Pentagon says it’s using automation to speed up acquisition bureaucracy

W hile Congress rails over cost overruns, the Pentagon says it’s doing work of its own to speed up its ponderous acquisition review-and-approval process. While many parts of the entire Better Buying Power program touch on that point, DoD is optimistic that a single IT tool can reduce cost and schedule overruns by managing the acquisition system’s workflow a bit more sensibly.

DoD’s Electronic Coordination Tool still is in its pilot phase, but its basic point is to better manage the barrage of paperwork that comes along with the statutory and regulatory requirements Congress and the Pentagon have layered on through the decades. On average, DoD has been able to complete all of its documentation and review requirements for a given program within two months when it’s used the tool.

Without it, in some cases, the process has taken two years, according to Katrina McFarland, the assistant secretary of Defense for acquisition.

That’s because the current process Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) dislikes so much generally involves many levels of review — one by a program executive officer, another by the military service involved and eventually by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Traditionally, those steps have happened one after another. It can take years because there is a lot of actual paper moving back and forth through the Pentagon, as one arm of the review process makes edits with red pens, another part objects and sends a given document back for further revision, and so on.

The new process entirely electronically manages the workflow. It lets each layer of review happen at basically the same time, McFarland wrote in the current edition of DoD’s Defense AT&L Magazine.

“The automated process emphasizes the (Service Acquisition Executive) and (Defense Acquisition Executive), saving the PM from frustrating redundant staff review and allowing her to focus on answering the final decision maker’s concerns. One lesson learned, however, is that this process should not replace telephoning or exchanging emails if there is confusion over the comments provided.”

This post is part of Jared Serbu’s Inside the DoD Reporter’s Notebook feature. Read more from this edition of Jared’s Notebook.

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