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Kendall Keeps 7 Of 9 New Programs; First Test Of NDAA Reforms

Posted by Colin Clark on


Air Force Photo

Frank Kendall visiting Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.

This year saw the first test of a major shift in acquisition law, pushed by Sen. John McCain, to place more power in the hands of the four armed services.

When the bill was still being debated, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, Frank Kendall, warned that McCain’s move to boost the power of the service chiefs to manage Pentagon weapons programs was coming at the “worst time” and could lead to increased costs and busted schedules. Kendall, taking full advantage of the law’s waivers and conditions, kept Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) for seven programs — three new Army and Air Force, one Navy program — out of nine new starts.

I asked Kendall about the first effects of the law on Friday (it went into effect Oct.1) when he was walking reporters through the latest report on Pentagon acquisition performance. He didn’t say much. But his spokesman Mark Wright provided a great deal of information late Monday.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter “recently” made the decisions to keep most of these programs under Kendall’s purview. The program names and the reasons offered for keeping them under OSD oversight are detailed.

  • Future Vertical Lift Capability (Set 3) Program (Army):The program is addressing a joint requirement; the program is critical to a major interagency requirement or technology development effort, or has significant international partner involvement; and an alternate official serving as the MDA will best provide for the program to achieve desired cost, schedule, and performance outcomes.
  • Long Range Precision Fires Program (Army): The program is addressing a joint requirement and an alternate official serving as the MDA will best provide for the program to achieve desired cost, schedule, and performance outcomes.
  • Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor Program (Army): The program is addressing a joint requirement; the program is critical to a major interagency requirement or technology development effort, or has significant international partner involvement; and an alternate official serving as the MDA will best provide for the program to achieve desired cost, schedule, and performance outcomes.
  • Next Generation Land Attack Weapon Program (Navy): The program is addressing a joint requirement and an alternate official serving as the MDA will best provide for the program to achieve desired cost, schedule, and performance outcomes.
  • Space Based Infrared Systems Program (Air Force) The program is addressing a joint requirement.
  • Wideband Communications Services Program (Air Force) The program is addressing a joint requirement; the program is critical to a major interagency requirement or technology development effort, or has significant international partner involvement; and an alternate official serving as the MDA will best provide for the program to achieve desired cost, schedule, and performance outcomes.
  • Advanced Pilot Trainer Program (T-X) (Air Force): The program is addressing a joint requirement and the program is critical to a major interagency requirement or technology development effort, or has significant international partner involvement.

The two programs that will be subject to service management and MDA are both Air Force programs. They are the new Air Force Weather Satellite and the Extremely High Frequency satellite link for the B-2 bomber.

In an intriguing note, Kendall told us that he’d seen little correlation between the length of tenure of program managers and their performance. He highlighted instead the quality of the PM and the career structure of the PM’s service as key factors in program performance.

The absolutely best line of Kendall’s roundtable: Every Day Is A Delight, offered as he headed out the door for a well deserved weekend.

What do you think?