- The United States Air Force is revamping its procurement program so as to better protect itself against cyberattacks, the Business of Federal Technology reported Wednesday.
- According to the report, the two big changes will be allowing lower-ranking officials to take care of purchasing so as to accelerate the procurement process while adopting new technologies and not relying on "established IT contracts."
- The U.S. military and other federal agencies often struggle with outdated procurement practices, so USAF's new policy is nothing new to the commercial world, but should streamline its supply chain and increase its bottom line.
Post college, my first procurement position was for a military subcontractor supporting the mothball fleet of the United States Navy. Seemingly simple purchases were covered with several levels of mil-spec nomenclature that seemed to be code to a supplier to charge all outdoors for a simple item in exchange for the coveted "certificate of compliance."
One favorite purchase was a special ‘portable power supply’ purchased for $25 each under a 40-plus character alphanumeric description from a local military authorized electrical distributor. I was saddened as taxpayer when the power supply turned out to be a standard D cell battery, available at the local hardware store for half a buck. The fact that my employer charged the Navy $100 each made our company president happy and sent me running to a long time career in commercial high tech procurement.
It is heartening to see that the Air Force is working to streamline and improve the procurement process, especially around IT spend, an area with rapid technology changes and complex contracts and pricing agreements. While military forces have increased agility in their deployment of assets, the procurement process, through no fault of military procurement professionals, remains mired in procedures and processes established back in the Cold War era, or beyond.
The Air Force is adopting procurement processes that are pretty standard and often taken for granted in the commercial space. But perhaps a word of warning is in order about a supplier community accustomed to dealing within federal procurement rules: Those suppliers may be hesitant to change their sales processes for a number of reasons. They may be uncomfortable going outside of normal Department of Defense protocols, feeling that operating in a new paradigm might impact their other contractual work. Or perhaps they enjoy the procurement world where common flashlight batteries enjoy such a hefty premium.
The Air Force may soon find out, one way or another.