Pentagon appoints panel to scrub acquisition regulations

Last week, the Defense Department appointed 18 members to yet another advisory committee to study the acquisition system. But this one has a much more specific (and arguably more difficult) task than the blue ribbon panels that have come in the decades before it. They’ll study every acquisition regulation ever written that still applies to DoD and its contractors, determine where it came from, and decide whether it still makes any sense.

It’s a gargantuan task, which is why Congress gave the Advisory Panel on Streamlining and Codifying Acquisition Regulations two years and some resources to finish its job. The National Defense University and Defense Acquisition University will serve as sponsors, and the legislation that set up the panel allowed DoD to use its Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund to pay for the committee’s work.

By the third quarter of 2018, the “Section 809” panel is supposed to deliver Congress a report detailing whether each regulation should be kept as-is, changed, or repealed. To make those determinations, members are supposed to use four broad criteria, asking whether the regulations:

  • Establish and administer appropriate buyer and seller relationships in the procurement system
  • Improve the functioning of the acquisition system
  • Ensure the continuing financial and ethical integrity of defense procurement programs
  • Protect the best interests of the Department of Defense

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And although virtually any regulation could be interpreted by someone to fit in at least one of those four buckets, the panel is supposed to recommend the repeal of any rules that, in its judgment, do not. Congress evidently wanted to give the members some breathing room to deliberate over that, because although the committee says it will ask for public comment, it’s exempt from the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the law that requires most panels of this sort to publish their agendas and make their documents and meetings open to the public.

The committee will be chaired by Deidre Lee, a longtime federal acquisition expert who’s previously served as the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, the director of Defense procurement and acquisition policy, the associate administrator for procurement at NASA and now works as an independent consultant.

The rest of the members are also current or former government acquisition and procurement officials (see the full list here) with the exception of Cathleen Garman, who worked on the acquisition reforms of the 1990s as a senior staff member on the House Armed Services and Small Business committees.

Among the currently-serving DoD officials who will work on the regulations scrub: Claire Grady, the director of Defense procurement and acquisition policy, Harry Hallock, the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for procurement, Elliott Branch, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for acquisition and procurement and Maj. Gen. Casey Blake, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for contracting.

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