House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry is wasting no time in his efforts to build on last year’s reforms to the defense acquisition system.  Less than a year after he launched his opening salvo in a new round of changes, Chairman Thornberry previewed the year ahead with a recent hearing and a presentation at the National Press Club.

Chairman Thornberry plans to circulate draft reform legislation and incorporate the finished product into the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Emphasizing (once again) the themes of agility and innovation, the hearing featured the senior acquisition executives from each of the military departments.  Chairman Thornberry expressed particular interest in finding ways to support their drive for greater flexibility in experimentation and prototyping.
Continue Reading Acquisition Reform Ramps Up Early in 2016

On December 30th, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a Second Interim Rule amending its “Network Penetration Reporting and Contracting for Cloud Services” Interim Rule and giving  contractors until December 31, 2017 to implement the NIST SP 800-171 security controls required by DFARS 252.204-7012.  As noted in a previous post, DoD has already issued a class deviation giving covered contractors up to nine (9) months (from the date of contract award or modification incorporating the new clause(s)) to satisfy the requirement for “multifactor authentication for local and network access” found in Section 3.5.3 of NIST SP 800-171.  This current revision appears responsive to significant concerns raised by Industry about compliance with the remaining safeguarding requirements imposed overnight on contractors on August 26, 2015.

The Second Interim Rule imposes the following changes:
Continue Reading Time Is On My Side: DoD Hears Industry Concerns – Additional Time Provided to Implement Security Controls Under New Cyber Rule

As Congress considers the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week, political enthusiasts can look forward to plenty of minor dramas playing out on the House floor and in Senate committee rooms.  Small businesses might be more excited about a provision of the NDAA that is unlikely to make the headlines: the prospect of a five-year extension of the popular Rapid Innovation Program.

The Rapid Innovation Program was created five years ago as “a collaborative vehicle for small businesses to provide the department with innovative technologies that can be rapidly inserted into acquisition programs that meet specific defense needs.”  Each year, Department of Defense agencies identify pressing operational requirements and publish them in a broad agency announcement.  Interested bidders offer white papers, which Department representatives evaluate on a “go” or “no-go” basis.  Offerors whose white papers receive a “go” rating are invited to submit full proposals for further evaluation and decision.  The program offers funding of up to $3 million over two years.  From FY2011 to FY2015, the GAO estimates that the government will have signed contracts for 435 projects, representing more than $1.3 billion. 
Continue Reading Extending the Rapid Innovation Program

Mac Thornberry is taking a sledgehammer to the Pentagon’s $600 hammer.

That particular bogeyman of wasteful defense spending never actually existed, but many real (and larger) inefficiencies continue to plague the defense procurement process.  Last month, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee released draft legislation designed to make fundamental reforms to the government’s acquisition of defense-related goods and services.  Chairman Thornberry’s bipartisan initiative, which he drafted with HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith, aims to increase the transparency, flexibility, and responsiveness of the defense acquisition system.  The Chairman launched his initiative before a standing-room-only audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where he argued that the accelerating pace of technological development and the proliferation of strategic threats compel the need for rapid, comprehensive reform.  In this post, we review some highlights of the proposal and examine the potential implications for government contractors.

Continue Reading Another Attempt at Defense Procurement Reform Begins

The recent leadership change in the U.S. Marine Corps occurs at the same time the Marine Corps is drawing down from sustained combat operations and re-evaluating its role in the defense establishment.  Contractors that support Navy and Marine Corps operations can profit from understanding these developments.

On October 17, General Joseph Dunford became the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps, relieving General Jim Amos, who retired after a four-year tour.  The change of command ceremony was remarkable, and not just because an Ebola scare among the guests added some excitement to the proceedings.  Not since 1999 has an incoming Commandant taken responsibility for a Marine Corps that was not heavily committed to land wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

General Dunford published his first message to Marines on the day he became Commandant.  The one-page letter uses the word “relevant” twice, but the word “combat” only once.  What happened?   Every Marine knows the phrase “prepare for combat,” but few have ever been told to “prepare for relevance.”

General Dunford will lead the Marine Corps through a period of profound change.  Contractors who deal with the Marine Corps must understand how the Corps is framing the discussion of its role in broader military strategy.  Business leaders who understand that discussion have the chance to capitalize on new opportunities, even in an environment of fiscal austerity.  The Commandant’s first message has some intriguing hints, and we expect to see a major overhaul of joint maritime strategy from all three sea services: the Marine Corps; the Navy; and the Coast Guard.  In this post, we explain what these changes mean for the sea services’ partners in industry.
Continue Reading A Sea Change for the Sea Services

On August 14, 2014, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) issued a final rule clarifying the existing standards and procedures for, and expanding the reach of, the Defense Priorities and Allocations System (“DPAS”) regulations – the “rated order” system.  Specifically, the final rule proposes new standards and procedures for such prioritization