By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneMarch 4, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The Army's acquisition corps may not be on the front lines. But its professionals are fighting every day to ensure Soldiers have the right equipment to accomplish the mission.
And, with two wars going on at the same time, that mission has been demanding.
"I have a deep respect for the Defense Acquisition University and for the acquisition community," said Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, principal military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) and director of Acquisition Career Management.
"Look at what we've accomplished as an Army. Much of what we've done and accomplished has been on the backs of the acquisition work force. Our people are important and it is important to invest in our people. No one does it better than DAU, and that's why we have a world-class acquisition force today."
The lieutenant general also had good things to say about Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal, where he has enjoyed previous assignments during his 34 years in the Army.
"It's indeed an honor to be back in Huntsville, Ala.," he said. "Huntsville has a special place in my heart. This is an extraordinary community that does great work in putting capabilities in the hands of Soldiers. I am extremely proud to lead the acquisition work force."
Phillips' praise came during his Feb. 22 luncheon presentation at the seventh annual conference and exposition for the Defense Acquisition University Alumni Association-South Region at the Von Braun Center. The theme for the conference was Navigating Acquisition through a Changing Environment ... Practical Approaches for the Defense Community.
He went on to say that transformation is challenging the acquisition corps, just as it is challenging the entire Army and its processes.
"It's incredibly important that we think about change and transformation," he said. "We must become more efficient and effective along the way. The U.S. today faces a very complex strategic environment across many fronts."
Persistent conflicts, increasing complexity in global trends and tightening resources are issues pushing transformation.
"Understanding the nature of conflict is important to the acquisition community because you are charged with fielding the greatest capabilities for the greatest Army in the world," Phillips said.
Acquisition corps officers are today working side-by-side with Soldiers in Afghanistan as they spend $14 billion in programs in support of building the Afghan army and the national Afghan police. The acquisition corps is essential in meeting the goals of protecting the Afghan people and building their democracy, Phillips said.
Phillips told his audience about how the acquisition corps made a difference in saving the life of 1st Lt. Jason Miller, son of retired Col. Brick Miller who now works for the Aviation and Missile Command. Miller was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with the 173rd Airborne Brigade when his platoon came under attack.
Miller was hit in the head by an enemy round, except the bullet never penetrated his skull. Rather, the Army-issued advanced combat helmet that Miller was wearing sustained extensive damage when the bullet penetrated its shell, traced the curvature of the inside the helmet and then exited.
"Jason somersaulted from the impact and fell backwards into a lower area. But he was able to brush it off, re-engage the enemy and kill them," Phillips said. "He's alive today because the system worked and he was wearing the best helmet in the world.
"(Our acquisition system) is not quick enough. It's not fast enough. But Jason Miller is alive today because the process put the best capability in his hands."
Since 1907, when the Army let the first firm-fixed price incentive fee contract to the Wright Brothers, the Army acquisition process has grown in ways that have made its processes too difficult to manage, he said.
"It's a complex environment and it's difficult to understand," Phillips said. "We need to reduce the requirements in the acquisition process so we can do it cheaper, better and faster."
But in some areas, such as service contracts, there needs to be more oversight. Of every dollar the Army spends, 59 cents go to service contracts.
"We must have requirements, resources, acquisition and sustainment working together as we think about requirements generation and affordability," Phillips said. "Acquisition has to be linked to requirements, resources and sustainment on major programs that come forward in the future."
The Army needs to have an affordable strategy that supports systems both now and into the future. Army leaders must look out to 2040 and beyond to plan acquisitions that are affordable and bring value to the Army arsenal, he said.
"The Army is taking a real close look at portfolio systems, and its laying out capabilities and what it costs ... It's not just about materiel. It's also about the operational workforce," Phillips said. "It's not about profit and what industry is making. It's how do we work with industry and our partners to make sure we do enough to ensure efficiency and effectiveness is in all our processes."
The Army faces tough decisions on what programs to cancel, on how to increase productivity and how to determine system costs.
"We have to start working together to make sure we get efficient and effective in all our processes. Our leaders expect it. Our taxpayers expect it," Phillips said.
The Army is restoring affordability and productivity by performing an Army Acquisition Study, a holistic assessment of Army organizations, policies, work force and processes.
"We will provide a blueprint over the next one to two years on how to do business," Phillips said. "We will look at the past, at the present and seek improvement for the future. The study will give us a blueprint for Army acquisition to use to improve processes."
Improvements in the acquisition process can be achieved, he said, by understanding and embracing efficiencies, paying attention to requirements, revising incentive strategies, sharing risk with government, seeking and implementing improvements, and supporting the war fighter in all respects.
"We need to look inside and figure out how we can be more efficient and effective. Industry, we expect to share the risk with you to do everything possible to support our Soldiers downrange," Phillips said.
"America's sons and daughters are serving downrange and they are defending our freedom and the world, and giving people hope for the future. I've been there and I've watched Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are amazing in what they do every day. We can be so proud of what they do on the field of battle. ... We collectively owe our war fighters downrange the very best we can do ... Contracting and acquisition and everything we do is important on the battlefield."