Feds will deal with the reformers of reform

The shuttle driver from the convention hotel to the airport mentioned he’s a transplanted Chicago native. He says he knows it’s time for a visit to his old home town when he starts liking the taste of pizza available in central Florida. I sat in the front seat. We discussed the knife attacks at a church in Normandy, the still-raw mass murder at the Orlando night club.

The driver commented, “Yeah but think of it this...

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The shuttle driver from the convention hotel to the airport mentioned he’s a transplanted Chicago native. He says he knows it’s time for a visit to his old home town when he starts liking the taste of pizza available in central Florida. I sat in the front seat. We discussed the knife attacks at a church in Normandy, the still-raw mass murder at the Orlando night club.

The driver commented, “Yeah but think of it this way. Most of us are doing okay. We’re going to get through this.”

I wondered, exactly what is “this”? Is it the nearly daily violence reports from all over? Is it the mutual mud-throwing by our charming political parties? Maybe it’s uncertainty, the feeling by two thirds of Americans, surveys show, that our great ship is not headed in the right direction?

At a second pickup under the entrance canopy of a gigantic hotel, a family was clambering into a Toyota Prius. A young daughter, maybe 11 or 12, wore, like her smaller sister and her mother, a full hijab atop a long dress. Only her’s was pushed back slightly by a proudly-worn set of Mickey Mouse ears. I thought, well, we will be okay.

These pre-election months always bring a little uncertainty to the federal workforce. No one knows what policies the next administration will bring. As surely as squirrels gather nuts in the fall, you can bet they’ll have something to reform procurement.

Elliott Branch, the deputy assistant Navy secretary for acquisition, had said something earlier during a panel discussion I moderated at the National Contract Management Association World Congress in Orlando. Branch, a Service to America Medal winner for his work on the Littoral Combat Ship program, is more than an acquisition guru. He’s also something of a philosopher on federal matters.

The panel also included Branch’s counterparts at the Air Force and Army, Major General Casey Blake and Harry Hallock, respectively. My question was, what effects do they anticipate from the proposal ⎯ now in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Bill ⎯ to return a measure of acquisition authority to the armed services chiefs and away from the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics?

I thought it was a solid policy-dork question.

Branch answered first. He said the whole provision was a political debate, not an acquisition question, adding that the bill’s Section 800, which deals with acquisition, has  50 subsections.  For this year it had 99. The year before it was 60. He said whatever Congress ultimately decides, and for whatever reasons it has, the Navy and the entire DOD will find a way to make it work. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, we’ve always managed to pick up after the politicians, of both parties, and make it work.

In other words, we’ll get through this, too.