Washington D.C.House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following statement at today’s hearing: Defense Reform: Empowering Success in Acquisition:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I wish to thank Mr. Kendall and Ms. Barna for appearing today and for sharing with us their valuable expertise on this important topic.  Their contributions are instrumental to this committee’s continuing efforts to assess and remediate the defense acquisition system.

The Department of Defense depends on its acquisition system to provide the products and the services necessary to perform its roles and missions.  However, cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance failures continue to undermine the defense acquisition system’s overall effectiveness. 

We on this committee are eager to help the Department in identifying the root causes of dysfunction and to assist the Department in boosting its buying power and in optimizing the cost-effectiveness of its acquisition system.  Reform will only become more essential as budgetary resources become scarcer. 

Congress and the Department must work together to build on the achievements of previous reform efforts and to support a concerted and sustained undertaking to solve problems inherent to the defense acquisition system.  In doing so, we should: sharpen the requirements generation and validation processes; empower the acquisition work force with appropriate resources, education, training, and incentives; develop integrated acquisition data management systems that facilitate informed decisions; enhance the vitality of the defense industrial base; and improve oversight of contractor performance.

Any effort to reform defense acquisition must consider the Department’s purchases of services, which include everything from grass-cutting services to transportation and information technology services.  Contracts for services now outstrip DOD spending on supplies and equipment by a margin of 52% to 48%.  In fiscal year 2013, the Department spent nearly $161 billion on services, which is far more than any single military department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 and goes well beyond what the Department plans to spend on equipment procurement in fiscal year 2015 ($90.4 billion).

The acquisition workforce must provide robust oversight of the execution of hundreds, if not thousands, of service contracts to ensure that we do not repeat past failures, including some that led to grievous personal harm, and even death, for contractor personnel.   Acquisition spending levels place a heavy burden on the acquisition workforce.  So, it is imperative that the acquisition workforce have the resources and capabilities to effectively allocate and oversee the impact of every tax dollar spent.

We often hear that a more streamlined, less burdensome acquisition process will produce better acquisition outcomes, and I am very interested in exploring how we might promote greater efficiency across the board.   We should remember, however, that the effectiveness of the acquisition system relies ultimately on the proficiency of its practitioners.  An adept and energetic workforce is the key element of any nimble and responsive system, especially one as complex and as sophisticated as the defense acquisition system.  Sequestration, government shutdowns, congressionally-directed workforce downsizings, furloughs, and pay freezes are hardly the ingredients to a recipe for success.

Mr. Chairman, this hearing is dedicated to empowering success in acquisition.  Empowerment of the acquisition system should begin with enabling the very people charged with making it work, and, in the pursuit of success in acquisition, the Congress should be a help, and not a hindrance.

I look forward to discussing with our witnesses how we might help to effectuate improvements to the defense acquisition system and its workforce going forward.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.