Home' Army Acquisition Logistics and Technology Magazine : Army ALT October-December 2016 Contents when the over the counter stu will do
the job. at's the point.
So the issue simply is, can we give pro-
gram managers the authority to go ahead
and buy over the counter when they
think it makes more sense, rather than
restricting them by demanding [the] mil-
itary to follow military specs? And one of
the things that I tried to do when I was
the secretary was give more of the author-
ity to the program managers to make that
decision. ey probably were in the best
position to decide whether they can get
by with over the counter, so we should set
it up so it's not too di cult for them to
make that decision.
Army AL&T: Is that training? Is that
how you set them up better?
Perry: Well, at the time, program man-
agers were able to use over the counter
equipment by applying for a waiver to do
so. I obser ved that they weren't follow-
ing up on that option because it was too
cumbersome and involved too much time
and red tape. So I wrote a one-page direc-
tive that authorized them to buy over the
counter without seeking a waiver on their
own judgment. It was a simple adminis-
trative change, but it's assumed that the
program managers wanted to do the best
thing and were knowledgeable enough
that they would know the use of over the
counter equipment was appropriate.
Army AL&T: One of the things that
[Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisi-
tion, Technology and Logistics Frank]
Kendall says is that we've really got all
the tools we need. One way you can read
the Better Buying Power initiatives is that
they try to point people in the direction
of the tools we need. Are the tools there?
Perry: en and now, I think we had
pretty competent people as program
managers, and the idea was to not only
give them the authority to act but also
lead them to understand [that] they
would not be penalized for acting in an
e cient manner. ere are two di erent
issues with the program managers; rst
of all, the point that you've made, that a
lot of them are rotated in and out of the
jobs and therefore never do develop any
experience and competence; none has
su cient competence.
One way, obviously, of improving the
acquisition system is to make that job
more pro table so that the program man-
ager will want to stay in it and that the
ser vices will be motivated to keep the
program managers in it for longer peri-
ods of time.
e other way is giving the program
managers the authority to make sensible
decisions that save money when they
think it's the right thing to do, which is
what this directive was supposed to do
relative to over the counter equipment---
and also the point that you're making
now, that sometimes when they make
that decision they'll be wrong, so you
don't want systems to come down on
them like a ton of bricks if they exercise
that authority and then something didn't
go quite the way it was supposed to.
So all of this means having a program
manager on the job longer to gain more
competence and giving them more
authority, and not jumping on them
every time something goes wrong.
Army AL&T: Today, we read that the
impetus for acquisition reform is that the
United States faces a much wider variety
of threats than it did in the past and that
we really need to speed up acquisition.
Do you agree with those propositions?
Perry: I think we've always needed to
speed up acquisition. One of the reasons
you want to speed it up is because time
is money. If you look at programs that
are overrunning in schedule, invariably
they're overrunning in cost, too, and, in
fact, overrunning the schedule is the pri-
mary reason for the overrunning cost. So
you always want to be able to do things
more quickly. But that's not any more
necessary today than ve, 10 years ago. I
am absolutely convinced that doing pro-
grams faster is a cost savings as well as
Army AL&T: If people were going to take
a more commercial approach in procure-
ment programs, how would that work?
Perry: I'm not really advocating a com-
mercial approach. I'm advocating longer
tenure for program managers, No. 1, and
No. 2, giving them the authority to buy
commercial equipment whenever that
makes good sense, which is very often
the case. So that doesn't necessarily mean
they're using commercial acquisition
techniques; it just means they're buying
commercial equipment o the shelf.
I have to say that it's easy in
the Pentagon to blame our
problems on the Congress,
that they're buying things
that we don't need and
that there are unnecessary
restrictions on us. I think
that's a relatively small
percentage of the problem.
104 Army AL&T Magazine October-December 2016
'AT THE NUCLEAR BRINK'
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