Army acquisition executive emphasizes affordability

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. — From fir­ing a new enhanced per­for­mance round to active­ly seek­ing input from mid-career man­agers, Hei­di Shyu’s whirl­wind vis­it Dec. 20 to Picatin­ny Arse­nal includ­ed a town hall in which she under­scored the need to stream­line acqui­si­tion.

Hei­di Shyu, the act­ing assis­tant sec­re­tary of the Army for Acqui­si­tion, Logis­tics, and Tech­nol­o­gy, looks through the sights of the M240H, a 7.62mm medi­um machine gun mount­ed to heli­copters.
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Shyu, the act­ing assis­tant sec­re­tary of the Army for Acqui­si­tion, Logis­tics, and Tech­nol­o­gy, or ASA(ALT), received hands-on demon­stra­tions show­cas­ing Picatinny’s research and devel­op­ment in sup­port of mount­ed and dis­mount­ed war­rior, fire sup­port, air pow­er and naval sys­tems.

As part of her vis­it, Shyu fired the cased tele­scoped light machine gun and the new M855A1 Enhanced Per­for­mance Round from an M4 car­bine.

The field­ing of the round earned the Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Office for Ammu­ni­tion at Picatin­ny the pres­ti­gious David Packard Acqui­si­tion Excel­lence Award.

In the town hall meet­ing with employ­ees, Shyu’s empha­sis on afford­abil­i­ty and effi­cien­cy came against a back­ground in which steady increas­es in mil­i­tary spend­ing, trig­gered by the 9/11 attacks on the Unit­ed States, have drawn greater atten­tion dur­ing the cur­rent eco­nom­ic down­turn.

“What goes up, must come down. It’s unaf­ford­able to go upward for­ev­er,” Shyu said.

“As we start to come down in our bud­get, one of the things we absolute­ly must do is be more effi­cient,” she con­tin­ued. “Because oth­er­wise, we buy less and less. So we’re focus­ing on afford­abil­i­ty. We’re focus­ing on effi­cien­cy.”

Var­i­ous events have height­ened atten­tion on mil­i­tary spend­ing:

  • Osama bin Laden, who from his sanc­tu­ary in Afghanistan is cred­it­ed with orches­trat­ing the 9/11 attacks, was killed by Navy SEALs in neigh­bor­ing Pak­istan in May 2011.
  • The war in Iraq, which has served as a ral­ly­ing point for robust mil­i­tary spend­ing, offi­cial­ly end­ed in Decem­ber 2011.
  • The war in Afghanistan is wind­ing down, with the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion stat­ing that Afghanistan will be respon­si­ble for its own secu­ri­ty by 2014.
  • A severe eco­nom­ic down­turn accom­pa­nied by high unem­ploy­ment and a weak hous­ing mar­ket has ampli­fied dis­cus­sion about gov­ern­ment spend­ing pri­or­i­ties.

As an exam­ple of the need to stream­line acqui­si­tion, Shyu said major pro­grams such as Acqui­si­tion Cat­e­go­ry I take very long to mature.

ACAT I pro­grams are esti­mat­ed to require even­tu­al expen­di­ture for research, devel­op­ment, test, and eval­u­a­tion of more than $365 mil­lion (fis­cal year 2000 con­stant dol­lars) or pro­cure­ment of more than $2.19 bil­lion.

“They cre­ate acqui­si­tion strat­e­gy doc­u­ments that are 200–300 pages,” Shyu said.

“All we’re look­ing for is 20 pages. Just tell us exact­ly what is it you are try­ing to buy in terms of capa­bil­i­ties. What prod­uct are you try­ing to devel­op? What’s your strat­e­gy, what type of con­tracts? The ques­tions we’re ask­ing are pret­ty sim­ple,” she explained. “We don’t quite under­stand why there are 200 to 300 pages. It’s a lot of work and it does­n’t say much. We’re try­ing to stream­line all this.”

Shyu said ongo­ing dis­cus­sions with the Train­ing and Doc­trine Com­mand are intend­ed to result in prod­uct require­ments that are more real­is­tic and achiev­able with incre­men­tal improve­ments over time.

“Require­ments dri­ve every­thing,” Shyu not­ed. “If we set the require­ments way up here it forces you to devel­op tech­nol­o­gy that is imma­ture as a part of the pro­gram. What hap­pens? Tech­nol­o­gy takes longer than you thought. It costs more mon­ey than you thought.”

“The pro­gram stretch­es out, stretch­es out, and pret­ty soon they loose inter­est in your pro­gram and they kill it,” she said. “I call that the death spi­ral.”

With incre­men­tal improve­ments that are more achiev­able, Shyu said, “I can get things out to the warfight­er a lot soon­er.”

As part of ongo­ing efforts to bal­ance the work­force, Shyu said core skill sets need­ed for Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Offices are being studied.That effort is cou­pled with a look at the num­ber of mil­i­tary, civil­ian and con­trac­tor per­son­nel.

Shyu also not­ed that strength­en­ing the con­tract­ing work­force is a major theme, dri­ving increased hir­ing in recent years.

The Army acqui­si­tion exec­u­tive also said she is work­ing close­ly with Gen. Ann E. Dun­woody, com­man­der of the Army Materiel Com­mand, to deter­mine if AMC has skill sets that could sup­port the Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Offices.

Shyu opened the town hall by acknowl­edg­ing and con­grat­u­lat­ing Picatin­ny Arse­nal for its many accom­plish­ments in 2011, includ­ing win­ning six out of 10 Army Great­est Inven­tions, the Large Lab­o­ra­to­ry of the Year and the David Packard Acqui­si­tion Excel­lence Award.

After her vis­it, she sent a mes­sage to Brig. Gen. Jonathan A. Mad­dux, Picatin­ny com­mand­ing gen­er­al, who host­ed the vis­it along with ARDEC direc­tor Ger­ar­do Melen­dez.

“You guys are doing great stuff,” she said. “I saw excel­lent col­lab­o­ra­tion across the entire materiel enter­prise as well as a ded­i­cat­ed focus on cross-ser­vice col­lab­o­ra­tion. Your work­force is top-notch.”

U.S. Army

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