Levin, McCain Introduce Legislationto Reform Weapon Systems Acquisition Process

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

WASHINGTON -- Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today introduced the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 [PDF]. The bill would address the unreasonable cost and schedule estimates, unrealistic performance expectations, immature technologies, and repeated program changes that have led to explosive cost growth and costly schedule delays on so many of our major defense acquisition programs.

“DOD’s 95 largest acquisition programs are an average of two years behind schedule and have exceeded their original budgets by a combined total of almost $300 billion,” Levin said. “Particularly at this time, when the federal budget is under immense strain as a result of the economic crisis, we simply cannot afford this kind of continued waste and inefficiency.

“The key to successful acquisition programs is getting things right from the start with sound systems engineering, cost-estimating, and developmental testing early in the program cycle,” Levin continued. “The bill that we are introducing today will require the Department of Defense to take the steps needed to put major defense acquisition programs on a sound footing from the outset. If these changes are successfully implemented, they should help our acquisition programs avoid future cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance problems.”

“The Weapon System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 is an important step in efforts to reform the defense acquisition process,” said Senator John McCain. “This legislation is needed to focus acquisition and procurement on emphasizing systems engineering; more effective upfront planning and management of technology risk; and growing the acquisition workforce to meet program objectives.

Senator McCain continued, “While I am pleased to be introducing this legislation with Chairman Levin, we certainly must do more. The primary responsibility to reform the process falls on the Department of Defense. No amount of legislation can substitute for a true commitment to acquisition reform within the Pentagon.”

The Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 contains provisions that would:

  • Address problems with unreasonable performance requirements by requiring DOD to reestablish systems engineering organizations and developmental testing capabilities; make trade-offs between cost, schedule and performance early in the program cycle; and conduct preliminary design reviews before giving approval to new acquisition programs;
  • Address problems with unreasonable cost and schedule estimates by establishing a new, independent director of cost assessment to ensure that unbiased data is available for senior DOD managers;
  • Address problems with the use of immature technologies by requiring the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) to periodically review and assess the maturity of critical technologies and by directing the Department to make greater use of prototypes, including competitive prototypes, to prove that new technologies work before trying to produce them; and,
  • Address problems with costly changes in the middle of a program by tightening the so-called “Nunn-McCurdy” requirements for underperforming programs.