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Restructuring the Weapon Acquisition System

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SOURCE: Center for American Progress

Rudy deLeon is the Senior Vice President of National Security and International Policy at American Progress.

CAP Action Rudy deLeon testifies before the House Armed Services Committee. Read the full testimony (CAP Action) 

Thank you for the invitation to testify before this committee on the committee’s acquisition reform package. I would like to further acknowledge Chairman Skelton and Ranking Member McHugh for their leadership on this matter.

I would like to start highlighting the problems in the weapons acquisition system. A blue-ribbon group of former Pentagon acquisition officials concluded in late 2007 that the military contracting process was plagued with systematic problems and failures.

The investigators found that acquisition and contracting procedures were inadequate to support U.S. military forward deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the blue-ribbon group concluded, “the most notable characteristic of the testimony is a nearly unanimous perception of the current problems, their gravity, and the urgent need for reform.” This panel of experts report is the starting point for examining acquisition and contracting needs.

Solutions should begin at the top, with the Quadrennial Defense Review. The QDR should include a thorough review of the Pentagon investment program to ensure that budget decisions are aligned with the current military needs and priorities.

The review should include all weapons programs, joint combat and network systems, intelligence and information assurance, a full examination of space programs, and missile defense research and development. The procurement and R&D component of last year’s defense budget is $183.8 billion, more than one-third of the defense baseline. Appropriately, this QDR portion will be particularly important because significant budget realignment and redirection is likely. Secretary Gates’ statement earlier this month was the beginning of this process.

Related to this area, the QDR must also examine the availability of critical technical personnel, especially government executives who serve as program managers for these Pentagon programs. The government needs highly skilled people who understand the technology, and can make high-tech trade-offs to get taxpayers good return for their investment and the right equipment to our troops. The career civilian workforce is the best source of candidates for these positions, but their ranks were reduced by administration and congressional directed budget cuts. Technical expertise is essential to protect the public interest. 

CAP Action Rudy deLeon testifies before the House Armed Services Committee. Read the full testimony (CAP Action)

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