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MILDEP Brings SOF Perspective to Acquisition Strategy to Deliver Now

By John Higgins, PEO IEW&S Public Affairs, December 29, 2017

On Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., Program Executive Officer Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors (PEO IEW&S) joined by members of other PEO’s: Command Control Communications — Tactical (PEO C3T) and Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA) along with Joint Program Executive Office Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO Chem Bio) hosted Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the Principal Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, for his Acquisition Streamline & Culture Initiatives brief, Dec. 20, 2107. (Photo Credit: John Higgins)

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Program Executive Officer Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors (PEO IEW&S) joined by members of other PEOs: Command Control Communications — Tactical and Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives along with Joint Program Executive Office Chemical and Biological Defense hosted Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the Principal Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology), for his Acquisition Streamline & Culture Initiatives brief.

Ostrowski’s whirlwind tour took him to Huntsville, Ala., for time with PEO Aviation and PEO Missiles & Space, then it was off to Warren, Mich., home of PEO Ground Combat Systems and PEO Combat Support & Combat Service Support.

The purpose of the tour was to meet with Army Acquisition professionals and discuss plans for the future.

Ostrowski certainly had a plan. It’s a rare thing when a speaker can be said to be “electrifying” in the field of acquisition.

“We’ve been so brain washed in a way,” Ostrowski said to a well-attended auditorium, “to follow processes and that those processes were more important than product, which has put us in a position where we no longer than keep up with the threat and we no longer can keep up with the advances in technology with the speed at which they are turning.”

In Special Operations fashion, Ostrowski directly offered to “fly high cover,” saying “I’ve got your back. Because it’s on me. Which is exactly where I want to be, because we have got to change this thing.”

The first part of these dramatic plans actually began almost a year ago with the Section 809 Panel, assembled specifically to assess acquisition and identify areas of improvement. They presented their initial findings to the Armed Services committee in May of 2017.

Their fifty page paper ended with this conclusion:
“All these events exact a toll on the morale of the acquisition workforce. At some point people, motivated by their desire to serve the country and the men and women defending it, feel frustrated in their efforts to make a difference and do not feel empowered with respect to work processes. The workforce deserves a better system.”

To find that better system, Ostrowski directed his team to “Go to the Navy: they got this thing called an ACAT [Acquisition Category] IV, I want to know all the things about what an ACAT IV is and whether or not we can use something like that in our Army.”
An Acquisition Category IV was exclusive to the Navy and Marines until very recently. It designates either testing or monitoring of a product. Further, those ACAT IV items will be directly managed at the Colonel (O-6) or Civilian GS-15 level.

“I also said, ‘Look, I want you to go to SOCOM and I want to you pull up a thing called a SAMP, a Simplified Acquisition Management Plan,” Ostrowski continued. “Right now one size shoe fits all, weather you’re at ACAT I or ACAT III, in our Army? The documentation isn’t substantially different.”

A SAMP contains acquisition strategy, logistic support plan and a testing plan in roughly ten pages. The reason for this is the paper work is required by law, the there is no specified length.

Ostrowski pointed out that there are waivers that would allow Acquisition personnel to tailor their paperwork, not just to the military requirement but how an item is created and what its intended purpose will be. The issue, he said, was it was easier to do something the “process” way, then to get permission to do it the “product” way.

“That’s why I had to do a Corrosion Prevention Control Plan for a combat shirt. In case you’re wondering, a combat shirt doesn’t have any metal on it at all. It’s just cloth. But I signed it! Because it was easier to that than to ask for a waiver!”

Ostrowski then launched into a comprehensive plan that would allow for a greater degree of customization across the board in acquisition strategies. Ostrowski also addressed testing, and how to hold industry partners accountable to a greater degree of initial functionality, but also a greater degree of long-term improvement. That also means communicating with industry partners on their level, the lieutenant said. “We have to bring the testing community into acquisition reform,” he said continuing, “Acquisition is a team sport.”

A key element of this, is “fly before you buy,” and “buy down risk.” Ostrowski said. This means that rather than rush a product to Milestone B where there is a greater oversight for development, project managers should utilize a more deliberate process to eliminate as much risk as possible before entering the next Milestone gate. Ostrowski said that while this will cost us time in the short term, it will save us time and money in the long term.

These reforms are even more necessary now, as The Army now owns 835 programs, with Integrated Air Missile Defense, Lower Tier Missile Defense and Future Vertical lift the only three programs still under the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Ostrowski identified an ambitious plan, however, he made it clear that he had put in the work to make it happen and would continue to put in the effort to do so.

“You have equipped the most lethal, the most force protected and the most situational aware Army that has ever walked the face of this earth.” Ostrowski said, reflecting on the accomplishments of the PEO community. “You should be very proud of what it is that you have done.”

One Response to “MILDEP Brings SOF Perspective to Acquisition Strategy to Deliver Now”

  1. JM Gavin says:

    I have worked with LTG Ostrowski a few times in the past, always found him to have a common-sense, practical, and pragmatic approach to things, which is exactly what Army Acquisitions needs.

    Everybody has been complaining about the arcane and bloated acquisition process for years, and some of those complaining have a whole bunch of rank on their chest. I don’t know what can be done to reform the system, and I am pretty sure the problems start with Congress, and GOFOs are unable to force the needed change.

    While fixing the system is beyond LTG Ostrowski’s reach, I expect he will do a fine job slashing red tape and bringing SOCOM’s expedited acquisition experience to the job.