within our own four walls. Let’s take those things on first,” he suggested, adding, “Congress has given us more authorities than we have figured out how to use effectively.”

In terms of agility, he was talking about not just products, but also process and ideas, he emphasized. Improvements in these areas will be necessary to achieve badly needed goals. “When you look at system cost these days, it’s unsustainable over the long term,” he stated. For example, he noted that existing plans called for moving all the Navy’s apps onto the cloud within five years. “We need to get all the apps on the cloud in three years or less,” Geurts warranted.

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