Large defense programs claim any number of stakeholders, including the services’ program managers and their counterparts in the defense industry.
But other key players — such as congressional staff and lobbyists — also have some skin in the game.
Understanding their role in the defense acquisition process was the focus of a special forum hosted by the Defense Acquisition University Alumni Association last week.
Bill Bahnmaier, the president of the association, told In Depth with Francis Rose the way the roles interrelate is often obscured because there’s rarely a “direct link” between them.
The program manager for a particular acquisition program usually deals with the vendor through its respective program manager — not the company’s lobbyists.
Conversely, program managers work with Capitol Hill primarily through the service’s legislative liaison, as opposed to dealing directly with congressional staff.
One of the purposes of the forum was to better elucidate those lines of communication, Bahnmaier said.
“We want to teach the integrity of the system, that there is a process we have to follow,” he said. “And if you don’t follow that process it can circumvent and undermine the budget process.”
‘A loftier goal’
Contrary to their reputations, both staffers and lobbyists have “a loftier goal than just looking out for their company or their congressman,” Bahnmaier said.
“I think most staffers are really interested in the defense of the United States and having the proper systems in place and capabilities with the Armed Forces,” he said.
Lobbyists, obviously, are interested in securing work for their clients. “But most lobbyists that I have met are also interested in national defense too, and want to make sure that their company does a good job and competes with other companies,” he said.