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Changes to acquisition processes reduce delivery time

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Sept. 14, 2006) -- Changes in the Air Force's acquisition community have already resulted in quicker delivery of capability to the warfighter, according to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.

The Air Force acquisition community is changing the way it does business to deliver capability faster and at a lower cost, said Sue Payton during testimony Sept. 7 before the House Appropriations Committee defense subcommittee.

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"The Air Force understands 21st century challenges must be met by continued leverage of our nation's technology leadership to counter the future threats in this rapidly changing world," she said. "Everything we do in Air Force acquisition is dedicated to getting an operational, suitable, effective, best-value and affordable product to the warfighter, in the least amount of time."

Ms. Payton told legislators that in order to better serve the warfighter, the Air Force has made changes to its acquisition process. One of those changes includes development of a rapid response assessment committee to evaluate acquisition requirements before a final capability development document is produced.

To aid in risk management and decision making on critical aspects of selected acquisition programs, the Air Force has established both an acquisition strategy panel and an Air Force review board.

"The senior level boards provide comprehensive reviews with appropriate checks and balances before major decisions are made," Ms. Payton said. "The (boards) tend to get at the systemic problems."

Ms. Payton also said the Air Force now considers sustainment of new acquisitions early on in the process, to calculate those costs sooner rather than later.

"This allows us to get the technical data necessary to support operations for sources of repair decisions in the future," she said.

Already, changes in the acquisition community have resulted in some successes for the Air Force, Ms. Payton said.

With the small diameter bomb, the Air Force ensured design and technology for the weapon was matured during the competitive process, instead of after a contractor was selected. Also, the Air Force established realistic program baselines at the onset. Those efforts ensured a more rapid delivery of that weapon to the warfighter, Ms. Payton said.

"This allowed us to provide the required assets to the field one month ahead of schedule, and to give commanders additional combat options as the units are getting ready to reply," she said.

When the United States Central Command Air Forces commander wanted to deliver smaller sized weapons, with the same accuracy as that of the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition, the Air Force acquisition community responded. The new weapon would need to kill a target as effectively as the GBU-31 JDAM, but work in a smaller area and cause less collateral damage. Air Force acquisition officials eventually delivered the 500-pound GBU-38 JDAM guided bomb.

"Pressing forward with these new processes, our acquisition team was able to rapidly analyze, test and field this capability in 43 days for the F-15E Strike Eagle and in 52 days for the F-16 Fighting Falcon," she said. "As you may recall, it was the F-16, employed with this new GBU-38, that eliminated al Qaeda terrorist Abu Mousab al Zarqawi."

In past years, the Air Force has been the subject of much scrutiny on Capitol Hill over its acquisition practices. In fact, one senior Air Force official received jail time as a result of inappropriate acquisition activities. Ms. Payton said the Air Force acquisition community is now beyond those kinds of problems.

"I am convinced that the men and women of the Air Force, in this acquisition community, are committed to restoring public confidence and credibility in the acquisition process and our products," she said.

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