The Senate Armed Services Committee just ended their hearing looking at the challenges facing the Department of Defense (DoD), and POGO wants to applaud the Senators for highlighting several issues near and dear to our hearts. Many highlighted the need for better management of contractors, and particularly the need to prevent contractors from performing inherently governmental functions. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) emphasized the need for competitive contracting, specifically for the Air Force tanker, and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) not only brought up the desperate need for reform at the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), but again emphasized the need to hold those who try to intimidate whistleblowers accountable.
We were also excited to see Defense Secretary Robert Gates emphasize the need for improved business management and procurement at DoD and the importance of matching procurement to realistic strategic needs. But we would like to respectfully disagree with his suggestion that overly strict interpretations of the revolving door problem prevent people with the kind of industry management experience necessary to improve acquisitions from being able to return or enter public service. While he did not mention "uniquely qualified" Deputy Defense Secretary nominee William J. Lynn III by name (or if he did, I missed it), we just want to repeat again that 1) lobbyists are not managers, and 2) good business managers don't have to come from the industry that they are going to oversee. Moreover, some have raised questions about whether Lynn was even a good manager.
Before asking any questions at today's hearing, Senator McCaskill told Secretary Gates that she wants to be his partner in the "knife fight" of procurement reform. POGO would also like to offer our help, which is why we think it's important to stop the revolving door between industry and government--and to support every measure that takes a step in that direction.
If you're looking for further discussion of this issue, the House Armed Services Committee is also holding a hearing. And Defense Tech will be interviewing POGO friend Winslow Wheeler at 3:00 today to get his reactions to the hearing.
-- Mandy Smithberger