Continuing its effort to reform military acquisitions, the Department of Defense (“DoD”) recently released an updated version of its acquisition guideline, DoD Instruction (“DoDI”) 5000.02, Operation of the Defense Acquisition System, available here.  The updated document incorporates the changes from an interim version of the Instruction released on November 26, 2013, and emphasizes tailoring acquisition strategies to particular products or services.  Although the new guidance leaves the DoD’s basic acquisition process unchanged, contractors should be aware that the DoD continues to refine its acquisition goals and procedures.

The newest version of DoDI 5000.02 is only the latest step toward improving DoD’s acquisition policy, which the Department describes as its ongoing mission.  In 2008, the DoD reissued and substantially changed the defense acquisition management framework, particularly in the early phases of the process.  The 2013 interim version and the final version released on January 7, 2015 seek to streamline the acquisition system and account for the regulations and statutes promulgated since 2008.  These revisions increase emphasis on thoughtful program planning and incorporate Better Buying Power initiatives, best practices designed to enhance DoD’s purchasing power and improve industry productivity, while providing affordable, value-added military capability.  A comprehensive explanation of Better Buying Power initiatives is available here.

Even more than the previous versions, the updated DoDI 5000.02 “emphasizes tailoring of program structures, content, and decision points to the product being acquired” through “several program structure models instead of a single model,” Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a memo accompanying the Instruction.  The models are starting points for program planning and are not mandatory alternatives.  Model 1 is for hardware intensive programs and is the starting point for most weapon systems.  Model 2  is designed for complex, usually defense unique, software programs that will not be fully deployed until several software builds have been completed.  Model 3 is for incrementally deployed software intensive programs, such as weapons systems software that reaches full capability after multiple 1- to 2-year cycles.  Finally, Model 4 is an accelerated acquisition program that compresses or eliminates phases of the process when schedule considerations outweigh cost and technical risk considerations.  The guideline also offers hybrids of these various models, all of which are designed to customize the acquisition process and serve as a reference guide for DoD professionals.

Contractors should also be aware that the DoD, like many government agencies trying to accommodate shrinking budgets, continues to make its internal processes more efficient and will work with Congress to further that goal.  As put by Kendall, “DoDI 5000.02 provides policy guidance, but it is also a tool that should be used by acquisition professionals, and the operational, programming, and intelligence professionals we work with . . . .”  It goes without saying that, as the expectations and responsibilities of DoD staff continue to change, those changes will invariably flow down to the Defense Department’s contractors.