Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following remarks during House debate on the conference report to S. 454, the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the conference report on a vote of 411 to 0:
“Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to bring before the House the conference report on S. 454, the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009. Last week, the House overwhelmingly approved H.R. 2101, the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the bill, on a vote of 428-0 and sent us to conference with the Senate.
“Our conference concluded on Tuesday, and I can report that we reached agreement on strong legislation that will reflect well on the Congress as a whole. Every member attending the conference committee, House and Senate, on a bipartisan basis, signed the conference report. It passed the Senate last night on a vote of 95-0.
“It is tempting to conclude that a bill so unanimously supported must not do anything. How often are we able to agree unanimously on issues real substance? However, in this instance, Congress will speak with a single voice and will at the same time adopt tough medicine for the acquisition system. This bill is landmark legislation: the strongest effort to reform the acquisition of weapon systems since the days of Les Aspin. In fact, I strongly believe this bill will be much more successful than earlier reform efforts. The consensus on this legislation is simply the result of a problem that has become so obvious, and so urgent, that every member has concluded that strong action is required.
“Too often under our current acquisition system, we end up with too few weapons that cost us too much and arrive too late. GAO tells us that DOD will exceed its original cost estimates on 96 major weapon systems by $296 billion. That is more than two years of pay and health care for all of our troops. We can no longer tolerate this state of affairs. To those who oppose change, the vote yesterday in the Senate, and the vote today in the House, will send the message that the Congress means business. That maintaining the status quo of indiscipline and inefficiency in acquisition is no longer an option.
“Let me briefly summarize the bill’s provisions. It establishes a new Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation who will ensure that in the future DOD uses realistic cost estimates as the basis for its decisions. The bill re-establishes a Director of Developmental Test and Evaluation, who will coordinate closely with a Director of Systems Engineering, to ensure that we rebuild the technical expertise to oversee complex weapon programs. To ensure that the Department follows through on these measures, the bill requires DOD to make an official responsible for performance assessment. It also assigns additional responsibility to the Director of Defense Research and Engineering for assessing technological maturity and to the unified combatant commanders, those leading the fight, for helping to set requirements.
“In the area of policy, we require DOD to balance its desire for cutting edge capabilities with the limits of its resources in setting military requirements. We require competitive acquisition strategies. We require DOD to get programs right in the early stages, when problems can be solved at low cost. We also require DOD to put intense management focus on problem programs until they are either healed, or terminated. We strengthen the Nunn-McCurdy process. And we ask DOD to eliminate or mitigate organizational conflicts of interests among its contractors.
“I know many members of the House have a deep interest in acquisition reform. Let me assure you that with the passage of this bill, the House Armed Services Committee has no intention of resting on its laurels. S. 454 deals almost exclusively with major weapon systems acquisition, which is only 20% of the total that DOD spends on acquisition on an annual basis. There are also serious problems with the other 80% of the acquisition system, and as a result, the House Armed Services Committee established the Panel on Defense Acquisition Reform, led by Rob Andrews and Mike Conaway to investigate further improvements to the acquisition system.
“My colleagues, I ask that you vote for the conference report on S. 454, move this legislation to the President’s desk for his signature this week, and continue to work with us on acquisition reform in this Congress.”