Air Force takes steps to move acquisition forward

Tinker Air Force Base --    Recapitalizing equipment and bringing credibility to the acquisition process were among the topics discussed by the Air Force's service acquisition executive, responsible for all Air Force research, development and non-space acquisition activities.
   "The goal is lean acquisition with integrity and credibility," Sue Payton, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Washington, D.C., said May 22 in her keynote address to those in attendance at the 2007 Aerospace Summit and Expo at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
   "We are making sure we have cost, schedule and performance under control," she added.
   One of the first logistical issues addressed by Air Force officials regarding acquisition and life-cycle management was recapitalization.
   Future recapitalization projects include replacing the KC-135 - a weapons platform launched during the President Eisenhower era that on average is about 46 years old - and the Combat Search and Rescue HH-60G Pave Hawk.
   The KC-135 is expected to be replaced in a couple of years, Ms. Payton said.
   "The acquisition process is going extremely well," she said.
Other recapitalization projects include multi-role fighters, the next generation long-range strike program and the space programs.
   Ms. Payton also addressed inefficiencies to avoid in the acquisition process including what she referred to as the "seven deadly sins of acquisition."
   The sins include: grand, revolutionary solutions that depend on immature technology; mismatch between wants, needs, affordability and sustainability; unrealistic and continually changing requirements; undisciplined management of programs; lack of competition and adherence to sound contracting practices that adequately allocates risk between the contractor and taxpayer; incentives and fees based on attitude and effort, not results; and workplace capabilities strained to meet 21st century challenges.
   "Acquisition finds itself in the middle between requirements increase and budget decrease," Ms. Payton added, "and that is a very tough environment in which to work."
Despite the tough environment, the Air Force is dedicated to saving money and making the acquisition process more accountable and efficient, she said.
   Competition for contracts is increasing and more small businesses are being utilized for quick and affordable insertion of urgent technology for warfighter needs.
   The Air Force is acquiring proven and tested mature technology that can be upgraded, and they are keeping a more accurate account of inventory.
   Ms. Payton also mentioned a strategic sourcing plan, a plan to centralize buying power. There are currently 71 buying centers ordering small quantities of the same things, Ms. Payton said.
   The goal is to consolidate to five or six centers and buy large amounts at discounted prices, saving billions of dollars that can be used for recapitalization, she said.
   Overall, Ms. Payton said, Air Force acquisition should be in line with the clear objectives of Gen. T. Michael Moseley, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, and Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne, which are winning the global war on terrorism, caring for and developing Airmen, and modernizing and recapitalizing aircraft and equipment.