U.S. DoD, Intel Agencies Forge Joint Acquisition

U.S. DoD, Intel Agencies Forge Joint Acquisition
January 12th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: U.S. DoD, Intel Agencies Forge Joint Acquisition

U.S. DoD, Intel Agencies Forge Joint Acquisition
Defense News
January 14, 2008 By John T. Bennett
Senior Pentagon and U.S. intelligence officials are finalizing the first formal agreements governing how the two communities work together on major acquisitions.
Deliberations over the contents of the sweeping pacts could be wrapped up in the next few months, according to sources.
One Pentagon official said the thorny issues under discussion include how policies put forth by the office of the director of national intelligence (DNI) affect the Department of Defense’s intel agencies, and how the two organizations will make milestone decisions on joint programs.
“These MOAs [memoranda of agreement] will really codify a lot of things that we’re already doing,” the Pentagon official said. “They should link decision points, and acquisition, personnel and policies from both houses.”
Sources said the acquisition push is a top priority of defense intelligence undersecretary James Clapper, a retired Air Force three-star general, and DNI Michael McConnell, a retired Navy three-star admiral.
The joint acquisition guidelines will plug a policy hole left by the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which created the DNI’s post and outlined its authority.
“The act didn’t really say anything about joint DoD-intel community programs. Congress preferred it that way,” the Pentagon official said.
That’s not uncommon, officials and security analysts said. Legislation that creates a new federal entity is typically vague about implementation. Lawmakers often prefer to allow the executive branch to sort out functions like procuring major systems — especially when it comes to heavy Washington hitters like the Pentagon and the top intel office.
The 2004 law gives the DNI broad acquisition authorities such as:
*Requiring the intel community to craft and implement a “program management plan that includes cost, schedule, and performance goals and program milestone criteria.”
*Making the DNI the “exclusive milestone decision authority” for all intel programs.
But when an intelligence initiative falls under a Pentagon agency, the act requires the DNI to consult the defense secretary. The act allows the White House to step in when the two organizations fail to agree: ‘‘If the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense are unable to reach an agreement on a milestone decision … the President shall resolve the conflict.”
Defense and intelligence community officials hope the new agreements will avoid such situations.
Analysts were mixed on the prospects.
“This series of MOAs should finally close a huge, open void that has existed for a long time,” said Tim Sample, president of the Arlington, Va.-based Intelligence and National Security Alliance. “There has never before been any kind of holistic approach to acquisition.”
Other national security procurement experts were skeptical.
“Unless they address several key issues, that we so often ignore now, they’re just messing around in the brush and missing the forest,” said Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate aide who is director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information.
Wheeler said what’s needed are:
*“An honest accounting system” that provides accurate cost estimates, not “niceties that are seen as helping get a program started.”
*Rules to prevent officials from adding features after the performance specifications are set.
“Right now, we refuse to control the baseline; we will change the baseline whenever we want the widget to also do X, Y and Z,” he said.
*A pre-program evaluation from an independent entity — nongovernmental or industry — to “get an honest take” on the initial cost and performance expectations for spy satellites and other major acquisitions.
“If they don’t cover those, this is just another bureaucratic box-checking exercise,” Wheeler said.
Space Radar, Case in Point
Among the high-profile intel-military programs that have struggled is the multibillion-dollar Space Radar (SR), a constellation of satellites intended to collect high-resolution imagery and detect moving objects around the clock and in all weather conditions.
The program is a joint effort of the Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office, which have sparred for some time over funding and requirements, leaving its fate in question. In 2006 and 2007, Air Force officials issued several public threats to withhold funding unless the NRO and intelligence officials agreed to a new cost-sharing agreement.
Lawmakers joined in the criticism of the intel community. A 2007 Senate Armed Services Committee report said the committee “has not yet seen a solid cost-share agreement between the Department of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to jointly fund the SR program, nor has the committee identified funding for such activities in the intelligence community budget. … The committee remains concerned about the inability to resolve this impasse.”
Lawmakers also criticized the program’s leaders for failing to provide an adequate definition of exactly what tasks the Space Radar constellation will carry out.
Pentagon intel and DNI officials have expressed confidence that the deadlock will soon be broken, but no cost-sharing pact has been announced.
Analysts said the agreements should help avoid such impasses, but only if the directives put in place new procedures for planning, funding and conducting joint Pentagon-DNI programs.
“A series of MOAs is a positive step,” Sample said. “It should bring an even-handed look to these programs and initiate a lot of debate … before people are entrenched” with certain opinions about a joint effort.
Officials and legal experts are haggling over the directives’ final language.
“We’ve been spending more time with lawyers than we ever thought we would,” the Pentagon official said, “as we try and get these MOAs out the door and then finally on the street.”

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