This week the focus is Thought No. 9 of the Thirteen Thoughts for 2013, “Better Buying Power Metrics—how do we measure success?” Today marks the third anniversary of the Better Buying Power Initiative. On June 28, 2010, the Department of Defense (DoD) launched the Better Buying Power initiative issuing a memorandum for DoD’s acquisition professionals entitled “Better Buying Power: Mandate for Restoring Affordability and Productivity in Defense Spending.” DoD followed up with a September 14, 2010 memorandum to its acquisition professionals, Better Buying Power: Guidance for Obtaining Greater Efficiency and Productivity in Defense Spending, outlining 23 principal actions in five general areas to obtain greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending. The memorandum stressed the goal of productivity growth that would enable DoD to DO MORE WITHOUT MORE. The memorandum further stated that the targeted efficiencies could make a significant contribution to achieving a $100 billion redirection of defense budget dollars from unproductive to more productive purposes.
On November 13, 2012, DoD launched Better Buying Power 2.0 with a third memorandum entitled “Better Buying Power 2.0: Continuing the Pursuit for Greater Efficiency and Productivity in Defense Spending.” The November memorandum highlighted 36 initiatives organized into seven focus areas. The seven areas are:
- Achieve affordable programs;
- Control costs throughout the product lifecycle;
- Incentivize productivity and innovation in industry and Government;
- Eliminate unproductive processes and bureaucracy;
- Promote effective competition;
- Improve tradecraft in acquisition of services; and
- Improve the professionalism of the total acquisition workforce.
On April 24th, DoD issued an “Implementation Directive for Better Buying Power 2.0—Achieving Greater Efficiency and Productivity in Defense Spending.” The April directive expanded on the 36 initiatives and seven focus areas. The directive provided new general guidance and identified specific actions in each of the seven areas. The directive also listed four overarching principles that underline the Better Buying Power initiative: (1) Think – The first responsibility of the acquisition workforce is to think; (2) People – Thinking does not do much good if we do not have the professional preparation to think well. Policies and processes are of little use without acquisition professionals who are experienced, trained, and empowered to apply them effectively; (3) Start with the basics ; and (4) Streamline decisions. The four Better Buying Power documents can be found here.
As I read and reread the four Better Buying Power (BBP) policy memoranda it suddenly dawned on me: BBP makes no mention of commercial item contracting! BBP makes no reference to the acquisition of commercial services and products in supporting the mission! This void in BBP is deafening. Commercial item contracting appears to be an afterthought at DoD. More to the point, the last decade has seen a sustained effort to roll back commercial item contracting.
Such an approach reduces access to commercial solutions and increases barriers to entry into the federal marketplace. It is an approach that will have long term strategic consequences for DoD. A system that deemphasizes commercial item contracting in favor of government unique requirements will reduce the pool of firms competing for DoD mission requirements. The firms remaining in a closed market will be structured to comply with the government unique requirements. It will result in a closed system that will, over the long term, significantly increase costs and reduce quality.
The competitive dynamic of the commercial marketplace drives efficiency, productivity and innovation. At a time of reduced fiscal resources—reliance on streamlined, competitive commercial item contracting should be a strategic procurement imperative. To truly “DO MORE WITHOUT MORE” commercial item contracting should be a fundamental part of BBP!