Acquisition Reform Divides House, Senate

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees both push additional acquisition reforms in their versions of the Fiscal 2017 policy bill, but take sharply different approaches to it, the Congressional Research Service concludes. In a July 13 report, CRS said the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act “is generally intended to be part of a continuation of a comprehensive, long-term, and collaborative effort,” building on the 2016 bill. As such it seeks more information from the Pentagon to guide future efforts. “In contrast, the Senate bill takes a more sweeping, immediate, and in some instances, controversial approach,” CRS said. Both bills try to speed up the acquisition process, seeking to expand use of commercially available items and encourage innovation, and to allow faster upgrades by use of open architecture. The sharpest difference in the two NDAAs is the Senate’s proposal to eliminate the office of undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics and divide its powers among two different undersecretaries and the services. SASC Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) argues that move would facilitate innovation, but the Pentagon and White House oppose it. The Senate bill also seeks to stop a flood of contract protests by threatening financial penalties for losing protests.