AUSA: Ellen Lord, the former Textron executive now heading the Pentagon’s acquisition shop, revealed today in her first public appearance since her confirmation that she is making fundamental changes in how the Office of Secretary of Defense starts and manages military weapons programs. This comes on top of internal Army reforms announced here by the Chief of Staff Mark Milley and Acting Secretary Ryan McCarthy.
Until today, only new major programs were managed by the four services. “I am relooking at the decisions that have been made on older programs too. We are right in the midst of discussing that. There may well be others that go back and are relegated to the services,” Lord told me. She hasn’t decided yet, she said, how many of the OSD acquisition workforce will migrate to the services to help manage them: “We are actively talking about people moving.” These moves could begin a significant shift of power away from the Office of Secretary of Defense to the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force.
Breaking D readers know better than about anyone how this all started. Sen. John McCain hired Bill Greenwalt, a top acquisition expert, to change the laws governing Pentagon acquisition. Greenwalt wrote legislation, later passed as part of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, that shifted the balance of power from OSD to the services. All new programs, it says, will be managed by the services. Lord’s decision to shift most programs to the services may mean the beginning of the ascendancy of the services in starting and managing weapons programs.
Lord also said she expects to see a 50 percent cut in the time it takes to get a program started, the time it takes the Pentagon to turn a requirement into a Request for Information (RFI) or for Proposal (RFP). “No kidding — we’re going to get there on that,” she told the conference. How exactly she’s going to measure that wasn’t clear. “I know it’s way too long,” she told reporters. “I learned that on the other side.”
Lord also declared that, while she didn’t want to regularly meet with individual CEOs, she did plan to meet individually with the heads of the top six defense primes twice each year. She met yesterday with Phebe Novakovic, General Dynamics‘ CEO. Generally, she said she preferred to work with the defense industry groups, the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), and the Professional Services Council (PSC).
A key driver for her push to speed acquisition is the need for weapons to be useful for multi-domain battle. “We need to be interoperable,” Lord said We have to have all the systems communicate with one another, and they have to share data and we have to be able to mine that data.”
Finally, Lord also told reporters after her talk that “I’m not sure that” a Space Corps — pushed by Rep. Mike Rogers of the House Armed Services Committee –would help improve space acquisition, noting there is “a very healthy debate” underway about it.