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Blog Post

From Acquisition Bureaucracy to Acquisition Reform

By Adam Stone and Tobias Naegele

January 6, 2017

Among Trump’s biggest challenges in making government more efficient is breaking through an acquisition process that’s slow, risk-averse and mired in bureaucracy. “Government’s acquisition of technology and professional services is too slow and fails to incentivize innovation and creativity to help the government improve its mission outcomes,” argues a Professional Services Council policy paper developed for the next administration. The next administration should “lean heavily toward best commercial, as opposed to government-unique, practices and dynamics.”

Expect Team Trump to continue recent “strategic sourcing” initiatives, in which agencies seek to maximize return on investment and narrow the number of suppliers for commodity products and services. Such moves make practical business sense. But also look for the administration to reduce regulatory hurdles that add costs and slow down procurements.

The new president brings a practical outsider’s sensibility to the job, prompting surprise reactions, like his criticism of the Air Force’s plans to replace Air Force One, a program worth up to $4 billion for just two custom-equipped Boeing 747s. Trump’s tweet that the program should be cancelled in early December signaled not just a threat to that program, but also a willingness to challenge status quo thinking on high-profile government programs. His tweet attack calling the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as “out of control” offered another shot across the bow to the defense industry. But he’s certainly not the first to throw rocks at the F-35, the most expensive military program in history.

Now comes the hard part: translating emotional interest in a high-profile program into legislative detail. Washington has wrestled with acquisition reform for decades, but the process hasn’t gotten simpler or easier, and in some ways may now be worse. Look for the new administration to seek ways to eliminate layers of administrative requirements that run up costs and slow down work without adding to mission effectiveness.