When asked during their confirmation hearings whether the top Pentagon weapons buyer should have a seat on the pivotal Joint Requirements Oversight Council, both the new acquisition under secretary, Ashton Carter, and his predecessor, John Young, answered “maybe.” But for Young, who was formally replaced by Carter yesterday, the answer these days is more akin to “maybe not.”
Lawmakers and defense experts have previously floated the idea of full JROC membership for the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics to ensure closer collaboration between the military's requirements definition folks and the civilian-run acquisition bureaucracy. The perpetual ramping-up of requirements in weapon systems, known as “requirements creep” in Pentagon jargon, is blamed for continued cost overruns and schedule slips in Defense Department programs.
Full JROC membership currently is limited to senior officers from the military branches. The acquisition executive has an advisory role in the process.
In a final briefing with reporters yesterday, Young said acquisition and requirements officials must collaborate more closely and quickly. But in his view, a formal separation between the acquisition realm and the JROC should remain to guarantee a system of “checks and balances.”
“I respect the military community's ability to state the requirements, and I think you have to respect the acquisition community's ability to challenge requirements if we have reason to,” Young said. Acquisition officials' objections could come as a result of budget concerns or technical feasibility of proposed requirements, he said.
“Putting people on both sides and giving them veto votes on the other ((side's proposals)) is probably not the perfect ((solution)),” Young said.
In his written responses to advance questions for his Oct. 4, 2007, confirmation hearing, then-acting acquisition chief Young supported the idea of participating in the JROC process as an adviser. Beyond that, full membership on the panel “may be appropriate,” he wrote.
During the hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill lamented what she perceived to be “a lot of back-scratching by the various branches -- you know, 'I won't mess with your program if you don't mess with mine'” on the council at the time. She asked Young to answer in writing whether he believed a full seat on the panel would have a “cleansing effect.”
Ashton Carter, who was sworn in as the new Pentagon acquisition chief yesterday, offered a noncommittal answer to the JROC membership question last month. In advance questions for his nomination hearing, Senators asked if he saw the “need for any changes in the structure or operations” of the JROC.
Carter stressed the importance of “close coordination” between requirements and acquisition officials. As for a membership on the JROC, such a move “may be appropriate,” he wrote.