Life in the Fast Lane

There are three ways the Air Force thinks it can accelerate the process of introducing new technology, acting USAF acquisition chief Richard Lombardi told the House Armed Services Committee Thursday. At a hearing on experimentation and agility, Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) asked how Congress can help speed things up, and Lombardi said USAF is already treating requirements setting as a “team sport.” It’s about “getting everyone together,” from the users to the acquisition people, to discuss a need and deciding first whether a change in concept of operation or some other “non-material solution” could address the capabilities gap at hand. If not, Lombardi said, the group approach will ensure that the actual need is answered; avoiding a mere re-stating of the requirements “of the previous system.” Lombardi—echoing the remarks of Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley, also testifying—said Congress can help by allowing the services more flexibility to spend money on an emerging need before a program of record is established; to be able to quickly start basic work and experiments to see “if we’re going in the right direction” before committing to a program of record. The interval between a basic research project and a program of record is known as the “valley of death,” he noted. Lombardi also said USAF is looking to “non-traditional players” to offer new solutions to its needs and stimulate the competition of ideas.