WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2014 – In remarks at the Women in Aerospace-hosted luncheon here today, the under secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology announced that Better Buying Power 3.0 builds on previous iterations of the efficiency initiative with a focus on technology and innovation.
Acknowledging a budget drop to $65 billion in research and development, Frank Kendall said BBP 3.0 directs achieving dominant capabilities through technical excellence and innovation in a culture of cost-consciousness, professionalism and technical excellence.
Better Buying Power 3.0 is the culmination of U.S. defense technology’s evolution since the first Gulf War some 23 years ago.
Lessons from history, focus on future
“We demonstrated at that time a dramatic improvement in our ability to wage war [through] equipment, systems and capabilities: precision munitions, stealthy aircraft, network systems,” Kendall said. “We dominated in a way no one expected [and] China in particular very seriously studied what we’d done.”
Kendall, who about 15 years ago was the director of tactical warfare programs at the Pentagon, recalled annual threat assessments, particularly in weapons systems around the world. “For years we focused on Soviets … and a few other countries,” he said.
But Russia and China, Kendall noted, “did not stand still” and designed systems to defeat or in some cases emulate some of the capabilities the United States had demonstrated.
When he returned to Pentagon five years ago, Kendall said, he noticed China’s rapid development and strategic investment in systems like electronic warfare capabilities, cruise and ballistic missiles, and the ability to attack U.S. high-value assets such as airfields, aircraft carriers, and ships.
China’s actions, he explained, were part of that nation’s plan to militarily dominate that region of the world. “It’s a serious threat to our capabilities, particularly if we get close to China,” he said.
But because precision munitions among other technologies are now widely available, Better Buying Power 3.0 can help ensure the United States cost-consciously stays on the cutting edge of innovation, Kendall explained.
He said the department has tried to cut spending in the shadow of sequestration, a Congressional decision Kendall said failed at its original objective.
“[Sequestration] was put in place as a tool to force people to do what they need to do politically [and] fund our government at a reasonable amount,” he said. “ … It was not designed to be [a] budget-management tool or a cost-cutting tool itself.”
And the impact, he emphasized, was stronger than it appeared with “distributed damage,” as evidenced in 80 percent cuts to research, development and procurement and other cuts in readiness and training.
With the recent presidential nomination of Ash Carter as defense secretary, Kendall said the two will continue to analyze and implement Better Buying Power 3.0, distinctive in its shifted emphasis on products, the quality of those products and innovation.
“It’s about technical excellence, it’s about staying ahead and ensuring that the United States continues to be the dominant military power in the world,” he said.
Kendall said he plans to change the culture of starting programs that aren’t affordable and therefore remain incomplete, adding, “In general, we shouldn’t start things we can’t afford to finish.”
He said the latest BBP will also call for achieving dominant capabilities while ensuring life-cycle costs.
“Our people should figure out what their products or services they’re buying should cost and they should try to make sure they do cost that,” Kendall said.
Intel, industry collaboration
New elements such as greater collaboration with the intelligence community and industry also distinguish BBP 3.0 from its earlier versions, he said.
“We have to be thinking much more carefully about what the other guys are doing and what the other guys are going to do because of what we’re doing,” Kendall said.
Ultimately, Kendall maintains there are no silver bullets in acquisition.
“It’s an incredibly complicated endeavor and you have to look at all aspects of it and try to get them all right if you’re going to have success,” Kendall said. “Continuous improvement and continuous self-examination using data as much as possible to inform policies is the way to go.”