DoD Acquisition Official: Cost Over-runs ‘Intractable’ Problem

Deputy Underscretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, Photo: Defense.gov

Testifying before a Senate subcommittee Frank Kendall, the Defense Department’s No. 2 acquisition official, said weapons systems and programs that go beyond their original projected budgets are an “intractable” problem for the department, according to an Armed Forces Press Service report.

However, the only way to combat such programs and their bloated budgets is to get at the root of the issue, Kendall added.

Part of the issue may be that Pentagon procurement officials are too “optimistic” in their requirements, often setting out to build and field a system that is bigger and better than anything built before, he said.

And, contrary to popular belief, they are not as risk-averse as they should be.

“The acquisition system is frequently criticized for taking too long and being too risk-averse,” he said. “One has to ask, if we are so risk-averse, why do we have so many overruns and schedule slips?”

The over-exuberance is also shared by the department’s private-sector counterparts, he said.

“A defense contractor cannot stay in business by bidding realistically or conservatively and never winning a contract,” Kendall explained.

Fitting for such an official whose battle is against unwarranted optimism, Kendall appeared to be clear-eyed about the solutions.

“It is not a short-term battle, [and] a simple policy change will not solve all our problems,” he said. “It takes professionalism, tenacity and singleness of purpose at all levels of the acquisition enterprise to make progress.”

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