GOP chairman's Pentagon acquisition bill looks past ‘bright shiny objects’

GOP chairman's Pentagon acquisition bill looks past ‘bright shiny objects’
© Getty

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) is looking to move beyond the “bright shiny objects” and focus on streamlining the less glamorous parts of defense acquisitions with his new bill.

Thornberry in the last several years has led several radical changes to speed up Pentagon weapons buys, including splitting the Defense Department’s top acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L) position into two jobs.

But Thornberry’s latest acquisition reform bill, his third in three years, aims to instead streamline the way the department does business.

“We’ve done some fairly significant things in the past, from organizational changes at AT&L to a variety of things with the major defense programs, work force issues and so forth,” Thornberry told reporters following the draft bill’s release.

“This year we’re not as much going for the bright shiny objects, the aircraft carriers and the fighters, we’re going for the other things that may not be as glamorous but are tremendously important, tremendously costly for the Department of Defense.”

The new 80-page bill focuses on bringing an Amazon-like online marketplace to the Defense Department, cutting down on lengthy and costly program audits and freeing up data for officials to make decisions faster and cheaper.

House aides told reporters Wednesday that no one from the Trump administration had viewed the bill prior to its release, and Thornberry said Thursday he did not preview the bill to industry for feedback.

Thornberry did note that House Armed Services staff members have “been bouncing ideas off of people since last June” and will give industry and House Democrats a chance to respond.

The committee’s ranking member, Adam SmithAdam SmithOvernight Defense: Trump transgender ban sets off storm Trump triggers storm with transgender ban Armed Services leaders appoint strategy panel members MORE (D-Wash.), said in a statement following the bill’s release that while he supports some of the proposals it puts forward, “I have concerns about others. I look forward to continuing to work with him on these important issues."

Thornberry said he welcomed Smith’s input.

“I made sure that Adam and his folks knew the things they were working on. Just like we’ve done before, I just want to put it out there and invite comment. He may well have improvements to make, which is great.”

The draft legislation has already received support from several groups including Concerned Veterans for America, which said if implemented properly, “this measure will drive down costs and strengthen our national security — which everyone should be in favor of,” according to a group statement.

“The biggest reason [for reform] though is that it is wrong for us to send men and women out on missions unless we provide them ... the very best support that this nation can produce,” Thornberry stressed. “If for some reason there’s bureaucracy or outdated technology that prevents us from doing that, I think it’s morally wrong.”

The draft bill will be open for a month of feedback, and portions will eventually be folded into the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act when it is introduced later this year.