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The AIP Roadshow -- Executing Acquisition with Excellence

Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, Military Deputy for the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition), addresses Space and Missile Systems Center personnel about the rebuilding of acquisition excellence during his brief visit to Los Angeles Air Force Base last week. (Photo by Atiba Copeland)

Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, Military Deputy for the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition), addresses Space and Missile Systems Center personnel about the rebuilding of acquisition excellence during his brief visit to Los Angeles Air Force Base last week. (Photo by Atiba Copeland)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE -- Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, Military Deputy for the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition), visited SMC last week to brief SMC members on the Air Force's initiative to recapture acquisition excellence by rebuilding a culture that delivers the right products and services on time and within budget.

"He's one of us and knows our business," said Lt. Gen. Tom Sheridan, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, about Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford. "He's done the work; he's got the credentials; and he's part of our team."

Due to a number of events in recent years on high profile acquisition programs, current Department of Defense leadership, and internal and external assessments about what's going on in acquisition led to the Air Force's 2008-2010 Strategic Plan to now include as one of its five priorities "Recapturing Acquisition Excellence."

The Acquisition Improvement Plan has been developed as a tool to "recapture" that excellence. This effort's importance in the words of our Air Force Chief, said General Shackelford, is "As acquisition goes, so goes the image of the Air Force."

The AIP consists of the following five areas, which focuses on people, processes and performance:

1. Revitalize the Air Force acquisition workforce

2. Improve requirements generation process

3. Instill budget and financial discipline

4. Improve Air Force major systems source selections

5. Establish clear lines of authority and accountability within acquisition organizations

In terms of the workforce, the Air Force needs to fill more of its vacant civilian and military positions, "get more" positions, and ensure the individuals filling those positions are competent to do the job.

Improvements in the form of expedited hiring authority and increased authorizations will significantly assist in this endeavor, and between 2010 and 2015, our government acquisition workforce will grow by approximately 9,000 positions. "Our goal was to hire 630 interns and journeymen by the end of FY 2009 and we exceeded that," said Gen. Shackelford.

Also, increased funding has been sent to the Air Force Institute of Technology and the Defense Acquisition University to increase course offerings, available seats and degrees.

A competency development initiative will be put in place as a way to measure an individual's competency in acquisition, i.e., documented evidence you know how to perform the job you have.

The requirements generation process also needs improvement. Fundamentally, we must control the requirements to ensure that what we are going to build is what the warfighter needs. If requirements should change from the original proposal due to warfighter needs, the Chief of Staff and MAJCOM/CC will get involved, and a Configuration Steering Board has been implemented to compare what the requirements changes are to what resources are available.

The financial management and budget process must be accomplished better, i.e., do a better job of estimating what the costs are going to be, stabilizing funds and baselining the program better. Overhead rates and industry are being looked at very closely. We need to better understand the financial basis of our programs.

Our source selection process was also reviewed. What the infamous source selection of last year encouraged us to do is increase the oversight level of how we pick the key players in our source selection. Less than 1 percent of all Air Force contracts are protested. Of the 836 protested between 2000 and 2008, only 29 were sustained by the GAO. However, approximately 1/3 of those source selections protested required significant corrections.

Air Force acquisition has developed the Multifunction Independent Review Team, peer reviews and other leadership reviews so that when a program moves forward to execute a source selection, we should meticulously document, in a traceable way, the logic trail from how we said we were going to make the selection to the actual selection. And this is not just doing it right, but being able to defend the decision.

And finally, the plan proposes clear lines of authority and accountability within acquisition organizations. The one that affects the military here is the transition from wings, groups and squadrons back to directorates, divisions and branches organizational structure. Nearly a unanimous recommendation, this will correct several consequences of the wing, group, squadron structure that hindered effective acquisition while helping our acquisition officers remain competitive. The intent is to recognize our officers as deep acquisition professionals responsible for billions of program dollars as opposed to the "all-around" generalist of other career fields. Materiel leaders will still be selected by command screening boards for the leadership positions--you just won't have a commander duty title.

Gen Shackelford stressed that acquisition workforce is doing a fine job with more tasks and less resources. "This is all about providing war-winning capability - on time, on cost."