America’s position as a leader in technological innovation is in danger, according to Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official. That’s why the Defense Department’s next big initiative — known as “Better Buying Power 3.0” will emphasize innovation, technical excellence and speed, Kendall said in remarks delivered at an industry conference Wednesday.
Kendall, the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, has been an advocate of improving the defense acquisition system through his “Better Buying Power” program, which seeks to make the Pentagon more efficient at buying products and services from contractors.
The first iteration focused on improving business practices and the second one was about making more informed decisions during the procurement process. But 3.0 was going to be a bit different, Kendall said.
“3.0 is going to get us back to our products,” he said. “It’s going to be on technology speed to market, and things we can do to get capability in the hands of warfighters more quickly.”
Kendall offered few details about the program, which he plans to elaborate on soon. In his speech, Kendall said the acquisition process, which has been blamed for slowing down the pace of government programs, was not as big a concern as investment in new technology, especially in light of foreign competition.
Russia and China are “building things that are designed to be effective against the power projection capabilities of the United States and of our allies,” he said. “And they’re doing a reasonably good job of it, particularly China.”
The shrinking defense budget and cuts to research and development in particular are a source of deep concern to him, Kendall said. Such cuts were tantamount to “delaying modernization,” he said.
“As we delay modernization, we basically lose the time that it takes us to get things into the force,” he said.
Kendall also added that the Pentagon’s budget would try and invest more in technology that moves capabilities forward.
His remarks echoed those of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who spoke on the same topic at a conference in Rhode Island Wednesday. Hagel also stressed the need for American companies to innovate in order to keep pace with the rest of the world.
“We cannot assume, as we did in the 1950s and ’70s, that the Department of Defense will be the sole source of key breakthrough technologies,” he said.
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