Accelerated Acquisition Taking Shape, Producing Results

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The upbeat tone for a panel discussion on accelerated acquisition April 11 was set at the start when Vice Adm. David C. Johnson declared that “accelerated acquisition is not just a theory, but something we’re doing today.”

Johnson, the military deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, went on to cite the rapid movement of the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile from concept to testing in three years and the truncated procurement process for the new frigate, which is expected to have contract award by 2020.

Speaking at the panel at the 2018 Sea-Air-Space Exposition, Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander, Marine Corps Systems Command, described a similarly reduced process for the new armored reconnaissance vehicle to replace the aged Light Armored Vehicles, and Rear Adm. Douglas W. Small, program executive officer, Integrated Warfare Systems, mentioned the accelerated action to field a new shipboard laser weapon system.

Michael W. Derrios, senior procurement executive and head of contracting for the Coast Guard, touted the high-speed movement toward procurement of a new polar icebreaker, which was finally authorized and partially funded by Congress last year.

Johnson and other officials on the panel attributed their ability to move quicker on acquisition to new authorities from Congress and process-cutting directives from the Navy and Marine Corps leadership and from James F. Guerts, the new assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition, who brought a record of accelerated procurement from his previous position with the Special Operations Command.

“These new approaches make maximum use of the new authorities” from Congress and the service chiefs, Johnson said.

Panel member also listed a top-down drive to decentralize acquisition authority and to delegate decision-making down to the program managers, cultural changes to shed old habits and policies, and a greater willingness to take the risk of failure for pushing new systems.

William P. Bray, deputy assistant Navy secretary for research, development, test and evaluation, said his office was studying “how do we create change in culture so we don’t go down old roads.”

The panelists discounted the risk associated with rapid acquisition, with Schrader saying the actions were “not just rolling the dice” but taking “intelligent risks” based on knowledge of the requirements and available technology. Shrader mentioned the series of advanced technology demonstrations the Marines have held, in cooperation with the Navy, to find promising innovation and putting them in the hands of young Marines for field testing.

Small said of his office, “we are absolutely rigged for speed. … Getting rid of layers helps a lot.”