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Frank Kendall: Military Emphasizes Program Upgrades Over New Products as Budgets Fall

Frank Kendall
Frank Kendall

Frank Kendall, the Defense Department‘s acquisitions chief, has indicated his concern over military officials cutting spending on future investments and using minimum cost estimates for programs in fiscal year 2016 draft budgets, Breaking Defense reported Wednesday.

Sydney Freedberg Jr. writes that Kendall sought to note the emphasis on some programs at the cost of retiring or downgrading others, which he believes may unbalance the Program Objective Memorandum as a whole.

“There’s been a big shift to investment in upgrades of [existing] programs as opposed to new products. That’s fine up to a point, but we may have gone too far,” Kendall said at the Common Defense conference, Freedberg reports.

Kendall also cautioned that neglecting the pipeline of new technologies due to worries about sequestration could lead to countries like Russia and China catching up with the U.S. on advancements in computer networks, precision weapons and other areas.

He has identified tanks, high-performance aircraft and surface ships as the top three areas experiencing a dearth in new technology design work.

The report said some new programs have been cancelled or replaced with modernization programs for older equipment.

Another issue Kendall is facing is a tendency in the military to low-ball program cost estimates to fit into the budget, which could lead to schedule delays, Freedberg writes.

“We’re trying also to keep people from starting programs they can’t afford,” Kendall said.

According to the report, DoD will launch the third iteration of its Better Buying Power program in September and a new long-range research and development planning program to “strategically focus” investments in R&D.

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